A federal judge has ordered gray wolves in Wisconsin and two other Great Lakes states back on the federal endangered species list.
The ruling Friday by US District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington D.C. overturns the Obama administration’s 2012 decision to de-list the gray wolf in the Great Lakes region. In the decision, Howell found federal officials violated the federal Endangered Species Act in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner.
The decision will affect wolf populations in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, halting further hunting and trapping seasons in those states.
The lawsuit was brought by the Humane Society of the United States. In a statement, attorney Jonathan Lovvorn noted that more than 1,500 wolves have been killed since the animal was de-listed. He praised the court for recognizing that the basis for the delisting decision was “flawed and would stop wolf recovery in its tracks.”
The ruling will have a dramatic impact on how Wisconsin manages its wolf population.
State Department of Natural Resources spokesman Bill Cosh says people that already hold permits to shoot wolves that are in conflict with domesticated animals cannot use them now. “What people who have the removal permits need to know is that the permits which allow lethal removal of wolves issued to landowners experiencing wolf conflicts are no longer valid. In fact, the Department of Natural Resources is in the process this evening of contacting the permit holders to alert them of that.”
This means Wisconsin’s law allowing landowners or occupants of the land to shoot wolves that are in the act of depredating domestic animals on private property is no longer in force. Landowners may not kill wolves in the act of attacking domestic animals. Under Federal Law, you also cannot use dogs to track and train on wolves. The judge’s ruling also prohibits Wisconsin from implementing a wolf harvest season.
Cosh added that legal staff from the DNR and Department of Justice are reviewing the decision and will have further information available at a later date.
Wisconsin’s third wolf season ended earlier this month, after hunters and trappers harvested 154 animals.
Affiliate WSAU contributed to this report
UPDATE: This story was update to reflect a statement from the Wisconsin DNR.