The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will limit the number of wolves that can be killed this year to less than half what was approved by the agency’s policy board.
The DNR said Monday it has set the quota for the Nov. 6 hunting season at 130 wolves, the number agency officials initially recommended before the Natural Resources Board voted in August to set the quota at 300.
In a statement, the DNR said state law authorizes the agency to make the final decision when setting the quota, which was based on “the best available information and scientific modeling, as well as the input from the Wolf Harvest Committee, the Natural Resources Board, and the many groups and members of the public who provided comments to the department and the board.”
The 130-wolf quota was set based on “the most reliable population modeling available” and a goal of maintaining a stable wolf population, according to a staff memo.
Natural Resources Board Chair Fred Prehn did not respond to a request for comment.
DNR spokesperson Sarah Hoye said she is unaware of any instance where the agency has modified a quota set by the board.
In accordance with 19th-century treaties, state-licensed hunters will be allowed to kill 74 wolves; 56 will be set aside for the Ojibwe tribes, which have in past years chosen to protect their share.
The DNR plans to issue 370 licenses through a lottery system. Licenses go on sale Oct. 25.
In their request for an injunction, the tribes anticipated that DNR staff might modify the board’s quota, which could result in another legal challenge from hunting groups. That, the tribes say, could result in a rushed, court-ordered hunt like the one in February, when state-licensed hunters killed at least 218 wolves — more than the state and tribal quotas combined.
Six Ojibwe tribal governments claim the statutorily-mandated hunt is a “direct assault” on their treaty rights and would compound damages from a February hunt, in which state-licensed hunters killed the tribe’s share of wolves.
The tribes say the Natural Resources Board’s decision was a deliberate move to nullify the tribes’ share and accuse the DNR of ignoring “sound biological principles” and mismanaging natural resources in violation of 1837 and 1842 treaties with the U.S. government. Those give the tribes half of any resources harvested from the Ceded Territory, which covers roughly the northern third of the state.
A spokesperson for EarthJustice, which is representing the tribes, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday’s decision.
A coalition of wildlife advocacy groups has also sued in state court to stop the fall hunt and void the 2011 law requiring the state to allow hunting from November through February whenever wolves are not on the endangered species list.
One of those groups, Animal Wellness Action, decried the DNR’s new quota as too high and said Wisconsin should follow Minnesota and Michigan, which are not allowing hunting and trapping this year.
“Wisconsin’s wildlife management plans are broken and scientifically unjustifiable,” said Paul Collins, state director for Animal Wellness Action. “The DNR’s lower quota is not as extreme as the NRB’s plan, but this kill level cannot be justified either.”
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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removed wolves from the list in January.
The DNR was preparing to hold a hunt beginning in November 2021, but a Kansas-based hunter advocacy group sued, and a Jefferson County judge ordered the department to hold a season in the final days of February, later than any previously sanctioned hunt.