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Brussels, 27 January 2011

Commission urges Sweden to respect nature legislation in protecting endangered wolves

The European Commission is asking Sweden to respect EU nature legislation by adequately protecting its wolf population, which is threatened with extinction. The Commission is concerned about several aspects of Swedish wolf policy, and especially about the hunting of wolves when the species is not in favourable conservation status. Therefore, on proposal by Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, it has decided to launch a formal infringement procedure by sending a Letter of Formal Notice.

Sweden acknowledges that the wolf is in fragile conservation status and the Commission appreciates Swedish commitments to enhance its conservation. The Commission, however, has a duty to ensure that such efforts comply with EU law. Despite a thorough exchange of information and constructive dialogue since June 2010, including contacts at political level, serious concerns remain about whether Swedish wolf policy is in line with EU Environment legislation and more specifically the Habitats Directive, 92/43/EEC.

Several aspects of Swedish wolf policy raise questions in respect of EU legislation in force. These include:

  • the unfavourable conservation status of the Swedish wolf population;

  • the arbitrary ceiling of 210 set for the number of wolves in Sweden;

  • the licensed hunting of a strictly protected species, without the narrow conditions for derogations set out by EU law being met;

  • the reduced distribution area for wolves that could result;

  • the fact that the licensed hunting occurs before the announced introduction of wolves to improve the genetic status has taken place;

  • the risk that repeated licensed hunting may lead to a multi-annual hunt;

  • the absence of a management plan for this endangered species.


The Swedish wolf population is a small one, affected by both geographic isolation and inbreeding. As such, it is threatened by extinction and protected under EU environmental law. Article 12 of the Habitats Directive offers strict protection, and while exceptions (known as derogations) are possible, rigorous conditions must be met for this to be possible. All measures taken which affect the wolf in Sweden must be carefully considered and duly prepared before they are carried out in order to avoid detrimental impact on the population. On 17 December, the Swedish government granted the opening of a wolf hunting season as of 15 January, allowing the shooting of 20 wolves. More than 6.700 hunters participated in the hunt. This decision is the second one to authorise licensed hunting in Sweden (on 17 December 2009, Sweden allowed the hunting of 28 wolves in early 2010)

The Commission's concerns relate to Sweden's use of a derogation for a licensed hunt, not its separate use of specific derogations for shooting of a more limited number of wolves in order to prevent serious damage to livestock.

For current statistics on infringements in general see:

For info on large carnivores:


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