To the chagrin of animal rights groups and conservationists, wolf-hunting season opened in Sweden on Tuesday, after authorities permitted a cull of 22 of the animals.
On December 28, animal rights campaigners had appealed to Sweden's supreme court to prevent the cull, after an earlier appeal to the administrative court at Sundsvall in western Sweden fell on deaf ears.
"On December 29, 2017, the supreme administrative court rejected the appeal against the decision to (allow) wolf-hunting," the court said in a ruling seen by AFP.
"The 2018 wolf-hunting season will start on January 2," the Swedish hunting federation said on its website. The licensed season, covering five central municipalities, runs to February 15.
By Tuesday afternoon, three wolves had already been culled, according to the national veterinary institute, which is tasked with carrying out autopsies on the dead animals.
Hunting has been a hot issue going back and forth between the courts since 2009, after parliament ended an almost 50-year ban.
Sweden has about 350 wolves, according to environmental protection estimates, but authorities want to see that total lowered to 300.
Anti-hunt campaigners took the sensitive issue to court, charging that Swedish regulations contravene European legislation protecting the species under the terms of a 1979 Bern convention.
"It's a shame, but we cannot do any more," said Torbjorn Nilsson, chairman of the Swedish Carnivore Association.
"We hope the supreme administrative court will eventually find a reasonable solution," he told the TT news agency.
Hunts in 2010 and 2011 saw 46 wolves culled in each year. In 2015, 44 wolves were hunted, followed by 14 in 2016 and 24 last year. Judges cut short the 2013 season after three wolves had been killed.
Sweden and several other European states have allowed wolf populations to rise in recent decades, despite opposition by livestock owners.