Wisconsin Being Sued in Effort to Prevent November Wolf Hunt

by Jennifer Shea

Six Native American tribes are suing Wisconsin over the state’s upcoming gray wolf hunt this November. They say their treaty rights entitle them to a 50-50 split of resources. And they want to use their quota to preserve the gray wolf population, which they consider sacred.

The Chippewa tribes’ lawsuit follows another lawsuit from a coalition of wildlife conservation groups who also want to stop the state’s wolf hunt and to nullify a law that mandates annual hunts, Fox News reports. The conservationists say the laws are too narrow and don’t allow wildlife managers to take population estimates into account.

This new lawsuit comes as hunters and farmers on one side and conservationists on the other are battling over how to deal with the state’s wolf population. Farmers are generally in favor of hunting wolves because they prey on livestock. Conservationists and Native American tribes argue hunters have been too aggressive in going after the wolves.

Wisconsin Hunters Went Too Far in February

And the latter groups have some evidence on their side. This past February, the Department of Natural Resources had to end the gray wolf hunting season early after hunters killed 218 wolves over just four days. That was way beyond the court-ordered limit of 119 wolves.

When it came time to set the fall quota, DNR biologists recommended leaving it at 130. But officials instead set it at 300. That has prompted panicked requests from conservationists to cancel this fall’s hunt lest it wipe out the gray wolf population.

The Chippewa tribes’ share of 300 is 150. So that leaves the quota for state-licensed hunters at 150. But in their lawsuit, the tribes argue that state officials’ move to up the quota to 300 was a deliberate attempt to nullify their share of the gray wolf resources. Plus, it was clearly not based on the advice of experts.

The DNR estimates Wisconsin’s gray wolf population at around 1,000. Conservationists think hunters have killed at least a quarter of that population when poaching is taken into account.

Chippewa Tribes Say Their Resources Are Being Depleted

“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,” said John Johnson Sr., president of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, in a statement.

“The legends and stories tell us as brothers we walk hand in hand together. What happens to the Ma’iingan [gray wolves] happens to humanity,” Marvin Defoe, an elder with the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, added.

Earthjustice is representing the tribes. It is also suing the federal government over the decision last year to exempt gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protections. Conservationists and Native American tribes have filed an emergency petition to relist the gray wolf as endangered or threatened.

Gray wolves in Wisconsin belong to the western Great Lakes population. That is handled separately from the population in western states. The Biden Administration has said it may restore protections for western wolves.