MADISON, Wis. - A Democratic state senator plans to introduce a longshot bill that would prohibit Wisconsin wolf hunters from using dogs, marking another chapter in a months-long battle to stop the practice before it begins.
Sen. Fred Risser of Madison sent an email to the rest of the Legislature on Monday asking for co-sponsors. He noted that Wisconsin is the only one of seven states with a wolf hunt that allows dogs. He said humane societies are concerned about the risk of bloody clashes between dogs and wolves.
"It doesn't make sense to me. It's nothing more than state-sanctioned dog fighting," Risser said. "We shouldn't have done it in the first place and maybe we can stop it before it becomes too ingrained."
This undated photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources shows a gray wolf in a wooded area near Wisconsin Dells, Wis. A Wisconsin legislator has introduced a bill to ban the use of dogs for wolf hunting. (AP photo)
A lawyer representing a group of humane societies that sued last year to ban wolf hunters from using dogs called the bill "wonderful."
"That would be a very sane change in public policy," said Carl Sinderbrand, an attorney for the Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies Inc. "It would reflect the will of the vast majority of Wisconsinites."
But the bill has almost no chance of success; Republicans control both the state Senate and Assembly.
Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, was the chief sponsor of the bill that established the wolf hunt. He serves as Assembly majority leader and plays a huge role in deciding what legislation makes it to the floor for a vote. He said Monday that Risser's proposal will probably go nowhere.
"To totally eliminate an entire privilege that is out there for sportsmen, it goes too far," Suder said.
The wolf hunt has been a flashpoint of contention since Republicans passed Suder's bill about a year ago. Animal rights advocates see the hunt as unnecessary, but farmers maintain something must be done to control a burgeoning wolf population preying on their livestock.
The bill scheduled the wolf season to run from Oct. 15 to the end of February or whenever hunters reached a kill limit imposed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The legislation allows hunters to pursue wolves with up to six dogs after the end of the November gun deer season.
Emergency rules the DNR crafted to get the first hunt off the ground limited dog use to daylight hours but set no other restrictions. A group of humane societies filed a lawsuit in August alleging the lack of regulations would lead to deadly wolf-dog fights during the season and throughout the rest of the year as hunters trained their hounds on wolves.
Dane County Circuit Judge Peter C. Anderson temporarily barred hunters from using dogs while he weighed the case. The first season began and ended while the prohibition was in place. The ban didn't seem to hamper hunters as the DNR closed the season two months early in December after hunters had killed 117 wolves, one more than their limit.