Wolf | | apg-wi.com
Some hunters raised concerns at a preliminary hearing Monday over possible changes to wolf hunting regulations in Wisconsin, but an animal rights group said the revisions would not go far enough. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing to end nighttime wolf hunting, shorten the post-harvest registration window, and issue area-specific tags.
The proposed changes aim to create consistency with night hunting regulations, as those who hunt with hounds are not allowed to hunt wolves at night, according to Scott Karel, rules specialist for the DNR’s Bureau of Wildlife Management. He said shortening the registration window would also make the rules more consistent with other species like deer and turkeys.
“Because wolves can be hunted at night, it would potentially give people up to 41 hours to register a wolf,” Karel said. “I think we would like to see this cut a bit more.”
Mike Brust of the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association argued that the proposed changes were nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to the February wolf hunt, in which state-licensed hunters harvested 218 fewer wolves 72 hours.
“What you do with this removal of night hunting takes away another opportunity for hunters to harvest wolves, and one of the few hunting opportunities available,” Brust said.
The DNR has been criticized for its handling of the state’s first wolf hunt in six years. The Natural Resources Board approved a global quota of 200 wolves that was split between the state and the Ojibwe tribes of Wisconsin.
In February, state licensed hunters exceeded their quota of 119 wolves. Brust argued that the DNR had “played games” with its proposed quota since the tribes refused to harvest the wolf, which they consider to be a relative. Tribes lambasted the agency for its failure to maintain the quota, adding that the hunt was not based on science.
Corky Meyer, former president of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, also expressed concerns that the proposed regulations limit opportunities for hunters and trappers.
“I’m concerned that if you create a general rule to ban nighttime wolf hunting, you are reducing other legal hunts as well,” Meyer said.
Laurie Groskopf, a hunter and Lincoln County resident, said the regulations would do nothing to tackle the growing wolf population. She called the possible changes a “meaningless step to appease the wolf expansionists” in the state.
“The problem is, there are a lot of wolves and there aren’t enough quotas to address this situation,” Groskopf said.
The number of wolves in Wisconsin fell from just 25 animals in 1980 to 1,195 wolves before the February wolf hunt, according to the DNR. As the wolf population has grown, farmers and hunters have reported an increase in run-ins with the supreme predator.
Animal rights activists argue that remedies are needed to prevent what they see as the most egregious practices that took place during the February wolf hunt, including Megan Nicholson, Wisconsin state director of the Humane Society of the United States.
The organization supports the changes proposed by the agency. Nicholson further recommended that the agency limit the number of hunters who can hunt in groups and create buffer zones around lands ceded by tribes to the government under federal treaties.
“It’s really critical that these changes are put in place before the start of the November 2021 season, and they are built into any emergency or standing rules,” Nicholson said.
The modifications proposed by the MNR will be submitted to the Natural Resources Council for approval at its meeting on June 23. If approved, the agency can start drafting the regulations. The agency aims to present an emergency rule to council in September that would ban night hunting and shorten the registration window for this fall wolf hunt in November. The DNR hopes to have permanent rules in place by next spring.
The Trump administration removed gray wolves from the endangered species list across most of the country in January, prompting lawsuits by environmental and wildlife groups to restore protections. The Biden administration is reviewing this decision and others.
Wisconsin law requires a wolf hunt when the animal is not under federal protection. MNR initially proposed to hold a wolf hunt this fall to allow more time for tribal consultation, public input, and updating of its outdated wolf management plan. This plan, first published in 1999, has not been updated since 2007. The agency has gathered comments on updating the state’s obsolete wolf management plan and a harvest quota. for the wolf hunt this fall.
In February, Kansas-based Hunter Nation sued the DNR to force a season. A Jefferson County judge ordered a hunt that month. The DNR appealed the decision, but an appeal committee dismissed the case.
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