Image By Steve Felberg
Wisconsin’s 2021 wolf season was pretty much over before it started. A lot of attention lately on hunting related Facebook groups and forums has been given to the 2021 wolf season in Wisconsin, and rightfully so. There’s plenty of intrigue to go around. It all started January 4th when the wolf was removed from the federal Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The politics of that decision alone are enough drama for most and I by no means claim to be an expert on wolf predation or the complete role they play in the local food pyramid of Wisconsin. Being in Nebraska, we thankfully don’t have this issue. I do know there are arguments from both sides and for mostly valid reasons. Do wolves affect calving season in Wisconsin… probably. Do they affect deer populations… probably. But to what degree should hunters and state game commissions be involved with their management? That is for people with more degrees than me to decide I suppose.
The delisting allowed for the management of wolves, by lethal means if necessary. But this is where it gets interesting. By law a wolf season had to take place in the state of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin DNR met and set a season for November. But it didn’t end there, a lawsuit was filed. Did I mention there was plenty of intrigue? And it gets better. Try to follow me on this now. The lawsuit was brought forth by Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty on behalf of a Kansas (yep, Kansas of all places) based hunter advocacy group. The president of the Kansas based group, Luke Hilgemann, is a Wisconsin resident. OK, now it’s starting to make sense, kinda.
A judge then ruled that the DNR had “overlooked its plain duty” in not holding a wolf season that winter and ordered it to do so based on state statute.
That statute reads…
"shall establish a single annual open season for both hunting and trapping wolves that begins on the first Saturday in November of each year and ends on the last day of February of the following year" when the species is not listed on the federal or state list of endangered and threatened species.”
An initial quota of 200 was eventually reduced to 119 in a special meeting.
There are six wolf management zones in Wisconsin and all surpassed their quota by Wednesday (02/24/21).
Zone 1 31 37
Zone 2 18 40
Zone 3 20 30
Zone 4 6 7
Zone 5 27 28
Zone 6 17 40
Total 119 182
Total as of 4:00 p.m. February 24th
These numbers are expected to increase as reports continue to come in. It is interesting to note that wolf seasons were held in 2012, 2013, and 2014. With the number of wolves killed being 117, 257, and 154. Those seasons took about 2 months. This year, about 2 days. All units opened on February 22, 2021. Hunters and trappers are required to report their kills and have 24 hours to do so. Biologist estimated approximately 1,000 wolves in the state prior to the hunt, but want the numbers closer 350.
The states wolf season was largely supported throughout the state, but as usual there was opposition from animal rights activists. This is evidenced by the fact that over 28,000 people applied for only approximately 4,000 tags.
So why the hurry? President Biden has ordered a review of former President Trump’s delisting of the wolf. As many of you know, this is not the first time the wolf has been the center of attention nationally or throughout hunting communities. Hunters out west have long been dealing with wolf related issues not only while hunting, but through their state legislatures as well. The threat of the wolf being put back on the Endangered Species list is at least partially responsible for the swiftness of the season, as many believe the season scheduled for this fall would not have taken place. Only time will tell what bills will be passed and which will not. However, it is safe to say that the wolf will be a hot button topic for years to come. Not only in Wisconsin deer camps, but nationwide.