This year saw one of the most horrific environmental disasters in Wisconsin history: a wolf slaughter during the height of breeding season, at the behest of an out-of-state hunting group, with the blessing of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board.
It started on February 2 when an Kansas group called Hunter Nation filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County, demanding that Wisconsin immediately hold a wolf hunt. A judge ordered the hunt to proceed, and the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board complied – even though there were just a few days of hunting season left.
The board set a quota of 200 wolves to be killed, out of a population of just over 1,000 — or about 20% — during a time when many female wolves are pregnant.
They then sold 4,000 permits to kill those wolves — meaning 20 people were gunning for each wolf.
Unlike most states, Wisconsin allows night hunting and trapping of wolves, and is the only state to allow the cruel practice of using dogs to run down prey.
Also unlike other states, Wisconsin allows a hunt to go on for 24 hours after a quota has been reached — practically guaranteeing it will be overshot.
And that’s exactly what happened. In two days, mostly out-of-state hunters slaughtered 218 of Wisconsin’s wolves that we know of — it’s likely more were killed than reported.
Of the 200-wolf quota, 81 were alloted to the Ojibwe tribal groups of Wisconsin. The Ojibwe consider wolves sacred. Only 119 wolves were supposed to actually be killed.
That means hunters slaughtered almost twice their allotment, including all of the wolves belonging to the Ojibwe.
Tribal groups are supposed to be consulted before any wolf quotas are set. But the lone tribal biologist left the Natural Resources Board meeting to discuss the quota when the board ignored his input.
“It’s so disappointing, the hurried plan to kill ma’iingan,” said John D. Johnson, chairman of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Voigt Intertribal Task Force, which advises the commission on natural resources policy. Ma’iingan is the Ojibwe name for the wolf.
“It’s an extreme disappointment on many levels,” said GLIFWC public information officer Dylan Jennings. “I think it really full-on demonstrated the lack of respect and the lack of commitment to co-management on the state’s part.”
There is a solution to prevent this from happening again: Appoint tribal members to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. By statute the board has seven members, appointed by the governor for six year terms. No current members of the Natural Resources Board are indigenous — but two have terms that end in May.
Image credit: Herb Lange / Wisconsin DNR