Conservation Group Suing Wisconsin DNR Over No Winter Wolf Season

by Kayla Zadel

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources now has a legal matter on its hands. A conservation group, Hunter Nation Inc., a Kansas-based hunting advocacy group, with the help of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), filed a lawsuit today (Feb 2.) in Jefferson County.

The suit is against DNR Secretary Preston Cole, the DNR, and Natural Resources Board (NRB) for not holding a wolf season in Wisconsin this January and February.

The president of Hunter Nation, Luke Hilegemann, says Governor Tony Evers, Cole, the Wisconsin DNR, and NRB are violating 2011’s Act 169. It states the DNR “shall” put on a wolf season any time the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) delists timberwolves, Outdoors News reports.

Furthermore, it asks the court to order the DNR to “immediately establish an open season for hunting and trapping wolves.”

After six years of federal protections, wolves were once again delisted from the endangered species list on Jan. 4 by the USFWS. Now it’s up to the state on how they handle the population.

The DNR’s chief legal counsel, Cheryl Heilman believes that there still is time to hold a wolf season. That could start this month if the Jefferson County Circuit Court acts quickly and rules in the conservation group’s favor.

Additionally, the DNR states the timeline was too short to put a season in place this winter.

Wolves in Wisconsin

This is the latest news to come on the delisting of wolves and their management in the United States. The wolves in Wisconsin were a native carnivore before they were eradicated in the 1950s after years of unregulated hunting. However, protection increased for the wolf, especially during the 1973 Endangered Species Act. As a result, the wolf population began to increase.

From there it continued to steadily grow from the 1980s into the 2010s. Then after the animal was delisted in 2012, the DNR held a wolf season for three years.

Now with this new decision, the change allows hunters to use lethal measures to kill and trap the wolves, especially if their livelihood, like livestock, is under attack.

There’s been an estimated 1,195 wolves in and 256 packs in Wisconsin last winter. According to the DNR, this is a high count for the species.