- In Woodruff today, Governor Walker signed a bill allowing wolf hunting in Wisconsin.
The bill establishes a hunting and trapping season that will run from mid-October through the end of February.
The state has been able to manage the wolf population since January, when wolves were federally delisted as an endangered species.
But there’s still plenty of controversy surrounding the new measure.
“I think if more people knew the true facts about wolves, there wouldn’t be so much negativity out there,” says Norm Poulton, regional coordinator for the DNR’s Wolf Recovery Program.
Poulton has been tracking wolves on the ground for nearly two decades. He says the wolf hunting bill was based on politics, not biology – and he’s worried the population plummet because of attitudes about wolves.
“If you look at these bumper stickers, they don’t say 350 wolves – they say no wolves,” Poulton says.
But Kurt Thiede, the DNR’s spokesperson for the wolf hunting bill, says it was drafted in a way that won’t let “no wolves” happen.
“What we looked for in the legislation was making sure that we had, through rule authority, the ability to regulate permit numbers, set goals, establish zones, and then also close the season by emergency order, if necessary,” Thiede says.
And although the DNR’s policy is not to take an official position on the bill, they recognize the most recent count of over 750 wolves is too high.
“The current level which they’re at, there are problems being caused across the north for landowners, farmers, that have to coexist with wolves. So we see this as an opportunity, through our delisting and the federal delisting, to help manage that problem,” Thiede says.
As the DNR prepares for a wolf hunt as early as this fall, tracking methods like weekly flights will continue.
But Poulton says many volunteer trackers will stop because they’re so upset about the bill. They don’t want their work to point hunters toward wolves.
“I just think they’re a magnificent animal, they have a rightful place in our environment,” he says.
Poulton says he’s going to continue making his voice heard and he expects the tribes to continue fighting this bill as well.
Thiede says part of creating the rules for the hunt will be consultation with the tribes, since most wolves are on ceded territories.