Last fall, following successful conservation efforts, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the removal of the gray wolf from federal Endangered Species Act protections, and on January 4, 2021, the removal became official.
A conservation success story, the wolf population in the continental United States didn’t just recover, it grew exponentially, unleashing an overwhelming number of strong, smart, and vicious predators.
Following the delisting, management of the species returned to state agencies, who are charged with responsibly managing the burgeoning gray wolf population. Despite this, state agencies across the U.S. have delayed holding wolf harvesting seasons, allowing the wolf population to run rampant.
Concurrently, anti-hunting groups such as Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and more, vowed to sue and use all legal maneuvers necessary to block the delisting of the gray wolf. Represented by Earthjustice, these radical anti-hunting groups issued an intent to sue immediately following the 60 day waiting period required by the Endangered Species Act.
In Wisconsin, it was no different. The Department of Natural Resources announced it would hold a wolf hunting and trapping season in the fall of 2021, giving radical hunting groups abundant time to block a wolf harvesting season.
With a wolf population nearly four times the Department of Natural Resource’s goal and wolf depredations up 70% since 2014, there was a clear need for swift and immediate action to manage the wolf population.
Additionally, the Department of Natural Resource’s decision to forgo a gray wolf hunt until November 2021 violated state law, which mandates when the gray wolf is not under federal protections, the agency must open a wolf harvest season from November through the end of February.
That’s when Hunter Nation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promote and protect the right to hunt, stepped in.
Organizing local hunters and local experts, Hunter Nation testified at a Senate Committee hearing on reinstating the wolf harvesting season, encouraging an immediate wolf harvesting season in Wisconsin.
Shockingly, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - the agency responsible for conducting a hunt - chose not to attend the hearing at the last minute.
With the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources shamefully disregarding state law, Hunter Nation took action and filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole, the Wisconsin DNR, and the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, for ignoring a state law requirement to schedule a wolf hunt season this winter.
In just over a week, the court ruled in favor of Hunter Nation, issuing a writ of mandamus requiring the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to hold a gray wolf hunt immediately in February. Fighting back, arguing the hunt would be rushed and unsuccessful, the Wisconsin DNR filed an appeal to the ruling, taking every step they could to stop the wolf harvest in February.
A week later, in a historic victory for Hunter Nation, hunters and their right to hunt, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals overturned the DNR’s appeal, requiring the DNR to hold a gray wolf hunt in February. Immediately following, the DNR announced a gray wolf hunt would be held from February 22 - 28, 2021, setting a harvest quota of 200 wolves.
Wisconsin hunters stepped up in an unprecedented way to manage an out-of-control predator population, meeting the quota in just 48 hours.
Perhaps most astounding, however, is that in just 5 weeks, Hunter Nation compelled the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to hold a wolf harvest season. A season they said would be rushed and unsuccessful, yet was the most successful wolf hunt in the state to date.
The numbers speak for themselves. In 2014, when the last wolf hunt was held in Wisconsin, it took nearly two months to harvest 117 wolves. In 2021, it took 48 hours to harvest 200 wolves.
From the start, the need to responsibly manage the burgeoning gray wolf population in Wisconsin was clear. The speed at which the harvest quota was met simply reinforces how great the need was. Notably, in addition to responsibly managing a population of strong, smart, and vicious predators, the State of Wisconsin generated nearly $400,000 from the wolf harvest.
All because Hunter Nation stood up and fought for hunters across Wisconsin.
Hunter Nation is a nationwide organization. To learn more or get involved, visit www.HunterNation.org.