Saturday, August 20, 2011

Illegal Poaching Threatens Sweden's Wolves

A Eurasian wolf in Sweden

It has been recently reported that populations of wolves in Sweden have been threatened due to poaching. A study has shown that more than half of all deaths were a result of such illegal activities with two-thirds going undetected in the last decade. Since then, the populations of the Eurasian wolf has been struggling to survive. According to Chris Carbone of London's Zoological Society, the study represents a crucial step in trying to measure the threat. This study predicted each year's wolf counts based on counts from the previous year by using radio-tracked animals and the "footprint count." The research team took wolf mortality cases into account such as, road kills, disease, and those found killed. But while comparing actual wolf numbers to expected numbers based on their models, the team found that the population was being overestimated. One of the members named Guillaume Chapron, stated that cryptic (undetected) poaching was the main factor in the differences in numbers, calling it the "tip of the iceberg." The team was based at the Grimso Wildlife Research Station and said that wolf numbers were supposed to have increased to 1,000 in 2009. In addition to poaching, the animals are also suffering from inbreeding and reproductive issues.
Eurasian wolf in Denmark

I'm very much shocked to see what the global population of wolves has been going through these past years. In North America, these animals are part of a debate that has pitted politicians and conservationists against one another in a fight to whether to delist them as endangered species or keep them as endangered species. While in Sweden, they have been suffering dramatically as a result of poaching incidences going undetected. The impact of this catastrophe has even led to the Swedish government to put a "temporary halt" on the nation's wolf hunts. Sweden allowed wolf hunting for the first time in more than forty years since last year. However, this move did not sit well with the European Union who claimed that the hunts violated an EU directive. I believe this idea opened up a window of opportunity for hunters seeking to decimate the populations when finding out the animals were competing against them for other big game animals such as elk (called "moose" in North America). In my opinion, this article gives a clear idea of what would happen to wolves in North America if they were stripped of their endangered species status and be targets for such hunts concerning livestock predation and competition for prey. There will always be individuals with intentions of simply annihilating the species so that they can hunt other prey species without any sort of competition.

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