GAVLE, Sweden, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A wolf pair with pups may have been among the 27 wolves killed in Sweden's first wolf hunt in 45 years, officials said.
Nearly 12,000 hunters had permits to cull a total of 27 wolves from a nationwide population of about 210 wolves. The hunt began Saturday and was to end Feb. 15, but hunters killed 20 wolves the first day and the rest by Tuesday, The Stockholm News reported Friday.
A wolf couple, or alpha pair, shot Tuesday in Gavleborg County may have had pups born last May, said local officials who were searching for the wolves' den to rescue the pups before they starved.
"The killing of the alpha pair is not a hunting crime, but there is a moral dilemma. One can think about the ethics of shooting the parent animals," said Sweden's Daniel Hansson, Sweden's administrator of predator issues.
Some environmentalists criticized the hunt as rushed and cruel, while Swedish Minister of the Environment Andreas Carlgren defended the hunt.
"Those involved in the wolf hunt have showed responsibility and control has occurred," Carlgren said.