MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A coalition of animal rights groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday to stop Wisconsin’s wolf hunt season this fall and invalidate a state law mandating annual hunts, arguing the statutes don’t give wildlife officials any leeway to consider population estimates.
The lawsuit comes after hunters blew past their kill limit during a messy, court-ordered spring hunt in February. Animal rights groups deluged the state Department of Natural Resources with requests to cancel the fall hunt out of concerns it could devastate the wolf population.
DNR biologists recommended setting the quota at 130 animals. But the agency’s board voted earlier this month to set the fall kill limit at 300 animals. Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes are entitled to half the quota but refuse to hunt wolves because they consider them sacred. That means the working quota for state-licensed hunters likely would be 150 wolves, but that’s still too many for animal rights advocates.
“In a parody of reasoned deliberation, the Board spurned the recommendations of DNR’s experts, disregarded science, and ignored the facts to arrive at a politically contrived conclusion that flouts the Board’s constitutional and statutory responsibility to protect and conserve the state’s wildlife,” the lawsuit said. “Absent court intervention, the result will be another devastating blow to Wisconsin’s wolf population.”
Wisconsin law requires the DNR to hold an annual wolf hunt between November and February if the animal isn’t included on the endangered species list. The lawsuit alleges that the law is unconstitutional because it forces the DNR and its board to hold a hunt regardless of facts and science, stripping the agency and its leaders of their powers to protect the state’s natural resources.
The plaintiffs include Madison-based Great Lakes Wildlife Alliance; California-based Project Coyote; and Animal Wellness Action and the Center for Humane Economy, both based in Washington, D.C.
Also included as plaintiff is Patrick Clark of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, who argues that he enjoyed watching a pack of nine wolves near Wisconsin Dells — he named some of the wolves Roosevelt, Shaggy, Winston, Clyde, and Wolfee — but that hunters killed seven of them in February. He argues in the lawsuit that canceling the fall hunt might enable the pack to grow again.
DNR spokeswoman Sarah Hoye declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The Trump administration decided to remove wolves from the federal endangered species list in November, and that came into effect in January. The DNR had planned a season beginning in November in accordance with state law, but hunter advocacy group Hunter Nation won a court order forcing the agency to hold a hunt in February. The DNR set the quota at 119 wolves but hunters killed 218 in just four days, forcing an early end to the season.
The DNR’s latest estimates put the state’s wolf population at around 1,000 animals.