, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 230–239 | Cite as

Shoot shovel and sanction yourself: Self-policing as a response to wolf poaching among Swedish hunters

  • M. Nils PetersonEmail author
  • Erica von Essen
  • Hans Peter Hansen
  • Tarla Rai Peterson
Research Article


Self-policing is essential for addressing wildlife-related crime where illegal activity is extremely diffuse, and limited resources are available for monitoring and enforcement. Emerging research on self-policing suggest key drivers including economics, folk traditions, and socio-political resistance. We build on this research with a case study evaluating potential drivers of self-policing illegal wolf killing among Swedish hunting teams. Swedish hunters marginally leaned toward considering illegal hunting of wolves an expression of resistance (10.30 out of a possible 17 on a resistance scale) and strongly believed outsiders had undue influence over hunting (15.79 out of a possible 21 on an influence scale). Most (73%) Swedish hunters stated they would report illegal wolf killing to authorities, but 20% stated they would handle the infractions through internal sanctions. Viewing illegal hunting of wolves as a form of political resistance, viewing wolf management as being controlled locally, and perceived prevalence of illegal wolf killing among hunting acquaintances were positive predictors of preferring internal sanctions to address illegal wolf killing over reporting the crimes. Resistance and perceived prevalence of wolf killing also predicted preferring no action to address illegal wolf killing. These results suggest that a counterpublic of marginalized ruralism may promote forms of self-policing that rely on internal censure for illegal wolf killing rather than using formal legal channels. Similarly, folk traditions within this counterpublic (e.g., perceptions of prevalence of illegal wolf killing) shape if and how internal sanctions are advocated. Re-engaging marginalized hunting groups and emphasizing the rarity of illegal wolf killing may promote wolf conservation, both in Sweden and in other democratic regimes.


Hunting Poaching Power Predators Resistance Social influence Wolves 



We thank North Carolina State University, The University of Texas at El Paso, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and FORMAS for supporting this work. We also thank our Associate Editor E. C. Keskitalo and two anonymous reviewers for constructive advice needed to improve the manuscript.

Supplementary material

13280_2018_1072_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (169 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 169 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Nils Peterson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Erica von Essen
    • 2
  • Hans Peter Hansen
    • 3
  • Tarla Rai Peterson
    • 4
  1. 1.Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Program, Department of Forestry & Environmental ResourcesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Division of Environmental Communication, Department of Urban and Rural DevelopmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.Section of Wildlife Ecology, Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityKaløDenmark
  4. 4.Department of Communication and Program in Environmental Science & EngineeringUniversity of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA

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