Wisconsin Legislators Must Weigh Wolf Hunt Against Native American Traditions

Wisconsin legislators have been reminded that they need to tread carefully if they decide to authorize a hunting season on wolves.

The bill, already approved by the State Senate and entering the Assembly today, now faces opposition from local Native American groups for religious reasons, The New York Times reported yesterday.

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Game Commission, which represents 11 tribes of the Ojibwe (also known as the Chippewa, or Anishinaabe) in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, cites the wolf as an ancestral brother to man--and argues that efforts to reduce the wolf population are culturally incongruent with their beliefs.

From the Times...

_"In written testimony presented to both legislative houses, James Zorn, the executive administrator of the commission, said, 'In the Anishinaabe creation story we are taught that Ma'iingan (wolf) is a brother to Original man.' He continued, 'The health and survival of the Anishinaabe people is tied to that of Ma'iingan.' For that reason the tribes are opposed to a public hunt …

Mr. Zorn said in his testimony that for the Ojibwe, 'wolf recovery does not hinge primarily upon some minimum number of animals comprising the current wolf population.' Rather, he said, the goal is 'the healthiest and most abundant future for our brother and ourselves.' "_

The Native American group's support of or distaste for the bill is important, considering Native Americans' significant land rights in the northern third of the state coincide with much of the wolf population. Peter David, a conservation biologist with the Commission, told The New York Times that the tribes were not consulted about the wolf hunt--a breach of court settlements on treaty rights.

This is far from the first time lawsuits have jeopardized the gray wolf's status in Wisconsin. Since the wolf's return to the state in the mid-1970's, it has cycled through listings of endangered, threatened and state protected, listed and delisted, with lapses depending on the most recent ruling. On December 21, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the recovery of gray wolves in the western Great Lakes area and subsequent removal from the endangered and threatened species list. The New York Times article estimates Wisconsin wolves at 800 strong, with the state's carrying capacity hovering around 1,000.

The bill proposes a single season, from October 15 to the end of February, for the trapping and hunting of wolves, and currently allows hunters to use firearms, crossbows, and dogs; liquid scents would be prohibited.

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