Early Wisconsin Wolf Season Closes, Hunters Hit Quota in 48 Hours

Early Wisconsin Wolf Season Closes, Hunters Hit Quota in 48 Hours

On Monday the Associated Press (AP) and Detroit News reported that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) was opening its wolf season ahead of schedule—as in that day. The news came following a lawsuit brought by the hunter-conservationist group Hunter Nation to move the season’s opening day from November to Feb. 22 due to concerns the Biden administration might return the long-recovered species to protected status. The latest? AP just announced the season ends at 3 p.m. today because the WDNR reported that 135 wolves had been killed in just two days—16 more than the state's target of 119.

While Wisconsin law requires the WDNR to run a wolf hunting season from November through the end of February, we hunters have watched wolves get listed and delisted from federal Endangered Species Act protections off and on for 10 years. As this hunting website and magazines like NRA’s American Hunter have tracked, Wisconsin opened its first hunt in 2012 after the Obama administration removed the species’ protections. The state held two additional hunts, but then a federal judge slid in with animal rights extremists, sidestepped the science supporting that the species had recovered and had the wolves relisted in 2014.

The Trump administration began the delisting process for wolves in 2019 with organizations such as the NRA heavily involved on the litigation front in support of hunters and hunting as a wildlife management tool. As the Detroit Press explained, that administration delisted wolves in most of the country again in January so the WDNR was preparing for a November season. Due to concerns that the Biden administration might restore protections for wolves before November and cancel the hunting season, Hunter Nation won an order from a Jefferson County, Wisc., judge forcing the WDNR to hold a season before the end of February 2021.

The hunt was to run through Sunday, Feb. 28, across six wolf management zones. The state issued 4,000 permits through a lottery system and notified the hunters as soon as their names were drawn Monday morning, though Wisconsin hunters know the WDNR might close the season early as hunters neared the quota.

With 1,000-plus wolves roaming the state, the WDNR’s goal is to maintain a population of 350. While those against hunting claim wolf populations are “too small” to support hunting and that the animals are “too majestic to kill”—despite that wildlife science data shows wolf populations have long since recovered—Wisconsin farmers and other rural residents continue to explain that wolves are killing their livestock and pets.