An Assembly committee approved a bill establishing a wolf hunting season in Wisconsin following the de-listing of wolves from the endangered species list last January.
In an executive session Wednesday, the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources passed in a bipartisan vote an amended bill establishing a wolf hunt from Oct. 15 to the end of February in Wisconsin. The bill allows the Department of Natural Resources to issue permits to hunters to kill wolves.
After several amendments introduced were tabled, Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, said he still supported passage of the bill despite his concerns.
“I think we could have probably tightened this up on more,” Danou said. “Like I said, we are embarking on a journey into the unknown. Wisconsin has never had a managed wolf hunt. We may not have a managed wolf hunt. Who knows”?
Rep. Louis Molepske Jr., D-Stevens Point, raised concerns that the bill might put the hunt in action too fast and could damage the wolf population.
However, committee chair Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, said since DNR could control the hunting season, it could prevent overhunting the wolves.
“I don’t think anybody in this room or anybody in this committee wants to see the wolf re-listed, and I think in light of this bill if something like that starts going that way, the department has a right to shut the season down completely,” Mursau said.
One of the amendments Danou introduced would have removed the portions of the bill allowing hunting at night, which he said was a public safety issue.
He said any type of night hunting is dangerous.
“This is not a coyote, this is not a raccoon up a tree, this is an extremely large potentially very dangerous predator,” Danou said. “If you’ve ever been coon hunting at night you can get yourself hurt pretty badly. Add in very large predators being pursued that’s not going to go up a tree; it may turn around and come back.”
Molepske pointed out the bill before the amendment would allow people to hunt wolves 24/7, including during the four months where wolves may be carrying young.
He said while most of the committee agrees the state needs to manage the wolf population, the bill makes hunting into a mature sporting activity, including hunting with dogs.
“Let us not forget the turkey that was reintroduced into the state only recently,” Molepske said. “And not immediately did we allow you to hunt with dogs. That was over a period of time.”
The amendment was tabled by a committee vote.
Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said while Molepske and Danou’s amendments may have merit, he could not vote for them because they did not talk to him before the amendments came before the vote.
However, Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, voted against the bill because he said it moves too quickly.
He said the goal of the bill was to reduce the population of gray wolves from 800 to 350, which he thought might put the gray wolf back on the endangered species list. He added he has not seen compelling evidence of wolf depredations.
“When we held coyote depredations hearings in my district, the DNR pointed out the number one animal that bites people is dogs, not wolves or coyotes,” Hulsey said.