Swedish government paused the licensed hunting of wolves this winter, as a response to the EU Commission's criticism against the licensed wolf hunt.

In a recent study, illegal poaching was blamed for over half of the deaths of Swedish wolves. Two-thirds of poaching goes undetected by conventional methods, revealed the researchers whose findings are reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

If Swedish wolves had not been persecuted in the past decade, there would have been four times more wolves than there are today.

"Many have speculated that poaching levels are high for many threatened species of carnivores," said Chris Carbone from the Zoological Society of London.

"This study presents an important step in trying to quantify this hidden threat."

In 2010, Sweden allowed wolf hunting for the first time in 45 years, but received harsh criticism from EU, for violating an EU directive.

The Swedish government has decided to stop the hunt to avoid arduous legal proceedings in Brussels, according to Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren. On Wednesday, he said that Sweden will instead expand the possibilities for a hunt of wolves that have cause damaged, which is legal in the EU, reported the Associated Press.