Wolf hunting with dogs is back in play for ’13

Madison — Trailing timber wolves with hounds will be allowed during the 2013 wolf season following a Jan. 4 ruling by Dane County Circuit Court Judge Peter C. Anderson.

In a two-part ruling that day, Anderson declared that he would not allow hunters to trail wolves with dogs outside of the hunting season, such as during a “training” season, but he would allow the use of dogs during the hunting season.

In announcing his ruling, Anderson took obvious offense to earlier discussions between Natural Resources Board members, the DNR, and DNR lawyer Tim Andryk during which Andryk suggested the agency does not have certain rule-making authority.

“You really have to scratch the record to find where the Natural Resources Board believes it has no authority (in the legislatively created wolf season). It looks like they were told (that by their lawyer).

“The DNR does have authority to adopt additional rules on hunting. The agency has that authority and now you cannot write letters saying the judge is wrong … . I’m telling you you have that authority,” Anderson said.

“But, that’s the extent of my ruling. They (DNR) have that authority, but they do not have the obligation to do more than they did. There is no standard by which I can tell them to go further to regulate the tracking and trailing of wolves with dogs,” he said. “The court can tell them the extent of their authority, but not how to use it.

“I think a lot of people in this state think it’s nuts to use dogs to hunt wolves. I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other and, even if I did, that’s not the question.

“I respect the fact that a small minority of people who want to use dogs to hunt wolves have gotten their way, notwithstanding whatever the majority might believe. I have to say my hat’s off to you. If you can accomplish legislatively what a large number of people in this state think is a crazy idea – there are only 20 of you, or 200 of you, or whatever the number is –  you have manipulated the system in a way that’s gotten success for you and that’s impressive. I don’t take offense that a small number of people occasionally get their way in the Legislature,” he said.

When asked later by lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendants to clarify, Anderson confirmed that he will allow the trailing of wolves during the hunting season, but not during any training periods outside of the hunting season.

He upheld the plaintiffs’ injunction on the training of dogs to trail wolves.

Neither side indicated as of press time for this edition that there would be an appeal.

Andryk said the state could consider appealing the training portion of Anderson’s ruling, but he said the DNR is working on new rules for hound training that would include off-season wolf pursuit. He said those rules could be adopted by 2014, so there may be no need to appeal.

“From our perspective, is it worth it to appeal on the training? That’s debatable, since we have a permanent rule process in the works,” Andryk said.

As for Anderson’s ruling on the hunting season?

“I consider it a big win,” Andryk said. “The hunting issue was the main issue, and he ruled in the state’s favor.

“He said at the beginning that he could not legislate from the bench. He recognized that the DNR had the authority to set rules and he could not require the DNR to add to that – he would then be legislating from the bench. I think that’s what guided his decision.”

Carl Sinderbrand, a lawyer for local humane societies and individuals who oppose the hunt, said that Anderson acknowledged that the hunting of wolves with dogs doesn’t make sense, but the judge didn’t have the legal means to overturn the season.

“There’s a bigger picture here, and it’s not just about wolves and it’s not just about dogs. It’s about whether the DNR is going to engage in rule-making the way it always has – based on science and environmental stewardship – or whether the Natural Resources Board and DNR will be influenced by political pressure,” Sinderbrand said.

Anderson’s ruling on the training of hounds only applies to the pursuit of wolves. His ruling will not change any of the training seasons in place for other wild game.

“That (hound training) rule is a general rule. Any person may train dogs on free-roaming wild animals, and that rule lists any restrictions. This is where the bear dog training rules are,” Andryk said.

The DNR argued that that rule could be applied to the training of dogs on wolves without any changes to the existing rule needed because wolves are “free-roaming game.”

Sinderbrand argued that the rule couldn’t be used in this case because the rule was created well before wolves were delisted by the federal government last January, and the 2012 season was the first modern season for wolves in Wisconsin.

Anderson agreed with that argument.

Andryk noted that sportsmen might want to stay in tune with the DNR’s permanent rule-making process as it pertains to wolves.

“We are in the permanent rule-making process right now and we won’t only address dog issues, but any issues raised with the wolf season,” Andryk said.

“There will be quite a bit of public input possible. We will have formal hearings; we will have questions on the spring hearings. That rule won’t be in place for 2013, but it should be in place sometime in 2014. Once that happens, that rule will allow dog training with restrictions – that will be part of the wolf rule we’ll take to hearing. The judge’s injunction will enjoin that until the permanent rule is in place,” he said.

“The judge said he may revisit this again once the permanent rule comes around, or the plaintiffs may sue the state again once the permanent rule comes back,” Andryk said.

During his ruling, Anderson hinted that the DNR may not have such an easy time getting a permanent wolf rule approved.

“The advantage to the plaintiffs is that the subject is more in the public eye now. The plaintiffs might have some remedy in the Legislature,” Anderson said.

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