“The last wolf hunt in Sweden is an abuse of science,” said Guillaume Chapron, an ecologist with experience of wolves in France and Sweden.
Chapron has since 2007 been employed as an assistant professor at Grimsö research station in Bergslagen north of Stockholm and has thus closely followed Swedish wolf policy in recent years.
In the letter to Science, he dissects specifically the scientific arguments used to justify this year’s hunt.
The search was described as targeted and selective, as the idea was to shoot 16 wolves from the most inbred pairs, in order to decrease inbreeding in the population.
Chapron however has little time for these arguments.
“It’s nonsense to kill animals in order to reduce inbreeding. Would we do the same if it had been about woodpeckers? Of course not. People would think you were crazy,” he said.
The researcher argued that the Swedish authorities capitulated to vested interests seeking to simply reduce the wolf population.
Furthermore he argued the terms “favourable conservation status” and “minimum viable population” had been confused. This led to the government assessing the wolf population at no more than 180 animals.
“A total of 180 animals does not have favourable conservation status. If Sweden gets away with this, there is a risk that other special interest groups in Europe exploit the situation.”
Chapron’s letter to the Science journal has revealed a conflict within the research community with some of his colleagues having been responsible for providing the scientific basis for the hunt.
Chapron argued that his colleagues should have been more cautious.
“Scientists should of course answer questions from the authorities, but they should ensure that the results are not abused,” he said.
Olof Liberg, coordinator at Skandulv and one of those who provided the scientific evidence, meanwhile dismissed Chapron’s criticism.
“In the short term, selective hunting reduces the level of inbreeding. And ‘favourable conservation status’ is not a biological concept as Guillaume believes, it is a political one. No one knows exactly what it means,” he said.