A state court has granted a Kansas-based trophy hunting group’s request for a wolf hunt in Wisconsin for the remaining weeks of February. It’s a terrible decision that could result in the slaughter of hundreds of wolves in a matter of weeks, including by such cruel methods as trapping and hounding, during their breeding season. And it proves that now, more than ever, gray wolves need federal protections restored to protect them from short-sighted and lethal state management—an outcome we’re fighting for in federal court.
The trophy hunting group filed its lawsuit last week after Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Board decided not to hold an early 2021 wolf hunt. Our legal team, joined by allied organizations, immediately filed a brief with the court explaining that Wisconsin law does not require the state to rush into an immediate hunt without due regard to science and public values, or consultation with sovereign tribes. Unfortunately, the court rejected this sound argument and instead allowed the hunt to proceed. The DNR has indicated that it intends to appeal today’s ruling, and we will support the continued fight to prevent a February massacre.
Even during a regular trophy hunting season, trophy hunting is devastating for wolf populations. Killing a single wolf can cause entire families to break apart and lead to young pups, still dependent on their mothers, dying of starvation or predation. The last time wolves were delisted, between 2013 and 2015, as many as 70 to 80 percent were killed in cruel neck snares and leghold traps. Neck snares are particularly barbaric and can cause a brutal and painful death. Additionally, a recent Wisconsin-based study found that allowing the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves can lead to an increase in poaching. But the February hunt ordered today—something that has never occurred in Wisconsin—is particularly cruel, as it would overlap with breeding season and when female wolves are well into their pregnancies. The last thing these animals need is to be in the crosshairs of trophy hunters.
The ruling today was an unfortunate setback, but we will continue the fight to keep wolves protected from those who would immediately rush to exploit them. In addition to suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore Endangered Species Act protections for wolves, which would stop Wisconsin from continuing this senseless slaughter, we also intend to hold the state DNR to its commitments to engage in a transparent and science-based process to rethink its badly outdated wolf management scheme. Wolf populations remain fragile across the United States. As this case illustrates, trophy hunting groups are fearful that our lawsuit will succeed in overturning the delisting decision and are getting more and more aggressive and vocal in their efforts to mow wolves down while they still can. We are just as relentless in standing up for wolves, however, and we don’t give up.