5 wolves killed in first days of Wisconsin wolf hunt

On Monday and Tuesday five wolves were killed in Wisconsin, at the start of the state's first wolf harvest. Despite protests by animal rights groups, Wisconsin hunters will be allowed to kill 201 wolves this winter.

Carrie Antlfinger/AP
A timber wolf named Comet is seen at the Timber Wolf Preservation Society Oct. 10 in Greendale, Wis. Federal officials removed Great Lakes wolves from the endangered species list in January. Given free rein to manage the species, Wisconsin and Minnesota lawmakers pushed aside the concerns of some environmentalists and established their first seasons allowing hunters to bait, shoot and trap wolves.

Wisconsin officials said on Wednesday that hunters killed five wolves during the first two days of the state's inaugural wolf harvest, which began this week despite opposition from animal rights groups.

The state's Department of Natural Resources said a gray wolf was trapped and killed on Tuesday in Oneida County and hunters elsewhere across the state reported four kills on Monday as the state-sanctioned effort to reduce the population began.

So far, the state has issued 638 of the 1,160 wolf-harvesting licenses it authorized for the season, which runs through Feb. 28 or until hunters reach the quota of 201 wolves. The licenses cost $100 for state residents and $500 for hunters from outside Wisconsin.

The move to allow the hunting and trapping of the state's wolves has been opposed by some humane societies, which have filed suit challenging the use of dogs in the hunts.

In addition, the Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals said this week they would sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service in federal court to restore protections for Great Lakes wolves. The two groups asked Wisconsin and Minnesota to postpone wolf hunting and trapping until the case is heard.

In Minnesota, where the wolf-hunting season begins on Nov. 3, the state's Court of Appeals earlier this month refused to block the season.

About 4,000 wolves in the northern Great Lakes region - primarily in WisconsinMichigan and Minnesota - lost their federal status as endangered or threatened last January.

In the Northern Rockies, conservationists have warred with ranchers and sportsmen over wolves since they were reintroduced to the region by the federal government in the mid-1990s.

Conservationists welcomed the restoration of an animal that had been shot, trapped and poisoned to near extinction in IdahoMontana and Wyoming. But ranchers and outfitters contended wolves would prey on livestock and big-game animals targeted by hunters.

Moves by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in recent years to strip wolves in the region of federal protections were blocked by lawsuits by conservationists.

Congress last year lifted federal protections from wolves in Idaho and Montana, which have since sought to cut the number of wolves - mostly through hunting and trapping - to as few as 300 from an estimated 1,500.

Wolves in Wyoming were delisted on Oct. 1, the first day of Wyoming's regulated hunting season. There are an estimated 350 wolves in the state.

Under a plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceWyoming permits restricted hunting in certain areas but classifies wolves in most of the state as predatory animals subject to unlicensed shooting and trapping.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups last month notified the Fish and Wildlife Service they intended to sue the agency over its approval of Wyoming's wolf-management plan.

All three states must maintain at least 150 wolves, including 15 breeding pairs, to prevent relisting.

Additional reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by James B. Kelleher and Peter Cooney

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