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Testimony and Organizations’ Stances

Final Assembly Floor Discussion and Vote

http://wiseye.org/videoplayer/vp.html?sid=7827

(Bill 502 appears from times 1:43 am to 2:16 am)

Testimony

Please refer to the link: http://www.wiseye.org/Programming/VideoArchive/EventDetail.aspx?evhdid=5727 for full testimony archive.  Professinal testimony was given by: Tim Van Deelen – UW wildlife Randy Jurewicz – Retired WDNR wildlfie biologist Adrian Treves – UW Richard Thiel – Retired WDNR wildlife biologist.  Testimony of Treves and Thiel appear in written form as well as on video; testimony of Van Deelen and Jurewicz are presented via video only.

Senate Natural Resources & Environment Committee Actions:

Events
03.01.12 | Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment held an executive session at the state Capitol on March 1, 2012 on the following: Senate Bill 113, relating to minimum harvesting requirements for commercial fishing in the Great Lakes; Assembly Bill 176, relating to minimum harvesting requirements for commercial fishing in the Great Lakes; Assembly Bill 311, relating to creating a sporting recruitment and retention council, programs to encourage recruitment of hunters and trappers, restrictions on expenditures under the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson stewardship program, reduced fees for certain first-time hunting and trapping approvals, high school credit under and administration of the hunter and trapper education programs, waiving fishing license requirements for a weekend ice fishing event, and sturgeon spearing license age requirements; Assembly Bill 334, relating to possession of certain animals killed by vehicles; Assembly Bill 384, relating to weapons that may be used to hunt certain animals and requirements for establishing open hunting seasons for those animals; Assembly Bill 395, relating to acquisition of land in the Niagara Escarpment corridor; Senate Bill 290, relating to acquisition of land in the Niagara Escarpment corridor; Senate Bill 411, relating to hunting and trapping of wolves, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, extending the time limit for emergency rule procedures, and making an appropriation; Senate Bill 415, relating to buying, selling, bartering, and trading of nonedible parts from upland game birds; and Senate Bill 441, relating to authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to collect voluntary contributions in addition to fees charged for certain approvals, authorizing the voluntary contributions to be paid to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and making an appropriation.
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02.28.12 | Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment (Part 1 of 3)
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment held a public hearing at the state Capitol on February 28, 2012 on the following: Assembly Bill 334, relating to possession of certain animals killed by vehicles; Assembly Bill 384, relating to weapons that may be used to hunt certain animals and requirements for establishing open hunting seasons for those animals; Assembly Bill 395, relating to acquisition of land in the Niagara Escarpment corridor; Senate Bill 290, relating to acquisition of land in the Niagara Escarpment corridor; Senate Bill 415, relating to buying, selling, bartering, and trading of nonedible parts from upland game birds; Senate Bill 441, relating to authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to collect voluntary contributions in addition to fees charged for certain approvals, authorizing the voluntary contributions to be paid to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and making an appropriation; and Senate Bill 411, relating to hunting and trapping of wolves, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, extending the time limit for emergency rule procedures, and making an appropriation.
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02.28.12 | Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment (Part 2 of 3)
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment continued their public hearing at the state Capitol on February 28, 2012 on Senate Bill 411, relating to hunting and trapping of wolves, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, extending the time limit for emergency rule procedures, and making an appropriation.
Watch | Listen | Link | Buy
02.28.12 | Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment (Part 3 of 3)
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment continued their public hearing at the state Capitol on February 28, 2012 on Senate Bill 411, relating to hunting and trapping of wolves, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, extending the time limit for emergency rule procedures, and making an appropriation.
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Executive Summary

Comments on Assembly Bill 502

Richard P. Thiel

 

1. Section 1. 20.370 (5) (fv) Funding source for this bill should replace and nullify existing sources of revenue in support of depredation program.

2. 29.185 (5) SEASONS; ZONES (a) Season should commence in mid October and end prior to mid December. The DNR should have authority to establish seasons or close the season.

3. 29.185 (5) SEASONS; ZONES (b) Expression of 4 wolf management zones in this Bill obligates the DNR to maintain 4 zones. Reference to the number of zones should be stricken. This should be left to the professional managers within DNR to determine.

4. 29.185 (5) SEASONS; ZONES “(d) Hunting at Night. This entire provision should be stricken. This is dangerous to both dogs and humans, and may constitute a Public Health Risk. It will further alienate citizen support for hunting with dogs.

5. 29.185 (7) TAGS, REGISTRATION Language should be inserted to authorize the DNR to physically register entire carcasses. Data gleaned from this aids in evaluating the success of harvest and in formulating future harvests.

6. SECTION 9 29.337 (1) intro  the word “wolves” should NOT be included in this provision. Placing them on this list devalues its newfound Game status, and denies DNR access to important harvest information.

7. 29.888 Wolf Depredation Program. (1) Hunters should NOT be indemnified against losses incurred to wolves while their hunting dogs are training or in pursuit of game.

 

My name is Richard P. Thiel.  I am a resident of Tomah, Wisconsin. I am a retired wildlife biologist having spent my 34 year career with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. I created and managed the Wisconsin wolf recovery program between January 1980 and November 1989. From 1989 to 2011 I was employed as a Wildlife Educator with the agency. Between 1995 and 2011 I also managed wolf monitoring activities within the Central forest Region, known as Zone 2 in the approved Wisconsin DNR’s Wolf Management Plan. I have written numerous professional and lay articles on wolves, and am author of two books published by the University of Wisconsin Press on Wisconsin’s wolves.

            I support the concept of a public harvest of gray wolves in Wisconsin, as proposed in Assembly Bill 502. A public harvest of any wild animal species is acceptable provided it meets several criteria: (1) the population can sustain a harvest and remain viable, (2) harvesting supports a recognized form of public recreation, and (3) public harvesting, may be used to mediate conflicts between the wildlife population and Wisconsin citizens. It is generally accepted that authority is granted by the Legislative body to professionals within the Department of Natural Resources to promulgate specific rules and to manage such harvests with these criteria in mind. Wisconsin’s wolf population is relatively small and presently occupies a large percentage of professionally recognized wolf habitat presently identified within the state. Harvests will need to be small and fashioned by the sensitivity of this small population to over-harvest. A harvest strategy needs to be conscientious of the widely divergent views of wolves held by Wisconsin citizens and citizens of various Native American tribes.

            I offer the following comments in response to specifics within the proposed legislative language of Bill 502:

Section 1. 20.370 (5) (fv) Wolf depredation program. This clause directs that revenues from harvest license will be directed to pay for depredation program. I am unable to find where it specifically nullifies or replaces the existing funding source(s) for this program. It is unclear whether the legislature intended to replace funding sources. I am in favor of replacing it; therefore the language should be more specific.

29.185 (5) SEASONS; ZONES “(a) The department shall establish a single annual open season for both hunting and trapping wolves that begins on October 15th of each year and ends on the last day of February of the following year.”

(1) This is a lengthy season lasting approximately 135 days.  Such an extensive season is both unusual and is not necessary to accomplish the aforementioned objectives.

(2) Citizens who do not participate in sport harvests may take serious offense at the timing of a harvest for wolves that includes all of the breeding season (January into mid February) that also includes the first full quarter of pregnancy of bred bitches.

(3) Harvesting wolves from mid-December through the end of February coincides precisely with the DNR’s annual census period for wolves. Census surveys for harvested wild animal populations are crucial to gauge future harvest levels. A plethora of scientific work exists on the impacts of harvesting wolves documenting disruption of wolf pack cohesiveness. While perhaps advisable in the cases of packs involved in depredation (and the literature here too suggests this is also inadvisable) a harvest during the winter will disrupt agency census work, is ill advised, and will result in compromised census results. On the one hand the Legislature, in 502 as presently written, directs the DNR to professionally manage the State’s wolf population while denying it the best tool in measuring the size of the population being so managed.

            The Legislature needs to provide the agency with sufficient latitude to establish seasons it feels necessary to manage harvests.

29.185 (5) SEASONS; ZONES “(b) The department shall divide the entire state into wolf harvesting zones. The total number of zones may not exceed 4.”

            This language is taken directly from the presently approved Wolf Management Plan. Agency plans are written specifically to allow for flexibility because both biological communities, in which wild animals thrive, as well as humans who recreate with, encroach upon, or use such resources, change over time. At the time that the Walker Administration arrived, the DNR was beginning a process of re-writing the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan. This procedure was placed on hold. Among the contentious issues the Committee needed to address was revisiting the population goal, re-visiting the 4 zones with eye towards reducing these, and establishing guidelines for a public harvest.

            I would suggest, again, that the legislature provides the Department with sufficient latitude to establish however many zones it feels in its professional judgment are necessary to manage the State’s wolf population. Specifically, the second sentence in this section should be removed and in the remainder of the bill where reference is made to 4 zones.

29.185 (5) SEASONS; ZONES “(d) Hunting at Night. A person may hunt wolves during nighttime beginning with the first Monday that follows the last day of the regular season that is open to hunting deer with firearms and ending on the last day of February of the following year.”

As a professional biologist who has spent 40 plus years focusing on wolf ecology with significant hours put in during hours of darkness, I can think of nothing as ludicrous as hunting this particular species in the darkness of night. This is no raccoon. This is a powerful predator. I see no provision under other areas of this bill authorizing hunters to use night vision glasses, etc. to effectuate a kill. Presumably, then, this is intended to augment those who would pursue wolves using hound packs armed with flashlights. Specifically then,

(1) Night-time hunting of wolves would be highly risky to dog packs.

(2) This activity also poses a Public Health Risk. While there is no certainty to this, there is a risk that human safety may be compromised, ranging from humans hurting humans through an accident, to injury of hunters attempting to separate wolves who have turned on dogs.

(3) Tensions already exist between the dog hunters in Wisconsin and citizens who do not hunt with dogs and may not hunt at all. It is one thing for dogs to pursue wolves during daylight hours; another during hours of darkness. Does either the Wisconsin Legislature or the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association desire to add more fuel to the fire of this ongoing debate?

(4) To allow the pursuit of a wolf pack consisting of adult wolves and their offspring, who in the autumn of the year are approximately 6 months old; potentially 24 hours a day over a 90 period constitutes harassment that would likely be exceedingly disruptive to normal wolf pack activities and the maintenance of the species’ intrinsic behaviors. I do not believe the intent of this Legislation is to provide our State’s sports-people with a means of conducting what most would perceive as un-sports-person-like conduct: recall from our Hunter Education training that sportspeople adhere to a creed of “fair pursuit”. Night hunting of wolves would call this ethic into question.

 

29.185 (7) TAGS, REGISTRATION

While establishing provisions for the manner of registering kills, this legislation provides no burden of proof of kill, such as with deer and other species, by means of physically presenting and registering the entire carcass. Data on age and sex and condition are exceedingly valuable tools used by wildlife professionals in promulgating future harvest seasons. Again, it should not be the intent to deny the Agency responsible for managing harvests to be denied the tools by which they can gauge said harvests. This provision should include measures for the DNR to include physical registration.

 

SECTION 9 29.337 (1) intro “ The owner or occupant of any land, and any member of his or her family, may hunt or trap beaver, coyotes, wolves …”

 

I take exception to the addition of wolves into this state statute. Animals in this list are often referred to as “vermin”. With Assembly Bill 502 the Legislature… (1) is elevating the wolf to Game status. An animal with this kind of history of former intense persecution should not be simultaneously relegated to “vermin” status, and (2) under this provision wolves so harvested will not registered, denying the DNR with the tools to measure the effect of such unregulated take on the population. This Section should not be changed; wolves should be excluded from this provision.

 

29.888 Wolf Depredation Program. (1) “ The department shall administer a wolf depredation program under which payments may be made to persons who apply for reimbursement for death or injury caused by wolves to livestock, to hunting dogs other than those being actively used in the hunting of wolves…”

 

I take exception to the clause, “… hunting dogs other than those being actively used in the hunting of wolves…” for the following 2 reasons: (1) this language specifically excludes hunting dogs used during the training period when hound hunters run bears, etc., prior to the commencement of harvest seasons. This omission is unconscionable and needs to be corrected by inserting “training seasons”, irrespective of which species these dogs are being trained to pursue. (2) Dog hunters are finally given their day through this legislation: they will have the ability to harvest wolves. This group of sports people also includes those using hounds to harvest raccoons, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and black bears. Their angst over wolves – by passage of this bill – is legitimized. The State of Wisconsin does NOT pay or reimburse hound hunters for the injuries or loss of life of dogs who have pursued these other creatures – all of which are game animals. Why is the Legislative body indemnifying this group when they hunt or encounter wolves while this same group of hunters accepts risks in pursuit of other game animals? There is no precedence now that the wolf – through Assembly Bill 502 – is a Game species. There is no rationale for supporting provisions of this nature in this or similar bills or laws. The inclusion of hunting dogs for depredation reimbursements – whether in training or active pursuit to kill this or other legally chased species – must be removed from this legislation.

 

This legislation, as currently written, presents the Department of Natural Resources significant challenges to implement it. It needs work. Some final advise to the Legislature: portions of this bill, as presently written, will seriously offend many citizens who have supported wolf recovery and have trusted the DNR and the Legislative and Executive branches of their government to do what is best in managing Wisconsin’s wolves over the pat 35 years. To under-estimate these people, the many organizations they belong to, and the feelings and views they hold towards wolves is to invite litigation in both the state and federal court systems that will lock up any progress towards wolf management in Wisconsin in the years ahead. This will result in a higher wolf population, more depredations and will gain nothing other than to further frustrations for all Wisconsin’s citizens who have a concern over the proper management of Wisconsin’s wolves. It will also be a terrible waste of taxpayers’ money.

 

Thank you for your time.

Richard P. Thiel

 


Organizations’ Stances

Wisconsin Bear Hunters’ Association – STATEMENT ON WOLF DELISTING

Timber Wolf Alliance – FAQ’s related to wolf ecology, and the bills introduced in Wisconsin to begin a wolf season

Timber Wolf Alliance – OPPOSES WOLF HUNTING LEGISLATION

WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF JAMES E. ZORN, EXECUTIVE ADMINISTRATOR GREAT LAKES INDIAN FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION