A one-word change in current statute would allow Department of Natural Resources total discretion over annual wolf hunt

By Abigail Leavins

Wisconsin lawmakers drafted a bill Wednesday to overturn the law requiring an annual wolf hunting season.

The mandatory wolf hunts began under former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in 2012. Democrats are now pushing to pass a bill changing the statute to make wolf hunts optional and give the Department of Natural Resources discretion over whether the hunt should take place or not, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The new bill would change one word of the original statute. Instead of stating “the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves,” it would state “the department may allow the hunting and trapping of wolves,” according to WSJ.

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board authorized hunters to kill 300 wolves in August, more than double the previous quota of 130 wolves, according to The New York Times.

In an email statement to The Badger Herald, Wisconsin State Director of the Humane Society Megan Nicholson highlighted the negative effects of the mandatory hunt in Feb. 2021 — when 218 wolves were killed in just three days.

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“The change of just one word from ‘shall’ to ‘may’ in the current law could annually spare hundreds of wolves from painful and terrifying deaths by trophy hunters who use neck snares, packs of trained hounds and snowmobiles in an unmitigated free-for-all slaughter,” Nicholson said.

According to the New York Times, the administrator of the Department of Natural Resources Fish, Wildlife and Parks Division Keith Warnke thinks Wisconsin’s wolf population is small and requires better biological management than the current system.

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A survey conducted by the Remington Research Group showed 60% of Wisconsinites opposed the mandatory wolf hunt, compared to 24% in support.

Nicholson said it is important to protect wolves for future generations of animals and other species.

“Wolves have intrinsic value and are a keystone species that drive biodiversity and restore balance to the natural environment,” Nicholson said. “Trophy hunting and trapping wolves cause a cascade of harms beyond the animals directly killed.”

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