The gray wolf lost Endangered Species Act protections last year, prompting a recent hunt that killed at least 216 wolves — far exceeding a quota set by state wildlife officials.
By Maria Cramer
- March 3, 2021
Hunters in Wisconsin killed more than 200 wolves last week, far exceeding the state’s limit as they scrambled to take advantage of Trump-era wildlife rules that they worry may be tightened by the Biden administration.
At least 216 wolves were killed in less than 60 hours, exceeding the state quota of 119 and prompting Wisconsin to end what was meant to be a one-week hunt four days early, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Environmentalists, who fought unsuccessfully in state court to stop the hunt, said the killings had occurred during breeding season, when gray wolves are especially vulnerable. They said the large number of wolves killed in such a short time underscored the need for President Biden to put the gray wolf back on the list of animals protected under the Endangered Species Act.
“These animals were killed using packs of dogs, snares and leg-hold traps,” Kitty Block, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said on Tuesday. “It was a race to kill these animals in the most cruel ways.”
The hunt, reported by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, follows the gray wolf’s January removal from the Endangered Species Act. In October, the Trump administration announced that the species, which had been all but exterminated in the lower 48 states by the mid-20th century, had rebounded enough that it no longer needed federal shielding.
The removal of the wolf from the list was one of many rollbacks of environmental regulations under the Trump administration, which last summer announced new rules that would make it easier to remove a species from the endangered list and weaken protections for threatened species.
The resurgence of wolves in certain parts of the country has been called a success story for conservationists. But as their numbers grew, ranchers have had to contend with wolves’ appetite for cattle and sheep. Conservationists counter that wolves keep deer, elk and other species in check and therefore help prevent more vegetation loss.
The last time wolves were hunted in Wisconsin was 2014, after President Barack Obama said the wolf could be removed from federal protection.
A federal judge later rejected the Obama administration’s efforts to keep the wolf off the list.
Wisconsin is the only state in the country that requires a yearly wolf-hunting season if the animal is not protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to Nicholas Arrivo, a lawyer for the Humane Society.