The Department of Natural Resources reported that 135 wolves had been killed since the brief hunting season began Monday, which was 16 more than the state’s limit of 119.
The agency estimated that about 1,000 wolves roamed the state before the hunt began. The department’s population goal is 350.
The season had been scheduled to run through Sunday, but DNR officials said it would end throughout the state by Wednesday at 3 p.m. because so many of the animals had been killed in the first two days.
The wolf season has been one of the most contentious outdoor issues that Wisconsin has grappled with in the last 20 years.
Animal rights advocates have argued that wolf populations are too small to support hunting and that the animals are too majestic to kill. Farmers and rural residents, though, say wolves are killing their livestock and pets.
Wisconsin law hands wolf hunters and trappers significant advantages during the season. Unlike with deer hunting, wolf hunters and trappers can operate at night and use dogs to corner wolves. Snow cover also aids tracking.
Wayne Pacelle, president of animal rights group Animal Wellness Action, said in a statement Wednesday that killed Wisconsin wolves didn’t stand a chance.
“Traps are set like landmines for unsuspecting animals and the hunters are deep into the woods and out of the range of communication, and they can easily claim they didn’t get the ‘stop the hunt’ notice before they killed their wolf,” he said.
Hunters and trappers are responsible for knowing whether the hunt has ended, but they might not see DNR notices if they’re in the field. They exceeded the state’s kill quota during the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons, which were held before the wolf was placed back on the federal endangered species list.
The Trump administration removed federal protections for wolves in January, returning management to the states. Wisconsin law requires the DNR to hold an annual hunt between November and February. The department was preparing for a November hunt but hunting advocacy group Hunter Nation won a court order earlier this month to force an immediate start to the season. The group argued the Biden administration might re-list wolves before November and deny Wisconsin hunters a season.
The DNR still plans to hold a November wolf hunting season. Lawmakers in neighboring Minnesota have introduced dueling bills that would ban wolf hunting and establish a season.
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