Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Law of the wild

Swedish wolves are at the centre of a hunting versus preservation row Swedish wolves are at the centre of a hunting versus preservation row Jens Klingebiel
08 Mar
Sweden’s annual wolf hunt was only open for a few hours before a court closed the season. A few days and one court decision later, it was open again

Wolves are divisive. Farmers worry over livestock, while others see them as a misunderstood species almost driven from Europe in the 20th century.

‘The wolf population in Scandinavia is a genetic bottleneck,’ says Richard Morley, director at the Wolves and Humans Foundation. ‘All wolves coming into Sweden and Norway have to pass through reindeer herding areas, and because they have historically not been tolerated in those areas, it’s meant that the entire population is descended from about five original wolves.’

The Swedish government wants to increase this genetic diversity, according to Morley. ‘One motivation is to remove in-bred wolves before new blood is introduced from Russia. The goal is not to eliminate wolves,’ he says. At one time there was a plan to release zoo-bred wolves into the wild to increase genetic diversity, but this raised problems because the wolves were too habituated to humans.

‘Poland is among the European countries with the strongest record on wolf preservation,’ says Morley. ‘The wolf was protected there in the 1980s and populations have been established in the West. There has even been some migration to Germany.’

That wolf migration is a big problem for Europe, and animals often wander from a country with a liberal attitude to a country with a stricter policy, frustrating conservation efforts.

‘The government also wants to demonstrate to people in Sweden who are against wolves that it is prepared to control the population,’ Morley adds. There are about 400 wolves in Sweden and the government hopes to see that number reduced to around 200. ‘The principle is that it is better to have a small amount of legal hunting rather than a large amount of illegal hunting.’ This season will aim to kill around 43 wolves, providing the legal challenges to the hunt are finally over. Sweden’s wolf hunt was so fiercely debated, it even provoked #Anonymous to protest hack government websites in the country.

This story was published in the March 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...


Xavi Bou's artistic visions of flight beguile the eye


Hydropower is considered essential if the world is to reach…


An overlap between populations of grizzly bears and Indigenous groups…


Climate change is having a huge impact on the oceans,…


The first COP26 draft agreement has been released


Marco Magrini explores the complex issue of carbon markets –…


The youth found marching outside the COP26 conference in Glasgow…


Energy day at COP26 was all about coal. Marco Magrini…


The world is reliant on the climate models that forecast…


Geographical editor, Katie Burton, spends the day at COP26: finance…


Lawyers are using the power of the courts to challenge…


Mike Robinson, chief executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society…


Will China's climate pledges be enough to achieve Xi Jinping's…