Action Alert: Wisconsin hunters will be killing pregnant female gray wolves starting Monday February 22, 2021

Photograph of gray wolves credit John E Marriott

I had hope that Wisconsin could manage gray wolves, but they have shown otherwise by such acts of barbarism towards the gray wolf.

Gray wolves need your help! Please take action by contacting The White House to let the Biden Administration know what’s happening to Wisconsin’s gray wolf just fresh off the Endangered Species List on January 4, 2021. You can email the White House through the following link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ and you can call the White House (202) 456-1111. On Monday, February 15th, the Wisconsin board of natural resources committed to killing 200 wolves over the next two weeks to comply with a court order that was issued last week. The order comes from judge Bennett Brantmeier, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge, who ruled that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must hold a wolf hunt during the hunting season if wolves are off the endangered species list. Please share this action alert with other concerned advocates.

The appeal has been denied as of Friday February 19th now it’s even more important that advocates take action and let the Biden Administration know how Wisconsin’s gray wolf is being managed.

Rachel Tilseth, wolf tracker and founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin

January and February is prime breeding season for gray wolves. In her testimony, HSUS Wisconsin State Director Megan Nicholson addressed the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, urging them to reject the DNR’s proposed quota of 200 wolves and set a quota of zero.

“Opening an immediate trophy hunting season is scientifically unsupportable,” she said. “Allowing wolf trophy hunting and trapping at any level has dire consequences like destroying pack structure and leaving yearling pups to starve, and experts warn that allowing hunting at the excessive level outlined in the state’s current Management Plan is indefensible and could put wolves into significant jeopardy.”Nicholson added that holding a season in February will magnify harms to stable wolf packs and urged the board to take more time “to make informed and transparent decisions based on sound science, meaningful tribal consultation, and with the input of diverse stakeholders.”

Collette Adkins from Center for Biological Diversity said:

“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.”

In an interview I told WPR reporter Danelle Kaeding my concerns about holding a wolf hunt in February. Wolf advocates have also expressed concerns over holding the harvest in the middle of the animal’s breeding season. Rachel Tilseth, wolf tracker and founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, fears holding a hunt now will only lead to negative outcomes for both hunters and wolves.

“They’re very territorial. So now you throw dogs into that — what’s going to happen there? It’s going to be a bloodbath,” said Tilseth. “There’s going to be a lot of fighting. Also, how is that going to affect the population if the females are pregnant right now? That’s going to have an impact on the health of the population. They have never ran a wolf hunt during January and February so this is going to be quite the mess because wolves are very territorial right now.”

Dylan Jennings, public information director with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, said the wolf or Ma’iingan is a keystone species or relative for the commission’s member tribes and represents an iconic emblem of their clan systems or forms of government. Source WPR interview

Peter David, wildlife biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, said the court’s ruling was a tremendous disappointment.

“This hunt is not well-thought-out, well planned, totally inadequate consultation with the tribes,” said David. “And maybe the biggest concern of all is that this season is not so much a hunting season as it is a killing season. No justification, really, was given for what was the legitimate purpose other than killing wolves.” Source WPR Reporter Danelle Kaeding

Please take action to protect Wisconsin’s gray wolf

Our natural resources agency is sanctioning the hunting down of pregnant females with hound hunting dogs starting this Monday February 22 through Sunday the 28th. This act violates the public’s trust and shatters all ethical hunting standards. They are not serving or protecting Wisconsin’s wildlife. They’re slaughtering pregnant female gray wolves. I had hope that Wisconsin could manage gray wolves, but they have shown otherwise by such acts of barbarism towards the gray wolf. Please take action by contacting the Biden Administration. Please email the White House through the following link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

The following is important background information on what’s been happening to Wisconsin’s gray wolves since they were officially taken off the Endangered Species List on January 4, 2021.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wants to Kill 200 wolves in the Next Two Weeks

Lindsey Botts Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin News Media Author

Photo credit John E Marriott
http://www.wolvesofdougladcountywisconsin.com

On Monday, February 15th, the Wisconsin board of natural resources committed to killing 200 wolves over the next two weeks to comply with a court order that was issued last week. The order comes from judge Bennett Brantmeier, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge, who ruled that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must hold a wolf hunt during the hunting season if wolves are off the endangered species list.

Dave Macfarland, wildlife researcher for the DNR, said the quota for 200 wolves was devised using two previous studies on wolf mortality. The studies concluded that wolf populations can be stabilized by killing up to between 22% – 29%. The DNR estimates that there are almost 1200 wolves in Wisconsin, which means the number is approximately 16% of the population. However, non-hunting activities, like car accidents; poaching; and depredation control, account for around 14% of wolf mortality. These two percentages combined get the DNR to the upper limits of what the reviewed studies say is a healthy wolf mortality rate.

“There’s going to be uncertainty”, said Macfarland in today’s broadcast of the special meeting. “And so the outcomes of this quota could result in population decline. They could result in stabilization. They could result in some level of increase. And that’s just inherent in populations of this size.”

The state divided the state into six management areas. The northern parts account for the largest percentages of wolves killed. The DNR is hoping to kill 62 wolves in zone 1, where Douglas County is located. This is the most of any of the six areas. In zone 2, which is the northeastern part of the state, the DNR hopes to kill 33 wolves. And in zone 3, which is situated just under zone 1, they expect to kill 40.

The decision to start the wolf hunt at the end of the season is a complete about-face from last month’s decision to wait until the fall. This would have given the DNR staff time to assess the population, devise a new wolf management plan, and solicit public feedback. However, a group of hunting advocates filed a lawsuit last week because they felt the hunt should be held as soon as possible because they fear that wolves may be relisted by the fall. This goes against the will of the overwhelming number of tribes that spoke out against holding a hunt so soon. And it goes against the will of most Wisconsinites, who do not favor holding a wolf hunt at all.

This move is controversial for many reasons including rushed timing, lack of an updated wolf plan, and clear political push, but one of the biggest issues is that it takes place during the breeding season, which means pregnant wolves will likely be killed.

The concern for holding a wolf hunt so soon and without thoroughly updated science has not gone unnoticed. In fact, one day after last week’s court order directly the DNR to hold a hunt, the DNR and Natural Resources Board filed an appeal seeking a stay that would halt the hunt. A decision on that is expected by the end of today.

One thing that has not been answered is whether or not the new wolf numbers will be factored into an updated wolf plan. The old plan from 1999 estimated that Wisconsin could hold 350 wolves. Since then, that number has been the goal. However, new science and counts say that the natural carrying capacity is actually closer to 1000.

What the department has to decide now is whether they want to be lead by science or lead by a misguided but vocal minority who want to suppress the wolf population down to as low as it can go.

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

Rachel Tilseth Author & Founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin News Media

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.”

Wolf hunters in Wisconsin killed 528 wolves from 2012 through 2014 before a federal judge ruled in 2014 must be placed back on the endangered species list. Gray Wolf

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

Wolf Management: Can Wisconsin get it right this time around?

First, do no harm as a commitment to prioritising non-invasive approaches in conservation research and practice,… One of the guiding principles of Compassionate Conservation

Photograph credit John E Marriott

That’s the million dollar question many Wisconsinites are asking. Will Wisconsin get it right this time around? The grey wolf was officially off the Endangered Species List on January 4, 2021 and pro hunt legislators and hunters began the push to re-establish a recreational wolf hunt in February 2021! Thankfully Wisconsin’s tribes spoke up for thier brother “Ma’iingan” the wolf and the Natural Resources Board voted NO to an early February wolf hunt.

The following is from NPR article on today’s NRB hearing.

Board member Marcy West questioned whether a hunt would be worth risking the state’s relationships with tribes and other organizations, as well as state management of the wolf. 

“I just really have a concern that we have to prove right now that the state is credible in managing the population,” said West. 

Much of the concern discussed by the board revolved around the state’s obligations to Wisconsin tribes.

Representatives of the Red Cliff, Menominee, Lac Courte Oreilles, Bad River and Lac du Flambeau tribes urged the board not to hold a wolf hunt this winter. Several referenced a 1983 court ruling known as the Voigt Decision that affirms tribal rights to hunt, fish and gather in ceded territory under treaties with the federal government. Under the ruling, the state must consult with tribes on natural resource management.

“In making any decision about wolves, the department must abide by the requirements to consult and collaborate with the tribes as set forth in court decisions and agreements,” said Mic Isham, executive administrator with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Tribal officials said the hunt would have a detrimental impact on the wolf population in Wisconsin. Tribal members, including Red Cliff tribal elder Marvin Defoe, said they view the wolf as a brother and that the animal is significant to their cultural and religious practices. 

Individuals matter in conservation research and practice, not merely as units of species and populations, and should be treated with compassion both in the wild… —Compassionate Conservation Ethics. Born Free Foundation

Watch the Wisconsin’s DNR Natural Resources Board special meeting. This is the webcast of the January 22, 2021 special meeting of the Natural Resources Board. To the right are links to this month’s Board agenda and the Board website. Below is a list of each item on this month’s agenda. To view the webcast for a specific agenda item, click on the text for that item, then scroll up if needed and click the X in the upper right corner. The Natural Resources Board and Department of Natural Resources are committed to serving people with disabilities. If you need Board information in an alternative format, please email or call: Laurie J. Ross, Board Liaison Laurie.Ross@wisconsin.gov 608.267.7420 — Read on dnrmedia.wi.gov/main/Play/731c92f70bb84be69b8f69ef1ccbb99c1d

Wolf recovery in Wisconsin began in the late 1970s, and after almost forty years, is still ruled by aggressive hunting conservation policies of; kill-them-to-conserve-them.

“Increasing human tolerance of large carnivores may be the best way to save these species from extinction,” said co-researcher William Ripple…Also, more large protected areas are urgently needed for large carnivore conservation.”

Just how bad is it?  

Six of the world’s large carnivores have lost more than 90% of their historic range, according to a study, BBC News. The research, published in Royal Society Open Science, was carried out by Christopher Wolf and William Ripple of Oregon State University. Range Contractions of the World’s Large Carnivores. Victor, a tiger freed from a poacher’s snare by WCS and government response team specialists, is released back into the wild. Photo by John Goodrich, WCS. Siberian Tiger Project. The researchers say re-wilding programmes will be most successful in regions with low human population density, little livestock, and limited agriculture. Additionally, regions with large networks of protected areas and favourable human attitudes toward carnivores are better suited for such schemes.”Increasing human tolerance of large carnivores may be the best way to save these species from extinction,” said co-researcher William Ripple.

Grey wolves were hunted in 2013 by the use of dogs. Wisconsin is the only state the allows hunters to track and trail wolves with dogs.

“Also, more large protected areas are urgently needed for large carnivore conservation.” When policy is favourable, carnivores may naturally return to parts of their historic ranges. BBC News

Wisconsin’s political-atmosphere regarding favourable policy is lacking; even down-right-hostile in its management of wolves. 

In Wisconsin, there are roughly around 1000 wild wolves sharing the landscape with people in the northern & central forest areas. Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association (WBA) continues to push for a trophy hunting of wolves. In 2015 WBA worked at Loosening regulations for bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear. Because of that change it’s impossible to know; just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods.

During the 2016 Wisconsin bear hunting season 37 hunting dogs were lost in the pursuit of bear. In 2017 $99, 400.00 was paid for hounds killed in pursuit of bear, 2016 training & Hunting season, according to the Wisconsin annual wolf depredations payout summary. Did the Wisconsin wolf depredation program reimburse bear hunters who knowingly ran their hunting dogs through WDNR wolf caution areas

Considering the decades of conflict between bear hunters and wolves; is this becoming harassment of an endangered species. Isn’t this illegal? Especially when they are listed as an endangered species?

In January 4, 2021 the Grey wolf became officially off the ESL. Delisting of Wisconsin’s wild wolf means certain death for this iconic predator, as Wisconsin is the only state that allows hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wolf hounding fact sheet.

Fresh off the ESL Wisconsin’s grey wolf was brutally hunted , trapped and chased down by wolf hunter’s dogs in 2012-2014 until a federal judge ordered them back on the list.

Conservation of large carnivores over the last century has been one of: kill-them-to-conserve ethic. An example of this conservation policy Wisconsin law, 2011 Wisconsin Act 169; “If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department 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. In regulating wolf hunting and trapping, the department may limit the number of wolf hunters and trappers and the number of wolves that may be taken by issuing wolf harvesting licenses.”

Wisconsin’s large carnivores are being aggressively managed through hunting policies that are impacting black bears. In a research paper “Consumption of intentional food subsidies by a hunted carnivore” Human food subsidies make up more than 40% of the diet of bears in northern Wisconsin. This consumption of human food subsidies, baiting, is negatively impacting the black bear population in Wisconsin. An estimated four million gallons of bait is dropped in Wisconsin’s forests by bear hunters starting in April through mid September.

A young black bear cub at a hunter’s bait.

The researchers found that: “Female consumption of high caloric food subsidies can increase fecundity (the ability to produce an abundance of offspring or new growth; fertility), and can train cubs to seek bear baits. Long-term supplementation can increase a population above its ecological carrying capacity. Further, Wisconsin, humans are influencing the ecosystem not only through top-down forces via hunting, but also through bottom-up forces by subsidizing the food base. Researcers’ findings emphasize the need to understand what effects conservation and management strategies that feature human subsidies can have on wildlife, particularly how they alter behavior, population sizes, and demographic parameters.” 

Wisconsin, humans are influencing the ecosystem not only through top-down forces via hunting…

One of the pro wolf hunt legislators pushing to re-establish the hunt was interviewed in a Wisconsin Public Television Show in 2010 regarding conflict between bear hunters and wolves

Is it possible to move conservation policy from a killing to conserve to a compassionate ethic? There’s a movement towards compassionate conservation that I hope Wisconsin can adopt. Compassionate conservation policy developed by Born Free Foundation “Guiding principles; First, do no harm as a commitment to prioritising non-invasive approaches in conservation research and practice, and an acknowledgement that invasive interventions may harm individuals, populations, and ecosystems. Individuals matter in conservation research and practice, not merely as units of species and populations, and should be treated with compassion both in the wild and in captivity Valuing all wildlife as worthy of conservation effort, whether native or introduced, whether common or rare, and regardless of perceived usefulness to humans.” 2017 Compassionate Conservation Convention is Being held in Sydney, Australia on November 20-24, 2017.

Wolf recovery in Wisconsin began in the late 1970s, and after almost forty years, is still ruled by aggressive hunting conservation policies of; kill-them-to-conserve-them.  Isn’t it time for Wisconsin’s wolf management plan to move forward into a new age; that supports increasing human tolerance of large carnivores. 

Trophic Cascades are powerful indirect interactions that can control entire ecosystems. Trophic cascades occur when predators limit the density and/or behavior of their prey and thereby enhance survival of the next lower trophic level.

Preview – Ma’iingan: Brother Wolf

This new film from Wisconsin Public Television captures enduring spiritual connections with Brother Wolf, the lasting bonds and responsibilities shared between native people and the wolf species, and the opportunities and challenges presented by the reintroduction and protection of the animals across reservation lands. Click here to view film on PBS website