Friday, November 18, 2005

Wolf prowling Stockholm suburbs

Wolf 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.


At November 18, 2005 4:41 PM, Blogger sissyblue said...

Interesting. I didn't realize Scandinavia's wildlife was so depleted. In North America we still have plenty of wildlife (although wolves took a real beating up until recently).

I just heard there's enough grizzly bears in the lower 48 to take them off the endangered species list.

Maybe you should import some wolves from Canada. Muslim immigrants are REALLY afraid of dogs. Actually if I lived in Europe I'd have 2 huge German Shepherds.

At November 18, 2005 5:07 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Re: wolf attacks. They have been extremely rare with no known fatalities in North America in something like 100 years. It's all the more surprising then when a geology student working in a mining camp in northern Saskatchewan was killed by a wolf recently (see link). Another attack in nortthern Saskatchewan occurred last year but the person wrestled the wolf down until help arrived. His thick winter parka helped him and he only had bad bruising around his upper arm.

There have also been something like five or six fatal bear maulings this year.

At November 18, 2005 6:37 PM, Blogger Don Miguel said...


There is actually a re-introduction of wolves here in Arizona that goes on once in a while -- but that is out in land of forest and ranches. I live in the city and I still see coyotes once in a while.

At November 19, 2005 1:20 AM, Blogger sissyblue said...

Don miguel, I see lots of coyotes here in the middle of Dallas, on the golf courses. They look pretty fat and happy! A hawk killed a pigeon in our backyard last week. He ate everything except the feathers:) And yesterday we saw a huge possum sitting on our gate. I got all the way up to 3 feet from him and took his picture, and he still didn't move.

Are animals acting differently now? A dog in the neighborhood killed my blue heeler this last summer, and a stray tried to attack us a couple months ago. I carry a HUGE can of mace now. It's still kind of strange though. I've gone "unattacked" for 30 years, and now all of sudden animals are really acting weird.

At November 19, 2005 3:44 PM, Blogger Pastorius said...

I live in a house on a 1/4 acre in the middle of the Los Angeles suburban sprawl, and I have racoons, opossums, hawks, hummingbirds, doves, and a cat, all living in my back yard. In addition, coyotes visit our neighborhood, and there are, of course, rats, as well.

I've also seen snakes, lizards, squirrels, rabbits, ducks, pigeons, blackbirds, seagulls, and mountain lion in my area. Oh yes, and pelican and a bunch of other sea birds whose names I do not know.

Kind of gives the lie to the idea that America has destroyed it's eco-system.

On the subject of animals acting strangely, I was recently in West Palm Beach for a week, and TWICE, I was chased across the parking lot of my hotel by a racoon.

Very funny. What the heck was wrong with that racoon? What the heck was wrong with me to run from it, huh? (don't know if they carry rabies, and don't want to find out)

At November 20, 2005 12:07 AM, Blogger Don Miguel said...

I also have a wide variety of animals in my neighborhood, but the coyotes, rattlesnakes, scorpions and black windows aren't what bother me -- it's the bloody pigeons! sissyblue, we get a few hawks, too, but they have zero effect on pigeons. I got so sick of the failure of a multitude of passive measures to get rid of them that I had to give in and perform what the KGB used to call "wet work." It’s actually pretty easy once you look at them as “flying rats.”

At November 22, 2005 9:56 AM, Blogger oskar said...

@ Sissyblue:
Scandinavian wildlife is hardly depleted - just that we're not used to wolves in the city! Actually, if hunting wasn't a huge sport here there'd be way too many moose and deer. Also, wild board have made a come-back in the last decade, and they're now quite popular game as well. Bears are quite common as well, but not enough to be open for general hunting.

I lived in in a suburb of Washington DC for a couple of years as a child and have fond memories of all of the chipmunks, squirrels and racoons in our back-yard. I've never seen so much roadkill in my life! But, don't remember any big animals.

On the topic of muslim immigrants being afraid of dogs/wolves. I remember a short program on the TV news where they interviewed some immigrant women on their first ever trip to the forest (sponsored by the local social care office). When asked why they had never been out in the forest before despite having lived in Sweden for a decade or so, she answered that she was afraid of the forest, afraid of wild animals.


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