Saturday 14 August 2021

State of Wisconsin plans the hunting of 300 Wolves, against scientific advice.

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has announced plans to allow the hunting of up to 300 Gray Wolves, Canis lupus, in November this year. This follows a hunt in February in which 216 Wolves were killed (about 20% of the total population), in the first hunt in the state after the removal of the species from the federal Endangered Species Act announced by outgoing President Donald Trump in October 2020 came into force in January. In that hunt, the Board initially set a kill limit of 200 Animals, but the state's indigenous Chippewa (or Ojibwe) people claimed 81 of these, citing a treaty from the 1800s which enables them to claim up to half of any hunt quota, reducing the total to 119; the Chippewa do not usually hunt Wolves as they are considered sacred, so that any Wolf claimed is effectively taken off the hunt's total. However, in the event what was supposed to be a week-long hunting season had to be stopped after three days, due to the large number of hunters that took part in the event; despite the low quota the state sold a total of 1547 hunting permits.


The Wolf population of Wisconsin is thought to have hit a high of 1126 Animals in 2020, but, in addition to the legally hunted Wolves, about a hundred are thought to have been killed by poachers between April 2020 and April 2021. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a population target of 350 Wolves, viewed as being far too low by many environmental groups. Current legislation in Wisconsin requires that the Department of Natural Resources organises a Wolf hunt in any year in which the Animals are not protected by federal legislation; this law was signed into effect by then State Governor Scott Walker in 2012, following the removal of the species from the Endangered Species Act by President Barrack Obama, although the protected status of Wolves was returned by a federal court in 2014.

The Wisconsin Wolf Harvest Advisory Committee had recommended that the quota for the November hunt was set at 130 Animals, but this was set aside by the Natural Resources Board in favour of the higher figure of 300. If the Chippewa people claim half of this (as seems likely), then that figure would be reduced to 150, but the difficulties experienced by the Department of Natural Resources in managing the February hunt makes it likely that a much larger number had will be taken. Pro-hunt activists in the state had called for the higher figure of 500 Wolves, citing fears that President Joe Biden will restore the species protection under the Endangered Species Act. Biden has asked the US Fish and Wildlife Service to review a number of recent policy changes, including the removal of Wolves' protected status, but, as yet, the leadership of the organisation, appointed by the previous legislature, have refused to do so. This raises serious concerns about the extent to which environmental policy in the US has become a partisan issue, driven by the loyalty of officials to particular political camps rather than based upon the best available science.

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