Jefferson Co. judge rules DNR violated law by not holding wolf hunt in February

By: - November 18, 2021 2:28 pm
wolf hunt

Alex Tinder via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

A Jefferson County judge ruled on Thursday that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) violated the law when it chose not to hold a wolf hunt last winter after the animal was taken off the federal list of endangered species. 

The judge, Bennett Brantmeier, ultimately forced a wolf hunt to be held after a lawsuit was filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and national hunting advocacy group Hunter Nation. That wolf hunt far exceeded the quota that had been set by the DNR, killing at least 100 more wolves than allowed. 

The wolf was removed from the federal endangered species list in January, which is in the middle of the state’s statutorily prescribed 2020-21 wolf hunting season. State law requires that when the wolf isn’t on the endangered species list, a hunt must be held. The DNR decided that instead of immediately holding a hunt after the wolf was removed from the list, it would hold a hunt in November during the 2021-22 season. 

Thursday’s order means that if the wolf is ever removed from the federal list in the middle of the season, a hunt must be held. 

“Requiring Plaintiff to rush back into court seeking another emergency Writ of Mandamus each time a mid-season delisting occurs is not an efficient use of judicial resources and will only produce additional uncertainty in the law and impact Plaintiffs’ statutory and constitutional rights,” Brantmeier wrote. 

Since forcing the hunt in February, WILL and Hunter Nation have continued efforts to pull state conservation policy in a more aggressively pro-hunter direction. They’ve fought to keep embattled Natural Resources Board Chair Frederick Prehn — a Republican appointee with ties to Hunter Nation — in his seat even though his term has expired and lobbied for a number of bills that would expand access to hunting and gun ownership. 

“Today’s historic ruling solidifies Wisconsin’s constitutional right to hunt and our statutory wolf hunt requirements. This case will go down as one of the most important legal victories ever achieved for the hunters of Wisconsin,” Luke Hilgemann, CEO and president of Hunter Nation, said in a statement. “We thank our partners at WILL for their legal expertise and hard work which helped achieve this victory and look forward to continuing to work with them to protect our hunting traditions in the future.”

The fight over wolf hunting in the state is ongoing and a planned hunt to be held this month has been halted after a lawsuit from state conservation groups. Another lawsuit, filed by the state’s Ojibwe tribes, has been filed in federal court but that case has been stayed while the state case continues to hold up the hunt.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.