Ruling ends killing of animals that threaten livestock, pets
By Lee Bergquist – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A federal judge on Monday overturned a decision that removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
The ruling immediately halts the practice of killing wolves that threaten livestock and pets in the three states.
Forty-five wolves have been killed in Wisconsin this year, either by government personnel, at the request of landowners, a state official said.
The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, including the Humane Society of the United States.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman in Washington, D.C., said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could not remove wolves from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region while wolves remained endangered in other parts of the country.
In July, a federal judge in Montana issued an injunction in the Rocky Mountain region after states opened a hunting season on wolves.
With the wolf population sufficiently recovered in Wisconsin, the state Department of Natural Resources had supported the lifting of protections.
Wolves were delisted on March 12, 2007. That allowed the state to take over regulating the wolves.
Since then, landowners who complained that wolves were harming or killing livestock or pets could obtain a permit to kill wolves. In practice, however, most wolves have been shot by personnel with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Wisconsin authorities have also allowed landowners to kill wolves without a permit, if they found wolves attacking their livestock.
In 2008 that has happened twice. Adrian Wydeven, biologist for the DNR, said the agency was disappointed by the ruling. He said the DNR will go back to the Fish and Wildlife Service in the hope of getting permission for authorities to kill problem wolves in limited cases.
With strong support from the hunting organizations and farming groups, the DNR said in August that it might initiate the first public hunt of wolves in more than 50 years.
“Hunting is totally off the table at this point,” said Wydeven, the agency’s top expert on wolves.
Bob Welch, a lobbyist representing the Hunters Rights Coalition, called the ruling a flawed decision.
“The facts on the ground have not changed,” Welch said. “There are plenty of wolves in the Great Lakes region.”
The estimaged population of wolves last winter was 537 to 564 wolves, according to the DNR.
The agency’s goal for recovery has been 350. In 2000, Wisconsin had fewer than 250 wolves.
Karlyn Berg, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the United States, said her organization was pleased by the ruling.
There are instances when problem wolves need to be killed, but she said, “people want to continue to go back to the old way of management that humans have to kill a certain number of wolves to make everything hunky dory.”