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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 10:41 GMT
Bringing wolves back to Sweden

Will the Swedish wolf survivie?b
Will the Swedish wolf survive?


By Sofia Connolly in central Sweden

A row has broken out in Sweden about the number of wild animals living freely in the country side.

A proposal to increase the number of wolves three-fold has alarmed farmers and hunters, who say other animals are being put at risk.

However, researchers say that 200 wolves are needed in Sweden if the species is to survive.

Dwindling population

The Swedish landscape was once home to more than 100, 000 wolves.

Now the remaining 60 wolves find themselves unwelcome in towns and villages across the country.

Like many farmers, Jan Ericsson is bracing himself for more of these animals in his area.

Jan Ericsson: Jan Ericsson: "People are going to suffer"
Last year - a wolf killed nine of his sheep in just six months. This year he is not taking any chances.

"I just don't think the practical implications have been thought through at all," he says.

"People are going to suffer. Hunting dogs will be attacked and I'm not going to be able to graze my sheep without worrying."

Wolf holds pride of place

Despite its reputation, the authors of the proposals say the wolf has a special place in Sweden's history.

They hope improving compensation for the killing of reindeer by carnivores, will reduce the illegal hunting of the wolf.

Anders Ingman of the Swedish Carnivore Commission hopes that more research will help safeguard its future.

Wolves pose threat to reindeer Wolves pose threat to reindeer
"There hasn't been a coherent policy," he says.

"People don't know what the authorities want to do with carnivores. That creates a lot of worry for people. I think it will be much easier for people to live with wolves for example if they know 'OK, 200 wolves - that's it'."

Any successful come back depends very much on people accepting the wolf into communities across Sweden.

Cull proposed


We should have roughly 500 wolves before we feel that this species is safe in the long run.
Lennart Nyman, World Wildlife Fund
To ease fears , people are going to be able to shoot wolves found attacking dogs or livestock.

In the longer term, it may be necessary to introduce controlled culling to keep the growing wolf population at bay.

Local residents are still divided about the wolf, and although culling is controversial, plans are due to come into effect later this year.

Campaigners like Lennart Nyman of the World Wildlife Fund are hoping that it is just the start of things to come.

Will man commit to the wolf's survivial? Will man commit to the wolf's survival?
"Slow increase up to 200 and then see if this country is mature enough to accept even more," he says.

"We should have roughly 500 wolves before we feel that this species is safe in the long run."

The fate of the Swedish wolf is being closely watched around Europe.

The wolf's survival will depend not only on an increase in numbers, but on man's commitment to the native beast.
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See also:
03 Feb 00 |  Europe
Lapland's reindeer: Nowhere to herd
11 Nov 99 |  Sci/Tech
Campaign for Europe's carnivores
13 Jul 98 |  Sci/Tech
Beavers' Scottish return

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