Complaint about Sweden’s license hunting

The association Ulvetid has previously complained about Sweden’s licensed hunting of wolves. The complaint was dated 16 November 2020 and was given the reference CHAP (2020)03330. Our complaint was dismissed with reference to the fact that the Commission HAS already initiated case no. (INFR(2010)4200

The above case has now been running for 12 years. It should not be understood as a criticism of the commission, but simply an underlining of the consequences it has had for the Scandinavian wolf population.

It is imperative that the commission actively ensures consistency between Sweden’s wolf policy and wolf management and the requirements of the Habitat Directive.

At a lecture where Linda Laikre, professor of population genetics at Stockholm University, talked about the population genetic status and future of the Scandinavian wolf tribe, the professor stated that if there are no changes in Sweden’s wolf management, the Scandinavian wolf population will most likely cease to exist in 10-20 year.

Sweden has two different forms of hunting for wolves, Protected hunting and Licensed hunting. Protective hunting is used to regulate wolves, which have been given the predicate “Problem Wolf” in accordance with Article 16 of the Habitats Directive. Despite the relatively large number of licenses for protected hunting in Sweden, Sweden also uses License Hunting. Sweden’s license hunting is used as stock-regulating hunting and not as exceptional regulation.

In the Swedish management plan (National förvaltningsplan för Varg) you can read on Page 37: “the latest inventory results for wolves in winter 2013/14 have a continued favorable conservation status for the population. These conditions may allow license hunting as a management measure in predator management areas that have reached their minimum levels. One purpose of license hunting for wolves may be to reduce the concentration of wolf territories in particularly wolf-dense areas.

It appears directly from the above text that permission is granted to conduct license hunting of the wolf (which is on appendix 4) on the basis that the wolf has reached a minimum population. It is clearly illegal according to Case c-473/19 paragraph 78.

It also appears from the above text that the purpose of the license hunt may be to reduce the concentration of wolves. Hunting, which aims to reduce the density of wolf territories, is incompatible with Article 12 of the Habitats Directive. This is therefore a clearly illegal practice.

Swedish “Jaktförordningen 23c”

The condition for license hunting of bears, wolves, wolverines, and lynx to be allowed is that there is no other suitable solution, […]

In the nature of the matter, it will not be possible to find “another suitable solution” when the purpose of the hunt is to reduce the concentration of wolf prey, i.e. to shoot wolves. The consequence is that the requirement in the Habitats Directive that there must be no other viable solution will not really be applicable. It goes without saying that this is an illegal practice.

Sweden claims that the wolf is in favorable conservation status in Sweden. That is not correct:

According to the “National förvaltningsplan för Varg” Page 21, the genetic correlation of the wolf population through immigration of wolves from the Finnish-Russian sub-populations must work for the assessment of at least 300 wolves to be enough. If reproduction of new immigrants does not occur with Scandinavian wolves every wolf generation, the Scandinavian stock must consist of at least 1,700 wolves to meet the genetic conservation criteria and thus be considered to have favorable conservation status.

Sweden’s point of view is that the Swedish population of 300 wolves is part of a meta-population which, in addition to the Scandinavian population, consists of the Finnish populations and the Russian-Karelian population.

Since no exchange of genes takes place between the wolves in the Scandinavian population and the Finnish/Russian population, the Scandinavian population cannot be described as that sub-population. The consequence of this is that Sweden must calculate the population status of the Swedish wolves solely based on Sweden’s own population, since part of the Scandinavian population lives in Norway, which is not obliged by the Habitats Directive.

This means that, according to the Naturvårdsverket and many researchers, there must be at least 1,700 wolves in Sweden before the wolves in Sweden have achieved favorable conservation status.

If the purely hypothetical Norwegian and Finnish-Russian populations are included, the total population for these areas is less than 1,700.

According to the Tapiola judgment C-674-17 Paragraph 60, populations in third countries, which are inherently not bound by the Habitats Directive, cannot be included in a country’s population census. The consequence is that, in the best case, the metapopulation stated by Sweden can at most muster approx. 800 wolves in the Scandinavian and Finnish populations.

The wolves in Sweden have an inbreeding rate of 0.24, which corresponds to brother-sister level.

A well-established scientifically accepted rule of thumb is that an effective genetic population (Ne) of at least 500 individuals is required to maintain genetic variation for adaptation and viability. In practice, this will result in a current population (Nc) of between 1700 (source – National förvaltningsplan för Varg) and 2000 individuals (source – Professor Linda Laikre).

Most of the Scandinavian wolf population are descendants of a pair of wolves that bred in 1983. In 1991 a new male wolf immigrated and in 2008 another 2 male wolves from the Finnish-Russian wolf tribe. That is, over a period of 25 years, 3 wolves immigrated.

It is somewhat unclear which of the subsequent immigrants contributed genetically to the Swedish population.

The Tunturi male (G15-16) had puppies in 2016. He and all his puppies are presumed dead.

The Tiveden couple (G31-13 and G23-13) did not immigrate themselves but were moved from northern Sweden to southern Sweden. The male and all the puppies also died without adding genes to the population. To be fair, the she-wolf is probably still alive and has found a new mate.

According to the National förvaltningsplan för Varg, Page 23, it is required that at least one wolf immigrates from the Finnish/Russian population per generation, every 5 years to get sufficient new genes to avoid inbreeding.

The current immigration is very far from 1 wolf per generation, which means that 300 wolves as a population target is far from enough to maintain a genetically healthy population that will be able to meet the requirement in the Habitats Directive for a population in a favorable conservation status.

To make matters worse, Professor Linda Laikre and 17 colleagues write in the scientific journal “Science” that it is not correct that only 1 immigrating wolf per year is needed. generation, but that significantly more are needed. This agrees well with the current inbreeding rate of 0.24 (brother/sister level).

The conclusion is that 300 wolves in Sweden is far from being considered enough for the wolf to have a favorable conservation status in Sweden.

On that basis, we ask the commission to intervene against the illegal license hunt.