The Hunt Begins

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Sweden began the biggest wolf cull in modern times Monday, as the government is seeking to reduce the number of wolves in the country despite major opposition from nature organizations that it could drastically harm the population, the Guardian reported.

Hundreds of hunters will conduct searches across Sweden throughout January as they attempt to take out the large predators. Hunters will be allowed to kill 75 wolves from a population of 460, as the government is trying to reduce the population density in certain districts.

Officials said the cull was necessary to slow the growth of wolf numbers, but animal rights groups warned that the killing could severely impact the ecosystem and existing population. Critics noted that the wolf population in Sweden is relatively low, whereas in Italy there are more than 3,000 of the canine species.

Sweden’s environmental protection agency previously recommended that the population should not decrease below 300 wolves. However, a majority of Swedish lawmakers support reducing the number to 170 individuals, which is at the very bottom of the 170 to 270 range required to meet the European Union’s species and habitats directive.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Norway, anti-cull campaigners are fighting a similar decision in court with a hearing expected next week.

Both Norway and Sweden share a wolf population – the Scandinavian wolf – which has been placed on the endangered species list: Norway’s wolves have been labeled as critically endangered, while Sweden’s population is severely endangered.

If Norwegian campaigners win, the verdict could have ramifications in Sweden, which is governed by the same European laws.

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