Wisconsin wolf season off and running
The quota was reduced to 119 wolves for state-licensed hunters after tribal members reserved their share under treaty rights.
Wisconsin’s first wolf hunting and trapping season since 2014 began Monday across the northern reaches of the state and will continue until 119 wolves are harvested by state-licensed hunters, or the end of the day Feb. 28, whichever comes first.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials said they received 27,151 applications for 2,380 permits that were issued Monday. Successful applicants had to check the status and pay their $49 resident license fee and print their licenses before they could begin hunting or trapping Monday.
A state court judge ruled Feb. 11 that the DNR must hold a hunt under an existing state law that calls for wolf hunting and trapping each year between October and February.
Federal authorities dropped Endangered Species Act protections for wolves as of Jan. 4, and while the DNR wanted to wait until November to hold the first season since 2014, the judge’s order forced the agency’s hand.
A DNR request to the state Court of Appeals to stay the lower court order and stop the hunt was denied late Friday.
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The DNR originally set a quota of 200 wolves to be killed by state-licensed hunters and trappers during the current seven-day season. But that quota was reduced to 119 after remaining wolf permits were reserved for Anishinaabe tribal members based on treaty hunting and fishing rights. Tribal authorities had argued against a wolf hunt saying wolves are sacred to their culture. It’s believed permits reserved for tribes will not be used.
The six wolf zones had between six and 32 permits available for the season.
Supporters say the immediate wolf hunt is necessary to cull some of the state’s estimated 1,100 wolves as their numbers continue to grow and as problems occur with livestock depredation. Several hunting groups also want wolf numbers reduced to slow depredation on deer.
Critics, however, say the hunt was hastily organized and comes at a time of winter that could disrupt wolf breeding season and could disrupt pack hierarchy, causing more conflict with livestock and pets, not less.
So far, Minnesota has not moved on a wolf hunting or trapping season, although dueling bills have been introduced in the state Legislature: one ordering the DNR to hold a wolf season and another prohibiting the DNR from holding a wolf season.