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WI: Hearing at Capitol to address wolf hunting season

RON SEELY | Wisconsin State Journal

While there seems to be widespread support for hunting wolves in Wisconsin, some caution that the state should move slowly toward establishing a wolf hunting season because of uncertainty about the impact of a hunt on recovering populations of the newly delisted animal.

The discussion of a hunting season will begin in earnest Wednesday morning with a legislative hearing on a Republican plan to allow public hunting and trapping of wolves in Wisconsin. The bill was introduced by state Reps. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, and Roger Rivard, R-Rice Lake.

The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Room 417 North of the Capitol.

Among those who will testify Wednesday morning is Tim Van Deelen, a UW-Madison wildlife ecologist who has studied wolf populations. Van Deelen said Tuesday that, while he believes the state’s packs can probably sustain some level of public hunting, the impact of killing any percentage of a recovering wolf population has been little studied.

“We have to be cautious,” said Van Deelen. “There is just not a lot of information out there. If we’re talking about a season that would involve killing more than half the state’s wolves, that could be very destabilizing for the population.”

Both Suder and Rivard have indicated they support a wolf hunting season as a way to give the state Department of Natural Resources more control over a wolf population now pegged at between 800 and 1,000 animals. The proposal to hunt wolves comes just weeks after the wolf was removed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the federal endangered species list. While delisting allows landowners to shoot problem wolves, a public hunting season would require action by the state Legislature.

Research from UW-Madison shows that the public would support hunting wolves if it is aimed at removing problem wolves and only if the season does not jeopardize the overall wolf population. Wildlife experts with the DNR support a hunt.