Wisconsin law, Act 169 states: if the wolf is not listed on the federal or Wisconsin endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves…

Photograph of a Wisconsin gray wolf. Credit Snapshot Wisconsin.

It’s very evident that if something isn’t done to change the law gray wolves in Wisconsin will be hunted. The United States Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS will soon be making a decision whether or not to delist wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota & Michigan. More information about proposed delisting can be found on The Federal Registry.

History of gray wolves in Wisconsin

The Gray wolf was extirpated from Wisconsin’s forests by the 1950s. Then, Gray wolves began entering Wisconsin through Minnesota, and by the late 1970s Gray wolves were establishing home territories in Wisconsin. The newly created Wisconsin Wolf Recovery Program began monitoring packs, and soon wolves were establishing territories throughout Wisconsin’s northern & central forests. The most recent wolf population is an estimated 944 gray wolves are living in Wisconsin according to the over the winter wolf count July 2019 WDNR.

Wisconsin’s Gray wolf population has begun to show signs of stabilizing. State officials say the state’s latest wolf count is further evidence that Wisconsin’s wolf population might be stabilizing. Volunteer trackers reported between 914 and 978 wolves from April 2018 to April 2019, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Scott Walter, DNR large carnivore specialist, said that’s about a 1 percent increase from the last monitoring period. “The last three winter track surveys suggested fairly similar numbers of wolves and that follows really two decades of sustained population growth,” said Walter. “It looks like numbers are leveling off.” Source Wisconsin Public Radio

In 2011 just as gray wolves were about to be delisted the Wisconsin state legislature rushed to create a law. Wisconsin Act 169, is a law that mandates a hunt when wolves are NOT listed on the Endangered Species List.

As the USFWS begins the process of delisting, the question at hand is: will Wisconsin throw ‘dogs to the wolves again like they did in 2013 & 2014? Wisconsin Act 169, a law, allowed for hunters to use dogs to track & trail wolves. Beginning in 2012 there was very little public input in how Wisconsin wolf hunts were run. This lack of public input was due to a hunter-stacked Wolf Advisory Committee (WAC). A committee that was in charge of overseeing how the hunts were managed, and the members were appointed by then Secretary of the WDNR Cathy Stepp.

Several DNR staff are on the recently created Wolf Advisory Committee, as are representatives of several pro-hunting groups. A smaller number of wolf hunting skeptics also remain on the committee, including a representative of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.  WPR reporter Chuck Quirmbach June 2014 

At a WI DNR meeting secretary Cathy Stepp admitted, “When we’re charged to manage and to implement a hunt, coming in and telling us, ‘Don’t hunt wolves,’ is not a productive way to run a committee, frankly,” said Stepp. “That’s just the candid way to lay it out. We had to have people who were willing to work with us in partnership, and be willing to help us and advise us along the way in implementing state law.” Source WPR June 2014

WDNR’s Wolf Advisory Committee met once a month to recommend how wolf management in Wisconsin should be done. Here is a list of Cathy Stepp’s hand Picked WAC, that she thinks better suited to, “…people who were willing to work with us in partnership…”:United States Fish & Wildlife Service(USFWS), United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services(USDA WS), Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission(GLIFWC), Wisconsin County Forest Association(WCFA), Wisconsin Conservation Congress(WCC), Safari Club International(SCI), Timber Wolf Alliance(TWA), Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association(WBHA), Wisconsin Bowhunters Association(WBA), Wisconsin Cattlemans Association(WCA), Wisconsin Trappers Association(WTA), Wisconsin Wildlife Federation(WWF) and 10 WDNR biologists. WODCW blog

One of Secretary Stepp’s hand picked WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee Members is Wisconsin Cattlemans Association(WCA) Earl Stahl. Stahl is for delisting wolves and holding a wolf hunt. 

On 12/26/16 Stahl made his stand clear in a Opinion Editorial for the Wisconsin State Farmer “Wisconsin agreed to the original delisting of wolves with the understanding that the population would be capped at 100. The delisting allowed wolves to migrate from Minnesota and the U.P. in spite of the fact that the Wisconsin DNR documented wolf packs in the state in the 1960s and late 1970s.” Earl Stahl 

Seems clear to me that this DNR Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee member, Earl Stahl, thinks wolves are a problem and they only way to manage them is with a wolf hunt. This is how then DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, appointed by the Walker Administration, managed an endangered species. There was no transparency in Secretary Stepp’s DNR Wolf management process. Many Wisconsinites disapproved of Stepp’s management of the wolf hunts.

The barbaric act of Wolf-Hounding is legal in Wisconsin and was sanctioned in 2011 by the legislature. Wisconsin Act 169, is a law that mandates a hunt must be held when wolves are NOT listed on the Endangered Species List.

Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves. The barbaric act of Wolf-Hounding is legal in Wisconsin and is sanctioned when wolves are NOT listed on the Endangered Species List. In 2011 Wisconsin State Legislators backed by Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, rushed to create a law, Wisconsin Act 169, that mandated a wolf hunt just as Gray wolves were about to be delisted. Wisconsin law Act 169 ordered the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to oversee a wolf hunt. In 2013 the brutal act of “wolf Hounding” began in Wisconsin. On December 06, 2013 the first two wolves were killed by the use of dogs reported By Chuck Quirmbach of Wisconsin Public Radio. In 2013 & 2014 wolf hunters used dogs to track and trail wolves until a federal judge ordered them back under federal protection.

About the photograph: This young Wisconsin Gray wolf lost his life to hound hunters in the last sanctioned wolf hunt to use dogs in 2014. On December 19, 2014 a Federal judge ordered gray wolves in the Great Lakes returned to the protection of the Endangered Species List. A little too late for this young Gray wolf being proudly displayed as a trophy for this Wisconsin hound hunter.

The following is from the Wisconsin DNR wolf hunting reports 2014-2015: Wisconsin wolf hunters and trappers harvested 154 wolves during the 2014-15 season. This was a 60% decrease from the 2013-14 harvest of 257 wolves. The 2014-15 harvest was comprised of 87 males and 67 females. Wisconsin requires state-licensed hunters and trappers to obtain a wolf permit to harvest a wolf. Permits are issued through a 2 stage process. The first 50% of permits are issued through a random lottery in which all applicants are entered. The second 50% of permits are issued based upon the cumulative preference points of applicants which give unsuccessful applicants from prior years a greater chance to obtain a permit. Each permit allows the harvest of one wolf by any legal method. Legal methods include trapping with foothold traps and cable restraints, hunting with the use of electronic calls, bait and the aid of dogs.

On December 19, 2014 a Federal judge ordered gray wolves in the Great Lakes returned to the protection of the Endangered Species List.

Gray wolf at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.
Photo by USFWS

In conclusion, if USF&WS delists the Gray wolf in the Great Lakes Region, Wisconsin citizens must push for greater transparency in a wolf management plan, that allows for citizens input at every step in the decision making process; The plan must protect the health of the Gray wolf population, account for pack dynamics, include proactive measures to mitigate wolf livestock conflicts and to educate the public on how to live alongside gray wolves. A trophy hunt on gray wolves is about power not Conservation and has proven to be detrimental to wolf management. The Gray wolf is part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy.

At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst. ~Aristotle

*Wolf hunters are not reimbursed for dogs killed by wolves during a wolf hunt. But bear hunters are reimbursed when their dogs are killed while in pursuit of bear.

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