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Several organizations including Animal Wellness Action (AWA), the Center for a Humane Economy, Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife, and the Project Coyote have joined a lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin over the upcoming wolf hunt in November. A quota of 300 wolves has been set for the hunt, which comes after 218 wolves were known to be killed during the February hunt. The animal rights groups are calling the state’s 300 wolf quota “reckless and politically motivated,” and say that more than half the wolf population could be eliminated by the two hunts of 2021.
“The Natural Resources Board should know its role — to oversee and ratify the decisions of the professional staff at the Wisconsin DNR” said AWA’s Wisconsin director Paul Collins. “Instead, the Board has hijacked wolf management. The courts cannot allow this arbitrary and capricious decision-making to drive wildlife management decisions in Wisconsin.”
The joint lawsuit alleges that political appointees of the state’s Natural Resources Board ignored recommendations of DNR professional staff, and opted to set arbitrarily high kill quotas for the wolf hunts. Among those appointees is Fred Prehn, the board chair named by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker who has refused to vacate his seat after his term expired in May. Emails obtained by the Examiner show Prehn discussing his refusal to leave as part of an effort coordinated with top Republican officials to maintain the GOP’s hold on conservation policy.
In February, the Kansas-based group Hunters Nation sued the DNR to compel a wolf hunt after the gray wolf was removed from the federal endangered species list by the Trump administration.
The most recent lawsuit filed by animal rights organizations alleges that a 2011 law that requires Wisconsin to hold a wolf hunt is unconstitutional. Proponents of the wolf hunt often point to the constitutional rights of hunters. At the time of the February hunt, there were around 1,000 wolves estimated to live in Wisconsin. The hunt took place during the wolves’ breeding season, and presented a danger to pregnant females. February’s hunt was closed early, after hunters exceeded the kill quota across the state. Independent studies have also suggested the number of wolves killed was far higher than official reports show. The DNR, however, stands by its own tally of the wolf population.
“The combination of the February hunt and the planned fall hunt could result in a 60 percent decline in the wolf population,” said Melissa Smith, founder of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife. “That is extraordinarily reckless and cannot be allowed to happen. This is a species fresh off the federal endangered species list, with a current federal legal challenge arguing that the delisting itself was not warranted.”
While some have pointed to the numbers of wolves killed, others criticize the tactics used to hunt them. “Of all the wolf-killing states, Wisconsin may be the worst because it is the only one to allow the barbarity of using hounds to chase, capture, and kill wolves,” said Michelle L. Lute, PhD in wolf conservation science and national carnivore conservation manager for Project Coyote. “These egregiously cruel methods of extreme kill quotas make clear the dire situation for not only wolves and dogs for our ecosystems as well as science-based reason and democracy.” The joint lawsuit was filed by lawyers with Animal Earth Advocates, Greenfire Law, and the Wisconsin-based Laffety, Leitner & Goode.
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