Hunting group sues to force Wisconsin wolf hunt

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 12:15 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A national hunting group filed a lawsuit Tuesday to force an immediate start to Wisconsin’s wolf season before President Joe Biden’s administration restores federal protections for the animals.

The Trump administration removed Great Lakes wolves from the federal endangered species list last month, handing management rights to the states. Wisconsin law requires the Department of Natural Resources to hold a wolf hunt between November and February; the agency is planning a season that will begin in November.

“We have been of the opinion that once federal protection were removed from the wolf, hunters have a role to play and manage the species like we do with many others in the state of Wisconsin,” CEO of Hunter Nation Luke Hilgemann explained.

A group of Republican legislators demanded the DNR started the hunt immediately before the season window closes at the end of February, but the department’s board refused last week amid concerns that that Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes haven’t been consulted as required by treaty agreements.

Kansas-based Hunter Nation Inc.’s lawsuit makes no mention of the treaty requirements. The group argues that the DNR must start the hunt immediately because wolves could regain federal protection any moment. The lawsuit notes Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 21 requiring agency heads to review all existing regulations, orders and policies that impede “environmental justice,” including the decision to delist wolves.

“The federal administration has announced that they will review the delisting made by the Trump administration. So every season counts with respect to our Wisconsin hunters,” deputy council Anthony LoCoco from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said.

DNR officials contend they needs time to study the wolf population to determine sustainable harvest quotas, but Hunter Nation maintains that will only cost taxpayers money and the wolf population has clearly surpassed the state’s goal of 350 animals. The latest DNR estimates put the population at around 1,000 animals.

The lawsuit accused the DNR, its board and Secretary Preston Cole of violating statutes requiring them to implement a hunt.

“They possess no discretion to simply wait until the next season comes around,” the lawsuit said.

“Unfortunately they forced us to move forward and push this in the courts because they were reluctant to come to the legislature and get this done,” Hilgemann added.

Asked about the Chippewa consultation requirements, Hunter Nation’s attorney, Anthony LoCoco said the DNR could have spoken with the tribes about reinstating a wolf season months ago and hasn’t explained why it can’t consult with them now to clear the way for an immediate hunt.

The DNR issued this statement Tuesday on the matter.

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