By Shawn Johnson, Wisconsin Public Radio
Republican state lawmakers are moving ahead with a plan that would let people hunt wolves in Wisconsin. The move comes less than two months after wolves were delisted as an endangered species in Wisconsin.
Years ago there was a push to establish at least 350 wolves in Wisconsin. There are now at least 800 here. A plan by Assembly Republican Majority Leader Scott Suder would have the state Department of Natural Resources issue a limited number of wolf hunting permits for a season that runs from mid-October through the end of February. Suder says it’s a way to manage what he calls a burgeoning population. “This is not allowing for an open season on wolves. Yes, we’re allowing for hunting. But managed hunting through permits,” he says.
The plan has broad support from hunting organizations like the Bear Hunters of Wisconsin. “This isn’t a willy-nilly let’s go kill some wolves bill. It’s a very responsible bill,” says Scott Meyer, the group’s president.
But experts testified that while they support the idea of a wolf hunt, this plan has its issues. Randy Jurewicz was a conservation biologist for the DNR for decades before retiring last year. He notes that this plan would let people use hunting dogs to hunt wolves–in his mind a big mistake,
“Wolves that have not bothered dogs in the past who are now being chased all winter long with dogs–essentially you’ve set up a very adversarial situation and now they become essentially mortal enemies. And you will exacerbate the problems that we have between pets and wolves already,” Jurewicz says.
Another wildlife biologist testified that the plan should focus less on maintaining a minimum number of wolves. He says it makes Wisconsin vulnerable to challenges that could put the wolf back on the federal endangered species list.