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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Ojibwe tribes fight Wisconsin wolf hunt in federal court

Corel Corporation
Six Ojibwe tribes hope to put a stop to Wisconsin wolf hunt until a biologically-sound management plan is put in place.

Six Ojibwe tribes are heading to federal court Friday morning in hopes of stopping a Wisconsin wolf hunt from taking place this fall.

They’re represented by Earthjustice. Senior attorney Christopher Clark said the legal team will argue the proposed hunt is not grounded in sound biological principals and violates the tribes’ treaty rights.

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Screenshot taken by Susan Bence
Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa wildlife specialist Abi Fergus commenting during Natural Resources Board special meeting about wolf hunt last January. Bad River is among the six Ojibwe tribes now challenging the Wisconsin hunt in federal court.

“It’s important to note that our claims in federal court are on behalf of tribes who have treaty rights under the United States Constitution. Treaties are the supreme law of the land, and so they trump anything that’s going on with respect to the state law issues that are being litigated in Dane County,” Clark said.

Wisconsin’s fall hunt was slated to kick off Saturday. But it’s already at a standstill after a circuit court judge ruled the DNR must update its management plan, including how it sets harvest quotas.

Clark said the six Ojibwe tribes want to make sure that update happens.

“We are concerned that the injunction that is in place from the Dance County Circuit Court by an appellate court, or during the pendency of an appeal, the state or perhaps or another party could seek and obtain a stay of that injunction, which basically puts the wolf hunt back on,” Clark said.

The attorney said his clients don’t want to see a repeat of the hastily-organized and what critics say was an ill-timed harvest last February. It took place after the wolf was delisted a month earlier by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

>>Wisconsin Wolf Management Faces Criticism As DNR Drafts Management Plan

“In February, at the time of the hunt, that was the wolves’ breeding season. So in addition to the wolves that were killed by hunters at the time [the hunt] also had a devastating impact on reproduction rates [among] the wolves. There were pregnant wolves that were killed," Clark said. "The fact that adult wolves were killed means they were unable to breed.”

The defendants in the case are the secretary of the Wisconsin DNR and the members of the Natural Resources Board. A spokesperson said none of the defendants was able to comment.

State law requires a fall and winter harvest whenever the wolf is not federally protected.

Advocates for the hunt maintain it is an appropriate wolf management tool, and it is the right of hunters who wish to engage in it.

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Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.
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