Wolf prowling Stockholm suburbsWolf prowling Stockholm suburbs
Once a looming menace in the country’s woods, wolves have become a rare sight in Sweden in recent centuries. Therefore, Eva Hansson of the Stockholm district of Saltsjöbaden was certain that it was a big, grey German shepherd dog she had seen through her kitchen window early Sunday morning. When she and her husband Thomas took a closer look, they could scarcely believe their own eyes. ‘At first I couldn’t believe what I saw. What a surprise!’ Hansson told daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. Police, however, were not in doubt. ‘If it was a wolf? There is no doubt in my mind,’ said Anders Karlsson of the police in Nacka. Police spotted the wolf on Sunday in eastern Stockholm, and two police cars followed it down a road before the predator stopped suddenly, turned around to face them, and began walking towards the cars. ‘The wolf stopped just a few metres from my colleagues in their cars and looked at them for a while, before turning off the road and walking away,’ a police spokesman said, adding that police had lost track of the animal. A wolf was also spotted on Friday and Saturday in the districts of Vaxholm and Åkersberga, north of Stockholm. Thousands of wolves roamed Scandinavia’s woods in the past, but their numbers declined drastically because of heavy hunting and deforestation throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, until they became almost extinct in the 1960s. Today, a few hundred animals are believed to live in Norway, Sweden, and Finland combined.
Swedes long harboured an innate fear of wolves, and in Swedish literature, tales abound of people fleeing through wintry woodlands with a pack of wolves at their heels. One particularly gory tale of Selma Lagerlöf describes how parents were forced to throw one of their children off their horse sleigh to the wolves to attempt to save the rest of their family. Today, farmers complain that wolves kill sheep and other farm animals and an estimated number of ten hunting dogs have been killed by wolves in the past year. Nevertheless, it is quite rare for the creatures to be sighted so close to Sweden’s major cities. Public wolf tracker Mats Rapp said wolves could travel a long way and often roamed the entire Scandinavian region. He guessed that the Stockholm wolf was a young male searching for a mate and a new territory to establish his own pack. Swedish law forbids the killing of wolves, but a recent government bill allows them to be shot if they stray into enclosures and appear threatening. Worldwide, only one incident of a person being killed by a wolf has been documented in the past forty years, when a child in India died in 1996.