In a special meeting in Stevens Point Tuesday, July 17, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved a wolf hunt along with quotas, numbers and rules for the state's wolf hunting and trapping season this fall.
Board members listened to 40 people at the meeting who had indicated a week earlier that they wanted to be heard at the meeting.
The rules will be in place for this fall's hunt because the board passed the measure as an emergency rule.
Board members were unanimous in their approval of the measure.
Board members approved three amendments to the proposal at the meeting. Any wolf caught in a trap is to be humanely dispatched; no wolves will be hunted on the Stockbridge-Munsee tribal reservation; and the department will gather "all possible data" before the board votes on a permanent rule on a state wolf hunt.
Agency staff said they would come back to the board in September with a timeline updating the state's wolf management plan. Consideration of a permanent rule on wolf hunting and trapping will take place next year.
A wolf hunt was made possible in Wisconsin by the fact that the animal has been removed from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act - something that had been delayed for years by court cases brought by animal rights groups that didn't want to see wolves hunted or "managed."
This spring the Wisconsin Legislature directed the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to the create a wolf hunting season.
Wisconsin's DNR has had a plan ready to go for years on management of wolves in the state, but has been prevented from implementing it because of the ongoing legal battle over endangered species protections.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said her agency was working with "some pretty tight timelines" in getting this emergency rule prepared. She praised her staff for their hard work. "I want to thank the DNR staff for the tremendous work they did in pulling together this proposal."
She also expressed appreciation to the public for the input that allowed her agency to find a good balance for the state's first wolf hunting season.
The Wisconsin Cattlemen's Association (WCA) and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) had urged the board to create the wolf hunting and trapping season in Wisconsin.
The two farm groups have long been proponents of establishing a Wisconsin wolf hunting season due to the wolf depredation experienced by livestock farmers in the northern half of the state.
As wolf numbers increased, depredation claims have been rising.
In calendar year 2011, 129 animals (sheep, calves and cattle) were lost to wolf attacks. Farmers received about $90,000 in depredation payments for these animals.
So far in 2012, over 250 calves have been lost.
Jordan Lamb for the WCA and Paul Zimmerman for the WFBF said their organizations support managing the wolf population to a goal of 350 total wolves in the state. There are currently more than 800 or more, by some estimates.
The proposed hunting and trapping quota starts to move the state in that direction, they said, adding that both organizations want to make sure the state has a healthy wolf population so the animal is not put back under endangered species protections.
The two groups are on record in support of the proposed depredation ratio for calf losses. Lamb and Zimmerman urged the board to ensure that there are sufficient funds to compensate farmers for future livestock losses due to wolf depredations.
QUOTA OF 201 APPROVED
In its decision on the rule, the board approved a quota of up to 201 wolves that could be harvested during the first season.
The available quota and permits available to nontribal hunters and trappers will be determined after tribes make their declarations of the harvest quota for tribal lands.
The season will run Oct. 15, 2012, through Feb. 28, 2013, and permit sales are scheduled to open Aug 1.
All hunters will be eligible to receive a wolf harvest permit in a drawing during the first year. Permit applications may be purchased at any license vendor, online and by telephone.
The permit application fee is $10. The license fee is $100 for residents; $500 for nonresidents.
The license fees raised by the new hunt will be used to fund wolf depredation payments for farmers. In recent years the rising wolf population has caused increased damage to the cattle herds of farmers who live in the northern habitat range of the wolf.
Importantly for Wisconsin cattle farmers, the depredation program allows claims for up to five calf losses for each one calf loss that is verified to have been killed by a wolf.
According to the DNR, the license will cover both wolf trapping and hunting.
Weapons that will be legal for this hunt include firearms, bows and crossbows, and hunters may use up to six dogs in a pack to track or trail wolves beginning the day after the end of the November gun deer season.
Similarly, night hunting of wolves will be a legal option after the gun deer hunt ends.
Reporting and registration of wolves that are hunted or trapped will be required.
"It's very important, if someone has any interest in hunting wolves, that they apply for a preference point this year," said Kurt Thiede, division administrator of lands at DNR.
That's because the 2012 wolf hunting season is based on a temporary framework, and was put in place through an emergency rule. Beginning next year, the department will begin work on a permanent rule.
Information on the hunting season proposal can be found on the DNR website: dnr.wi.gov,
search for keyword "wolf."
Over the next two years, the DNR will be working with the many groups that have an interest in the season to develop a more permanent wolf hunting season framework.