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Prosecutors probe Swedish beaver hunters

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Prosecutors probe Swedish beaver hunters
12:53 CEST+02:00
Four men who were arrested while out hunting beaver in central Sweden at the weekend are being held in custody as prosecutors continue their hunting crimes investigation related to suspected illegal hunting of wolves.

Police used a helicopter to track down and arrest the four men last Sunday in a wooded area on the border between Dalarna and Härjedalen counties in north central Sweden.

A fifth hunter who was with the group at the time of the dramatic arrest was initially released.

"We were out doing reconnaissance in beaver territory because we had two Danish hunting guests on the way," a 28-year-old hunter who had separated from the group to track a wolverine told Jakt & Jägare, the official publication of the Swedish Hunting Association (Jägarnas Riksförbund).

"The police hovered over me with a helicopter, but they didn't arrest me."

On Wednesday, the four men arrested on Sunday were remanded in custody, while the 28-year-old was arrested. On Thursday, prosecutors have filed a remand order request for the fifth man as well.

All five are being held on suspicions of illegally hunting wolves, but deny having committed any crime.

Local prosecutor Åse Schoultz told Svergies Radio (SR) that the arrests came as part of an ongoing investigation into the killing of wolves which were believed to have been hunted using snowmobiles.

According to tabloid Aftonbladet, one of the five men is a prominent member of a group that has expressed its frustration over Sweden's wildlife management policies.

"There's no place for predatory animals in areas where people live and work," reads the group's homepage.

The man's attorney, Stefan Müntzing, told the paper that his client is simply one of many people "who have view about prevailing predatory animal policies".

Schoultz now has two weeks to file formal charges against the men.

In 2009, Sweden decided to reintroduce a licenced wolf hunter after a 45-year ban on the practice.

The controversial decision has prompted legal action from the European Commission, which argues that the hunt violates EU rules regarding the protection of endangered species.

The hunt was halted for the 2011-2012 hunting season, but the government hopes to resume the hunt for the 2012-2013 season.

The Local/dl

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