The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources set a quota of 130 wolves for the November fall wolf hunt. The decisions defied both its own policy-setting board and input from activist groups.
Management authority over gray wolves returned to state agencies after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the federal endangered species list Jan. 4, 2021. In accordance with state statute, the DNR plans for the wolf harvesting season to begin Nov. 6, 2021, according to a DNR news release.
State statute and department rules authorize the DNR to set the final number of gray wolves that can be harvested during the fall 2021 wolf harvest. State-licensed hunters and trappers have free reign over 74 wolves within six zones established by the department regulations. The department will obey the Ojibwe Tribes’ treaty rights to the remaining 56 wolves within the Ceded Territory, according to a DNR news release.
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“In determining the quota, the department considered the best available information and scientific modeling, as well as the input from the Wolf Harvest Committee, the Natural Resources Board, and the many groups and members of the public who provided comments to the department and the Board,” the DNR said in the news release.
The DNR originally sought to hold one wolf hunt in Wisconsin this fall. But this decision was met with a lawsuit from Kansas-based Hunter Nation last February that resulted in an immediate, forced wolf hunt, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
During the expedited, legally-enforced wolf hunt, state-licensed hunters dismissed their quota and killed 218 wolves in less than 72 hours. The new changes to the fall 2021 quota may also prompt legal responses from Wisconsin hunters, according to the Wisconsin Public Radio.
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Hunter Nation CEO Luke Hilgemann said hunters supported the board’s quota and wish it was set higher. Hunters, farmers and residents living among wolves have also supported a higher harvest ceiling due to increased conflicts with hounds and livestock as the wolf population has grown to more than 1,100 wolves statewide, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
Six Native American Tribes sued Wisconsin last Tuesday in an effort to stop the planned November wolf hunt. The tribe members made their legal claims on the grounds that the harvest violates their treaty rights and endangers an animal they consider sacred, according to the Associated Press.
“In our treaty rights, we’re supposed to share with the state 50-50 in our resources and we’re feeling that we’re not getting our due diligence because of the slaughter of wolves in February,” President of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians John Johnson Sr. said.
The Chippewa tribes intend to protect the wolves that they have treaty rights to. Conservationists, animal rights groups and researchers have also fought to cancel the wolf hunt over concern that it would devastate the wolf population, according to the Associated Press.
In an email statement to The Badger Herald, Collette Adkins, who is the carnivore conservation program director and senior attorney at the Center of Biological Diversity, said the center has also filed a lawsuit to restore protections to wolves in Wisconsin and throughout the United States.
Adkins said the Wisconsin court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12, a few days after the start of Wisconsin’s fall hunt.
“We cannot let hunters destroy years of progress toward wolf recovery in Wisconsin,” Adkins said in the statement. “Wisconsin’s disastrous winter wolf hunt shows why we can’t leave the fate of wolves in the hands of states that are so eager to toss science to the wind and cater to the whims of trophy hunters.”