A few months ago I reported that hunters in the Great Lake states of Wisconsin and Minnesota were gearing up for the first registered wolf-hunting season in the region in more than 40 years. This came despite protests from animal rights groups that the decision to delist wolves from the Endangered Species Act and to allow hunting will put the animals at risk. But in October, wolf-hunting season began in Wisconsin where hunters shot and killed at least 42 wolves according to an article in the New York Times. In that state, 1,160 permits were awarded, and in Minnesota, close to 3,600 hunting licenses were available. Wolf hunting season started in Minnesota on November 3rd, and according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources, 45 wolves were killed over the weekend.
The legalization of wolf hunting in the two states was set in motion to manage a rebounding wolf population that has grown to 4,000 since the Endangered Species Act began protecting them in 1973. Ranchers have complained that wolf packs are decimated their livestock and costing the state thousands of dollars in livestock reimbursement payments according to officials at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Both states have placed a cap on how many wolves can be killed; In Minnesota, hunter can kill as many as 400 of the estimated 3,000 wolves in the state, and in Wisconsin, the quota for killing wolves is about 24 percent of the estimated wolf population. Wildlife managers in both states don’t think the total wolf kill will come close to the limit.
Still, on the first day of public wolf hunting and trapping, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and The Fund for Animals announced they would file a 60-day notice of their intent to file suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore federal protection for Great Lakes wolves. And Wisconsin humane organizations have also filed a lawsuit to prohibit the use of dogs for hunting wolves. Minnesota’s Chippewa tribes have already banned wolf hunting and trapping on reservation lands.
In a news release from the Humane Society, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO for the organization, said, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put faith in the state wildlife agencies to responsibly manage the wolf populations, but their overzealous and extreme plans to allow for trophy hunting and recreational trapping immediately after delisting demonstrate that such confidence was unwarranted. Between Minnesota’s broken promise to wait five years before hunting wolves, and Wisconsin’s reckless plan to trap and shoot hundreds of wolves in the first year, it is painfully clear that federal protection must be reasserted. The states have allowed the most extreme voices to grab hold of wolf management, and the result could be devastating for this species.”