The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency said that from January 15th to February 15th, 2011, licensed hunters will be permitted to shoot 20 wolves, down from the quota of 27 animals this year.
The Swedish parliament decided last year to limit the wolf population to 210 animals spread out in 20 packs, with 20 new pups per year, for a period of five years by issuing hunting permits in regions where wolves have recently reproduced.
EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik wrote a letter to Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, saying, "Several aspects of the Swedish wolf policy raise serious questions."
Both the licensed hunting of wolves and the set limit of the number of wolves in the country, as well as plans for the transfer of wolves from other countries, include elements that seem incompatible with EU rules for the conservation of predatory animals, Potocnik stressed.
Potocnik questioned the motive for the licensed hunt, namely that it would increase the local population's acceptance for the wolf population, but Carlgren reiterated the reason in his response to Potocnik without commenting on the alternative methods available that Potocnik stated in his letter.
Carlgren referred instead to the assessment that European predatory animal experts had previously done on the Swedish hunt. They observed that Sweden has very good control over the number of predatory animals and the hunt for them and that licensed hunting in January this year was justifiable.
If the hunt proceeds, Potocnik said that he would propose the commission formally complain to the government for failing to comply with EU environmental legislation.
The European Commission asked the Swedish government for a response in the summer to a number of questions about the scientific basis for the controversial licensed hunting of wolves. Several environmental groups have complained to the commission about the hunt.
The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (Naturskyddsföreningen, SSNC) believes that the government should stop the licensed hunt next month, especially in light of the EU Commission's serious criticisms.
"We consider the hunt incompatible with EU law partly because it hampers the preservation of a vigourous wolf population. They are so seriously inbred and vulnerable, every wolf is important for the animal's long-term survival," Chairman Mikael Karlsson told news agency TT.
"Now that the commission is so clear, it would behoove the government to follow suit and not proceed further. The questions raised by the commission in August were serious. There is no scientific support for the limit of 210 wolves. Sweden should not get involved with this hunt," said Karlsson.