Wisconsin’s tribes are opposed to the state’s wolf hunt, but whether or not they’ll move to block it in court remains unclear. “The real risk that the tribes see here is to the restoration and continuing viability of a wolf population that fully fulfills its niche in a healthy ecosystem, for both biology as well as the tribes cultural purposes,” said Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission executive director Jim Zorn.
The wolf, known as ma’iingan in the Anishinaabe language of the Ojibwe, carries cultural significance for tribal members who hold traditional beliefs. “The tribes feel pretty strongly that, in their view, the wolf has not been sufficiently restored or recovered to meet the tribal needs of an ecologically appropriate balance with wolves, as well as this cultural relationship between the Ojibwe and the wolf,” Zorn said.
AUDIO: GLIFWC’s Jim Zorn (:30)
GLIFWC’s Voight Intertribal Task Force voted earlier this month to oppose the killing of wolves in northern Wisconsin’s ceded territories. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has so far received more than 10,000 applications for wolf hunting licenses. The agency will issue some 2,000 licenses for a hunt scheduled from October 15th through the end of February, with a limit of 201 wolves. The state’s wolf population is estimated at about 850 animals. The DNR is currently drafting a response to the tribes.
“It’s really hard for the tribes to talk about this in legalities right now,” explained Zorn. “As some tribal reps have put it “it’s almost like we’re being asked which of our brothers we should send to the slaughterhouse.”" The state’s wolf population is estimated at about 850 animals. The DNR has formulated a population goal of 350 wolves.
Zorn drafted a letter on behalf of the task force, to DNR Secretary Kathy Stepp. “The intent of this was to declare that the tribes feel that they need all of the wolves that are currently on the landscape,” he said. “The population should be maintained at this level, and should be moving the other way. We’re hoping the state would respond positively.” A DNR spokeswoman told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram on Wednesday that the agency was formulating a response to the tribes.
For his part, Zorn wonders how many wolves will actually be killed. “To be honest with you, I’m just curious to see how many wolves are going to be taken by hunting and trapping. Personally, I’m not convinced that it’s going to be that easy. I think wolves are pretty clever.”
READ: Voight Intertribal Task Force letter (PDF)