Swedish hunters to begin mass slaughter of wolves despite legal challenges

Proponents of the cull have argued that the wolves have threatened game animals and hunting dogs in rural areas

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. 

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".