Hunters return home empty-handed on first day of Sweden’s biggest wolf cull | Wildlife

The biggest wolf cull in modern times has started in Sweden as conservation organizations warn it could significantly harm the population.

On Monday, the Guardian accompanied 200 hunters as they went to kill wolves in the frost-covered forests between Gävleborg and Dalarna, hunting from midnight until sunset at 3 p.m. Squads will be crossing Sweden all month in an attempt to take down large predators.

On Monday, hunters circled areas where they knew the wolves had dens. They released dogs, whose job it was to search for the wolves and then lead them down a path to the waiting hunters, but they were unlucky and the hunters returned home empty-handed.

However, the dogs have now identified some of the dens so that the hunters can advance more quickly.

Over the next month, hunters will be allowed to kill 75 wolves out of a population of 460, as the government seeks to reduce population density in some districts.

“Hunting is absolutely necessary to slow the growth of wolves. The wolf pack is the biggest we have had in modern times,” Gunnar Glöersen, head of predators at the Swedish Hunters Association, told local press as the hunt began on Monday.

But conservation organizations have pointed out that Sweden’s wolf population is relatively small – in Italy there are more than 3,000.

A group of scientists warn that such a large cull will threaten an already fragmented and fragile population. Photography: agefotostock/Alamy

They appealed the decision, which they say violates the Berne Convention, but to no avail.

“You get discouraged. There’s report after report that the wolf tribe has major problems, but [the government] don’t take it seriously,” said Daniel Ekblom of the Nature Conservation Association’s wildlife management group in Gävleborg.

Marie Stegard, chair of anti-hunting group Jaktkritikerna, said: “Wolves as top predators in the food chain are a prerequisite for biodiversity. Killing a quarter of the population by hunting has negative consequences for animals and nature. This is disastrous for the whole ecosystem. The existence of wolves contributes to a richer animal and plant life. Human survival depends on healthy ecosystems.

Anna-Caren Sätherberg, Sweden’s Minister for Rural Affairs, recently told public broadcaster SVT: “We see that the wolf population is increasing every year and with this cull we want to make sure that we can reach the target set by the parliament.

“We can see that the level of conflict has increased and the level of acceptance has dropped,” Sätherberg said, adding that the government had asked the national environmental protection agency to review the recommended population figures. .

The agency had previously recommended that the population not drop below 300, to prevent it from being further weakened and threatened by inbreeding. However, a majority in the Swedish parliament favors reducing the wolf population to 170 individuals, just below the range of 170 to 270 that would allow the country to meet the conservation requirements of the EU Species and Species Directive. habitats.

Hunting is a hot political topic in Sweden, with a powerful lobby able to influence politicians to allow more animals to be killed. Stegard added: “It is obvious that there is strong political pressure for the authorized hunting of wolves, as well as lynx and bears.

“There is a large majority of Swedes who love wolves, even where they live. In our opinion, the reason for these hunts is simply that there is a demand for shooting wolves among hunters. Hunter organizations have enormous power in Sweden. It is a fact that the Swedish parliament has a hunters club open to members of all parties, with a shooting range under the parliament. It sounds like a joke, but it’s absolutely true.

A group of scientists from top European universities recently wrote to the journal Science, arguing that scientific advice for this target had not been sought and that it would threaten an already fragmented and fragile population.

Benny Gäfwert, a WWF predator expert, said Parliament’s figure of 170 was “not based on any scientific fact”.

“Unforeseen things can happen in wild populations and a level of 170 is way too low,” he told SVT. “We have a problem when it comes to wolf genetics, and the smaller the wolf population, the greater the impact of fluctuations in genetic status.”

Norway shares a wolf population with Sweden along its border, posing an additional threat to the endangered predator. The wolf population of Norway and Sweden – the Scandinavian wolf – is on the endangered species list and is classified as critically endangered in Norway and critically endangered in Sweden. The Norwegian government has implemented a very restrictive wolf management policy with a fixed population target of only four to six cubs each year. As far as we know, Norway is the only country in the world that sets a maximum target number for a critically endangered species. It allows hunters to drastically reduce the wolf population each year. This additional pressure from the Swedish government, according to nature activists, could further endanger the species.

Activists in Norway are fighting the decision to allow such a large cull in court, and there is a hearing next week which they hope to win. If they do, it could have ramifications in Sweden, which is governed by the same European laws.

The Wolf Dividing Norway: the hunter against the ecologist – vidéo

Nature group Aktivt Rovdyrvern (ARV) said: “Population genetics has shown that to maintain a viable population you need to have around 1,500 individuals with genetic variation. Sweden and Norway currently have around 400 wolves, but this seems destined to be reduced to around 200 individuals in total, with 170 in Sweden and the remaining 30 in Norway. This is incompatible with establishing and strengthening a viable wolf population on the Scandinavian Peninsula in the short and long term.

The Swedish government has been contacted for comments.

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