Wolf lying in snow , Canada / Getty Images/Comstock Images
MADISON — A provision tucked into Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s executive budget would bar hunters from killing wolves at night, eliminating one of the most contentious elements of Wisconsin’s wolf hunt regulations.
The provision comes as Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes look to set up a night deer hunt in northern Wisconsin. State wildlife officials are trying to block that hunt in federal court, saying night deer hunting is too dangerous. The tribes have countered they deserve to hunt deer at night since nontribal hunters can kill wolves after dark. They believe eliminating the night wolf hunt is designed to nullify one of their strongest legal arguments for a night deer hunt.
“It appears to be an attempt to influence this federal court litigation that’s ongoing between the state and tribes,” said Charlie Rasmussen, a spokesman for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, which oversees the Chippewa bands’ off-reservation rights.
Walker obliquely acknowledged the night deer case played into the decision to end the night wolf hunt during a question-and-answer session with reporters Tuesday after he addressed the Wisconsin Realtors Association in Madison. But the governor stressed wolf hunters’ success during last year’s inaugural hunt drove the proposal. Hunters easily reached their kill limit despite taking what Walker’s office said was only one wolf in the dark.
The wolf hunt bill’s chief author, Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, called the Chippewa’s argument that Walker is trying to strip them of their night deer hunting justification “a conspiracy theory.” He still questioned Walker’s move, though, and said he wants to talk to the governor about it.
The repeal could lead to erasing current night hunts for raccoons, coyotes and foxes, Suder said. Wolf hunters were so successful because more wolves are roaming the state than the DNR realizes and hunters need every tool they can get, he said.
Walker’s budget also slashes the cost of a wolf hunting license from $100 to $47 for state residents and from $500 to $249 for nonresidents.
Revenue from the fees goes to offset wolf depredation and run the state’s wolf management program. According to a study from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, hunters purchased 887 licenses out of 1,160 the DNR made available for the first hunt last year, generating $290,000.