No crying wolf — the hunt is on.
Gray wolves were removed from the federal Endangered Species Act under the Trump administration in October 2020, marking a milestone as the animals had been endangered for over 45 years, according to the Department of the Interior. In total, there are over 6,000 wolves in the lower 48 states today.
With the delisting official on Jan. 4, states now have the leeway to determine how to manage local populations, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The Badger State mandates the DNR open a wolf hunt from early November to late February when the wolves are not listed as endangered or threatened, and the department planned to start the season in November.
However, a hunting advocacy group called Hunter Nation pushed back in state Court of Appeals, arguing that the wolf hunt should open up this winter – and won the case. On Friday, a Jefferson County judge denied the DNR’s request, giving the green light for the season to start on Feb. 22 and run until Feb. 28, or whenever harvest quotas are hit.
“This is a historic victory for hunters in Wisconsin!” said Hunter Nation CEO Luke Hilgemann in a statement the organization shared to Twitter.
By Friday, the state DNR was flooded with over 20,000 applications for wolf hunting and trapping tags. On Sunday, 4,000 outdoor enthusiasts were awarded licenses in a Feb. 21 drawing. For the next four days, those selected will be allowed to hunt gray wolves with a statewide harvest quota of 200, excluding American Indian reservations. The quota is divided cross six management zones.
From there, hunters must buy a $49 license on top of the $10 they paid to apply for the drawing; this money will be used to pay for wolf damages, like livestock depredations.
According to the Journal, Wisconsin most recently held a wolf hunt seven years ago. 154 wolves were killed in 2014, before a federal judge ruled to return the wild animals to federal ESA protections.
By DNR estimates, the Badger State had 1,195 wolves in 256 packs during the late winter of last year.