Judge Decides To Cancel Wisconsin’s November Wolf Hunt, Temporarily Sparing The Lives Of Hundreds Of Wolves
In the biggest news so far this year for wolf protection in the United States, a court in Wisconsin issued an injunction last week requiring that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) temporarily halt the wolf trophy hunt that was scheduled to begin on November 6th.
According to Project Coyote, which was one of the organizations that had filed a legal action against the DNR calling for the injunction, Dane County Judge Jacob Frost ordered the DNR to temporarily set the wolf quota at zero, and to issue zero licenses allowing hunters to kill wolves. While this is a positive move, Frost also noted that the injunction was in place only until the rule was updated.
Frost’s decision to push the hunt rested on his concern that the DNR violated the Wisconsin Constitution by failing to finalize formal rules and follow its own policies related to the wolf hunt. Instead, the DNR has been relying on an “emergency rule” since 2012.
“We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy,” Michelle Lute, PhD in wolf management and National Carnivore Conservation Manager for Project Coyote, said in a statement sent to WAN on Friday. “Today and yesterday’s hearings made it clear that the DNR violated the constitution, and that the wolf slaughter scheduled to start in November would result in catastrophic and irreparable harm and must not occur.”
Opponents of the planned November wolf trophy hunt argue that the DNR has recklessly managed wolves, including in the aftermath of the lifting of federal protections by the Trump administration that took effect in January 2021. Part of the state’s mismanagement included setting a wolf kill quota of 130 for the upcoming hunt without any sound scientific basis or conservation rationale. During quota-setting hearings in August, the DNR freely conceded that it did not fully comprehend the final impact of the disastrous February 2021 trophy hunt when at least 218 wolves were slaughtered in a 60-hour killing spree that exceeded the set quota by 83%.
Despite acknowledging that one of the primary reasons for the excess killing of wolves in February was the delayed reporting period, which enabled hunters to skirt the cap by claiming that they didn’t receive the “stop shooting” order in time, the DNR actually lengthened the reporting period for the November hunt, allowing hunters even more time to kill them. This action would have virtually ensured another overkill despite evidence of social media posts from hunters encouraging last-second reporting to maximize the number of wolves killed.
“While the injunction brings welcome temporary relief from ongoing killing of wolves in the state, we can’t stop working to make sure that what happened in February 2021 never happens again in Wisconsin,” stated Melissa Smith, Executive Director of Friends of Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife. “We know that this injunction will be challenged by powerful and wealthy interests who care little about the rule of law and just want to see the senseless slaughter continue.”
Neither Michigan nor Minnesota elected to allow trophy hunting and trapping of wolves in 2021, leaving Wisconsin alone among range states in the Great Lakes region on wolf policy. The granting of the injunction gives Wisconsin’s wolves a reprieve until federal protections can be restored in separate proceedings in federal court.
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