Open season on Sweden's 'monster of the lake'

Stockholm - Sweden's Storsjon Monster, the mythical inhabitant of Storsjon Lake, will soon be fair game for hunters and curio-seekers as its protected status is about to be lifted, local authorities said on Wednesday.

Named after the stretch of water it "inhabits", the monster is Sweden's answer to Scotland's Loch Ness Monster, Norway's "Selma" and Argentina's "Nahuelito".

The legend dates back at least to the 1600s and tells of a huge black serpent with a cat-like head. But a snake-like beast is also depicted on a Viking rune-stone from hundreds of years earlier on an island in the middle of the lake.

Now the law protecting the beast, in place since 1986, is to be lifted after a request from a local man for permission to collect its eggs forced local authorities to acknowledge they lack scientific evidence that it is a valid species.

"We do not question the Great Lake Monster's existence - of course we believe it exists," Peter Lif, head of legal affairs for the region of Jamtland told reporters. "But we find ourselves forced to lift its protection."

He encouraged believers in the monster to take advantage of the change in the law to catch the beast humanely and prove its existence.

"We encourage everyone to come here and search for the monster so that we can establish valid protection," he said.

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