Minister dogged by more wolf hunt criticism

Sweden’s environment minister Andreas Carlgren continued to defend the country’s recent government-sanctioned wolf hunt despite a lack of evidence supporting part of the minister’s justification for the cull.

Ahead of the wolf hunt, the first in Sweden in more than four decades, Carlgren argued that the kill was a necessary step to cut down on inbreeding among Sweden’s wolf pack.

However, after examining the carcasses of 20 of the 27 wolves killed in the hunt, experts have yet to find any abnormalities or defects that would have resulted from inbreeding.

Nevertheless, Carlgren defended the hunt on Wednesday, claiming that the ensuing debate has emerged from a misunderstanding.

“Strong efforts are required to ensure the wolf’s survival while at the same time achieving political acceptance, and thus all measures must be seen in their entirety,” Carlgren told the TT news agency.

“Right now everyone is only talking about the hunt. No one cares about the fact that we are also going to bring in genetically healthy wolves and strengthen the pack.”

He also maintained that the hunt was good for the pack.

“The wolf pack’s ability to reproduce is threatened. All the researchers are saying this. Thus it’s not productive to let the current packs of genetically weak individuals grow out of control,” said Carlgren.

“But without the hunt, we can’t gain acceptance for our intentions to bring new wolves into the country. That’s why we set a limit on the growth of the pack. But the ceiling of 210 wolves is still just an intermediary goal. It may be changed in the future.”

The National Veterinary Institute (Statens veterinärmedicinska anstalt – SVA), has so far examined 20 of the 27 wolf carcasses it has received and expects to have its work completed by the end of the week.

The agency’s work has been hampered somewhat following the discovery that a number of the male wolves were turned into SVA without any testicles.

According to SVA’s Arne Söderberg, the testicles were likely mistakenly cut off by hunters when they removed the animals’ pelts before sending the carcasses to the agency.

As a result of the missing testicles, SVA’s ability to accurately judge the animals’ reproductive capacity has been diminished, according to Söderberg.

“It’s a shame the testicles are missing. We’re not going to be able to get a complete picture,” he told TV4’s local affiliate in Uppsala in eastern Sweden.

It is scientifically documented that a great number of Swedish wolves are inbred and that inbreeding can cause defects in the animals.

However, information about how the wolves killed in the hunt may have been genetically related to one another won’t be available until DNA tests have been completed on all the wolves.

“But the wolf carcasses we’ve examined so far have been in good condition with well-developed musculature. There are no unhealthy changes. Skeletal examinations to be carried out by the Museum of Natural History (Naturhistoriska riksmuseet) still remain, however, and it’s possible that they’ll find something that we can’t see with the naked eye,” SVA veterinarian Jonas Malmsten told TT.

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