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Wisconsin DNR Sued For Failing to Schedule Wolf Hunt

The “DNR is required by 2011 state law to hold wolf hunt between November and February”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court against Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole, the Wisconsin DNR, and the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, for failing to schedule a wolf hunt season this winter.

According to a press release,

The gray wolf was delisted from the Endangered Species Act on January 4, 2021. That triggered a 2011 state law that requires Wisconsin’s DNR to schedule a gray wolf hunting season between November and February. WILL’s lawsuit alleges DNR’s decision to forgo a gray wolf hunt until November 2021 violates state law and the Wisconsin state constitution’s guarantee of a right to hunt.

The lawsuit further says that the Wisconsin DNR, despite years of advance warning and months to prepare for a January 2021 delisting of the gray wolf, has refused to permit the hunting and trapping of wolves in January and February of 2021.

Wisconsin state law clearly states that if the gray wolf is not protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Wisconsin DNR “shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves.”

The law says that DNR must “establish a single annual open season for both hunting and trapping wolves that begins on the first Saturday in November of each year and ends on the last day of February of the following year.”

WILL Deputy Counsel, Anthony LoCoco, said,

“The Wisconsin DNR does not have the discretion to determine whether to follow state law when it comes to scheduling a gray wolf hunt. WILL intends to hold Wisconsin’s administrative agencies accountable until this pattern of ignoring state law ends.”

WILL is filing the lawsuit on behalf of Hunter Nation President, Luke Hilgemann. In a statement, Hilgeman said,

“Wisconsin law requires the DNR to hold a hunting and trapping season if the gray wolf is not under federal protections. Despite this clear mandate, Governor Evers, Secretary Cole and the Department of Natural Resources are playing politics and intentionally delaying the wolf harvest to give radical anti-hunting groups time to block the delisting and stop a hunt altogether.”

The actual complaint can be seen here.

According to the Wisconsin DNR’s website, the grey wolf is native to Wisconsin and at one time had numbers in the 3000 to 5000 range prior to European settlement. During the 1800s, over hunting by settlers severely reduced the numbers of bison, elk, caribous and moose and almost eliminated white-tailed deer. As prey became scarce, wolves began to feed on livestock. The state legislature then passed a bounty on wolves in 1865 which continued until 1957.

Wolves were considered almost completely exterminated in Wisconsin by 1950, but population numbers have steadily increased since the 1990’s as can be seen here:

Wisconsin wolf hunt
Wisconsin dnr chart shows the increase in the wolf popuation.

According to the Wisconsin DNR’s website,

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the federal endangered species list on January 4, 2021, returning management authority to state agencies. The Wisconsin DNR has successfully managed gray wolves for decades and will continue to do so in accordance with the laws of our state and the best science available. The DNR is planning for a wolf harvest season in the fall of 2021 and working towards completing a 10 year wolf management plan that will guide future management decisions for wolves in Wisconsin.
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