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Wolf hunt devastating for Swedish eco-tourism

Several wolfs have been shot in the eco-tourism outbacks where foreign tourists expect to catch a glance of the mythical predator. 

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Sweden's first wolf hunt in 45 years came to an end two weeks ago after hunters met their quota of 27 kills in just four days, as ecologists blasted the hunt as rushed and cruel and slammed the government's decision to allow the cull.

Wolf hunt may also be devastating for Swedish eco-tourism operators. At least six wolfs have been shot in areas where guides for years have brought tourists to peek at the mythical predatory.

“In those outback territories that I’ve been inventorying and tracking for years at least three wolfs have been killed. This limits my possibilities to show trails for my guests and I’ve already gotten negative comments from England's largest eco-tourism agency”, Anders Ståhl in Leksand, mid Sweden, told trade magazine Travel News.

Also Leif Holst, managing director of Holsts Finnskogsupplevelser in Hälsingland, is upset by the fact that wolfs have been shot; endangering the strain and making small cubs orphans. He's has now been put in a tight spot as French tourists soon will arrive with the hope to catch a glance of wolfs or at least its trails, something that now may be impossible.

Eco-tourism companies were not consulted ahead of the wolf hunt although they make their bread and butter from the access to the predatory carnivorous canine mammal in the local wilderness.

“It’s feels strange to build and invest in a business that literally can be shot to pieces by a few thousand hunters”, Lars Gabrielsson, who runs Nordic Safari, told Travel News.

Parliament decided in October to limit the country's wolf population to 210 animals for the next five years.

The cull was meant to run between January 2 and February 15, but hunters killed 20 wolves on the first day, sparking the ire of animal rights activists and local officials.

"I think the hunt was carried out very quickly, there were too many kills all at once," said Stig-Åke Svenson, head of the local branch of the environmental agency in the central Dalarna region where hunters killed 10 wolves instead of the nine allotted to the region.

"And across the entire country, seven wolves were first wounded before they were killed, and that's a very high number. These are problems that need to be investigated ahead of a possible wolf hunt next year," he told AFP.

Some 12,000 hunters had been granted permits to take part in the hunt, a number environmentalists said was out of proportion to the total of 27 authorised kills in five central regions.

They also criticised the lack of coordination between the regions.

"The hunt was totally out of control, the quota was even exceeded in Dalarna, and thousands of hunters were allowed to take part in the kill," lamented Mikael Karlsson, the head of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) who has filed a complaint against Sweden with the European Commission.

The SNCC claimed the hunt violated European Union legislation on species and habitats.

"This hunt was aimed at pleasing the loudmouthed hunters" who have been calling for a wolf hunt for years, Karlsson said.

But Torbjörn Loevbom of the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management said the criticism was "exaggerated".

"The hunt went well for the most part, apart from the one wolf too many that was killed in Dalarna. The cull was completed quickly because the snow made it easier for us," he said.

A fresh snowfall makes it easier for hunters to follow the animal's tracks.

Several hunters have filed police complaints after receiving anonymous death threats, the Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management said.

The Swedish government has also been the target of heavy criticism, in particular Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren whose image as a nature lover has taken a blow.

"The hunt turns to Carlgren," headlined an editorial in tabloid Aftonbladet, the country's most widely read newspaper.

The minister "says the hunt will put an end to the inbreeding in the Swedish wolf population ... That's of course nonsense," it said.

Wolves had virtually disappeared from Sweden in the 1970s. They have thrived since being reintroduced but suffer from the effects of inbreeding because they all descend from the same handful of animals that were introduced.

The government plans to release some 20 new wolves into the wild by 2014 to broaden their gene pool and improve their health.

"If the environment minister's real aim was to combat the wolves' heart, back and kidney problems then the hunt would have been organised differently," the paper wrote.

Parliament's decision to allow the wolf hunt was aimed at increasing public acceptance of the predators.

The animal's presence is controversial in the Nordic country as domestic and farm animals are increasingly attacked by wolves, which have been sighted recently near residential areas, including near the capital Stockholm.

There were between 182 and 217 wolves in Sweden last winter, the Environmental Protection Agency said, noting that new litters had been born since then.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 06 April 2011 17:57)


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