Wisconsin held wolf hunting seasons for three years from 2012 to 2014 before the federal ruling returned the wolves to the Endangered Species Act protections. In those three years it took hunters around two months to kill or trap 117, 257, and 154 wolves respectively. Hunter Nation released a statement applauding itself for killing so many wolves so fastly: “Clearly, the population of grey wolves has significantly increased during that time and the DNR must take a serious look at their population models and counting methods.” Conservationists argue that besides modern hunting techniques and weaponry, the choice to hold the hunt during the animal’s breeding season left the wolves vulnerable to this kind of easy slaughter.
But hunters and hunter advocates want you to know that while yes, they killed more than 216 wolves, and yes, many of the wolves may have been pregnant with litters, the fact that they far exceeded the quota set by the DNR isn’t a big deal. This is because the overall quota that was set was 200—81 of those wolves were set aside for the Ojibwe Tribes as a part of their treaty rights. As lawyer for Hunter Nation Richard M. Esenberg told the The New York Times, “The notion that there was this wide divergence between the outcome of the hunt and the number of the wolves that could be hunted simply doesn’t bear up to analysis.”
Of course, this seems to completely fly in the face of the fact that those 81 gray wolves weren’t for a bunch of not Ojibwe Tribes white guys to kill. In fact, the Ojibwe Tribes had no intention of hunting their allotted 81 wolves as they see the gray wolf as a sacred animal. Their claim under their treaty rights to part of the kill quota included their decision not to kill the animals.
Throughout the 20th century wolves were eradicated in every state besides Minnesota, but conservationists, protections, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 helped gray wolves make a comeback. In 1980, Wisconsin had a reported 25 gray wolves. This past year that number was estimated at 1,195. The USFWS says that in total there are “about 6,000 wolves in the lower 48 states” now. The Obama administration attempted to delist the gray wolves in 2009. That move was countered and overturned by a federal judge. The Obama administration’s appeal of this overturn failed in court again in 2017.
There are very real reasons for creating and setting hunting seasons for different animals. In an ideal scenario, hunters would serve the purpose of helping to maintain the delicate balances of human and animal ecosystems. Those balances vary from state to state as population density, agricultural space, and livestock populations are different everywhere. Unfortunately, as can be seen in Wisconsin, these guys just want to kill things to say they did and really had no interest in balance at all. Does this mean that every hunter involved in the killing of gray wolves in Wisconsin is a bad person? Not at all. I’m sure there are a ton of very conscientious hunters in those groups, people who believe they serve an important environmental and spiritual function in that environment. But without meaningful regulation, and without more defined protections, the either/or proposition of delisting species from the endangered list does not seem sound.