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Wisconsin wolf hunt will move forward after panel of judges dismisses DNR appeal

Feb 21, 2021 10:23AM ● By Editor
Gray wolf walking in the snow.  Photo: Eric Kilby (CC BY-SA), WI Public Radio

By Danielle Kaeding of Wisconsin Public Radio News - Friday, February 19, 2021

Wisconsin’s wolf hunt will move forward Monday after an appeals court ruling Friday.

A three-judge panel dismissed an appeal by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources seeking to put a Jefferson County judge’s ruling on hold that ordered the state’s wolf hunt to resume this month.

"This court lacks jurisdiction over a direct appeal at this time," the court ruled. 

The decision comes as the agency has already been accepting applications for up to 4,000 permits that may be issued to hunters for the wolf harvest. The Natural Resources Board unanimously approved a quota of 200 wolves this week, and the hunt is set to be held next week after a drawing of winners Monday.

A DNR spokesperson said the agency's legal team is reviewing the decision and declined to comment further.

Jefferson County Judge Bennett Brantmeier sided with Kansas-based group Hunter Nation after a conservative advocacy group filed a lawsuit on behalf of the hunting organization that sought to force the DNR to resume the hunt this month. 

"I think this is a historic victory not only for hunters in Wisconsin, but re-establishing the rule of law as we know it to make sure that when state statute is very clear that this is something that cannot be denied by a governor, by a politician, by an agency," said Hunter Nation CEO Luke Hilgemann.

The ruling is the latest development in a contentious debate over whether Wisconsin should hold a wolf hunt this winter following the Trump administration’s decision to remove the animal from the endangered species list. The wolf’s delisting took effect across most of the nation last month.

The number of wolves in Wisconsin has grown from just 25 in 1980 to 1,195 today, according to the DNR. Hunters have argued it's their statutory right to hunt wolves in Wisconsin when the animal is delisted. Under Wisconsin law, the DNR is required to hold a single wolf hunting and trapping season from Oct. 15 through February when the animal is not under federal protection.

Hunters have cited concerns that they may have a limited window to harvest wolves if President Joe Biden’s administration restores federal protections for the animal after he issued an executive order to review decisions made by the Trump administration, including the wolf's delisting.

To read the original story and related articles, follow this link to the WPR website.