Will the gray wolf, an endangered species, just fresh off the list get its due process?

Image of gray wolves credit Voyageurs Wolf Project http://www.voyageurswolfproject.org

In the latest round of gray wolf delisting news, a conservative advocacy group, Hunter Nation Inc, filed a lawsuit on February 2, 2021, against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Natural Resources Board (NRB). The plaintiffs believe the NRB violated their rights by not approving a wolf hunt in February. The plaintiff’s complaint states:

The Department of Natural Resources refuses to comply with
unambiguous state law requiring it to allow the hunting and trapping of wolves. This refusal violates the constitutional and statutory rights of hunters throughout the State of Wisconsin. The Plaintiffs respectfully request that this Court order DNR to obey the lawful commands of the Legislature that created it and immediately establish an open season for hunting and trapping wolves.

The state law the complaint refers to is 2011 Wisconsin Act 169 states:

If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department (DNR) shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves and shall regulate such hunting and trapping as provided in this section and shall implement a wolf management plan. 

A recreational hunt is not in the best interest of people or gray wolves.

Rachel Tilseth, founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin

Thus, the DNR is mandated by the law to manage a wolf hunt in Wisconsin.  The plaintiff’s want the DNR to immediately establish an open season for hunting and trapping on wolves. And hunters get use dogs to track and trail wolves. That’s bad for gray wolves. Out of all the states that allows the hunting of gray wolves, Wisconsin is the only state to allow the use of dogs; Wisconsin quite literally throws dogs to wolves..

Opening a wolf hunt in February would disrupt the gray wolf’s breeding season. On Friday January 22, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board met virtually for a special meeting to discuss the next steps to establish a wolf hunt in Wisconsin in 2021. The public was invited to weigh in and the following was my comment on it.

Hunters want to run their dogs on wolves during prime breeding season.

January and February is prime breeding season for wolves. As a volunteer Wisconsin DNR wolf tracker I’ve witnessed how wolves behave this time of year. Holding a wolf hunt during this time would be disastrous for grey wolves and the wolf hunter’s dogs. Here’s why. During January I’ve followed wolf tracks and witnessed the entire wolf pack moving along the border of their territory

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what would happen if they threw hunters into the mix running their dogs during wolf prime breeding.

Following wolf tracks in January revealed how they behave during breeding season. Every member of the pack followed the alpha pair as they scent marked along the road. The road was a mile long and the alpha pair scent marked every tenth of a mile. At the end of the road I found a tiny snow-covered pine sapling with rust colored urine on it. The rust colored urine indicated the alpha female was in estrus. A tracker knows that sign reveals wolves are in prime breeding season. All of these signs from the alpha pair took place on the border territory indicating this was an aggressive act meant to declare territory.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what would happen if you threw wolf hunters into the mix running their dogs on wolves during wolf prime breeding. I’m against this, and I’m sure other Wisconsinites, if given the facts about grey wolf prime breeding season, would not be in favor of a hunt at this time of the year either.

Senator Rob Stafsholt, a member of Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, is pushing for an immediate wolf hunt.

Rob Stafsholt has become a representative, and now a senator for Wisconsin’s 10th district and is pushing for a wolf hunt. He is on a mission to bypass public input and go straight to a wolf hunt. In a statement  Stafsholt said: “This designation has returned management to the state. Under state statutes, the DNR is required to implement a harvest season, unless preempted by federal law. Wisconsin law establishes a wolf hunting season once federal protections are removed to begin on the first Saturday in November, and conclude on February 28th.

The NRB voted no to an early wolf hunt.

Thankfully Wisconsin’s tribes spoke up for their brother “Ma’iingan” the wolf and the Natural Resources Board voted no to an early February wolf hunt. So now instead of accepting the NRB decision a conservative advocacy group, Hunter Nation Inc has filed a lawsuit to immediately open a wolf hunt in February during prime breeding season. I asked Collette Adkins what she thought of the lawsuit.

“I’m sickened by the eagerness of trophy hunters to kill Wisconsin’s wolves,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Through this lawsuit, trophy hunters seek to open a wolf hunt now without prior consultation with the tribes, in the middle of the wolf breeding season and against the direction given by experts at the Department of Natural Resources. I’m confident that the court will reject this baseless lawsuit.”


Furthermore, the The Plaintiff, Hilgemann, President and CEO and a member of Hunter Nation, “would like to exercise his constitutional and statutory rights to hunt wolves…” Lawsuit filed by Hunter Nation Inc.

Should Hilgwmann’s rights supersede others rights?

But what about the rights of the volunteer DNR wolf trackers? Trackers count wolves during the winter months.  What will happen to wolf trackers when hunters run their dogs thru the woods at the same time? How can trackers get an accurate count if a hunter”s dogs disperse wolf packs? 

The Biden administration ordered a broad review of the Trump administration’s delisting of gray wolves.

Just one week after President Biden ordered a broad review of the Trump administration’s anti-wildlife policies, including the decision to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service summarily asserted today that the previous administration’s decision to delist the gray wolf was valid in a cursory, three-paragraph letter to conservation groups. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org press release.

Is the lawsuit frivolous, baseless and without merit; not worth the judges time?

In the end, it is up to a judge to determine whether or not the plaintiff’s case is baseless or not. Will an endangered species, just fresh off the list get its due process? Will DNR get to update the wolf management plan allowing the public to weigh in?

Update as of 02/15/21 a judge ruled in favor of Hunter Nation Inc’s lawsuit and the ruling ordered DNR to open a hunt immediately. The NRB just opened a wolf hunt starting on 02/22/21 setting a quota at 200 wolves. The following is part of my interview with WPR. Click the listen now button in the link: https://www.wpr.org/listen/1761701

In short, a more inclusive, scientifically sound, culturally sensitive and publicly supported wolf program would be much more likely to garner success in removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region.

Adrian Wydeven, Good stewardship is key to removing wolf from endangered list

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