Hunters can train dogs on wolves

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A state appeals court ruled Thursday that hunters can train dogs to chase down wolves, rejecting arguments from a group of humane societies that wildlife officials are allowing deadly wolf-dog clashes and cementing one of the most contentious elements of Wisconsin wolf hunting.

The 4th District Court of Appeals’ ruling marks another chapter in the bruising political battle over the state’s wolf hunt. Republicans and farmers contend that the hunt is necessary to control a burgeoning wolf population that’s preying on livestock and deer; conservationists and animal lovers say the population is still fragile and that the animal is too majestic to kill.

A Republican-authored law establishing the wolf hunt permits hunters to use up to six dogs to track and trail wolves after the state’s 9-day gun deer hunt ends every November, making Wisconsin the only state that allows dogs to track wolves.

The Department of Natural Resources crafted emergency rules implementing those provisions. The rules contained just two restrictions: hunters can’t use dogs at night and the dogs must be tattooed or wear an identification collar.

The humane societies and the National Wolfwatcher Coalition sued.

They alleged that the DNR failed to adopt any meaningful restrictions on hunting wolves with dogs, clearing the way for bloody dog-wolf fights in the woods and violating both the wolf hunt’s track-and-trail limitations and animal cruelty statues.