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Wisconsin legislators narrow regulations on proposed wolf hunt

State committee sets dates, fees for 2012 season

Douglas Etten
Outdoors Writer

It did not take long for Wisconsin’s state legislators to get their ducks in a row after federal delisting efforts of the gray wolf in the Great Lakes region passed national review last month.

Assmbly Bill 502, introduced in front of the State Assembly earlier this week, has already taken on significant changes after members of the Wisconsin Legislature began digging through the bill that will allow for the first-ever Wisconsin wolf hunt.

Dates of the first wolf hunt were set and will begin Oct.15 and extend through the last day of February 2013. A vote to limit the season, starting with the first day of the gun deer season and extending into Jan. 15, 2013, was shot down.

Legislators set in-state license fees at $90.25 while those out-of-state hunters would pay a fee of $4,995.25. There will also be a $9.75 processing fee associated with every license application.

Along with introducing a price for licenses, guidelines were also set for depredation cases for wolves that either injure or kill when the wolf is not listed on the endangered species or protected wildlife list. According to DNR biologist Adrian Wydeven, those changes were made to make sure program dollars stay allotted for wolf management.

“[The change was made] to separate the payment programs,” Wydeven said. “Under the proposed wolf harvest a new payment program would be developed [for depredation cases], while currently wolves are reimburses under the endangered resources program, but would stop paying once the wolves become a harvested game species.”

With a harvest season looming, the change would ensure that payment would still be allotted to those farmers, landowners, pet owners, etc., who file a depredation case with the Wisconsin DNR. Amendments also included literature that allowed the department the ability to set maximum payment amounts for depredation cases, depending upon the type of animal killed.

Another big change was the elimination of the landowner hunt which had been written in to give landowners a month span to hunt wolves, without a carcass tag or license.

Originally, the bill gave those landowners the right to hunt on their property during the month of February if their land was inside a wolf management area. That is no more. All wolves harvested must be done so by someone carrying a valid license which must be purchased prior to hunting.

Night hunting was one area that a proposed amendment attempted to eliminate, but it failed on a vote of 9-5. On a separate vote, the Wisconsin DNR would not pay depredation fees to hunters who lose a dog while those dogs are either being trained to hunt, or being used in an active hunt for wolves. That amendment failed 10-4.

The number of zones to be controlled by the DNR was also changed. The original thought was to divide the wolf hunt area into a maximum four separate zones. That line was deleted from the bill and now allows the DNR to implement an unlimited amount of zones that could be managed differently.

A telephone registration system would be implemented for reporting wolf kills. That method would still be used, but it would also give the DNR authority to order any person who harvests a wolf, to present the animal in person at a certified DNR registration station.

After all amendments were considered, the approval of the bill to send to the full Assembly for a vote was passed 13-1 with the only Committee on Natural Resources member voting against it being Democrat Brett Hulsey of Madison.

History of the bill

Just days after federal delisting efforts gave control to individual Great Lakes states, in a move expected by many, Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover), co-authored provisions inside the bill which discusses emergency rule procedures when handling wolf depredation cases.

In addition to Holperin, two Republican senators jumped on board, co-authoring provisions: senators Frank Lasse (R-De-Pere) and Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls).

Under the bill, both state residents and non-residents may be issued a license by order. The license authorizes both the hunting and trapping of wolves and also requires that there be a single annual season for wolf hunting and trapping from Oct. 15 through the end of February.

The bill says the Wisconsin DNR may limit the number of licenses issued and the number of wolves to be harvested. The bill requires the DNR to divide the state into up to four wolf harvesting zones. A wolf harvesting license authorizes the license holder to hunt or trap or both only in the zone that is specified on the license.

Gov. Scott Walker came out in support of both the recent delisting and bill introduction saying he’s for the DNR managing the population to a lower number.

“I firmly support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist the wolf in the upper Great Lakes states. Wisconsin has exceeded its delisting goal eight times over and must have flexibility to manage wolf problems,” Walker said. “I have ordered the DNR to begin issuing permits for landowners who are experiencing losses caused by wolves starting on Feb. 1. We will be prepared when the delisting takes effect at the end of January.”

Under the bill, if the number of persons applying for a wolf harvesting license exceeds the number of licenses that will be issued, the DNR shall issue the licenses based on a cumulative preference system.

The system shall establish preference categories for those applicants who applied for, but who were not issued, a wolf harvesting license in previous seasons, with higher preference given to those applicants with more preference points.

Under the preference system, a person may elect to apply for a preference point instead of a license in a given year. Each person receiving a license will receive one tag.

The bill also allows the transfer of licenses and preference points under certain circumstances. The bill specifies the types of firearms that may be used for wolf hunting and also allows the use of bows and arrows and crossbows for wolf hunting.

A crossbow may be used by any person holding a wolf harvesting license. For hunting wolves, the bill allows the use of dogs for part of the season and allows the baiting of wolves with bait other than animal byproducts except for liquid scents.

Hunting wolves at night is also authorized for part of the season. Under the bill, the types of traps that may be used for trapping wolves must include cable restraints.

A cable restraint is a type of trap using a noose made of cables.

The bill requires the DNR to administer a program under which payments may be made to persons for death or injury caused by wolves to livestock, to hunting dogs other than those being used in the hunting of wolves, and to pets.

The Wisconsin DNR has promulgated rules establishing such a program. Under the bill, the funds collected as fees for wolf harvesting licenses are to be used to make payments under this program. If after making these payments there are any funds remaining, the DNR may use it for wolf management and control activities conducted by the DNR.