Swedes kill 20 wolves in newly sanctioned hunt

After the Swedish environmental authority issued permits for 10 percent of Sweden's entire wolf population to be killed, hunters shot dead more than 20 wolves on Saturday, according to local media estimates.

This was Sweden’s first government sanctioned wolf hunt in 45 years.

The Swedish environmental authority had issued permits for 27 of the animals to be killed between January 2 and February 15 in five central and southwestern regions.

The Swedish Parliament decided in October to limit the wolf population to a maximum of 210 and 20 packs for the next five years.

The wolf population has grown steadily from near zero in the 1970s and poses a problem for farmers, who lose livestock in attacks. They are also increasingly seen in urban areas including suburbs of Stockholm.

Sheep farmer Kenneth Holmstrom told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter that he had lost 32 sheep in 2005 in just two wolf attacks.

“The wolf has the right to exist in the forests and in the fields but it must be better controlled,” he said.

“It does not have a natural enemy and it multiplies quickly.”

Swedish conservation groups have objected the hunt violates European Union legislation on species and habitats.

There were about 150 wolves in Sweden in 2005. The number rose to between 182 and 217 last winter and more cubs produced since then, according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

Niklas Wykman, chairman of the Moderate Party youth association, has also spoken out against the Moderate-led policy permitting the hunt.

He claims that the government wants to attract voters “by allowing the killing” but in actuality it has “fallen victim to the false arguments of the hunter lobby.”

“Along with the 22 wolves that have been shot, we have lost credibility when it comes to protection of biological diversity. Now that we have wiped out 10 percent of our wolf population, what are we going to say when India does the same with tigers, Japan with whales or Australia with white sharks,” Wykman wrote in an editorial on the website.

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Swedish hunters kill 22 wolves in a week

Five wolves were shot by Swedish hunters on Saturday morning, meaning they have killed 22 out of the 24 wolves for which licences have been granted after just one week.

Swedish hunters kill 22 wolves in a week
This Chernobyl wolf is safe from Swedish hunters. Photo: Valeriy Yurko/University of Portsmouth
Environmental campaigners sharply criticised the decision by the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden’s decision to issue licenses to hunt wolves on December 30, accusing it of ignoring an 18 percent drop in the country’s wolf population to an estimated 340 animals. 
Torbjörn Nilsson, chairman of the Swedish Carnivore Association, called the decision “unfortunate and surprising”.
But Martin Källberg, editor of the hunting magazine Svensk Jakt, said that the speed with which the quota had been met indicated that there had been no shortage of animals. 
“There are quite simply a lot of wolves in these areas,” he told The Local, adding that the weather had also helped.  “When you have fresh snow you can follow the tracks. It’s much easier, because then you can see where they are.”  
Members of a hunting team in Örebro County told Aftonbladet in an article published on Saturday that wolves were threatening livestock, dogs, elk and deer. 
“Deer have almost disappeared. But you see wolf shit everywhere nowadays,” one of the hunters complained. 
“I've seen elk that have been raped … I was about to say raped, I meant taken down. They had bitten off a…piece at the back of the thigh and then followed the elk until it bled to death. That’s what my wife says, ‘think about the poor elk!’. They have to be afraid all the time now. It is terrible.”
According to Svensk Jakt, three wolves were shot in Orsen, Dalarna, on Saturday, one wolf in Loka, between Dalarna and Örebro, and one in Brattfors, in Gävleborg. 
This means that hunters in Brattfors have now shot all six of the wolves for which quotas were granted. 
Loka would also have exhausted its quota of six wolves had the local county government not decided on Saturday to grant a license for one more wolf. 
“The strategy to achieve our goal is to empty certain territories, including Loka. We have had clear indications that there were more than six wolves,” David Höök, the wildlife officer in Värmland, who administers the hunt, explained to SVT Orebro. 
Five wolves have also been shot in both Orsen, Dalarna and Blyberg, Gävleborg, leaving each area one more wolf to kill.