December 17, 2010

Sweden To Go Ahead With Wolf Hunt In 2011

Despite severe criticism from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) over this year's wolf hunt, Swedish authorities announced Friday that hunters will be allowed to hunt and kill 20 wolves next year.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) said licensed hunters will be able to shoot 20 wolves between January 15 and February 15 this season, down from the 27 that were allowed last season.

The SEPA decided last year to limit the population of wolves in the country to 210 animals, spread out in 20 packs, and with 20 new pups born each year over a five year period. To keep the population under control, it issues hunting permits in regions where the wolves have recently reproduced.

It was important to keep the hunt quota low so as to "not strain the population more than necessary to reach the parliament's target," agency chief Maria Aagren said in a statement to AFP.

This past season's hunt was the first since 1964. All 27 animals were culled in the first four days of the season.

The hunt was criticized by ecologists, saying it was rushed, cruel and lacking coordination, as some 12,000 hunters had been granted permits to kill the 27 wolves.

The WWF also criticized the decision to add another hunt this upcoming year, insisting it "lacks a scientific basis," and maintaining the hunt was "random" and risked killing off a "large number of the genetically valuable animals."

"It is surprising that the wolf hunt will be permitted," Tom Arnbom, head of WWF's predator division, wrote in a statement. He insisted the hunt would do little to improve the issues posed by inbreeding within the Swedish wolf population.

"Today the government has decided in favor of a widespread hunt, but without providing any suggestions of how the wolf population should be strengthened genetically," he added.

Monica Eriksson of the SEPA insisted to AFP, however, that there was nothing random about the hunt.

She pointed out that in areas known to have "immigrant" wolves or their offspring, and thus with new genes, "no hunting permits have been given."

The Green Party also attacked the decision to allow the hunt, pointing out that the European Commission had not yet concluded a probe into the legality of the hunt.

"Now the commission might pull Sweden before the EU court at the end of January at the same time as a new group of wolves is being killed in the Swedish forests," Aasa Romson, of the Green party, said in a statement.

Eriksson said there was no indication when the commission would reach its decision, and until it does, "the hunt will go ahead."ã

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