The Swedish Hunting Association (Svenska Jägareförbundet) has criticized the ban, and said that stopping the legal wolf hunt will just lead to an increase in illegal killing of the animals.
The wolf population in Sweden has fallen during the past three years, with just 305 of the predators left in the wild, according to the latest figures. In 2016, the country's Supreme Administrative Court ruled that there must be at least 300 wolves in the country for conservation of the species.
However, despite the ban on the licensed hunt, a 'protective' hunt can still go ahead if county administrative boards deem it necessary, for example in order to protect farm animals from attacks.
“When we have as few wolves as we have, there's no scope for a licensed hunt,” said Marcus Öhman from the Environmental Protection Agency. “The population has fallen over the past three years — by 14 percent in the past year alone. We see a strong downward trend, and that's very worrying.”
Öhman also raised concerns over illegal wolf hunting. “You have to raise the question of whether wolves are being killed illegally. Particularly in Dalarna and northern Värmland there should be more wolves than there are,” he commented.
Gunnar Glöersen, from the Swedish Hunting Association, said that the reason for the fall in wolf numbers was that many of the animals had travelled west to Norway, rather than any overall decline in the Nordic wolf population.
“We understand that there's a limit, since the population has nevertheless declined in Sweden. But we think that it sends the wrong signal when it's stopped completely in this way,” he said.
He also argued that a ban on the licensed hunt might fail to tackle the problem of illegal killings.
“If it's dissatisfaction with the policy, that people aren't being listened to [that leads them to carry out illegal hunds], what effect does that have?” he said.
A new census of the wolf population will be carried out between October and March, and the result of that will inform a decision in June 2019 about whether next year's licensed hunt will be allowed.
Sweden's wolf hunt has proved controversial in recent years, with many opponents trying to stop the hunt even when there has not been an official ban. In 2017, Sweden allowed the hunting of 22 wolves for the 2018 January-February hunt — a lower figure than in 2015 and 2016, when over 40 wolves were shot annually — and campaigners repeatedly requested that it be called off.
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