On Monday, hunters can begin to harvest up to 200 gray wolves in Wisconsin after the state’s Department of Natural Resources lost its court appeal to protect the wild animals.
Wisconsin’s DNR tried to delay the planned hunting season to no avail. The move followed the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s removal of gray wolves from the endangered species list. After 45 years of the classification, the agency stripped the animals of their federal protections. The Trump administration allowed the agency to remove wolves from the endangered species list during its final days last month.
The court ruling gave management of the wolf population back to the states. However, pro-hunting group Hunter Nation, who wanted a hunting and trapping season to start immediately, sued the agency. Supposedly, Hunter Nation had worries about the Biden administration adding gray wolves back to the endangered species list.
On Friday, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the hunters. The court then approved an immediate hunting and trapping season to begin on February 22. The DNR originally planned for a wolf-hunting season to begin much later this year in November. The delay would’ve given pups born in the springtime to grow. Additionally, officials thought the delay would allow for more thorough evaluations of the wolf population.
More than 20,000 hunters applied for Wisconsin hunting licenses that would allow them to harvest wolves for the first time in decades. Officials will only approve 4,000 permits. Wildlife officials notified the lucky hunters who will receive a permit Monday morning. After paying a $49 fee and printing their carcass tags, the selected hunters may take part in the wolf harvest.
Wisconsin Hunters and Activists Have Differing Opinions on Wolf Population Management
The 200 wolf quota is divided among six “management zones” throughout Wisconsin. The wolf hunting and trapping season will only last six days, or until hunters meet the quota of 200 wolves harvested.
The state’s DNR estimates Wisconsin’s wolf population to have 256 packs consisting of around 1,000 wolves. Therefore, hunters can harvest about 20% of the state’s wolf population.
The court ruling is the latest development in a controversial debate over whether wolf hunting should be allowed this winter. A Huffington Post report states that many citizens in Wisconsin fear “far more than 200 wolves will be killed by the time counts are made.”
Furthermore, Native American tribes consider wolves to be sacred animals, so local tribes are against the wolf harvest.
During the first half of the 20th century, hunters decimated Wisconsin’s gray wolf population because of unregulated hunting and poisoning. In fact, the wolf population in the state was down to only 25 as of 1980. According to the DNR, officials adding the gray wolf to the endangered species list helped their numbers rebound over the last four decades. They now have a population just above 1,000.
Yet hunters say it’s their right to harvest wolves if the animals aren’t included on the endangered list. According to Wisconsin law, the DNR is required to allow a single wolf hunting and trapping season. The season would normally run from October 15 to the end of February when legal.
Hunters who support the wolf harvest say the predators pose a clear threat to livestock and pets. In contrast, animal rights activists say the wolf population hasn’t fully recovered. The activists think further government protection for wolves will counter their possible extinction.