Swedish hunters slam wolf population proposal

Swedish hunters have slammed a proposal that the Swedish wolf population needs to more than double in order to be viable, forwarded on Monday by Lars-Erik Liljelund, the head of a government inquiry into the matter.

Swedish hunters slam wolf population proposal

There are currently around 200 wolves in the country and Liljelund argued in the interim statement that the number needs to be boosted to around 450 in order to sustain genetic variation.

Liljelund however pointed out that the figure is based only on a biological assessment and that the final report, which will be presented within a year, will include additional factors, such as the attitudes of local residents.

“This assessment is based solely on biology and ecology and what is required for wolves to achieve a favourable conservation status. It does not take into account socio-economic factors,” Liljelund said on Monday.

He further said that the assessment of the target population of 450 wolves is based on an overview of what researchers believe.

“The situation for the wolves is serious but can be improved,” Liljelund added.

Environment minister Andreas Carlgren declined to comment on the proposal on Monday.

“I don’t want to take a position now. We should first listen to all the points of view. I am presuming that we will have an increased wolf population in Sweden, but exactly how large this will be is a question for a later date,” Carlgren said.

The Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management (Svenska Jägareförbundet) has however reacted against the proposals contained in the interim report.

The association argues that the Swedish wolf population should be as small as 150 animals.

“We can’t accept 450 wolves. It is regrettable that Liljelund now touts that figure for the final report,” said Gunnar Glöersen at the association.

“Liljelund has let ecologists and biologists set the figure, but as I see it there is nothing in the EU directive which requires it to be quantified in this way,” he said.

The WWF is however happy with a large part of the interim report.

“I would like to see more of the background to the conclusions, but generally speaking I am positively surprised,” Tom Arnbom at WWF said.

In January, the European Commission decided to open a formal infringement procedure action against Sweden for allowing a recent cull of the country’s wolf population.

It could lead to a case before the European Court of Justice, which can impose hefty fines on EU states that violate the union’s rules.

Lars-Erik Liljelund’s interim report also reviewed the status of the other three major predators in Sweden.

For the bear and the lynx, the situation is described as satisfactory. But the wolverine is, like the wolf, described as having an unfavourable conservation status.

According to Liljelund the wolverine population would need to be boosted from the current 650 animals to a stock of 850 in order to reach a genetic balance.

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Swedish regions raise limits on bear-hunting to combat attacks on reindeer

Several Swedish regions have increased the number of bears that can be killed during this year's hunting season.

Swedish regions raise limits on bear-hunting to combat attacks on reindeer
A hunter prepares to go out on the first day of the bear-hunting season in Sweden. Photo: Adam Ihse / TT

Jämtland is doubling the amount of bears that are allowed to be killed in the region this year to 200. 

The decision comes after the regional bear population has grown to 1,044 at the last count. Jämtland is hoping that the expanded license will reduce the number of bears to around 650.  

We have assessed that the heavy expansion of licensed hunting is necessary, partly to reduce the bear population to the regional target within five years,” said Emma Andersson, who is in charge of managing game and hunting for the region.

Sweden allows some licensed hunting of bears, partly because of their interference with reindeer herding, one of the main economic sectors in northern Sweden for Indigenous Sámi people.

There are around 1,000 reindeer herding companies in Sweden, and an estimated 2,500 people are dependent on incomes from reindeer herding, according to the website of the Sámi parliament.

The presence of predators in northern Sweden has become a complicated political issue as they pose a great threat to the sustainable farming practices of the Sámi. The Sámi parliament estimates that one quarter of reindeer are killed by predators each year, significantly higher than the ten percent limit set by parliament. 

At the same time, the hunting of bears and other predators like wolves must be strictly overseen by the region due to their protected status. 

The increased allowance for hunting bears in Jämtland is directed specifically towards areas where there is a clear link that it could harm the reindeer herding industry, according to the regional board.

Similar decisions have been taken in Västerbotten, where 85 bears can be killed this year compared to 25 in the previous year, and in Västernorrland where they are allowing 75, almost doubling the previous year’s figure.

While no decision has been taken yet in Norrbotten, the hunting association is demanding similar measures, as 20 bears were shot last year during the hunt and another 60 through emergency measures to protect reindeer.

The licensed hunting period takes place between August 21st and October 15th in Norrbotten every year, with some exceptions.

A count by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency found that there were around 2,900 bears in total in Sweden as of 2017.