DNR announces February wolf harvest season after judge’s order
Felzkowski, Callahan issue joint statement commending ruling
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
WISCONSIN – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Monday, Feb. 15 announced a wolf harvest season that will run from Monday, Feb. 22 through Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021.
The announcement was made less than a week after Jefferson County Judge Bennett Brantmeier on Thursday, Feb. 11 ordered the DNR to implement a wolf hunting and trapping season in February of this year.
The DNR had planned to hold the season in November of this year.
“All hunters and trappers interested in obtaining a wolf harvest permit or preference point must apply beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16,” the DNR stated in a release. “The application period will close at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20. Customers may apply through their Go Wild account or by visiting a participating license agent. The application permit fee is $10 plus $49 ($251 non-resident) for a wolf license if selected. The department will post application results to each applicant’s Go Wild account the morning of Monday, Feb. 22. Customers may commence the harvest season once they secure their license and carcass/pelt tag. The DNR will post the updated rules and regulations for the February 2021 wolf harvest season on the wolf hunting and trapping webpage no later than Friday, Feb. 19. Printed copies will not be available in time for the February wolf harvest season.”
The ruling came after the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), on behalf of Kansas-based hunting advocacy group Hunter Nation, Inc., filed a lawsuit against the DNR on Feb. 2 seeking the immediate implementation of a wolf hunting and trapping season.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removed the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list on Jan. 4, returning the species to the state control. When the species is not on the federal or state list of threatened or endangered species, the DNR is required by state law to establish a hunting and trapping season for the species that runs from the first Saturday in November to the last day of February the following year.
Hunter Nation, Inc. argued that because a season had not been put in place, hunters’ constitutional rights had been violated.
The DNR in Dec. 2020 said it was taking steps to begin a wolf hunting season in Nov. 2021, including developing kill quotas and consulting the state’s Chippewa tribes, as mandated by treaties. After a dozen Republicans in the State Legislature asked the DNR to expedite the implementation of the season, the DNR’s policy board on Jan. 22 voted 4 to 3 to deny the request, leading to the filing of the lawsuit earlier this month.
In a statement, Hunter Nation, Inc. president Luke Hilgemann, a Wisconsin resident, called the ruling a “historic victory for the Wisconsin hunter and our constitutionally protected right to hunt and manage our wildlife here in Wisconsin.”
“Today’s ruling solidifies the rule of law and finally provides clear direction to the Evers administration to move full speed ahead with our statutorily required wolf hunt,” Hilgemann stated. “Any attempts by the Evers administration to overturn this ruling are a direct assault to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin hunters.”
“We are pleased the court recognized that the Wisconsin DNR ignored state law by refusing to undertake its obligation to hold a winter 2021 wolf hunt,” said WILL attorney Anthony LoCoco. “It is not up to state agencies to decide when to follow the directives in state law.”
In a joint statement issued on Friday, Feb. 12, State Senator Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk) and State Representative Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk) commended the ruling.
“It’s refreshing to see that the law, as written by the Legislature, means something once again,” the statement said. “Our statutes require a wolf hunting season if the animal is delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act – period. The DNR had ample time to make this happen and they chose to sit on their hands. Today, the rule of law prevailed and we look forward to their immediate implementation of a wolf hunting season.”
Felzkowski late last year was critical of the DNR’s decision to hold the wolf season in Nov. 2021 rather than in January or February of this year.
“Wisconsin is not only proud of our hunting traditions, but also of the great work we do to responsibly manage our wildlife populations,” she said in a statement from Dec. 8, 2020. “We’ve given the Department broad authority to adjust hunting seasons as necessary and the return of control over the wolf population should have been better anticipated.”
The DNR’s 2019-2020 midwinter count found that there is an estimated minimum of 1,034 to 1,057 individual wolves and 256 packs in Wisconsin. Wolves killed or injured 152 animals in 2020, including livestock, hunting dogs and pet dogs, according to the DNR. There have been five confirmed and probable wolf depredations in Wisconsin this year.