STEVENS POINT, Wis. - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources board unanimously approved the framework for this fall's wolf hunt recently, despite complaints from hunters and farmers that the kill quota is too low to reduce the burgeoning population.
The DNR released a temporary rules package earlier this month that set the harvest limit at 201 animals, nearly a quarter of the state's estimated population. Hunters looking for a new challenge and farmers seeking relief from wolf attacks on their livestock complained the number was too low, pointing out the DNR has estimated as many as 880 wolves may roam the state, far exceeding the department's goal of 350.
Conservationists and animal lovers, though, countered Wisconsin's wolf population is still fragile. They argued the kill goal is too high and the hunt combined with other wolf deaths could devastate the species in the state. DNR officials acknowledged the quota is low, saying they want to move cautiously in the hunt's first year. That gave hunt opponents even more ammunition to claim the rules were rushed and the hunt is fraught with uncertainty.
Dozens of people from both sides spent close to five hours arguing their cases in front of the board during a public hearing at a Stevens Point hotel.
The board adopted a motion calling for the DNR to gather as much data as possible from the season that it can consider as it crafts permanent regulations, then signed off on the temporary plan. Hunters can start entering a drawing for permits Wednesday.
"I am not uncomfortable with it," board Chairman David Clausen said after the vote. "I'm not going to say (the quota) is too high or too low. Hopefully we'll be a lot smarter and more experienced by next year."
Farmers have been complaining for much of the last eight years about Wisconsin's resurgent wolf population attacking their animals. Since 2006, the DNR has verified wolf-related losses on more than 200 farms.