Trophy hunters kill 216 wolves in Wisconsin bloodbath

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on March 1, 2021 with 35 Comments

A no-holds-barred carnage of wolves in Wisconsin last week, which ended with trophy hunters killing nearly twice the sanctioned quota of animals in just under 60 hours, offers a terrible glimpse into just what lies ahead for these beloved native American carnivores unless the Biden administration moves swiftly to restore their federal protections.

Wisconsin’s wolf hunt was, from start to finish, an example of the worst wildlife management practices. The state was not prepared for a February hunt and was forced by a court ruling to rush into one without a clear, updated, scientific plan. ​

A whopping 2,380 wolf hunting permits — twice as many as are typically issued for hunts in the state — were made available for a quota of 119 wolves over what was supposed to be a week-long season. Little if any input was sought from Wisconsinites and tribal nations, which have opposed the hunts, or from the scientific community. The hunt also occurred during the breeding season for wolves, putting pregnant females in the crosshairs.

In less than 60 hours, 216 wolves had been slaughtered and all of the hunting zones had to be closed. We now know that nearly half the wolves killed were females. Entire wolf families were likely destroyed. And worst of all, nearly 85 percent of the animals killed were hunted down by packs of dogs — an extremely cruel and unsporting practice that no other state allows for wolf hunting.

“The swift pace of the wolf kills, mostly by hunters using trailing hounds, took the DNR by surprise. And the overage was made worse by a state statute that requires 24-hour, rather than immediate, notice of the season closure,” Paul A. Smith, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s outdoors editor, wrote in an article critical of the hunt.

We have issued many warnings predicting exactly such a horrific scenario since the federal delisting of wolves last year by the Trump administration. In Wisconsin, where some state officials and lawmakers had begun plotting a wolf hunt even before the federal delisting was finalized, we led a strong campaign to stop a February hunt, convincing the state’s Natural Resources Board and Gov. Tony Evers, in a letter, that an early hunt would be unscientific and illegal, with disastrous consequences for the wolves. Shortly after receiving our letter, the DNR announced they would not open a trophy hunt until November 2021 and committed to transparency and broad public engagement before doing so. Soon after, we helped thwart another attempt by some lawmakers to open a February hunt.

Unfortunately, an out-of-state trophy hunting group sued the state to open season earlier this month—a request the court granted, opening the door to a bloodbath. ​

In amicus briefs we filed with the court, we argued ​this hunt was ​not only scientifically unjustifiable but illegal under the state’s own law. The consequences of the court’s misguided decision underscores the importance of our fight — in federal court and elsewhere — to return Endangered Species Act protections to wolves.

We already know that Wisconsin is planning to open another hunt in the fall. And it is not the only one. In the Northern Rocky Mountains, where wolves had already lost their federal protections prior to the January national delisting, states are trying drastically to expand their trophy hunting seasons. Some lawmakers in Montana, for instance, are pushing forward numerous bills that would radically increase the number of wolves killed by trophy hunters and trappers. Wolves also continue to face grave threats in Idaho and Wyoming.

Wildlife agencies in other Great Lakes states, like Minnesota and Michigan, have committed to working to update their state wolf management plans and consult with scientists and tribes prior to considering a trophy hunting or trapping season. But in Minnesota some state lawmakers are trying to force a hunt, and bills were recently introduced that would require a season for wolves. However, another bill that would prohibit such a season was recently introduced as well. And in Michigan, the Senate Natural Resources Committee recently passed a resolution to urge the Natural Resources Commission to hold a wolf hunt even prior to updating their state management plan.

We have even seen a bill introduced in the 117th Congress by Rep. Thomas Tiffany, R-Wisc., that would remove gray wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Wyoming from the Endangered Species Act indefinitely. The bill seeks to preempt any litigation that could potentially lead to federal protections being restored to wolves.

If you live in one of these states, it is crucial that you keep a watchful eye on decision-makers and continue to speak up for wolves. With trophy hunters raring to go after America’s wolves, and given the clout they have, in many cases, with state DNR officials and some lawmakers, this is a tough fight. But we have the majority of Americans, who are opposed to wolf trophy hunting, on our side and we are working to stop this cruel pastime on several fronts. ​

We are now suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service over the delisting decision to remove gray wolves in the lower 48 states from the Endangered Species Act, and we will continue to press the Biden administration’s Department of the Interior to restore federal protections for this species. We will also continue to fight state plans to open and expand wolf trophy hunts. Wolves need all of our help, and yours. These gorgeous animals today occupy only 15 percent of their historic range in this country: they are far from recovered, and in no state to withstand more carnage, in Wisconsin or anywhere else they call home.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Julie S. says:

    Please tell us who the key people are we can contact to build pressure to repeal these monstrous laws and regulations. Legislators? Agency officials? People in Wisconsin? The feds? The Kansas cretins (I live in Kansas and am horrified, ashamed, and yet not surprised… the board includes Kris Kobach and Ted Nugent…)? Who is best to call / email / write to? Thank you for your work.

    • Mags trant says:

      Absolutely I agree if you get that information please post it and if there is some sort of petition that we can create for the states or the governors of each of the states then let’s do it

    • Marcia Bowers says:

      Julie, Write or call your Congressional representatives, Senators, Governor, President Biden, & contact & contribute to the HSUS. Speak out whenever and wherever you can. Thank you.

  2. Ewa Urbanski says:

    Es ist einfach nur krank.Menschen die sowas grausames betreiben sind Mörder!!und diese gehören verurteilt und eingesperrt zu werden.

  3. mary rivas says:

    This was a cruel violent massacre

  4. Cindy Baetz says:

    Ignorance of how ecosystems work in all its glory. This is abhorrent. My throat is sore from yelling at these people to stop the killing. These animals are supposed to be here and they have a purpose to fulfill. This is blood sport and nothing else. What kind of people find pleasure in killing just to kill? They have no clue about the damage they’re doing and the states are slobbering over the revenue they’re collecting. Lord help us.

  5. Kathy Thompson says:

    This killing is horrific. I could not even read the whole article as I am extremely upset and disgusted with these killings!

  6. Adriana Flores says:


  7. Veronica says:

    Stop this evilness these are gods creatures leave them alone.

  8. Lisa Lawrence says:

    Unbelievably cruel and cowardly. President trump has a lot to answer for! All eyes are on President Biden now !

  9. Diane Williams says:

    Barbaric and evil. Must stop this blood bath!

  10. Lucie Patterson says:

    Hunting beautiful and wild animals has no place in our society.

  11. Diane Pereira says:

    This is terrible !! Many humans are evil when it comes to animals and their rights to live freely. Nothing should take the place of a life, in this case it’s what’s called a trophy but it’s really just a useless cup or plaque. This is what the hunters get excited about??!! Discusting it is along with no compassion for God’s creatures of the earth. They only care about their ego . This is animal abuse in the name of a trophy. Put fourth petitions to sign against this and I will sign along with many many others who care about animal welfare.

  12. Kevin says:

    Can we please pass a law to stop killing wolves and wild life animals?

  13. Leigh Carson says:

    This needs to stop!!! Is there a petition to sign? Who can we write to?!

  14. Sergio machado says:

    How can I help in the joint effort to stop this barbaric behavior?

  15. Johanna Walton says:

    HORRIFIC!!!!!! Should be prosecuted!!!!

  16. Jan Erickson says:

    I just don’t get the joy from killing beautiful wildlife just for the sake of killing. It’s sad and disturbing to me.

  17. Beverly says:

    We are a pathetic society who goes around thinking we can destroy animals and we own everything. Shame on us

  18. Judith GILES says:

    Appalling. Senseless

  19. John kyser says:

    This mass slaughter in wisconsin and indiana of certain wild animals is evil and certainly void of any definition of sportsmanship. From a psychological point of view it is but a step from the participation in mass animal slaughter to serial killing.

  20. L. Hoberman says:

    This is horrifying. Why does any government endorse the senseless murder of these magnificent creatures. Or any creature we share this planet with. There is no acceptable justification. NONE.

  21. Courtney Guthrie says:

    This is needless insensitive violence and it’s honestly embarrassing that we would do this to fellow animals for no reason. I look forward to this changing which it no doubt ultimately will.

  22. Ahnna Weber says:

    Unbelievable and heinous. This should not happen.

  23. Leigh Winn says:

    I am so incredibly upset over this I can’t sleep. What can we do to urge Biden to reverse Trump’s disasters and the state’s evil?

  24. Valerie says:

    Absolutely inexcusable. I cannot understand why some out of state hunting group had so much authority here to sue and gain access to hunting these animals? I only hope that the Biden Administration steps in to offer protections for the gray wolf immediately. I also wonder if the family units of the surviving wolves are ruined and they are now vulnerable for their own survival? This whole story was heartbreaking.

  25. Leanne says:

    I just want our City and State Officials learn from this ridiculous rule that immense carnage has come from the State and Feds should be ashamed of themselves for their actions and crimes against Defenseless Animal’s for TROPHY sakes!!!! Absolutely disturbing news for the extinction rate.

  26. Joan says:

    I was sickened, when Trump took wolves off the endangered species list. I love wolves and all animals. How can the state of Wisconsin allow a hunt while females are pregnant? Oversell permits? Hunters seem to feel superior over what becomes a helpless animal when they hunt. I support your lawsuits wholeheartedly.

  27. William Sparks says:

    Lets keep the hysteria and emotion out of it. How about focus on the role wolves play as predators to preserve the ecosystem, i.e. if you eliminate the wolf, many other dominoes will fall, e.g., other species, their prey will be unnaturally overgrown and over graze areas, and the natural balance of areas is ruined. Urbanites have no idea that in such a vast country as ours there are still many areas this is crucial. Another compelling bipartisan argument is wolves are ancestors of our beloved dogs, every canine in existence USA is descended from wolves, we owe them a fighting chance to survive is all we ask. Especially in season when pups are waiting for mom just like a litter of puppies is being trained by a bitch, before a human takes over, exactly the same phenomenon. Leave few remaining wolves in peace! Will

  28. Anita Meyer says:

    Very sad! …and this is because the DNA and government don’t want to put up the funds to TRAP AND RELOCATE! I guess their salaries are more important! …this MUST be changed! …animals all over the globe are dying, and whole species are being wiped out! Wolves create and maintain an ecosystem – we need wolves! …and when the animals die – WE DIE!


  29. Jacob says:

    How can we help? What can we do to stop this?

  30. John Isbell says:

    You people have missed it. They don’t care about the wolves or the hunters. They want the money that comes from the sale of licenses. Sad!!!

  31. Diana Lewis says:

    Please! This pervasive slaughter of wolves is inhumane and a reckless solution to the problem!

  32. Karin Erker says:

    Die Menschen haben den Tieren die Hölle auf Erden gebracht … was sind das für brutale Menschen, die Tiere so töten können … haben die kein Gefühl oder ein Herz für ein Lebewesen … niemand hat das Recht, Tiere so zu töten … sie haben ein Recht artgerecht zu leben … bestraft diese physiopaten .. das muss verboten werden und die Täter müssen zur Rechenschaft gezogen werden … es müssen höhere Strafen eingeführt werden für tierquäler …. Stop

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