The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board on Wednesday approved a quota of 300 wolves for the fall hunting and trapping season, more than double the quota of 130 wolves proposed by the Department of Natural Resources.
The fall hunt will come just nine months after the state’s unusual February wolf season, when hunters and trappers killed 216 wolves in less than three days during the state's first wolf season since 2014, 82% above the quota of 119 wolves set by the DNR.
That total harvest during the February court-ordered wolf season means hunters and trappers killed nearly 20% of the state's estimated total wolf population of about 1,100 in less than 72 hours.
It was the first winter wolf season in state history. DNR officials went into the Wednesday meeting saying “the results of the February 2021 hunt cause the department to recommend a conservative approach for the November 2021 hunting season.”
- DNR: No Minnesota wolf hunt this year
- Time to get involved in future of Wisconsin wolves
- Critics say Wisconsin winter wolf hunt was too much, too soon
Wolf advocates were already angry at what they called a wolf slaughter in February, especially concerned over the use of hounds to chase wolves so they could be shot in the open by hunters.
Now, the same groups say Wisconsin is the prime example why wolves need to regain federal Endangered Species Act protections that were dropped by the Trump administration in January. The Biden administration has said it is reviewing all Trump-era actions on endangered species, and three lawsuits have been filed in federal court seeking to reinstate the protections for wolves. Those cases have been combined into one with a hearing set for this fall.
But farming groups and some hunting organizations say culling wolves is the only answer to reducing wolf conflicts with livestock and pets.
More than 50 people, including tribal officials, testified at Wednesday’s board meeting, with many strongly opposed to a fall hunt. Collette Adkins, Minnesota-based legal counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, was among them.
“Authorizing another aggressive hunt this year creates a real risk of nearly wiping out Wisconsin’s wolves,” Adkins said in a statement after the vote. “Science and conservation don’t seem to matter to most board members, who set this wolf-killing quota like they were haggling over a used car. We need federal protections restored so that Wisconsin’s wolf population can start to heal from the extensive damage done earlier this year.”
The board, which sets policy for the DNR, approved the wolf quota on a 5-2 vote. Board Chair Frederick Prehn voted in favor of the increased wolf quota. He continues to hold office more than three months after his six-year term expired May 1.
In July, the Humane Society of the United States and the Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul requesting legal action to remove Prehn from office.
The Minnesota DNR earlier this year said it will wait until 2022, until after a new state wolf management plan is in place, to make any decisions on wolf hunting or trapping in the state.