Wisconsin hunters quickly kill wolves; season to end early

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.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin wildlife officials plan to end the state's wolf season after just three days after hunters and trappers killed nearly 70% of the state's quota in less than 48 hours.

The Department of Natural Resources announced Tuesday that all six management zones would close by Wednesday afternoon.

The DNR launched the hunt Monday morning. It had been scheduled to run through Sunday.

The department announced Tuesday morning that it would close three of its six management zones at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning after registration data showed hunters and trappers had already taken about half of the state's 119-wolf limit.

By Tuesday afternoon the kill numbers had climbed to 82 animals, or 69% of the state quota. The DNR said the remaining three zones would close at 3 p.m. Wednesday, ending the season.

Hunters and trappers had gone over their zone-specific quotas in two zones by Tuesday afternoon. They killed 21 wolves in a swath of northeastern Wisconsin, which was three more than allotted. They also killed 18 wolves in a zone covering most of the southern two-thirds of the state, which was one more than allotted.

Before the hunt started, the agency estimated that about 1,000 wolves roamed the state.

The Trump administration removed wolves from the federal endangered species list in January, returning management to the states. Wisconsin law mandates an annual wolf hunt be held between the beginning of November and the end of February.

The DNR had been planning for November season start, but hunting advocacy group Hunter Nation sued for an immediate start, arguing that President Joe Biden's administration could re-list wolves before November. DNR officials resisted, saying they needed time to prepare, but a Jefferson County judge earlier this month ordered the department to launch the hunt immediately.

The DNR still plans to run a season in November.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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