After biologists warned that a planned second hunt this year of 130 wolves in Wisconsin could endanger the species in the state, wildlife officials more than doubled the kill quota to 300 animals.
The move follows a botched slaughter in February, when hunters killed 216 wolves — more than 82% over the quota allowed. The decision last week by the board of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources completely ignored a recommendation by the agency’s own scientists to keep the hunt to 130 animals.
“What is being called wolf management in this state is a revenge-driven assault perpetrated by legal dog-fighters, trophy killers, disingenuous special interests and their anti-wolf allies in the state legislature,” Paul Collins, the state director of the advocacy group Animal Wellness Action, said at a tense and emotional public hearing on Aug. 11 before the board vote.
Some hunters, farmers and ranchers called for boosting the number to 500 animals.
A July study from biologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison estimated that a third of all wolves in Wisconsin were decimated in that first hunt and by poaching, which usually increases in the wake of hunting.
A second hunt after the last excessive kill raises serious “questions about sustainability” of the animals in the state, the study warned.
Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes are entitled to claim a portion of a wolf-kill quota under treaty rights. But the Chippewa, who consider the wolf sacred, won’t hunt them, fearing that further bloodlust in the fall hunt will massacre far too many wolves. Wisconsin hunters are allowed to trap the animals and run them down with snowmobiles and dog packs.
“The hatred toward this being is based on myth,” John Johnson Jr., president of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, testified at the hearing. “You’ve had the functional equivalent of two seasons already this year. [But] nothing will dissuade the desire for more blood from our brother.”
″[What] will be in short supply today is respect. Respect for science, respect for the tribal community, respect for the ma’iingan,” Johnson added, using the Chippewa term for “wolf.”
It’s been a killing season on wolves in states such as Wisconsin and Idaho ever since the animals were delisted as an endangered species in October 2020 by the Trump administration.
Adrian Treves, co-author of the wolf study and an environmental studies professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, called the plans for a second hunt “unwise,” particularly since the full impact of the February killings — which took place during breeding season — won’t likely be known for some time.
The kill numbers appear to contradict the Department of Natural Resources’ “explicit objectives of no change in the wolf population,” Treves’ study noted. Wisconsin’s stated goal is to maintain a stable population of wolves, a top predator that helps sustain ecosystem health.
The authors of the study said they believe wolves have become the victims of yet another a political war that ignores science.
“We caution that science may play little role in wolf politics where the animal has become a symbol for political rhetoric and a symbol of cultural divisions,” they said.