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Environment and History

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

Örjan Kardell and Anna Dahlström

Environment and History 19 (2013): 339-370. doi: 10.3197/096734013X13690716950145

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.

KEYWORDS: Historical wolf territories; wolf bounties; human–wolf interaction; nineteenth century Sweden; wolf management.


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