• Sweden's news in English

Wolf hunt stand-off raises Swedish tensions

AFP · 15 Feb 2014, 08:29

Published: 15 Feb 2014 08:29 GMT+01:00

"I think we could live with some wolves, but not as many as there are now. They're getting too close to people," Elsa Lund Magnussen told AFP at her small sheep farm and abattoir outside Karlstad in south-central Sweden.

She pointed through the driving snow to a wooded area a stone's throw from her traditional red wooden house and sheds.

"A wolf killed a moose calf just over there a week ago," she said, shaking her head.

"When you know a wolf can turn up on your land anytime, it changes your whole quality of life. You don't dare let your dogs out in the yard ... and people say you need to take a rifle when you walk in the forest!"

Wolf hunting is a sensitive issue in Sweden, as in other European countries where the carnivores were re-introduced in recent decades and enjoy protected status under EU conservation laws. The European Commission threatened the Nordic country with legal action in 2013 over a planned cull, later stopped by a Stockholm court.

Then the wolf conflict worsened in January when the court blocked another planned cull of 30 wolves following an appeal by environmental groups on the grounds that it violated EU law. Now only strictly limited "protective hunts" are allowed in the event of wolves killing livestock or posing a clear threat.

The ruling came just a month after the government unveiled a new wildlife policy allowing the wolf population to be culled down to 270 from the current level of about 400.

"Sweden has never had so many large predators as now," Environment Minister Lena Ek said at the launch of the report, which said the country had a viable wolf population that needed curbing to "take into account people who live and work in areas with a concentration of predators." 

Environmentalists rejected that claim, calling it a political decision taken on shaky scientific grounds.

Their legal victory has angered many small farmers like Lund Magnussen, who point to rising numbers of sheep attacked by wolves across the country -- up from 292 in 2008 to 411 in 2012.

"I'm not a wolf hater, but if my animals are attacked by wolves I will lose a lot of money and it could put me out of business," she said, adding that totally fencing off wolves is impossible and far too costly.

Another group who say they are paying too high a price for protecting wolves are Sweden's hunters -- about 500 of whom live in this part of Värmland  county, including Gunnar Glöersen, who organises the local hunt outside Karlstad.

"Of course wolves have to eat too, but the question is how much?" he asked.

Glöersen-- who is also the national hunters' association spokesman on predators -- said wolves are decimating game stocks and injuring hunting dogs,which are essential for tracking moose over large areas.

"There's a limit to how much you can torment people. Dead wolves are going to start showing up," he said with a shrug.

"If democratic rules drawn up by parliament are not applied I'm convinced that illegal hunting will explode."

And there are some indications that that has already begun, with reports of a growing number of wolves with new mates -- an indication that an existing mate was killed.

Jan Bergstam, a burly environmental activist, believes hunters and farmers are exaggerating the wolf threat to get subsidies and because they are angry that the predators get in the way of hunting with dogs.

He said hunts should be limited to a few cases where wolves repeatedly attack livestock or leave too few moose for hunters.

"We've been helping farmers set up fences, and not one with fencing has had their animals attacked by wolves. It's good we stopped the licensed hunt. If we don't want wolves to be endangered they need a chance to spread around Sweden," said Bergstam. 

Bergstam says threats of an anti-wolf revolt are not new but they need to be taken seriously.

"They encourage people to go out and shoot as many wolves as they want. This lobby group (hunters) has pumped politicians full of ideas about the countryside on the brink of collapse -- and it's not true," he said. 

Resolving the legal dilemma may take years, and many expect it to end up in the European Court of Justice.

The European Commission may also be reluctant to reopen discussions on a hard-won directive from 1992 that protects more than 1,000 animal and plant species across the continent.

But the longer the delay, the more frustration and anger will grow in the Swedish countryside.

"The worst thing is the feeling of powerlessness -- that we can't seem to get any sensible decisions," said farmer Lund Magnussen.

"While the legal process is going on, I want to continue to be able to live and run my business here ... I won't go out and shoot wolves and put them on the parliament's doorstep, but I will defend my animals."

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Divers find 17th-century Swedish warship
The 'Solen' warship. Photo: Jens Lindström/Maritime Museum

Divers find 17th-century Swedish warship

6 hours ago

Swedish divers confirmed on Thursday that they have uncovered the wreck of a legendary warship which was lost off the coast of Karlskrona in southern Sweden in the 17th century.

Nobel Prizes 2015
Who is the 2015 Nobel Literature winner?
Nobel winner Svetlana Alexievich. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad

Who is the 2015 Nobel Literature winner?

10 hours ago

Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich is the 2015 winner of the Nobel Literature Prize, the Swedish Academy announced on Thursday.

New air routes for Nordic business travellers
Passengers waiting for their luggage. Photo: Helena Landstedt/TT

New air routes for Nordic business travellers

8 hours ago

A pair of announcements from rival airlines SAS and Norwegian on Thursday will give business travellers based in southern Sweden plenty of new international options in the near future.

Nobel Prizes 2015
BLOG: Sweden's Nobel Prize in Literature 2015
The Nobel Literature Prize announced in Stockholm on Thursday. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg

BLOG: Sweden's Nobel Prize in Literature 2015

12 hours ago

Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich won the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. The Local live blogged the announcement in Stockholm.

Stunning Northern Lights dazzle Swedish skies
The Northern Lights above Stockholm. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stunning Northern Lights dazzle Swedish skies

13 hours ago

Swedes captured breathtaking snaps of the Northern Lights as the spectacular weather wonder lit up skies across the country on Wednesday night.

Nobel Prizes 2015
Bets on for Sweden's Nobel Prize in Literature
Avid Swedish readers at Gothenburg book fair last month. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Bets on for Sweden's Nobel Prize in Literature

15 hours ago

One of the most hyped prizes of the week, the Nobel literature award, will be handed out in Stockholm on Thursday, with an author from Belarus among the favourites to win it.

Two men hurt in west Sweden shooting
Police investigating the attack. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

Two men hurt in west Sweden shooting

16 hours ago

Police in west Sweden have launched an attempted murder or manslaughter investigation after two men were injured in a shooting near an apartment block in Borås in west Sweden.

Refugee crisis
Refugee centres packed as cold winter calls
Refugees in a sports hall in Sickla, Stockholm last month. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Refugee centres packed as cold winter calls

16 hours ago

Sweden's refugee centres are reaching saturation point, the country's migration agency has warned, calling for gyms and disaster shelters to be used to accommodate the overflow before winter sets in.

What's on in Sweden
Five ace autumn art and photography exhibitions
Work by Emil Nolde (seen here in Paris) is on show in Gothenburg this week. Photo: Remy de la Mauviniere/TT

Five ace autumn art and photography exhibitions

17 hours ago

It's getting chilly in Sweden so why not treat yourself to a few hours of culture inside a warm gallery this week? Not into art? You'll find our regular interactive guide to music, family and outdoor events at the bottom of this article.

Swedish cyclist refuses to get out of truck's way
Stock picture of a bicycle unrelated to the incident. Photo: Werner Nystrand/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

Swedish cyclist refuses to get out of truck's way

1 day ago

A video of a truck and a cyclist who caused gridlock in a southern Swedish town when they got stuck in stand-off with neither willing to budge has sparked a huge debate after going viral.

Sponsored Article
'Sweden needs a stake in the global news game'
Sponsored Article
Stockholm International School: helping expat students feel at home
Sweden's Nobel Chemistry Laureate: 'he likes science and wine'
The secret to more travel for less
People-watching: October 7th
Blog updates

2 October

Editor’s blog, October 2nd (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi everyone, If you have been reading about Sweden in the international media this week, you would..." READ »


24 September

Checklist for your Swedish writing (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej hej! I thought I should share a checklist that I have made for my students. Enjoy! Spelling Did..." READ »

Sponsored Article
Swedes 'know more about sex' than Brits
Is Sweden no longer the world leader in gender equality?
Sponsored Article
11 reasons students pick Stockholm University
Nobel Physics Laureates 2015
Business & Money
Is Sweden heading for housing crash?
Sweden mourns Nordic Noir legend
Analysis & Opinion
Why Sweden's 'six-hour day' is bogus
Nobel Medicine Laureates 2015
Business & Money
Five essential tips for buying your first home in Sweden
Property of the week: Tumlehed, Gothenburg
How to never miss your favourite features on The Local
People-watching: October 2nd-4th
Swedes cash in on new bank notes
Meet the winners of Sweden's 'alternative Nobel' prize
Rise in wolf attacks on animals in central Swedish town
People-watching: September 30th
Sponsored Article
#LifeChangingOptions: Change lives with birth control
IN PICTURES: Sweden's new notes
DEBATE: Is joining a Swedish startup always worth the risk?
Why Sweden has launched sex books for disabled teens
Refugee protestors clash at Sweden's Lapland border
Property of the week: Mellby, Simrishamn
Sweden top for cancer survival rates
Sponsored Article
Rugby in Scandinavia: an expat love story
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at: