Wisconsin hunters exceed wolf target by nearly 100 animals

FILE - This July 16, 2004, file photo, shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. Wisconsin wildlife officials opened an abbreviated wolf season Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, complying with a court order to start the hunt immediately rather than wait until November. The hunt will run through Sunday, Feb. 28 across six management zones. (AP Photo/Dawn Villella, File)
FILE - This July 16, 2004, file photo, shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. Wisconsin wildlife officials opened an abbreviated wolf season Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, complying with a court order to start the hunt immediately rather than wait until November. The hunt will run through Sunday, Feb. 28 across six management zones. (AP Photo/Dawn Villella, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin hunters and trappers killed nearly double the number of wolves that the state allotted for a weeklong season, and they did it so quickly that officials ended the hunt after less than three days, according to figures released Thursday.

Nontribal hunters and trappers registered 216 wolves as of Thursday afternoon, blowing past the state's kill target of 119. The state Department of Natural Resources estimated before the hunt that there were about 1,000 wolves in the state. Its population goal for the animal is 350.

The wolf season began Monday and was supposed to run through Sunday, but the DNR shut it down Wednesday afternoon as it became clear hunters would exceed the target. Hunters and trappers were given a 24-hour grace period, allowing them to remain in the field until Thursday afternoon. Hunters and trappers also exceeded their kill targets in the three previous wolf seasons but never by more than 10 animals.

“This is a deeply sad and shameful week for Wisconsin,” Megan Nicholson, director of the Wisconsin chapter of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. “This week’s hunt proves that now, more than ever, gray wolves need federal protections restored to protect them from short-sighted and lethal state management.”

DNR officials said nearly 90% of hunters used dogs to chase down wolves, and fresh snow on Monday and Tuesday aided in tracking. The state sold 1,547 permits, which equates to 13 hunters or trappers per wolf in the target number, the highest ratio of any wolf season so far.

DNR Wildlife Management Director Eric Lobner said during a news conference that the large number of hunters was difficult to manage but that staff were monitoring registrations hourly. Randy Johnson, the department's carnivore biologist, said he was checking them every 15 minutes.

At the end of the day Monday, only nine animals had been registered. Lobner said when checked at 7 a.m. Tuesday, 48 animals were registered. The department announced the first management zone closures three hours later.

“It’s easy at this point in the game to say, yeah, maybe we should have closed it a little bit sooner,” Lobner said. “There were so many unknowns about how the season was going to play out. ... How far we went over goal was not necessarily our objective.”