Conservation through Science under God

Humane Soc. sends letter to Gov re: Wolf Hunting
Nov 23, 2020 17:56 ET

[Reprinted from original]


OnFocus – As Wisconsin is in the midst of its popular annual gun-deer hunting season, a different hunting undertaking is coming under attack – this one related to wolves.

On Oct. 29, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced to decision to remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list for the lower 48 states. This means when the rule goes into effect on January 4 that wolf management authority is given to the states. In Wisconsin, this poses the potential for a hunting season – something that has historically been controversial in the state.

On November 19, 2020, the Humane Society of the United States sent a letter to Wisconsin’s Gov. Tony Evers, state lawmakers and Department of Natural Resources officials, stating that any attempt to begin a wolf hunt in early 2021 would be scientifically unsound and illegal.

“The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources appears to be laying the groundwork to allow trophy hunters and trappers to start decimating the wolf population in January,” explained Megan Nicholson, Wisconsin State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. “To allow a January hunt would be illegal under Wisconsin law, and we are urging the Department not to move forward with this hasty and unsupportable plan.”

According to Wisconsin law, a wolf trophy hunting season can begin only in November: a decision the state reached in 2016 after extensive debate. Any attempt to open a hunt in January or February or, in fact, any time before November 2021 would therefore be against the state’s own law, according to the HSUS.

“It would be unwise for Wisconsin, or any other state, to rush into announcing wolf hunts based on the federal delisting, which, by itself, is premature and was made not in the best interests of wolves but as a handout to special interest groups, including gun lobbies and trophy hunters,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

In their letter, HSUS quoted studies stating that delisting can cause severe damage.

“Wolf populations continue to be dangerously low all around the United States and these apex carnivores, so crucial to their ecosystems, now occupy only 15 percent of their historic range in this country,” explained Nicholson. “Wolves pose little to no risk to people, pets and farmed animals. Any fearmongering about the dangers posed by wolves is spread by those who want states to allow wolf hunting, and it was such fearmongering that led to their extirpation a century ago before they slowly began to make a return after they received federal protections in 1974.”

As essential components to a healthy ecosystem in Wisconsin, wolves target the oldest, weakest, or injured animals, improving the health of the herd and staving off death by slow starvation if the herd grows too large.

She added that without federal protections, the future of Wisconsin’s wolves is bleak.

“In the period when wolves in Wisconsin temporarily lost their federal protections under the ESA from 2012 to 2014, Wisconsin held three wolf hunting and trapping seasons, and more than 520 wolves were killed,” explained Nicholson. “Nearly 70% of the wolves killed were caught in cruel, steel-jawed leghold traps or neck snares, while the others were killed with equally unsporting and barbaric methods baiting, electronic calls, and packs of trailing hounds. Their population dropped by 20% in just one season, and 17 entire families were lost.”

She added that during this time, state wildlife agencies “capitulated to the demands of trophy hunting, trapping, bear hounding, and agriculture groups and set reckless quotas informed by myths, fear-mongering, and rhetoric, rather than science.”

A survey of nearly 9,000 Wisconsin residents, many of which were from rural areas, revealed that the majority of Wisconsin residents feel positively towards, and believed that wolves “are an important member of the ecological community” who “help keep deer in balance with their habitat.”

“False narratives and myths are used to justify a trophy hunting season,” said Nicholson.

She explained that one of the most common myths used to justify hunting wolves are conflicts with livestock, but USDA data tells a much different story: in reality, wolves take less than 1% of all annual livestock inventories.

“Furthermore, indiscriminately killing wolves can actually increase livestock losses by breaking up stable family packs and leaving young, inexperienced wolves desperate to find easy prey,” she said.

A second myth commonly used is that wolves pose a danger to pets, said Nicholson.

“Wolves are incredibly familial animals and will defend their pups. They’re falsely vilified by bear hound hunters exploiting their dogs – and taxpayers,” she said. “Although the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources maintains maps of areas with known conflicts with wolves, bear hound hunters continue to intentionally put their dogs in harm’s way by running their hounds in those areas. With taxpayers footing the bill, compensation for injured or killed bear hounds (up to $2,500 per dog) encourages hound hunters to engage in more risky behavior and run their dogs in these known wolf conflict areas. Wisconsin taxpayers have already shelled out nearly $800,000 in compensation to bear hunters.”

In a statement, the DNR indicated it welcomes the responsibility of wolf management.

“The department has successfully managed wolves for decades and will continue to follow the science and laws that influence our management strategies,” the statement read. “All wolf management, including hunting, will be science-based and conducted in a transparent and deliberative process. Public and tribal participation will be encouraged, and we welcome all respective viewpoints.”

For more information or to learn how you can advocate for this native Wisconsin species, email