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Wolves in the Early Nineteenth-Century County of Jönköping, Sweden

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In Sweden there has been a vigorous debate concerning management of the wolf (Canis lupus) ever since 1983, when the species was naturally re-established in the country by long-distance dispersal. The contradictory interests are due to a commitment by Naturvårdsverket, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, to protect the wolf, while at the same time wolves arouse fear and hatred among many members of the public because they attack hunting dogs and kill game and livestock. The wolf is expected to increase in numbers and spread over most of Sweden. We argue that modern wolf management would benefit from a historical perspective and our study draws on data from a time when wolves, livestock and people depending on their herds were far more numerous than today. We also discuss aspects of available wolf food supply and territorial size in the early nineteenth century county of Jönköping, Sweden. This is possible by combining hitherto undetected source material on wolves, with a high geographical resolution, with the insights of modern wildlife research. Our main conclusions are that historic wolf territories were in all probability larger than current territories. This was due to a scarcity of large prey, especially during the winter months when livestock were stabled. Past herding practices seem, to a very large extent, to have kept predation on livestock at nearly negligible levels compared to total livestock numbers. This is a significant finding that should be of interest to those concerned with present day wolf management. We also discuss the potential for the future re-establishment of wolves in the studied area.
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Keywords: historical wolf territories; human-wolf interaction; nineteenth century Sweden; wolf bounties; wolf management

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2013

More about this publication?
  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2018) of 0.800. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.918.
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