By Leah Asmelash, CNN
After months of tension between hunters and environmentalists in Wisconsin, the state’s Department of Natural Resources on Monday announced a limit of 130 wolves for a planned hunt in November — a move that has upset both supporters and detractors of the hunt.
The move by the state’s DNR was somewhat unprecedented, coming after the state’s Natural Resources Board, the policy-setting board for the DNR, approved a hunt of 300 wolves. The DNR has the final say on what the final quota for the hunt should be, but is expected to take the approval of the Natural Resources Board into account.
This time, though, the DNR stuck with its own decision.
Wisconsin hosted its first legal wolf hunt in decades in February after gray wolves were removed from the endangered species List. That hunt had a quota of 200 wolves, which was divided between the state and multiple native Ojibwe tribes, as part of the tribes’ treaty rights. As a result, hunters not affiliated with tribes were given a 119-wolf quota, while the tribes were allocated 81 wolves.
But those numbers were quickly abandoned, after hunters unaffiliated with the tribes killed 218 wolves — almost 100 more than they were allowed — over the course of three days. Because of the sacred nature of wolves in Ojibwe tradition, members of the tribes did not hunt any of the wolves, and came together to sue the state in September after the disastrous hunt — in hopes of stopping the next one.
“In our treaty rights, we’re supposed to share with the state 50-50 in our resources and we’re feeling that we’re not getting our due diligence because of the slaughter of wolves in February,” said John Johnson, Sr., the president of Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, in a statement at the time. “The out of state hunters are petitioning the courts just so they can hunt, not to protect the resources.”
Despite the events of February’s hunt, the state continued with plans to host a second hunt in November. The latest decision to set the quota to 130 wolves means that state-licensed hunters and trappers will be authorized to harvest 74 wolves, while the Ojibwe Tribes will have a quota of 56, according to the DNR.
“Although the Board voted to have a wolf harvest quota of 300, our department scientists considered the best available scientific information on the state’s wolf population and applicable published scientific models in developing a quota of 130 which they determined is most likely to meet the department’s management objective of no significant population change,” said Sarah Hoye, a spokesperson for the DNR.
But the new quota, while still far lower than what the Natural Resources Board recommended, has not exactly resulted in a celebration among the Ojibwe tribes.
The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, an intertribal agency, claimed in a statement that the DNR, despite asserting that the quota of 130 would preserve the wolf population, does not have a “sound wolf population estimate,” making any recreational hunting and trapping “premature.”
“Wolves (ma’iingan) are culturally and spiritually important to the Ojibwe, and are also critical to the ecosystem. They must be allowed to establish their own modest population level on the landscape in Wisconsin,” the statement shared with CNN read. “Immediately after wolves were removed from the endangered species list, Wisconsin conducted a brutal hunt in February during the wolves’ breeding season, and they must be given time to recover from that event.”
CNN reached out to the Natural Resources Board for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
The Wisconsin Wolf Hunting Facebook page, which is followed by more than 40,000 people, expressed animosity toward the decision while putting the blame on politics. One post about the decision to reduce the quota noted: “If this doesn’t motivate you all to vote out (Democratic Gov.) Tony Evers next year. No matter who the Republican candidate is. Then I am not sure what to tell you. Because this is how you fix this problem.”
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