Over the next month, 75 out of 460 wolves will be killed as the government attempts to reduce the population.
Sweden has launched the biggest wolf slaughter in modern times as nature agencies warned that it could severely harm the population.
The government has given permission to hunters to kill 75 out of the 460 wolves currently roaming the country in an attempt to reduce their numbers, but wildlife organizations argue that Sweden’s wolf population is relatively low compared to Italy, for instance, where there are more than 3,000.
Wildlife activists warn that the decision by the Swedish government could further endanger the species and encourage other European countries to follow suit.
Gunnar Gloersen, game manager at the Swedish Hunters’ Association, said that hunting is “absolutely necessary to slow down the growth of wolves,” The Guardian newspaper reported.
“The wolf pack is the largest we’ve had in modern times,” he noted.
But wildlife organizations say that this violates the Council of Europe’s Bern Convention and they have tried unsuccessfully to appeal the decision, according to the newspaper.
Daniel Ekblom from the Wildlife Management Group of the Nature Conservation Association in Gävleborg told The Guardian that the government does not pay much notice to their findings on endangering the species.
“You get discouraged. There is report after report that the wolf tribe is in big trouble, but (the government doesn’t) take it seriously.”
Marie Stegard, president of the anti-hunting group Jaktkritikerna, told the newspaper that “wolves as apex predators in the food chain are a prerequisite for biodiversity.”
She argued that killing a quarter of the population through hunting will have negative consequences for animals and nature.
This is disastrous for the entire ecosystem, she said, adding the existence of wolves contributes to richer animal and plant life.
“Human survival depends on healthy ecosystems,” Stegard added.
Swedish Minister of Rural Affairs Anna-Caren Satherberg told local public broadcaster SVT that the wolf population is growing every year and “with this cull, we want to make sure we can meet the target set by parliament.”
The State Environmental Protection Agency had warned in the past that the wolf population must not drop below 300 to avoid inbreeding.
But the Swedish parliament is in favour of lowering the wolf inhabitants to 170, which is the lowest it can go to meet requirements of the European Union’s Habitats and Species Directive.
However, Benny Gäfwert, a predator expert with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), told the broadcaster that parliament’s figure of 170 was “not based on scientific fact.”
He warned that “unforeseen things can happen in wild populations, and a level of 170 is way too low.”
“We have a problem when it comes to wolf genetics, and the smaller the wolf population, the greater the impact of fluctuations in genetic status,” he added.
The Scandinavian Wolf is already listed as an endangered species and now this move by the Swedish government is believed to pose a further threat.
The country shares a wolf population with Norway along the border, where wolves are also considered critically endangered.
Norway is the only country in the world to set a cap, allowing only four to six cubs per year.
The Scandinavian country is allowing hunters to drastically reduce the wolf population every year.
READ MORE: Human-wildlife conflict is complex issue for which there's no silver bullet