September 15, 2023 at 5:50 a.m.

Public comment for permanent wolf rule brings few surprises

Outdoors Writer

A meeting was held Tuesday evening regarding the permanent rule to be put into place for the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) proposed wolf rule WM-03-21. One of the only surprises of the meeting was its brevity. Lasting just over an hour, the meeting took comment from the public at five-minute intervals. 

“Maybe we could propose that — that we have mice hunters going forward instead.”
Kyle Meyer,
concerned citizen

The “usual” groups were represented at the meeting including the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), Hunter Nation, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and Centers for Biological Diversity, with members of the public pointing to a written comment that was to come from the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF).

DNR policy specialist Scott Karel spoke about the permanent rule that would go into place to replace the emergency rules that have been put into place regarding a wolf hunt in the state when the species was federally delisted.

The wolf, he said, has moved on and off the endangered species list several times in recent years. The state recently created a new draft wolf plan, which would be heading to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) for their October session. This plan created the framework for a wolf harvest season in anticipation of the wolf being delisted again at some point in the future. 

The contents of the rule, Karel said, included several things. One of those would be carcass tags that would be zone specific. There would also be protections for wolf dens, making it illegal to molest or destroy a wolf den. A faster harvest would also be addressed, with animals needing to be reported within eight ours after an animal is recovered. Wolf zone boundaries would also be updated in the new plan, he said. 

A designated dog training season would also be established under the new permanent rule. When wolves were delisted previously, dog training was allowed year round. This rule would allow dog training at times concurrent with hunting of wolves with dogs. 

There would also be an enhanced reimbursement rate for producers. When there have been multiple confirmed depredations during the same grazing season, a reimbursement rate of 1.25 times the fair market value of the depredated livestock would apply.

After the rule was presented, public comment was taken. Chris Vaughn of Hunter Nation weighed in on several parts of the wolf plan in general. He acknowledged wolves as important on the landscape for several reasons, and said Hunter Nation understood the need to manage the wolf. One of the items with which Hunter Nation took issue was the lack of a numeric population goal. Also at issue was the lack of a specific quota needed to achieve that number population goal. He said Hunter Nation also opposed the buffer zones around tribal reservations where there would be greatly reduced harvest opportunities. 

Jason Schlender from GLIFWC spoke on behalf of the Voigt Intertribal Task Force. Tribal entities have stood against the hunting of wolves, or Ma’iingan, and have been for protection of this species, which is highly revered by the Ojibwe as a relative.

Adrian Wydeven spoke on behalf of Wisconsin Greenfire. That organization, he said, was opposed to night hunting of wolves. This was seen as something that would not be looked upon favorably when it came to a state wolf harvest season. 

He also stated the permanent rule defined “reservation wolves” as those whose territories overlapped reservation land by 50% or more. However, the plan itself, he said, stated a “reservation wolf” was defined as wolves with more than 50% rendezvous sites within tribal land or deemed to have a denning site on tribal land, as determined by tribal or DNR monitoring.

Laurie Groskopf of Tomahawk has spent thousands of hours studying wolves and holds positions in several conservation groups in Wisconsin. She spoke, however, only on behalf of herself. In Wisconsin, she said, the current harvest rules do not look to the reality of wolf biology. That reality, she said, is attempting to get the wolf population under control. No longer is it an issue of sustainability, but an issue of finding a way to get wolf numbers under control. Wisconsin has the second highest wolf population in the lower 48 states and the highest human population by far of any state with wolf recovery, she said. Those two things set up for a great deal of conflicts and issues with public acceptance of wolves. There were also issues highlighted by farmers with the current depredation program, adding to the lack of tolerance for wolves.

Former DNR secretary George Meyer also provided comment at the meeting. He spoke on behalf of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation regarding a full written comment the organization had submitted. The Federation, he said, has long been a strong supporter of wolf recovery in the state and the proper management of the species in order to protect the personal property rights of those affected by wolves and of those hunting wolves, including hunters who use dogs in their hunts.

The Federation, Meyer said, was disappointed in the plan itself, but would keep comments at this meeting to the administrative rule. The first issue, he said, was the use of lights at the point of kill. The intent was to ensure this would not inhibit normal navigation through the woods to retrieve dogs or other equipment. The use of lights for dog retrieval after dark, he said, needed consideration.

When looking at the timeline for registration of harvested wolves, the deadline worked well during the 2012, 2013, and 2014 hunts, he said. In 2021, the problem was not the deadline for reporting, Meyer said, but that the department had set the ratio of permits to harvest at 10:1, which was subsequently revised by the Natural Resources Board to 20:1. This, he said, was what resulted in the quota set for that hunt. Without that change, the same deadline for registration would have been adequate. 

Several groups, including the Sierra Club of Wisconsin, stated they would like to see nuisance wolves taken off the landscape taken into account in quotas when a wolf harvest season may be re-established in the state upon federal delisting. Elizabeth Ward represented the Sierra Club and also asked for a full carcass inspection of harvested animals as a way to gather more information about the condition of the animals being harvested. The group, she said, also asked for a dog training license for hunters who would be training their dogs in order to get a better idea of prevalence of hound training and to distinguish between hunters who were hunting with dogs and those training with dogs during the season. The use of UTVs, ATVs and snowmobiles, she concluded, was not a sporting pursuit, and she called for an end to those practices.

Another attendee, Kyle Meyer, spoke about several other species he felt were more problematic as nuisance species than the wolf. He said there were far too many deer in the northern part of the state and keeping wolves on the landscape could help to combat that problem. He also called the use of ATVs and dogs in hunting “incredibly unfair” and it was less than sporting.

Kyle Meyer said the state had problems with other animals. Mice, crows pigeons, and rats were problematic.

“I would find that it would be a little more difficult for these hunters to go after those types of creatures that may be a little more of a nuisance.” he said. “Maybe we could propose that — that we have mice hunters going forward instead.” Meyer stated these species should be targeted rather than looking to kill wolves. 

The draft wolf management plan and the proposed permanent rule will head to the Natural Resources Board in October for their approval. For more information on the wolf plan and/or the proposed permanent rule, see the DNR website and input the search words “wolf management” in the search bar.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at [email protected].


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