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Controversial Wolf Hunt for Wisconsin

Jess Edberg, information services director — International Wolf Center , 06/12/2012



On April 2, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 169 into law, which included both House Bill 502 and Senate Bill 411, both of which detailed wolf hunting and trapping provisions for the state.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is in the process of hosting 10 public meetings to inform residents of which parts of the authorizing legislation are statutory provisions (already passed into law) and which draft rule ideas are open for public feedback.

At the first meeting, held June 6 in Spooner, Wisconsin, 53 attendees listened to Bill Vander Zouwen, WDNR wildlife and landscape ecology chief, Adrian Wydeven, WDNR mammalian ecologist, and Brad Koele of Wisconsin’s Wildlife Damage Program share a history of wolves in the state, current wolf management and depredation actions and details of the fall wolf hunt.

What was very clear from the beginning was that the provisions in Act 169 are nonnegotiable. Barring a lawsuit or an injunction preventing this fall’s wolf harvest, the public has no options for changing the statutory provisions.

“[The provisions] were decided for us by the legislature,” stated Vander Zouwen when opening the forum for comments and questions.

It was also evident that the provision allowing night hunting raised safety concerns with WDNR officials.

Comments from the audience were fairly well balanced, reflecting both support and criticism of the provisions. However, it was apparent that most attendees supported a wolf harvest season in Wisconsin.

WDNR is tasked with developing recommendations on the draft rule ideas (negotiable elements) by the end of June and submitting them to the state’s Natural Resources Board in early July. The board will then meet July 17 to determine the final rules.

The application process for a wolf hunting or trapping license would then begin August 1 and run through August 31. Drawn applicants will be notified in early September, with the actual season opening to hunters and trappers October 15, 2012.

Below are the statutory provisions of the harvest (nonnegotiable elements):

  • License: wolf trapping and hunting license combined
  • Fees: application fee $10, license fee $100 resident and $500 non-resident
  • Use of fees: license and application fees fund wolf depredation payments first and then other costs
  • License transfer: allowed by application to WDNR no later than 15 days before season
  • Preference system: one-half random drawing; one-half drawing based on preference
  • Season dates: October 15 through February 28
  • Legal Weapons: firearms, bows and crossbows
  • Shot size: larger than BB allowed
  • Dogs: Can use up to six dogs in a pack to track or trail wolves beginning the day after deer season opens
  • Night Hunting: legal option beginning day after deer season opens
  • Use of Lights: flashlights only at point of kill
  • Cable restraints: Can be used as a trapping method
  • Baiting: allowed for trapping; allowed but restricted for hunting
  • Calling: allowed including electronic calls
  • Reporting and registration of harvest: required
  • Zone season closures: protocol provided for closing seasons based on wolf harvest through news release, Web site and telephone registration system

    Draft rule ideas open for public feedback and tribal consultation (negotiable):

  • Allow licensed hunters and trappers to pursue wolves in any zone not yet closed or restrict them to zones
  • Harvest zones, quotas and permit levels; permit levels approved by Natural Resources Board
  • Tribal reservation packs not considered in quota calculations
  • Secretary authority to establish zones by Secretary’s order with approval by Natural Resources Board
  • Baiting for hunting, if legal in county
  • Foothold traps not to exceed jaw spread of seven inches
  • Cable restraints may be used beginning December 1
  • Harvest reporting required within 24 hours of kill
  • Registration required in person with WDNR staff within five days of month of kill
  • Tagging and transportation rules as required for other furbearers with limited permits
  • Carcass parts surrender at registration for research and management purposes
  • Night hunting only over bait or while predator calling

    Additionally, the WDNR is proposing:

  • Seven draft harvest zones (see pdf below)
  • Quota of 143-233 wolves
  • 500 licenses

    The WDNR’s objectives for its first wolf hunt is to begin to reduce the statewide wolf population, provide hunting and trapping opportunities and monitor, learn and adapt for future seasons.

    The state’s population goal as set in its 1999 wolf management plan is 350 wolves outside of tribal reservation lands. The current Wisconsin wolf population is estimated at 815-880.

    Be an active participant.
    The following resources will allow you to investigate this issue further and provide feedback on this controversial wolf issue.

    Public comments are being accepted at public meetings:

  • June 14, University of Wisconsin Fond du Lac Auditorium, 400 University Drive, Fond du Lac.
  • June 15, James Williams Middle School Auditorium, 915 Acacia Lane, Rhinelander

    By submitting them to:

    Wolf Management – WM/6
    Department of Natural Resources
    101 S. Webster St.
    P.O. Box 7921
    Madison, WI 53707

    Or by arranging testimony by contacting: Laurie Ross at 608-267-7426 by July 13.

    An online survey is also available to provide limited comments:
    Public survey on wolf season