Judge Orders Wisconsin DNR to Hold Wolf Hunt Immediately

by Chris Haney
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On Thursday, a Wisconsin judge in Jefferson County ordered the state’s Department of Natural Resources to hold a wolf hunting and trapping season this month.

Instead of waiting until fall, the judge has initiated an immediate wolf hunting season. The decision follows a recent lawsuit filed by Hunter Nation Inc., which called for an immediate start to Wisconsin’s wolf hunt.

The hunting-rights group stated that the law is unambiguous. In addition, they said the DNR had violated hunters’ constitutional rights by not allowing wolf hunting and trapping right away.

On Jan. 4, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the endangered species list. The move returned authority to the lower 48 states and tribes to allow management of wolf populations. A 2012 state law says that if wolves aren’t on the endangered list, the DNR must allow hunting from November to February.

However, the DNR’s policy board voted against opening the season in February by a 4-3 count last month. The board had concerns over the DNR not having time to consult local tribal nations. Treaties require officials to consult with the tribes before making any decisions.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Bennett Brantmeier ruled on the matter on Thursday. During a hearing, Brantmeier ordered the DNR to “implement and follow their duty to hold the Gray Wolf hunting season in February 2021.” Furthermore, Brantmeier denied the DNR’s request for a stay pending appeal on the grounds that the appeal would not likely be successful.

DNR spokeswoman Sarah Hoye said the Department of Justice is reviewing the judge’s ruling. But the agency is moving forward with plans to implement the court’s order so that hunters can begin hunting wolves immediately.

Wolf Hunt Ruling Called ‘Historic Victory’ By Hunting-Rights Group

President of Hunter Nation Inc., Luke Hilgemann, shared his thoughts following the judge’s ruling. He called the case “a historic victory for the Wisconsin hunter.”

“Today’s ruling solidifies the rule of law,” Hilgemann said. “[It] finally provides clear direction to the Evers administration to move full speed ahead with our statutorily required wolf hunt. Any attempts by the Evers administration to overturn this ruling are a direct assault to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin hunters.”

It’s been seven years since the last approved Wisconsin wolf hunt in 2014. Yet the law does allow individual’s to defend themselves and their property from immediate threats by wolves. If the creatures are attacking humans or domestic animals on private land, residents are allowed to shoot the attacking wolves.

However, the hunt has been a controversial topic in the state for many years. Those who support wolf hunting worry about the predators killing livestock, pets, and even rural residents. In contrast, wildlife supporters say the wolves should be left alone. In fact, Native American tribes consider them sacred animals.

Previous to the court’s wolf hunting ruling, dozens of residents testified on both sides of the discussion. Additionally, officials received more than 1,400 written comments on the hunting issue.

According to the DNR, Wisconsin contains at least 1,034 wolves within 256 packs. The animals are most prominently located across the northern third of Wisconsin and the Central Forest region. In the last decade, the state’s population has grown by more than 200. In 2012, the state’s population had an estimated 815 wolves.

The DNR also reported that wolves killed or injured 152 animals in 2020, including livestock and hunting dogs. The agency has paid $1.8 million in the last 10 years in wolf depredation payments.

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