Sweden suspends wolf hunt after protests from wildlife activists

Sweden has suspended a controversial wolf cull after a legal challenge by animal rights activists.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency had allowed a "targeted" cull of 16 wolves this year in an effort to protect the wolf population from inbreeding.

EPA wildlife coordinator Ruona Burman said Thursday that three animals had been killed before a Stockholm court suspended the hunt this week, pending a decision on an appeal by the nature conservancy and animal rights groups.

Wolf hunting is a highly charged issue in Sweden, pitting activists against land owners whose livestock have been attacked by the country's small but growing wolf population.

Once near extinction, Sweden's wolf population is now growing by an average of 14 percent annually and was estimated at 260-330 animals last year, Burman said.