Swedish county declares open season on pesky woodpecker

A resolute woodpecker has residents on the island of Öland off Sweden’s southeastern coast wanting to put down their hammers and reach for a handgun.

The ever-pecking pest has been putting holes in a group of homes in Törnbotten on the island’s western side, prompting residents to seek a culling permit from local authorities to rid their neighbourhood of the bird.

Leif Johansson, whose own house has been subject to repeated attacks from the woodpecker, expressed his frustration over the bird’s repeated assaults.

“There are fist-sized holes in the houses…it costs money to replace those boards. If it makes a hole in my house I need to tear down a whole wall,” he told the Expressen newspaper.

“This woodpecker is totally out of its mind.”

Residents have tried a number of other strategies to get rid of the woodpecker, including pounding nails and pouring tar into holes carved out by the bird’s constant pecking.

“The worst hit house has sixteen holes in a gable. It doesn’t peck like a regular woodpecker that’s looking for food; it never gives up,” said Johansson.

“Oddly enough, it’s only going after nice houses too; it’s totally senseless.”

The county administrative board recently issued a permit authorizing the bird to be killed in order to save homes from further damage.

But the challenge of hunting down and shooting the bird remains formidable.

“The woodpecker stays away when there are people around, so it’s not going to be easy to catch,” said Johnasson.

Nevertheless, he and his neighbours are confident the bird will be dead before the end of the year.


How are Sweden’s tourist spots coping with the risk of coronavirus outbreaks this summer?

The Public Health Agency has warned that rural areas popular with tourists are particularly vulnerable to a second wave of the coronavirus this summer.

How are Sweden's tourist spots coping with the risk of coronavirus outbreaks this summer?
A beach on Öland, a popular tourist spot that also has Sweden's highest proportion of elderly residents. Photo: Mikael Fritzon / TT

“At the end of the summer, we may get an increased strain on the healthcare sector if distance isn't kept and the restrictions aren't respected,” said the Public Health Agency's general director Johan Carlson at a press conference in early July.

He warned that it was especially important for young people to continue following the restrictions.

“It's unreasonable to think you can live as normal if you aren't in a risk groups while others have to keep distance,” he said.

While the larger cities in Sweden tend to empty out during the warmer months, there is concern about how infection may spread in popular tourist spots.

“We know that the most common tourist areas aren't very densely populated normally, so there is a big percentage increase in the population, for example on Gotland and Öland,” said Thomas Lindén, a department head at the National Board of Health and Welfare.

So how are these areas coping so far?

“At the moment there is available [hospital] capacity in all tourist areas, but there is significant worry,” Lindén said.

In the Kalmar region, including the island of Öland which was singled out in this week's press conference following reports of crowding, local authorities say that so far, there have not been major problems.

“We have few Covid-19 inpatients, less than a handful,” said the region's healthcare director Johan Rosenqvist. “Otherwise, it's like any summer, we are used to a lot of people coming here. The difference is that we must have resources to devote to Covid-19 patients.”

He said that it would however be a problem if there was a local outbreak before the end of summer, with many medical staff still on holiday. In that case, Rosenqvist said it might be necessary to call them back to work. 

Photo: Jessica Gow / TT

Agneta Ahlberg, head of operations the campsites in Borgholm on Öland, said tourism in the area was very different this year. 

“When the decision came [in mid-June] that people could travel more than two hours away, there were lots of bookings. It made a very big difference,” she said. 

“There are always some [who ignore rules] but the vast majority are responsible, and we try to be around and remind them too. Everyone knows what applies,” said her colleague Hans Gerremo. “I was down at the campsite earlier talking with guests, they feel good and can see that we care. We've arranged extra cleaning too.”

“I don't think we've seen the crowding that's being talked about. People naturally keep a distance from each other,” he said.

One family of seven had made the two and a half hour journey from their hometown to stay at the campsite, and said they were comfortable at Borgholm.

“We had views from the beginning about the fact there were so many people here on Öland, we said they were completely stupid, but then we came here ourselves,” Stefan and Lotta Ekenmo told TT.

“You have your own accommodation with a caravan, and then you follow the recommendations. It would be different if you stayed at a hotel or in cottages where other people have stayed. Here, it's just us.”