Should We Slaughter Half of the Wolves in Sweden?

A wolf in Sweden. Credit: Christina Hansen Wheat

Scientists Say No

Recently, the Swedish Parliament announced its intention to severely cut the number of wolves in Sweden, from 400 to 200. Now, scientists are responding to this objective. 18 scientists from 5 nations warn that such a cull will further endanger this already very fragile species in a letter that was recently published in Science.

The letter’s authors cite findings from extensive genetic surveillance of the population, which show that there has been sustained genetic isolation leading to very high levels of inbreeding, with individuals being on average as closely related as siblings. Recent studies concentrating on the full genome of these wolves reveal genetic erosion with substantial losses of variability, demonstrating the devastating impact of this inbreeding.

The authors stress that to improve the poor conservation situation of Swedish wolves the population size should increase and extensive connectivity with populations over Norway-Sweden-Finland should be secured. The authors are researchers in population, evolutionary and conservation genetics/genomics, conservation biology, wildlife ecology, and ethology.

Reference: “Planned cull endangers Swedish wolf population” by Linda Laikre, Fred W. Allendorf, Jouni Aspi, Carlos Carroll, Love Dalén, Richard Fredrickson, Christina Hansen Wheat, Philip Hedrick, Kerstin Johannesson, Marty Kardos, Rolf O. Peterson, Mike Phillips, Nils Ryman, Jannikke Räikkönen, Carles Vilà, Christopher W. Wheat, Cristiano Vernesi and John A. Vucetich, 7 July 2022, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.add5299