August 1, 2014

Judge blocks use of dogs in wolf hunt

A temporary injunction issued on Friday blocks the state from issuing wolf hunting licenses that allow the use of dogs to track the animals. The decision has left the future of Wisconsin’s first wolf hunting season uncertain for the time being.

The order from Dane County Circuit Judge Peter Anderson bars the state from issuing licenses that allow the use of dogs to hunt wolves and prohibits dogs from being trained to track the animals. Anderson made certain to point out in court that he was not ordering a stop to the overall hunting season, saying his temporary injunction is only targeted at activity that involves the use of dogs.

The decision comes out of a lawsuit filed by several animal rights groups, which argues the use of hunting dogs to track wolves could result in violent confrontation. Nearly 200 hunting dogs have been killed over the last 15 years as a result of confrontations with wolves in the state while they were tracking other animals.

The state argued an injunction blocking the use of dogs could have a broader impact on the entire season. Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Hirsch says the law creating the wolf hunt does not allow the Department of Natural Resources to make that kind of decision. She says the ruling could effectively prevent the agency from issuing any licenses before the season is set to start on October 15th.

DNR Attorney Tim Andryk says the agency will continue to review the ruling to see if a hunt can still take place.

The deadline to apply for a wolf hunting permit fell just hours after the judge’s decision was issued, prompting the DNR to extend it until September 7th. Agency officials say they had been hearing concerns from many hunters about what impact the court ruling could have on the season.

As of Friday afternoon, 18,301 applications for a wolf hunting permit had been turned into the state. After the deadline, the DNR will hold a lottery for the 1,160 licenses it plans to issue for a season with a harvest goal of 201 wolves. Those who do not win the lottery will earn preference points to apply toward future hunts.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:08)