Hundreds of lynx to be hunted in Sweden following biggest ever wolf cull

Conservationists condemn latest cull as ‘trophy hunting’, while hunters admit it is ‘about the excitement’

Sweden has issued licences to hunters to kill a total of 201 lynx, weeks after dozens of wolves were killed in the country’s biggest wolf cull in modern times.

The number of licences to kill lynx throughout March, issued by Sweden’s country administrations, is more than double the number in recent years.

The planned cull is out of all proportion to any danger to livestock or people, say wildlife conservationists and activists, who are asking the EU to take action against Sweden for breaching environmental law.

“This is a trophy hunt, just like going to Africa to hunt lions,” said Magnus Orrebrant, the head of Svenska Rovdjursföreningen, an animal rights advocacy group that has started a petition calling for the trophy hunting of lynx to be stopped. “Hundreds of foreign hunters come to Sweden for lynx hunting because they think it is exciting.”

A Eurasian lynx pictured in a pine forest in Sweden.
A Eurasian lynx pictured in a pine forest in Sweden. Photograph: Arterra Picture Library/Alamy

Conservationists warned last month that the lynx population in Europe could collapse unless immediate efforts are made to protect the animals. Tests on the remaining cats in France show that their genetic diversity is so low they will become locally extinct within the next 30 years without intervention.

There are around 1,450 lynx spread across Sweden, about 300 fewer than 10 years ago. Naturvårdsverket, the Swedish environmental protection agency, argues that the country needs only 870 animals to maintain a healthy population.

The Swedish hunters’ association, Svenska Jägareförbundet, admits the lynx do not pose a danger to humans. Henrik Falk, an adviser to the association, told the Guardian: “The hunt is absolutely not linked to any danger to humans. Neither is wolf hunting – there are no documented cases of wolves attacking humans in Swedish modern times.

“The lynx hunt is more about the excitement, and for some hunters, of course, the skin is the motivation.”

Two lynx rest in the woods.
Lynx in Sweden are hunted using dogs. In France, they face extinction within 30 years. Photograph: Johner Images/Alamy

Lynx, like most other game animals in Sweden, are hunted using dogs. The EU Habitats Directive specifies that hunting may be allowed either to prevent damage to livestock or in the interests of public safety.

It is “strongly questionable” that either of these conditions applies to lynx in Sweden, said Benny Gäfwert, a predator expert at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). “We do not think the hunters can invoke these exceptions, and we have notified the EU Commission,” Gäfwert said.

Wolves prowl by moonlight in Kolmården, Sweden
Sweden just had the biggest wolf cull of modern times, where 54 of the animals were killed. Photograph: Deco/Alamy

“That hunting occurs, we do not, in itself, have a problem with, but the extent to which it occurs in relation to the low damage caused by the lynx is unwarranted.”

The WWF is also challenging Sweden’s explanation for its ongoing wolf cull, Gäfwert said.

Historically, lynx have ranged across Eurasia but have come under intense pressure in many countries from habitat loss, inbreeding, poaching and traffic collisions. In Britain, calls to reintroduce lynx to the wild were rejected last month by the environment minister, Thérèse Coffey.

Conservationists point to the role of lynx in controlling Sweden’s large population of deer, moose and boar.

The lynx hunt in Sweden is taking place during the mating season when their fur is thickest, making it particularly attractive to hunters, said Marie Stegard Lind of anti-hunting group Jaktkritikerna. “This is completely unnecessary – a pure trophy hunt,” she said.

Find more age of extinction coverage here, and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

Beata Furstenberg in Gothenburg

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sweden’s biggest wolf cull starts but campaigners fight on
Hunters are allowed to kill 75 wolves from an endangered population of 460. On one hunt that the Guardian joined, they went home empty-handed

Helena Horton and Beata Furstenberg in Sandviken

02, Jan, 2023 @4:40 PM

Article image
Curiosity killed the wolf – and fuelled an anti-hunting petition in Canada
Artists and campaigners work to ensure the life and death of the lone sea wolf known as Takaya was not wasted

Leyland Cecco

22, Dec, 2020 @7:30 AM

Article image
Albania’s pelican colony was bouncing back. Now it faces the threat of a new airport
Dalmatian pelicans at Narta lagoon were saved from extinction but now the government is building an airport in Vlora’s protected landscape

Tom Peeters in Vlora, Albania

21, Sep, 2022 @6:30 AM

Article image
‘I swapped my gun for binoculars’: India’s hunters turn to conservation
Villagers are downing their weapons and protecting swathes of ancient forest and its wildlife in Nagaland state

Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent

10, Mar, 2020 @11:00 AM

Article image
Ten African countries accuse EU of failing to protect hippos
Brussels’ plan to oppose a ban on trade in hippopotamus products puts species at risk, says letter signed by states, including Mali, Niger and Senegal

Arthur Neslen

08, Nov, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Rewilding: should we bring the lynx back to Britain?
Reintroducing the big cats could control deer numbers and enrich ecosystems but farmers and the public need reassurance, say experts

Phoebe Weston

16, Aug, 2021 @11:47 AM

Article image
Ban on hunting birds with lead shot in EU wetlands hailed as ‘huge milestone’
Law comes into force in 30 countries in move campaigners hope will stop an estimated 1m waterbirds a year dying of lead poisoning

Phoebe Weston

15, Feb, 2023 @6:00 AM

Article image
Lynx, wild horses and vultures return to eastern Spain in latest rewilding project
Rewilding Europe’s 10th project ‘has potential to benefit both nature and people’ in one of the continent’s least populated areas

Phoebe Weston

19, Oct, 2022 @4:00 AM

Article image
Water wars: meet the guardians of one of Europe’s most vital wetlands
Doñana national park in Andalucía, Spain, is being threatened by drought, over-consumption and rightwing MPs. Seven people who work there describe the fragile ecosystem and what it means to them

Ofelia de Pablo and Javier Zurita

10, Aug, 2023 @11:00 AM

Article image
Life at 30: the EU project that has saved species from lynx to flying squirrels
The Life programme, which celebrates its birthday this weekend, has poured billions into saving Europe’s most vulnerable creatures

Simon Payne

21, May, 2022 @7:31 AM