By Renee Lewis
On Tuesday, Wisconsin began allowing the hunting and killing of wolves that had, until 2011, been protected by the Endangered Species Act. But scientists say the change is premature and could lead to the devastation of the gray wolf population in the state.
The state's kill-limit was set at 251 wolves by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) — meaning about one-third of Wisconsin's wolf population could be killed legally. The hunt will last until February or until the limit has been reached.
According to the DNR's website, no one had reported killing a wolf as of late Tuesday morning.
The gray wolf was removed from the endangered species list in 2011 following a decades-long federal government campaign to repopulate the animals after they were nearly wiped out in the early 20th century. Legal hunting seasons began in some states the next year, prompting an outcry from scientists who said the wolves' population was not yet at a viable level.
"These are arbitrary and capricious decisions that violate their own policies about what it means to recover a species," Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity, told Al Jazeera.
Scientists are worried the wolf population in the state is still too fragile to survive hunts, and warn the wolves' disappearance will have significant impacts all the way down the food chain.
The gray wolf, which once flourished across the entire Northern Hemisphere, evolved over millions of years to play a crucial role in regulating its ecosystem. More....