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By Tom Darling
MADISON, Wisc. (WLNS) – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has refused to kick off an early wolf hunt, despite pressure from some state lawmakers.
The gray wolf once roamed from Alaska to Mexico, but human activity drove it almost completely from the Lower 48 States. Since then, the wolf was added to the Endangered Species List, which gave it federal protection. This allowed populations of wolves to expand into the upper Great Lakes region and the northern Rocky Mountains.
Earlier this month, the gray wolf was taken off the list. Supporters of the move say the wolf populations in the Lower 48 are stable, while opponents say they are still vulnerable. The move allows individual states to decide how to protect the wolves and whether to establish hunting seasons.
The Wisconsin DNR announced at the time that it planned to hold a wolf hunt this fall, as required under state law. Republican state lawmakers pressed for the hunt to begin immediately, saying the wolves have been a nuisance to livestock for years.
However, the DNR was not swayed. Deputy Administrator Todd Ambs told the board that there was already a hunt scheduled for November and that this does not qualify as an emergency.
The deciding factor was the fact that Native American tribes had not been consulted on the hunt. DNR attorney Cheryl Heilman pointed out that this was required under a 1983 federal court ruling, which clarified treaties signed with Ojibwe tribes back in the 1800s. The DNR Board voted 4-to-3 against starting an immediate wolf hunt.
The gray wolf was removed from the Endangered Species List back in 2011 but was later relisted. It is possible that federal protections for the species could be restored before the November wolf hunt.
According to the Wisconsin DNR, there are just over 1,000 wolves in the state, and the law there allows people to kill wolves on private land if they are attacking a domestic animal.