Hunters in central Sweden have started killing wolves in a controversial cull to reduce the population and protect wildlife.
Under a temporary ruling, hunters have been given a temporary licence to kill the animals from 2 January before Sweden’s Super Administrative Court - the country's highest court - makes a final ruling on whether existing hunting licences conform to European directives on 15 February.
Last week three regional courts voted to temporarily ban the hunt’s in a victory for animal rights protesters but several others decided to go ahead, the Swedish Local reports.
Sweden’s Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the current wolf population stands at 400 and recommended that it maintained at that level through regulated hunting.
This is a remarkable come back for a species which was considered all but extinct in the country during the 1970s.
Hunters will be allowed to kill 14 wolves during the period - down from the 46 originally requested.
They complain that the wolves have been threatening hunting dogs and attacking game animals in rural areas.
Sweden’s decision to resume culling the wolves provoked a backlash by the European Commission in 2011 - which oversees the protection of wolves and other endangered species.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015
Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015
1/4 'To Drink or Not' - Carlos Perez Naval, Spain, 10 Years and Under
Carlos was down on the beach at Morro Bay in California, on holiday with his family, when he witnessed a fascinating interaction between two different species. A colony of California ground squirrels lives among the rocks at one side of the bay, fed by locals, who also put out dishes of water for them. What Carlos noticed was that western gulls were monopolizing the water. Whenever a ground squirrel dared to get too close, a gull would chase it away, aiming its powerful beak at the squirrel’s head. Carlos was fascinated by the way the ground squirrels would try to sneak in for a sip when the gulls weren’t looking. Here, the two competitors’ eyes lock over the coveted fresh water. Carlos took the shot just before the gull lunged forwards and the squirrel fled.
Carlos Perez Naval
2/4 'Snow Hare' - Rosamund Macfarlane, UK, Mammals
One of Rosamund’s photographic ambitions was to photograph Scottish mountain hares in the snow, camouflaged in their winter coats. Native to Britain, mountain hares moult from brown to white or partially white in winter, depending on temperature. With a local expert, Rosamund climbed a valley in the Scottish Cairngorms, ‘at times through knee-deep snow’, until they came across a couple of hares that allowed them to approach within photographic range. Their mottled, snow-dusted coats echoed the colours of the snow-covered hillside. For several hours, Rosamund lay on the ground in freezing temperatures, observing the hares snuggled into their forms (shallow depressions) as fine snow blew over them and rime coated their pelts. In the late afternoon, the hares finally became active and started to feed, scraping the snow from the heather and then nibbling the shoots. Positioning herself so that she was looking up a gentle incline directly at one hare, Rosamund captured its determined scrabbling in a head-on portrait.
3/4 'Great Egret Awakening' - Zsolt Kudich, Hungary, Birds
When the River Danube flooded into Hungary’s Gemenc Forest, more than a thousand great egrets flocked to the lake to feed on the stranded amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Working on a project to document the last untouched regions of the Danube, including the floodplains, Zsolt was delighted to find a sixth of Hungary’s great egret population in the one place. By 1921, hunting had reduced their number to just 31 pairs. Today, habitat loss is the big threat. Using the soft dawn light, Zsolt wanted to convey the impression of a multitude of birds. So he pitched his camouflaged tent nearby, sleeping just a few hours a night for five nights. His chance came when a fishing white-tailed eagle sent some of the egrets into the air. With a slow shutter speed to blur the wings and a large depth of field to keep in focus those standing, Zsolt got his memorable image.
4/4 'Stork Art' - Francisco Mingorance, Spain, Urban Wildlife
White storks seem equally at home on artificial structures as they are in trees, often nesting on rooftops and telegraph poles. Francisco discovered three pairs high on this sculpture outside the Vostell-Malpartida Museum near Cáceres in Spain. The installation, by German artist Wolf Vostell, incorporates a Russian MiG-21 aircraft, two cars, pianos, computer monitors – and now, three huge nests, which the storks use each year, migrating from their overwintering grounds in southern Africa. Francisco wanted a picture of the storks sleeping under a starry sky, but there was too much light. ‘I got special permission for most lights to be shut down,’ he says, ‘but then the storks kept moving about and flying off.’ Using a long exposure, he got just one shot he liked, with the storks quietly asserting their place in the modern world that Vostell depicted.
EU members are allowed to carry out culls on wolf numbers but have to justify the measure on very specific terms and comply with conservation guidelines.
In 2011, the commission said Sweden had failed to meet conditions for exemption and had not devise an appropriate habitat strategy to justify a cull.
It said the Swedish wolf population was "small, threatened by both geographic isolation and inbreeding".