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200-Wolf Slaughter Shows Why Wolves Need Protection

This page was published 3 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

In the last week of February, hunters in Wisconsin killed over 200 wolves in less than three days.

Using packs of dogs, snares, and leg-hold traps, hunters blew past the state’s limit of 119 wolf kills, prompting the state to cut short its one-week wolf hunting season.

Wildlife officials authorized the massacre after the Trump administration removed federal protections for gray wolves in January. Pro-hunting lawmakers in multiple Midwestern states are rushing to hold wolf hunts before President Biden can reverse the Trump administration’s actions.

The slaughter in Wisconsin is an awful example of why wolves need the protection of the Endangered Species Act, our nation’s strongest conservation law. Earthjustice immediately challenged the Trump administration’s decision to strip these protections from wolves, and we will continue to fight for wolves’ survival in court.

Hunting could quickly reverse the wolf population’s fragile gains.

  • Before wolves gained protection under the Endangered Species Act, barely a thousand were left in the Lower 48 states, all in an isolated part of the Great Lakes region.
  • Federal Endangered Species Act protections and the reintroduction of wolves to key parts of their former habitat have allowed wolf populations to begin to recover
  • Scientific data shows that wolves are still functionally extinct from the majority of their former range across the United States, and are completely missing from key habitat in places like Colorado, Utah, and northern Maine

The Wisconsin hunt was hastily organized and ill-considered.

  • On his first day in office, President Biden ordered his administration to review the Trump administration’s decision to delist the wolves from the Endangered Species Act.
  • Wary of President Biden restoring gray wolf protections, an out-of-state hunting group sued Wisconsin to force it to hold a statewide hunt immediately.
  • In response to a court order, the state’s Department of Natural Resources bumped up its November hunting season to February.

Wisconsin’s actions demonstrate why gray wolf recovery cannot be left up to individual states until wolves have truly recovered

  • Without federal Endangered Species Act protections, the power to determine whether gray wolves survive shifts to states, many of which hold hostile anti-wolf policies.
  • These states can legally declare open hunting seasons and issue licenses to shoot or trap wolves.
  • Wisconsin’s hunt occurred during wolves’ breeding season — meaning many of the wolves killed were likely pregnant or mothers to vulnerable, new pups. Thus the toll of the hunt may be much higher.

Earthjustice is fighting in court to give wolves the protections they need to survive.

  • On behalf of six environmental groups, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s removal of Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the lower 48 states.
  • Earthjustice has fought for wolf recovery for over three decades, and we’re not backing down now.

Help protect wolves: Tell President Biden to restore their protections.

Gray wolf
Gray wolf (Holly Kuchera / Shutterstock)