A survey by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, SLU) found that while the numbers of wild animals in Sweden increased in recent decades, fewer Swedes are venturing out into the wild, thereby increasing their fear of the unknown.
“We’re not at all out in nature to the same extent as before so we don’t really know how to react if we bump into wild animals,” Camilla Sandström, a researcher who worked on the report, told Sveriges Radio (SR).
The numbers of wild animals, which are protected in Sweden by strict hunting quotas, has risen steadily in recent decades to an estimated 3,000 bears, 150,000 wlld boar and 300,000 elk.
When surveys began in the 1980s most Swedes feared encountering an elk but the latest report reveals that almost a half of Swedes are most afraid of bears while a third worry about stumbling across a wild boar. About a quarter think snakes and wolves pose the greatest threat to ramblers.
Nonetheless, Michael Schneider, an expert on predators at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) says that peoples’ fear of being mauled when out for a stroll is very often unjustified.
“Nearly all the accidents that have happened over the last year were connected to hunting in one form or another – and not only bear hunting,” he told SR.
“Normal forest lovers do not need to be afraid of bears.”