Few people are lucky enough to see a wild lynx in Europe these days – but this privileged experience is about to become rarer as Sweden permits the hunting of this elusive cat.
Just weeks after the Scandinavian country approved the largest wolf cull in modern history, Sweden’s country administrators have issued licenses to hunt 201 lynx throughout March, which is more than double the number of recent years.
The move is especially baffling as it does not appear to be motivated by anything other than trophy hunting as these wild cats pose no threat to humans or livestock. In fact, Sweden’s hunter’s association, Svenska Jägareförbundet, told the Guardian that “The hunt is absolutely not linked to any danger to humans. Neither is wolf hunting – there are no documented cases of wolves attacking humans in Swedish modern times.”
“The lynx hunt is more about the excitement, and for some hunters, of course, the skin is the motivation.”
The Eurasian lynx is Europe’s third largest predator, after the brown bear and the wolf, and is one of the widest-ranging species of cat.
Intense food shortages, inbreeding, the loss of habitat, vehicle collisions, and fur poachers brought the overall population to the brink of extinction at the start of the last century, but conservation efforts have seen the species bounce back. However, they remain critically endangered and their numbers are dwindling to the extent that they may become the first cat species to become extinct in 2,000 years.
Last month, a team of conservationists reported that the lynx population in France had dropped to around 120-150 adults. They also estimated that the cat’s genetic diversity was so low that they may become extinct in the country within the next 30 years. DNA analysis of the animals showed that France’s lynx had the genetic diversity of an effective population of only 38 animals.
By comparison, Sweden has a larger population of lynx which is estimated to be around 1,450 animals, but this is about 300 fewer than a decade ago.
According to the animal rights advocacy group, Svenska Rovdjursföreningen, the new cull is unethical and unsustainable. They point out that the “trophy hunt starts right in the middle of the lynx’s short mating season, which is a clear breach of the EU Habitats Directive.” The hunters use dogs to scare the lynx from hiding so that they will try to flee up trees, where they are easy targets to be shot.
The lynx has been voted Sweden’s most popular carnivore, according to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and is popularly believed to have a home in Swedish nature. Unfortunately, it seems that people in Sweden are largely unaware that hunting happens across the year and to this extent.
Svenska Rovdjursföreningen has launched a petition calling for this cruel trophy hunting practice to be brought to a halt.