Thursday, April 14, 2011

Population Viability Analysis vs. opinion

A great embarrassments during the Biebrza workshop was that not so surprisingly the odd Swedish wolf hunt has reached international fame. Few are against allowing farmers to protect their animals during an ongoing attack, but what happened in Sweden was that open license hunting on wolfs have occurred two years in a row, with the peculiar argument that it is supposed to reduce our severely inbred wolf population, were the average wolf pup born since 1997 has an inbreeding coefficient of 0,25, equal to full sibling mating (Liberg et al 2004).

The wolf population consists of roughly 200 individuals, and the parliament has set a target level of 210 individuals. 27 wolfs were licensed to be shot in 2010, and the hunters shot all of them. This year the hunt occurred again despite an impending legal case on the way with the European Commission taking legal actions against Sweden for violating environmental laws. The environmental minister has repeated the lobby-groups argument to the EC, that Sweden needs wolf hunting to reduce inbreeding.

The conclusion so far from the first two years hunting has been that the hunters have not been able to shoot the most inbred individuals (apparently they neither had pink fur nor a second head), but instead happened to shoot the most genetically valuable ones.

The government had ordered an investigation into the minimum number of wolfs needed to secure the population in Sweden, and this Monday the result came. 450 wolfs, is the minimum needed to sustain a healthy conservation status. It is safe to say that this number is based on some sort of PVA built on real biological data. The Hunters Association of course launched their own number, which is 200 individuals based on nothing else than their opinion unfortunately.

Apart from this they also want compensation for deers that are caught by predators.

I have no problem with hunting. Like many Swedes with roots in rural Sweden I see it as something that offers safe food from animal that have fared far better than their counterparts in the supermarket. And with a moose-population at a stable level between 300000 - 400000, despite 1/3 being shot every year, it is fair to say that this is a sustainable use.

What is going on now however is nothing but a tragedy, were an ecologically incompetent lobby-group for hunters has managed to convince the environmental minister that reducing a population reduces inbreeding.

Hopefully the European Commission will convict Sweden, and bring an end to this tragedy.

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