February 16, 2011

Swedish Wolf Hunt Ends With One Escaping

A controversial wolf hunt taking place in Sweden has sparked criticism from environmentalists along with legal action from the European Commission, ending with hunters failing to cull one of the 20 animals in the quota, officials told AFP on Wednesday.

By an hour after sundown Tuesday when the hunting season ended, only 19 of the 20 animals had been culled. "It's too bad. We would have gladly taken it," the head of the hunters' association in the central Swedish region of Vaestmanland told the TT news agency late Tuesday.

"The hunt is now over in all regions," Anneli Nivren of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, adding one wolf had escaped capture. This year's hunt started on January 15 and ended Tuesday. Sweden argues the hunt, which was started again last year after a 46-year hiatus, allows it to improve the breeding population of its largely inbred wolf population, insisting it will import wolves from Finland and Russia to replace the killed animals.

In rural Sweden, the hunt enjoys support where the growing wolf population threatens local sheep and reindeer stocks. In 2009, the Swedish parliament decided to keep the wolf population at 210 animals in 20 packs, with 20 new pups per year.

The European Commission, in January, launched legal action against Sweden for allowing the hunt of a protected species. The formal infringement procedure, which could lead to a case before the European Court of Justice, can impose hefty fines on EU states that violate the bloc's rules. According to the Commission, some 6,700 hunters took part in this year's hunt.

The Swedish hunt is not without it controversy. Protestors marched earlier this month through central Stockholm carrying 20 coffins to symbolize the number of wolves in this year's quota, and nearly 8,000 letters arrived in Brussels protesting the hunt through a Swedish environmental group's website.

Brigitte Bardot, former screen idol turned animal rights campaigner also blasted the hunt as "retrograde" in a letter to Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren and urged a halt to the cull.


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