Sweden’s wolf hunt has coffins and reindeer herders, but largely an echo of the US fight

The Swedish anti-wolf hunting protests have their own unique elements: Stockholm protesters carrying symbolic wolf coffins, accompanied by wolf-dog hybrids as professional mourners, battling the interests of Lapland reindeer hunters hundreds of miles away. But overall it’s largely a replay of the same urban-versus-rural, livestock or recreation, hunting or wildlife watching factions we see in the wolf battles in the United States.

As in the United States, there is a veneer of science to the pro-wolf hunt forces. Swedes banned wolf hunting in 1964, after the species was nearly wiped out decided to shoot 27 wolves in 2009. This year the ostensible–though obviously disingenous– goal of Environmental minister Andreas Carlgren was to cap the population at 210 animals, kill off 20 in isolated areas and replace them with outsider wolves..

On its face, Carlgren’s theory is pretty dumb and killing off 10% of an endangered population is just bad biology. Scientists applauded the EU’s investigation into the scheme. Wolves naturally scatter and find each other, so the populations will only stay isolated if you keep shooting animals. And unless you want to start an elaborate wolf dating service and track offspring, there’s no way to be sure your foreign wolves would mate or that hunters wouldn’t shoot them or their offspring. And plenty of wolves die without an official hunt: a poacher probably got one about 100 miles north of Stockholm, four were run over by a train last year,

Could this Swedish wolf hunter look more creepy?

There also hasn’t been any evidence of inbreeding causing harm in examined wolves. And there’s disagreement over where these magical wolves would come from. Swedish zoo? The Russian wild? Finland? Would they carry or be vulnerable to parasites and diseases? Aren’t Finish wolves from basically the same population?

Either way, biologists say the whole region only has 1,000 wolves and needs 3,000 for the population to be healthy and survive. All this minor reshuffling is besides the point. The bigger issue is reindeer herders in upper Sweden, Lapland, don’t allow wolves to migrate through. You would think all this wolf hunting would be in the rural north, but most of it is within a couple hundred miles of Stockholm. I haven’t found many details on this policy, but it sure seems like it means reindeer herders get to shoot endangered wolves on sight. Peta says that’s what Finnish Lapland reindeer herders do.

So far there are a few wolf tours in Scandinavia, even one in Sweden. But they’re not yet an economic force to fight the wolf hunt.

Where to Go See Wolves

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2 comments to Sweden’s wolf hunt has coffins and reindeer herders, but largely an echo of the US fight

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  • Dag Lindgren

    Genetically the Swedish wolf population was wiped out, the current wolves are decedents from three (since 2008 five) immigrants from the east. Therefore the wolf population is severely inbred, you could say that genetically where are only two wolves in Sweden.

    This problem is partly caused by reindeer herding in northern Sweden managed by the “Sami” people, regarded as the only “native people” in Sweden. This is not compatible with wolf and has kept the Swedish population isolated from the Finnish. The UN has recently released a report that this traditional living is acutely threatened by large carnivores. Therefore no permanent presence of wolf in northern Sweden has been allowed by governmental policy, legal shooting is practiced for that reason. From a touristic reason reindeers are rather good, I see them anytime travelling with foreign guests in the north and the guests are very interested, but I will never see a wild wolf.

    Now the Swedish policy is to manage the inbreeding while keeping the population constant. I agree with this, infused new blood will get a higher proportion if infused in a smaller population, and the proportion will be increased by selective hunt. The translocation of wolves has not started yet because the government wants local involvement and thus is asking the county board where they want new wolves released as well as some minor legal changes rather than controversies in the technique and these activities are planned to go on almost four years from now. The most favored way is to lift immigrants to the reindeer land in the north to mid-Sweden where the established wolves are.