MADISON, Wis. -- As Wisconsin prepares for its first wolf season, hunting groups say using dogs to track wolves is essential to success. Animal welfare advocates counter that the state needs to do more to protect hunting dogs from getting into potentially deadly confrontations with wolves.
A Dane County judge who has temporarily banned the use of dogs in the hunt will hold a hearing Friday.
Bob Welch, executive director of the Wisconsin Hunters Rights Coalition, which campaigned to create the hunt after wolves came off the endangered list in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan last January, said hunters who can't use dogs won't kill wolves.
"I think it would be very unlikely you'd even get one," Welch told the Wisconsin State Journal for a story published Sunday.
Wisconsin would be the first state to allow the use of dogs for tracking wolves. Wisconsin will allow the killing of 200 of the state's more than 800 wolves during the five-month season beginning Oct. 15. Neighboring Minnesota won't allow wolf hunters to use dogs when its inaugural season opens Nov. 3. It has set a quota of 400 wolves out of the state's population of about 3,000.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge Peter Anderson is allowing the planning for a hunt without dogs to continue while he considers arguments from a group of humane societies and others that the Department of Natural Resources needs to create rules to keep dogs safe during the hunt. He'll hold a hearing Friday on a state request to dismiss the lawsuit.
Hunt supporters say any rules, such as requiring the use of leashes, would make dogs less effective.
Carl Sinderbrand, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said other states' wolf hunts are expected to be successful even without dogs, and he cited Montana as a state that's had a successful wolf season without dogs. Even Alaska, Sinderbrand said, limits the use of dogs to using a leashed dog to track a wounded wolf.
Sinderbrand said regulations to protect hunting dogs could require the use of leashes, limit the dogs allowed to scenting hounds that are less likely to attack a wolf and require professional training of wolf hounds.
Welch said those ideas are impractical.
In Minnesota, support for using of dogs "never really gained much traction," said Chris Niskanen, a spokesman for the Minnesota DNR. He said agency biologists believe hunters without dogs as well as trappers will have little problem killing 400 wolves.
He said the agency expects many wolves to be killed by trappers, which he added is the most effective method of taking a wolf.