On Wednesday February 1, 2012 (9:31 AM, 417 North [GAR Hall], State Capitol) Wisconsin's Assembly Natural Resources Committee is going to hold a hearing on Assembly Bill 502. The bill directs the Wisconsin DNR to hold a yearly wolf harvest if the wolf is not otherwise protected under the federal or state endangered species laws.
Many of us were expecting a wolf hunt to occur in Wisconsin but we expected it to come through the DNR's rule-making process. The sudden appearance of this Bill in the legislature took many of us by surprise. It was introduced on January 27.
I think a wolf hunt in Wisconsin was inevitable and not necessarily a bad thing. Further thoughts below.
This is a summary of the bill from http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/...
This bill requires the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to issue wolf
harvesting licenses if the wolf is removed from the U.S. and Wisconsin lists of
endangered and threatened species. Under the bill, both state residents and
nonresidents may be issued a license. The license authorizes both the hunting and
trapping of wolves. The bill requires that there be a single annual season for wolf
hunting and trapping from October 15 through the end of February. Under the bill,
DNR may limit the number of licenses issued and the number of wolves to be
harvested. The bill requires DNR to divide the state into up to four wolf harvesting
zones. A wolf harvesting license authorizes the license holder to hunt or trap or both
only in the zone that is specified on the license.
Under the bill, if the number of persons applying for a wolf harvesting license
exceeds the number of licenses that will be issued, DNR shall issue the licenses based
on a cumulative preference system. The system shall establish preference categories
for those applicants who applied for, but who were not issued, a wolf harvesting
license in previous seasons, with higher preference given to those applicants with
more preference points. Under the preference system, a person may elect to apply
for a preference point instead of a license in a given year. Each person receiving a
license will receive one tag. The bill also allows the transfer of licenses and
preference points under certain circumstances.
The bill specifies the types of firearms that may be used for wolf hunting and
also allows the use of bows and arrows and crossbows for wolf hunting. A crossbow
may be used by any person holding a wolf harvesting license. For hunting wolves,
the bill allows the use of dogs for part of the season and allows the baiting of wolves
with bait other than animal byproducts except for liquid scents. Hunting wolves at
night is also authorized for part of the season. Under the bill, the types of traps that
may be used for trapping wolves must include cable restraints. A cable restraint is
a type of trap using a noose made of cables.
The bill requires DNR to administer a program under which payments may be
made to persons for death or injury caused by wolves to livestock, to hunting dogs
other than those being used in the hunting of wolves, and to pets. Under current law,
DNR has promulgated rules establishing such a program. Under the bill, the moneys
collected as fees for wolf harvesting licenses are to be used to make payments under
this program. If, after making these payments, there are any moneys remaining,
DNR may use the moneys for wolf management and control activities conducted by
As I said above, wolf hunting was inevitable. For various reasons it took a very long time to get wolves de-listed from the Federal endangered species act despite a growing and robust population in Wisconsin. The outcome of this lengthy process was a sense of powerlessness among people who were experiencing wolf depredations which only raised the level of antipathy towards wolves.
Wolves are now delisted in Wisconsin and management authority is in the hands of the state. A wolf hunt could be a good for wolf conservation if the harvest is directed towards those areas where wolves are killing livestock. A wolf hunt that destabilizes the population and moves it back towards number that trigger threatened and endangered status is a bad thing and something we should avoid. Ideally conservationists should be able to trade off some level of harvest targetted at the margins of wolf range (where there is more agriculture and more depredation) for security and reduced antipathy in the core of wolf range (more public land, more forest, less agriculture).
My concern with this bill is that it is too much of a blunt instrument. It mandates no more than 4 wolf zones statewide and places wolves on a list of animals (with beavers, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, woodchucks, rabbits, and squirrels) that landowners may hunt or trap without the requirement of a license. I fear the former provision may prevent the Wisconsin DNR from being strategic in protecting core areas while directing harvest to areas where wolves are causing trouble. I fear the latter introduces a wild-card of unlicensed harvest that could contribute to over-harvest.
I trust the wildlife managers in the Wisconsin DNR. I would prefer that if we are to have a wolf harvest, they be the ones who design it.