Madison, WI. — Today lawyers for Animal Wellness Action, the Center for a Humane Economy, Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife, Project Coyote and Wisconsin resident Pat Clark filed new motions with the Dane County Circuit Court in their ongoing challenge to Wisconsin’s disastrous decision-making on wolf management. In August, the groups filed a lawsuit alleging that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and its Natural Resources Board (NRB) were engaged in setting an arbitrary and unsustainable kill quota of wolves for the upcoming fall trophy hunt.
The groups assert the agency’s actions were taken without the requisite knowledge, data, and studies to implement a safe and informed wolf management and hunting plan – deficiencies the agency openly conceded when it proposed a 130 wolf kill quota at an August 2021 NRB hearing. And as just announced, the DNR has now extended the kill reporting time from between 24 to 47 hours for the fall trophy killing season, virtually assuring that the 130 quota will be exceeded by a significant number.
Plaintiffs filed a motion seeking a suspension of the planned November trophy hunt. The temporary injunction filing in pursuit of rapid relief was necessary given the state’s rush to irresponsibly implement a second trophy hunting season in 2021, with DNR taking advantage of a lapse in federal protections for wolves to sanction the indiscriminate slaughter of several hundred wolves across the state. With at least 218 wolves killed in just over 60 hours in February – plus at least 68 wolves killed through “damage control,” mainly conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — the additional fall quota means that by Thanksgiving Wisconsin will likely lose over half of its pre-federal delisting wolf population.
“Wisconsin’s reckless response to delisting proves that some states were simply not suited to handle the responsibility of protecting a rare species,” said Paul Collins of Animal Wellness Action. “Wisconsin and other equally careless state agencies executed a scorched earth policy, featuring hunting during the mating season, use of snares and leghold traps, hound hunting, and inordinately high and politically driven quotas.”
With the filing of the injunction motion, the plaintiffs will be seeking a hearing to argue that the November trophy hunt should be suspended pending the resolution of the lawsuit. With the upcoming trophy hunt scheduled to take place before the earliest date upon which federal protections can be restored, the current action is the last chance to save the state’s wolf population from being devastated to extremely precarious levels. Plaintiffs expect a hearing and decision to be rendered on its motion in advance of the fall hunt.
During the DNR comment process and NRB public hearing setting the November trophy hunt quota, the overwhelming number of public participants opposed the killing of more wolves in Wisconsin. The DNR did not properly weigh public comment in proceeding with a hunt, nor did it account for the set of cumulative factors threatening wolves.
“What is seemingly lost on NRB is that wolves don’t exist for the sole benefit of people who like to hunt them down with snare traps and dogs and engage in torture and thrill killing,” stated Melissa Smith, of Friends of the WI Wolf & Wildlife. “Wolves are an important keystone species that deserves protection; the majority of citizens don’t want to see protections for them gutted so that a handful of people can satisfy their cruel bloodlust.”
While the overwhelming majority of comments at the August NRB hearing to set the November quota were from citizens offering in-depth, science and conservation-based arguments in favor of maintaining a vibrant and healthy Wisconsin wolf population, participants expressing contempt for wolves had few facts to substantiate their arguments, particularly when it came to their claims about wolf predation on livestock. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which expends taxpayer dollars to compensate livestock producers who lose animals to predation, reports that in 2018 only 33 animals out of a population of 3.45 million cattle were lost to wolves in the state.
The second motion filed with Dane County Court opposes an attempt by a Kansas-based hunting group, Hunter Nation, to intervene in the ongoing litigation.
According to plaintiffs, Hunter Nation’s broader interests are already adequately represented by existing parties in the case, with indications that the group has been working closely with some NRB members to ensure that the wolf slaughter in the state continues. For example, documents uncovered through a recent open records request to the NRB reveal that NRB Chair Prehn and a lobbyist for the group, Scott Meyer, coordinated efforts to keep Prehn on the NRB so he could continue to serve Hunter Nation’s interests by sanctioning the continued killing of wolves in the state. In one email, Meyer threatened to “throat punch” a journalist who published a story critical of Prehn’s refusal to vacate his Board seat when his term expired in May 2021.
“Since we’ve filed our suit, we’ve also heard wolf killing proponents, like Hunter Nation, make the senseless claim that these trophy hunters make the best conservationists,” said Michelle Lute, PhD in wolf management and National Carnivore Conservation Manager for Project Coyote. “A quick scan of the many social media posts from the February slaughter—where hunters bragged about ‘gut shooting’ wolves to inflict pain and suffering and not reporting kills to purposefully exceed the quota—readily reveals that those who want to kill wolves aren’t thinking about conserving anything.”
Hunter Nation has come under fire recently for its reported failure to properly register with the state Department of Financial Institutions for its fundraising activities in Wisconsin. A key spokesman for Hunter Nation, Michigan- based musician Ted Nugent, has long advocated for the killing of wolves because “[p]redators don’t buy groceries, food, lodging, gas, supplies, ice, land, buildings, dogs, bait, sporting goods, guides, outfitters, permits, fees, licenses or hire butchers or taxidermists.”
According to press reports, the Department of Natural Resources in 2013 provided a grant to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin – a group affiliated then with Hunter Nation chief Luke Hilgemann – and its charitable status was rescinded after an investigation discovered that the group had misrepresented its nonprofit status to authorities.
The groups are represented by lawyers with Animal & Earth Advocates, Greenfire Law, and the Wisconsin-based Laffey, Leitner & Goode