After a threat of legal action from the European Union, Swedish Environmental Minister Andreas Carlgren says the government has decided to put a halt to its licensed wolf hunts.
The "temporary halt" was to "ensure that Sweden does not lose the right to decide on its own wolf population," Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren told a news conference.
Swedish wolves actually went extinct in the 1970s, though they recolonized from Finland 10 years later.
Today, all of the roughly 250 Swedish wolves have descended from those few founding individuals. Thus, the population is highly inbred, suffering from skeletal abnormalities and reproduction problems.
A new study, reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggests that illegal poaching accounts for over half of all deaths of Swedish wolves. Of that, researchers suggest that over two-thirds of poaching goes undetected.
The study predicts that without the last decade of poaching, wolves would have numbered around a thousand by 2009, four times the number reported that year.
While illegal poaching is a great concern, last year, Sweden allowed wolf hunting for the first time in 45 years.
Sweden has held two licensed wolf hunts, one in 2010 and one 2011. This year's ended with 19 out of the quota of 20 wolves shot.
This caught the attention of EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potecnik, who claimed that it was a violation of an EU directive.
Though Carlgren argues that the commission's interpretation is "rigid" and does not allow flexibility for local conditions, the nation has agreed to stop the hunting. However, the Swedish Government has stated that it will look into controlled hunting of "problem wolves."
Sweden has long defended the practice in order to secure public support for a viable wolf population in the Nordic nation among groups like hunters, farmers, and reindeer herders.
The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation welcomed the government's announcement, but added that it needed to study the proposals in greater detail.