A state circuit court judge has stalled a fall wolf hunt that was scheduled to start Nov. 6, ruling that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had failed to create permanent rules in response to a state law mandating a wolf harvest season.

The DNR’s error is just one of many they’ve made recently regarding wolf management, the worst of which was overruling its own Natural Resources Board and the 300 animal quota the board set for the fall harvest season.

Instead the agency went with a more conservative quota of 130, which left state hunters with a harvest quota of 74 after the agency gave Chippewa tribes their allotment under off-reservation treaty rights.

Assuming there’s really a law authorizing a state agency to overrule the decision of a citizen-run oversight board, legislators need to weigh in immediately to ensure that bureacrats don’t hold that kind of veto power.

Because the DNR has sole management authority over state resources, they should be able to set a harvest quota in the best interests of wolf management without tribal interference. The tribes have clearly indicated they won’t be part of any wolf management that requires lethal control methods, which runs contrary to state law establishing a harvest season.

So regardless of which quota is correct for wolf management purposes, 130 or 300, state-licensed hunters and trappers should be given harvest authorizations based on that number.

As if federal interference wasn’t enough to drive Wisconsin’s wolf population to more than triple the initial management goal of 350 wolves, we now have a state agency that is failing the needs of farmers, ranchers, deer hunters and pet owners. Wolf overpopulation has resulted in significant depredation on livestock, hunting dogs and pets. It has adversely impacted deer hunting in many areas of northern Wisconsin.

The state’s last “minimum count” of wolves put the population at 1,057 animals, though they admit it could have been as high as 1,333 before the first hunt of the year last February. The DNR set a harvest quota of 200 and in less than 72 hours, state hunters and trappers harvested 218 wolves.

We believe there is ample room in the current wolf population for a harvest quota of 300 animals, as set by the Natural Resources Board months ago. The state had lost lethal control methods for seven years, since the last delisting was overturned by a federal court in 2014, and there needed to be an immediate and significant wolf harvest to revive effective management of the wolf population.

The DNR is currently out of control, siding with Gov. Tony Evers and wildlife groups instead of doing its job for Wisconsin’s farmers, ranchers, deer hunters, property owners and pet owners. A circuit judge in Dane County shouldn’t be deciding the wolf hunt, and that ruling should be appealed.

The department should have created permanent rules for a wolf harvest season years ago, when it was first authorized by the Legislature.

 

Behind the editorial ‘we’

Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch, assistant editors Michelle Drew and Eric Johnson and reporter Doug Etten.