A mythical monster, believed by some to have lived for hundreds of years in the murky depths of a Swedish lake, is now fair game for hunters if they can find it. Authorities have agreed to lift its endangered species protection.
Hundreds of people claim to have spotted a large serpent-like creature in Lake Storsjon in the northwestern province of Jamtland, and in 1986 the regional council put it on a list of endangered animals.
But a government watchdog challenged the decision, saying such protection was hardly necessary for a creature whose existence has not been proven.
The regional council agreed to remove the listing this month, but declined to rule out that a monster lives in the 300-foot deep lake.
"It exists, inasmuch as it lives in the minds of people," the council's chief legal adviser Peter Lif said about the purported beast. "But I guess we'll have to agree that it cannot be proved scientifically, and then it should not be listed as an endangered species."
The so-called Storsjo monster was first mentioned in print in 1635. Hundreds of sightings have been reported since then. Some people describe the creature as a snakelike animal with a dog's head and fins on its neck. But no clear image of it has been captured on camera.
Storsjo monster aficionados said lifting the endangered species protection was a mistake, and appeared insulted by the decision.
"We are not fanatics," said Christer Berko, of the Storsjo monster association. "We see this as very interesting phenomenon that we unfortunately have not been able to document."