A public hearing at the state Capitol Wednesday on a proposed wolf hunting season raised a number of concerns, although outright opposition to the plan was rare.
The bill being considered by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee would create a hunting season for gray wolves running from October thru February. Permits would be issued in the same way the state’s bear hunting season is currently handled, with a preference system used to determine who receives a limited number of licenses.
State Representative Roger Rivard (R-Rice Lake), a sponsor of the bill, says a wolf hunt would be an effective tool to help the state manage a growing population, estimated at over 800 wolves. Supporters argue the wolf population should be down around 350 animals, which was the goal established when the animals were added to the federal endangered species list.
However, UW-Madison wildlife ecologist Tim Van Deelen testified that the state should shy away from setting a low population goal. He says that could be used by groups planning to file federal lawsuits against the recent delisting.
State Representative Nick Milroy (D-South Range) says Wisconsin should approach the issue carefully, or federal officials could again take over management of the wolf population. The animal was only recently removed from the endangered species list.
Al Lobner of Milladore was among advocates of a wolf hunt who say a season is needed to get the population down and to protect livestock and pets that have been attacked by wolves. Over 30 attacks by wolves on domesticated animals were reported to the state last year. Lobner says nobody wants to see wolves extinct, but “we need to do what is necessary to get these animals under control.”
A committee vote on the bill could come later this month.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:19)