After the Gray Wolf was removed from the endangered species list for the Western Great Lakes region in January of 2012, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources instituted a hunting season to manage the population. The wolf hunting and trapping season authorized by Act 169 passed in April of 2012 makes Wisconsin the only state to authorize the use of dogs to hunt wolves.
The second wolf hunting and trapping season started Oct. 15, 2013. On October 30, the DNR reported that nearly 11 wolves have been killed per day through the first two weeks of the Wisconsin wolf hunt season.
The DNR also stated that 178 wolves had been killed statewide, reports the Journal Sentinel. Hunters and trappers are required to register their wolf kills within 24 hours of harvest.
The DNR’s goal is to reduce the population this year “through the harvest of 251 wolves distributed across the landscape,” according to an agency statement.
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As of Wednesday, harvest quotas had been reached in three of the state’s six wolf-management zones. MacFarland said the agency is closely monitoring the registration totals with the intent of keeping the kill levels close to the quotas.
The management zones are tools by which the agency attempts to direct the harvest at areas with higher potential for wolf depredation and other conflicts, MacFarland said. A Wolf Map on the DNR websites shows pinpointed locations of depredations on livestock (injured or killed), and verified threats or harassment of livestock. It also indicates non-livestock depredation, including attacks on pets, and human-safety situations with wolves.
Wisconsin had an estimated 809 to 834 wolves in 214 packs in late winter of 2013. The wolf population typically doubles each spring after pups are born and then begins to decline from various sources of mortality, according to the statement. .
The wolf harvest quota more than doubled this year as the DNR attempts to reduce the wolf population closer to the goal of 350 wolves in the 1999 Wisconsin wolf management plan.
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Of the wolf kills registered, 143 (83 percent) were attributed to trappers and 30 (17 percent) to hunters using a firearm. Last year, 53 percent were killed by trappers, the balance by gun hunters.
Trapping has long been recognized as the most effective method of taking wolves, according to the DNR. But last year, many trappers waited until later in the year when fur would be closer to prime condition before pursuing wolves, said Scott Zimmerman, vice president of the Wisconsin Trappers Association. However, the quotas were filled and the season was closed Dec. 23.
This year, trappers aren’t waiting, Zimmerman said.
DOGS COULD BE USED BEGINNING DEC. 2
The fast kill rates could also mean the most contentious provision in Act 169 — the use of dogs to hunt wolves — would not take place this year.
MacFarland said it is uncertain how quickly the quotas will be filled in the remaining zones. Dogs could be used beginning Dec. 2.
A lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources was brought by humane societies across the state in 2012 and joined by animal welfare groups and individuals who claimed the state had insufficient rules to protect dogs.
In January of 2013, Dane County Judge Peter Anderson ruled that dogs were allowed to hunt wolves but not be used in training or tracking.
An appeal has been filed, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Karen Wells of Lake Geneva has been actively opposing the use of dogs in wolf hunts. She writes:
Dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states; however, this barbarism is taking place on public lands … When a pack of dogs pursues a wolf … a wolf will turn and fight and kill if necessary to protect its territory. And there you have a state-sanctioned bloody dog fight right here on our public land.