Wolf

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican lawmakers want the state Department of Natural Resources to implement a wolf hunt immediately and not wait until fall.

The department’s policy board announced Tuesday that it will hold a special meeting Friday morning to consider the request from Republican members of the Legislature’s sporting heritage committees.

The board received a letter from the Republicans on Jan. 15 demanding the department implement a wolf hunt immediately and extend the season beyond the end of February if quotas aren’t met. The lawmakers said wolves need to be hunted now before they’re put back on the federal endangered species list.

The Trump administration officially delisted wolves in November 2020, allowing states to manage them. Two coalitions of advocacy groups filed federal lawsuits in California last week seeking to restore the protections.

Wisconsin law calls for annual wolf hunting and trapping seasons to run annually from the beginning of November to the end of February, and requires the DNR to resume the seasons if wolves lose their federal protections. The DNR had planned to resume the hunt this coming November.

The sporting heritage committees’ chairmen, Sen. Rob Stafsholt and Rep. Treig Pronschinske, didn’t return messages seeking comment Tuesday evening.

Republicans have long complained that wolves are destroying their rural constituents’ livestock. The department estimates Wisconsin has at least 1,034 wolves, most in the northern third and central forest regions of the state.

Wolves in the lower 48 states were placed on the endangered species list in the late 1970s. President Barack Obama’s administration removed wolves from the list. The DNR ran its first wolf season in 2012 and two more before a federal judge placed them back on the list in late 2014.

The seasons were contentious, with wildlife advocates warning that the wolf population is too small to support hunting and saying the creatures are so majestic that they should be left alone.

DNR Board Chairman Fred Prehn didn’t immediately return a message Tuesday evening. Board member Greg Kazmierski said Prehn ran the Republicans’ request past board members and there was enough interest in quickly resuming the hunt to convene Friday’s meeting.

He said the DNR should have been ready to go with a season as soon as the wolves came off the endangered species list, as required by state law. The department has enough data from previous wolf seasons to set quotas that protect the overall population’s viability, he said.

“I’ve been urging since October to get this underway,” he said. “This wolf thing, there’s two sides to it, but management is management.”

DNR spokeswoman Sarah Hoye said the department continues to work toward starting the hunt in November by working with a wolf advisory committee and considering input from stakeholders and tribes.

“We look forward to discussing these plans with the (board) on Friday,” she said.