A total of 75 wolves will be killed – out of a population of 460 – in a controversial cull by Swedish hunters.
The Swedish Hunters’ Association says the cull, which has already claimed 10 of the animals, is necessary to control the predator population.
But conservationists say the population in Sweden is already lower than other European countries such as Italy, which has an estimated 3,000 wolves. Several conservation and green organisations have appealed the hunting decision, but to no avail.
Daniel Ekblom from the Nature Conservation Society’s wildlife management group in Gävleborg, said: “It is tragic. It could have consequences for a long time to come.
“You do get discouraged. There is report after report that the wolf population has big problems, but they (the Swedish government) don’t take it seriously.”
Louise Karlberg, head of the Department for Forests and Agriculture at the Nature Conservation Society, said: “Hunting interests are disproportionately strongly represented in parliament.
“For instance, two MEPs from the conservative party have their own podcast on hunting and politics.
“The parliament recently voted to task the Swedish EPA with reassessing the population size needed to eventually reach favourable conservation status of wolves and suggested reducing it from today’s 300 individuals down to 170, despite research findings in support of the higher number.”
Up to 75 wolves will be killed in this winter’s hunt, compared with the 203 that have been killed in total during all licensed hunts since 2010. They will take place across five counties with the highest density of wolves.
Chairman Peter Eriksson, the chairman of the hunting association, said: “I would have liked to see an allotment this winter that had the tribe landing around 300 animals.
“The Swedish Hunters’ Association’s work to get wolf management in order continues. - I am happy that for the first time we are getting a wolf hunt worthy of the name. It is a first step, but there is still much to do.”
“Hunting is absolutely necessary to slow the growth of wolves,” added Gunnar Glöersen, predator manager at the Swedish Hunters’ Association.
Wolves were effectively hunted to extinction in Sweden in the 1960s but migrated back in the 1980s.