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Court decision excludes use of dogs to hunt wolves

Sept. 6, 2012 | 0 comments

Department of Natural Resources officials said they would extend the wolf hunting license application period by a week in light of a court decision that had the potential to scuttle the entire season - but didn't.

On Aug. 31, Dane County Circuit Judge Peter C. Anderson issued a partial injunction involving the use of dogs for Wisconsin's first state wolf hunting season.

State wildlife officials said Judge Anderson's partial injunction "makes it clear that Wisconsin's wolf season will proceed."

The lawsuit was brought by a coalition of state humane societies that had argued against the use of dogs to hunt wolves, saying that those confrontations would likely result in the maiming or death of dogs. They tried to halt the hunt on the legal argument that the DNR had not written rules regulating the training or use of hunting dogs in this year's inaugural wolf hunt.

The court heard testimony on the potential for lethal confrontations between dogs and wolves.

In his ruling, Anderson said that the DNR could go forward with its plans for a state wolf hunt, but it had to do so without letting hunters use dogs.

Bill Cosh, a DNR spokesman, said that the agency planned to consult its attorneys (the agency is represented by the Department of Justice) and assess its options on the use of dogs. Attorneys arguing for the DNR in court had noted that the legislation authorizing the wolf hunt prescribes certain things, including the use of dogs.

"It's important to note that this is a temporary injunction, that suspends the use of dogs in wolf hunting until the judge and parties have more thoroughly investigated, briefed, discussed and litigated the issue so the judge can make a final ruling," Cosh said.

"A schedule to do that will be set up with the judge, pending the results of the Sept. 14 hearing on the State's motion to dismiss."

Going into the court hearing, the department had thought it might have to cancel the wolf hunt because it would not be possible to write rules for the use of dogs in time for the season to go forward.

Wildlife officials said some would-be wolf hunters may have been waiting to hear how this case turned out before spending the time to apply for their wolf license. That was the reason for extending the deadline to Sept. 7. The initial deadline to apply for the wolf permit had been Aug. 31 - the day of the court hearing.

Considering the importance of getting a "preference point" for future hunts in this initial season, the DNR authorized the extension for permit applicants, the agency said in a statement.

"We've heard from hunters, trappers and conservation organizations that the uncertainty about whether or not there would be a wolf hunting and trapping season this year as a result of this lawsuit has caused some potential applicants to adopt a wait-and-see position," said Kurt Thiede, DNR administrator of lands.

"Since the judge's ruling and the original application deadline happened to fall in the same day, Aug. 31, folks wouldn't have much time to react if they did in fact want to apply for a permit. This extension gives them some breathing room to do that."

(For readers of Wisconsin State Farmer the newspaper's deadline still does not allow them to read about the decision and react in time.)

The wolf hunt, made possible by the lifting of Endangered Species protections and by Wisconsin legislation, is slated to begin Oct. 15.

The department will issue 1,160 wolf harvest licenses through a drawing that will take place shortly after the close of the permit application period. A permit application costs $10 and can be purchased through any license vendor, online, by phone at 1-877-945-4236 toll free, or at a DNR Service Center.

On the day of the court hearing, the DNR said it had received 18,000 applications to be part of the drawing to get a wolf permit.

Wildlife officials estimate there are at least 800 wolves in the state and they hope hunters will be able to bag harvest 200 of them through the hunting and trapping season.

People selected in the drawing will be notified by mail. Those not selected will receive one preference point toward future drawings. People selected in the drawing can then purchase a wolf harvest license for $100 for residents and $500 for nonresidents.

The full season runs Oct. 15 to Feb. 28, 2013. More information on the hunt including the regulations is available on the DNR webpage dnr.wi.us search for the keyword "wolf".

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