Controversy Continues to Surround Wolves
DNR Plan Sets a Kill Quota of 201 for Wisconsin Wolf Hunt
by Amira Caire, age 14
According to new rules set by Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), hunters will be allowed to eliminate almost a quarter of Wisconsin’s wolves this winter. Debates go on about whether this hunt will actually make any difference in our state’s thriving wolf population.
These new regulations set a statewide kill quota of 201 wolves over six zones, or areas. In the northern third of the state, Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes are able to claim up to 50 percent of this quota for themselves.
The DNR claims there are about 815 to 880 wolves roaming Wisconsin. Department wildlife administrators want to push the population down to 350 wolves.
DNR officials also say they want to avoid lawsuits from animal rights groups. A group of humane societies recently filed a lawsuit against the DNR’s lack of regulation on dog use in wolf hunting. They claim that dogs could get into violent and bloody struggles with wolves during hunting or training, and that this violates Wisconsin animal cruelty statutes.
In response, a temporary ban on dog use during the wolf hunt is in place. Hunters are enraged at this decision, since many of them need dogs in order to hunt wolves. They will still be allowed to shoot and trap wolves. Animal rights groups are pushing to have a permanent ban on dog use.
George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former DNR secretary said, “They’re being overly conservative. You may not even reduce the population for next year. I’m not disagreeing with the idea of being cautious, but this is getting to be ultra-cautious.”
In January, President Barack Obama’s administration removed wolves in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin from the endangered species list. Just a couple days later, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin proposed a bill initiating a hunt. In April, Republican Governor Scott Walker signed it into law.
The wolf hunt will run through the end of February 2013. In order to hunt, a person must purchase a mandatory $10 permit application. Permits, which cost $100, are only available for in-state hunters. Hunters are allowed to use traps and bait.
DNR’s Secretary, Cathy Stepp, recently wrote to the Natural Resources Board saying these quotas will diminish the wolf population. She said that areas with “wolf depredation” issues are still being classified as zones with higher kill sub-quotas. The department is uncomfortable with indicating higher harvests because it’s still not sure how the upcoming hunt will affect future wolf populations.
“We are going to learn a lot from this year, which is one of the reasons we are progressing slowly,” DNR Lands Division Administrator, Kurt Thiede, said in an interview. “We are trying to find balance between all factors.”
Wisconsin’s six Chippewa bands are part of the issue. They are Lac Du Flambeau, Red Cliff, Bad River, St. Croix, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Mole Lake.
According to treaties signed in 1837 and 1842, the tribes gave up 22,400 square miles of their northern Wisconsin land to the government. A federal ruling in 1991 stated that tribes have a right to 50 percent of the kill quota for any animal in that area. Parts of all six wolf zones lie within the ceded territory.
In February 2012, Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission Executive Administrator, James Zorn, wrote to the state senate saying the law came too quickly and the hunt would harm wolf populations in these areas.
DNR officials say the Chippewa will make their claims through the application process.
Scott Suder, the state Assembly Majority Leader, helped write the hunt law. He is dissatisfied with the low quota and the Chippewa tribes’ rights to further reduce this quota for non-tribal hunters.
“Am I disappointed in the 201 kill quota number? Yes. We’re going to push the DNR to raise the number in future seasons,” Suder said. “Right now, we just want to get a successful first harvest season under our belt.”
[Sources: Wisconsin State Journal; Wisconsin DNR; Associated Press]