By Andrew LaCombe
Opponents of wolf hunting say they are worried that people will kill more wolves illegally after a federal judge decided to put the animals back on the endangered species list. Supporters believe a wolf hunt will eventually return.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell’s order Friday affects Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The ruling bans further wolf hunting and trapping in those states.
The federal government put states in charge of managing gray wolves two years ago. Dennis McMillan, a Kewaunee County resident and international hunting guide, supports wolf hunting.
“The wolf is a beautiful animal. But they have to be managed,” said McMillan. “And the biologists are the ones that should manage them. Not the judges, not the attorneys, not the people that want to feel good because they protected a baby wolf.”
Rod Coronado, the founder of the group Wolf Patrol, is pleased with the judge’s ruling.
“We feel that Wisconsin has not demonstrated responsible wolf management, especially by allowing the hound hunting of wolves, snaring, trapping,” said Coronado. “These are both indiscriminate techniques of management that we don’t support.”
Judge Howell, who is based in Washington D.C., said Friday that removing the wolves from the endangered species list was “arbitrary and capricious.” Unless the decision is overturned, states are blocked from scheduling more wolf hunting and trapping seasons.
Wisconsin held its third consecutive season statewide this fall. According to facts from the state DNR, 154 wolves were killed. Hunters took 257 wolves in 2013 and 116 the year before.
McMillan expects a hunt will someday return.
“Eventually it will go back the other way, when they start seeing what happens and the pressure from the other direction,” he said. “It just keeps swinging from one direction to the other.”
Ranchers and farmers have complained of heavy financial losses from wolf attacks on livestock.
While opponents like Coronado argue the wolf’s future was uncertain even before hunts began, he knows the issue isn’t going away.
“There has to be a component that allows for dealing with depredation. We support that. But what we don’t support is recreational hunting and trapping. That’s taking animals indiscriminately.”
Coronado is also responding to comments posted on social media this weekend with people threatening wolves.
“A lot of people are openly saying poaching season’s opening,” he said. “So this is something I think has to be taken seriously, as I said, because these are hunters who are capable of killing endangered species, and that’s a federal crime.”
Coronado is a longtime animal-rights activist. He spent time in prison after a 1992 arson attack on a research facility in Michigan.
Coronado founded the group Wolf Patrol a year ago. He said he’s working in Milwaukee to develop a public awareness campaign about wolf poaching.
“I’m trying to do something very differently,” he said. “I don’t really believe it’s sustainable to be engaged in the type of tactics that I did before.”
The Wisconsin DNR says it’s disappointed with the judge’s decision. But the agency reminds everyone it is no longer legal to shoot wolves preying on livestock or pets.
Experts estimate 3,700 wolves live in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. Michigan held one wolf season last year which killed 22 wolves. Video.