This return of wolves to Wisconsin has brought them increasingly into conflict with farmers and hunters of other game. As packs have spread south into more populated agricultural areas, they have preyed on livestock and even on family pets. Hunters also blame wolves for reducing the size of the deer herd.
“They’re as thick as hair on a dog,” says Al Lobner, a hunter from the central Wisconsin town of Milladore, adding that “our ecosystem is out of whack.”
Wisconsin’s hunt will be modest. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has set a limit of 201 wolves to be taken during a season that begins a half hour before dawn tomorrow and lasts until the end of February. And yet competition for the opportunity to pursue a wolf has been keen. The state received more than 20,000 applications for just 1,160 permits, some from as far away as Florida, Texas, and California. In Minnesota, wildlife officials have set a quota of 400 wolves and awarded 6,000 permits.
State rules allow hunters to take wolves in a variety of ways, including luring them with bait, or snaring them with steel leg traps and cable traps. The state had planned to allow hunters to start using dogs beginning Nov. 26, when the deer season ends. But Dane County Judge Peter Anderson issued a temporary injunction against the use of dogs on Aug. 31, after humane societies and environmental groups sued.
These groups maintain that wolves are likely to turn on hunting dogs, injuring or killing them, unless the dogs are leashed. State records show that since 1985 wolves have killed 192 dogs that were being used to hunt other animals.
“We all agree that there can be an appropriate wolf hunt,” says Jodi Habush Sinykin, a lawyer representing the hunt’s critics. “The important consideration is that it must take into account sound science and proper management.”