State-sanctioned hunters kill 20 Wisconsin wolves

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A Clear Channel billboard for Howling for the Wolves protest campaign.

Wisconsin wildlife officials say hunters have reported killing 20 wolves since the state's first organized hunt began last week.

As of Tuesday, hunters reported taking six wolves in far northwestern Wisconsin's management zone; six wolves in the far northeastern zone; two wolves in the mid-northwestern zone; two wolves in the mid-northeast; three in the mid-central; and one in the south.

The hunt began on Oct. 15. It's set to run until hunters kill a statewide total of 116 wolves or until the last day of February, whichever comes first.

The hunt could end sooner in management zones where hunters meet zone-specific quotas. They're closet in the mid-northeast, where they can make three more kills before reaching the zone's five-wolf limit.

Wildlife officials estimate as many as 850 wolves roam Wisconsin and 3,000 more live in Minnesota. Farmers have complained about wolf attacks on livestock.

Federal officials opened the door to hunting in both states when they removed Great Lakes wolves from the endangered species list earlier this year.

Legislators in Wisconsin and Minnesota quickly passed laws establishing hunts, and hunt legislation is pending in Michigan.

The hunts are a flashpoint of contention.

Animal welfare advocates insist wolf populations in both Minnesota and Wisconsin are too fragile to support hunting.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves have asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to halt that state’s hunt before it begins on Nov. 3.

Earlier this month, the Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals notified federal wildlife official they plan to sue to force Great Lakes wolves back on the endangered species list. The groups allege the states are mismanaging the species.

Georgia Parham, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest region, said in a statement the agency doesn’t comment on pending legal action.