It would be irresponsible for Wisconsin to move forward with a wolf hunt this November or at any time this year or next.
February’s ill-advised hunt plus poaching, car hits, and legal kills made by farmers may have reduced the population by as much as a third. That’s according to UW environmental studies professor Adrian Treves whose team estimated the number of wolves killed through poaching.
Because U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists have concluded that the wolf has recovered from near extinction 70 years ago, the agency dropped gray wolves in the lower 48 states from its list of endangered and threatened species in January.
In Wisconsin, a wrong-headed state law requires that when the wolf is delisted the DNR must provide for a hunt between November and the end of February. But professional game managers at the department recommended waiting until November of this year. They said that the January delisting did not give them time to consult with tribes, as required by law, or to make sound judgements about quotas and details of the hunt. But an out of state hunting group, of which the infamous Ted Nugent is a board member, went to court to force a hunt.
It was disastrous. “Hunters” (they don’t deserve the term) used dogs to chase down wolves to make most of their kills. The DNR ended it after only a few days in which 218 wolves were killed, blowing past the target of 119 for hunters not part of the state’s Ojibwe tribes. The tribes did not use their 81 permits because they actually care about the resource.
Now, Treves’ study suggests that poachers, auto accidents and legal hunting to protect livestock killed about another 100 wolves, reducing the statewide pack to between 695 and 751 animals. That would be down by about a third from the population estimate of 1,034 in spring of 2020. The DNR’s stated objective is to keep the population stable.
Treves’ work is not without controversy. Other researchers suggest that his estimates of poaching lack strong enough evidence. Fair enough. But even if his numbers are double what actually happened, that still leaves the wolf population badly depleted. Moreover, the February hunt took place during the breeding season and the department does not yet know what impact that might have had on pack reproduction.
“Without information on how many pups were born this summer, it’s really fumbling in the dark to plan another hunt,” Treves told the Wisconsin State Journal.
Minnesota has just announced that it will not conduct a wolf hunt this year. Still, while the DNR would not respond to repeated requests for comment from the State Journal, their website indicates that a hunt is being planned for this November. It shouldn’t happen. The department should end it right now.
Look, while I would never hunt wolves myself, I am a hunter and I am not against wolf hunting in principle. But it needs to be conducted under the direction of DNR’s professional biologists, it needs to be done under ethical rules of fair chase (no use of dogs) and it needs to be done in consultation with the tribes.
The hunting community took a well-deserved black eye with the general public last February thanks to the irresponsible antics of the Ted Nugent crowd. I know that there are a lot of Wisconsin hunters like me who were appalled by it and who want the DNR to do the right thing by the resource we all share. That would mean no wolf hunt this year or next.
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