The Swedish Parliament recently presented its ambition to drastically reduce number of wolves in Sweden – from approximately 400 down to approximately 200. Scientists are now reacting to this goal. In a letter published in Science 18 researchers from 5 countries warn that such a cull would further threaten this already highly vulnerable population.
The authors of the letter point to the results from extensive genetic monitoring of the population that have revealed persistent genetic isolation that have resulted in extreme levels of inbreeding – individuals are on average as closely related as siblings. Negative effects of this inbreeding have been documented, and recent studies focusing on the entire genome of these wolves show genetic erosion with dramatic losses of variability.
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.