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WI Group: Multiple Ways to Weigh In On Wolf Hunt

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This week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources began gathering public input on a new gray wolf management plan following the controversy over February's court-ordered wolf hunt.

An advocacy group for the animal urges the public to speak up on multiple fronts amid concerns about quotas.

The recent wolf hunt, the result of a lawsuit after the animal was taken off the federal endangered species list, drew criticism when hunters far exceeded the established quota. In addition to a long-term plan, the agency wants input for this fall's hunt.

Melissa Smith, executive director of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife, said anyone concerned also should connect with the agency's Natural Resources Board.

"It is ultimately the Natural Resource[s] Board that implements policy for the DNR," said Smith. "So, the DNR, like we saw in the February hunt, can bring a modest quota number to the NRB Board; they changed it. "

Her group is among advocates critical of the Board with hunts back in play. Smith suggests the panel is trying to limit opposition voices at its meetings.

The Board's chairman said that's not the case and it isn't violating any laws. He said they'll gather public input as well before the next hunt, and will pay attention to science when deciding on a quota.

Smith said residents should write to this panel, even before a separate comment period would begin.

As for the broader management plan, which won't be considered until next year, Smith said she hopes it ultimately focuses on taking advantage of the animal's contributions to the state's natural landscapes.

"To have as many wolves as we can on the landscape to fulfill their ecological role," said Smith. "To combat CWD, to bring back some of the more rare plant species."

Smith said she's not opposed to hunting in general or instances of lethal action where wolves are repeatedly attacking livestock, so long as it's handled in humane fashion.

Supporters of hunting gray wolves say they pose a major threat to farm animals. Meanwhile, the DNR'S comment period runs through May 15, with submissions accepted on its website.

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