RECENT HISTORY OF THE WOLF IN SWEDEN
The Swedish wolf population has been very scarce since at least the
1940´s. The last known litters before the “boom” in the 80´s were born in
1964 and 1978 in the far north of the country. Most of these wolves were
rapidly killed, some legally and some illegally. In the winter of 1979-80
there was only one officially known wolf left in Sweden. In the winter of
1980-81 reports started coming from Värmland and Dalarna in south-central
Sweden. In 1982 a male and a female wolf were tracked. They were not
together in the winter but obviously met later, because in the winter of
1983 they were seen together and later in the spring a litter of six pups
was born in northern Värmland. This may have been the first litter this
century south of the reindeer-management area. Thereafter a litter was
born every year, except 1985, in this area until the last one in 1992.
A lone female wolf was observed in southern Jämtland for a couple of years
until, in 1991, she met a male and had pups in 1991, 1992 and 1993. In the
winter of 1994 the alpha male disappeared.
In southern Dalarna and south-eastern Värmland a new pack was formed in
1992-93. They had pups for the first time in 1993. In 1994 there may have
been two litters (= two packs) in this area (We are not sure whether the
wolves observed was one and the same pack or two different packs).
In 1995 two litters were born. One in south-eastern Värmland and one in
Dalarna (a new pack). Their territories had a common border and this year
we are sure there were two packs. These two packs also had pups in 1996.
A third litter in 1996 was born to a pack in Härjedalen. This pack’s
territory lies within the winter grazing area of the reindeer herd of a
local Lapp community. This pack caused a great deal of excitement in the
Swedish media throughout the winter of 1996/97. The alpha male and one of
the pups were illegally killed and by the end of the winter only three
wolves (out of five or possibly six in the beginning of the winter)
The year 1997 constitutes a beak-through for the Scandinavian wolf
population. We had six litters to six different packs in Scandinavia.
Three of them in Värmland and Dalarna. One in southern Dalsland, northern
Bohuslän and adjacent parts of Norway. One east of Oslo and all the way to
the border with Sweden and a little bit east of it. One litter was born in
the northern part of Hedmark in Norway. In the winter of 1997/98 we
estimated the wolf population in Sweden and Norway to at least at 50
animals. There were six packs and three new pairs of wolves which might
possibly have produced offspring in 1998. So far it seems that only six
litters were born in 1998.
Many wolves have been killed since 1983. A few legally, some illegally,
some have just disappeared and since June 1991 about ten have been killed
by cars or trains in Sweden and Norway. One of them was run over
(accidentally) by a car in a suburb of Stockholm and another one in a
suburb of Göteborg.
The populations of prey animals, mainly moose and roe deer, are at present
at a high level. Damages to sheep, cattle etc. are on a very low level.
Luckily enough most of the wolves’ territories are outside areas where
reindeer-management is being conducted.
People’s attitudes towards wolves are rapidly becoming more favourable,
even if there are still a lot of myths and misunderstandings, which need
to be removed. Most of the opposition to wolves is to be found among old
people. A public opinion poll in 1997-98 showed that 46 % out of 2,000
persons questioned want to have more than 500 wolves in Sweden. 56 % were
positive to having wolves near their homes.
Most difficult to solve is the conflict with the reindeer-herding Lapps
who, for natural reasons, find it hard to accept wolves, at least without
adequate compensation. Reindeer are kept in a semi-wild condition and left
almost completely unattended most of the year. Therefore they are often
relatively easy prey for wolves.
Many hunters are relatively positive towards wolves but very concerned
about their dogs. Hunters have had a number of dogs killed and wounded by
wolves in the last ten years. This is rapidly becoming a problem.
In all Sweden hunting is very important to many people, mainly as a source
of recreation. In the northern half of the country it is so important that
a great deal of normal industrial and business activity comes to a
standstill during the moose season in the autumn.
The future for the Swedish wolf population looks bright, apart from the
risk of inbreeding depression. All Swedish wolves may be descendants of
the pair that appeared in Värmland in 1982. Immigration from Russia via
Finland is therefore absolutely necessary.