States set wolf harvest seasons in Wisconsin and Minnesota
Tribes rally to protect ma'iingan
By Charlie Otto Rasmussen
Odanah, Wis.—Wolf hunting and trapping is set to begin this fall in Wisconsin and Minnesota after authorities finalized season structures, which call for killing more than 600 animals in the two states. In response GLIFWC's Voigt Intertribal Task Force is taking a stand for ma'iingan.
On August 2 the Task Force passed a unanimous motion "opposing the killing of ma'iingan and claiming all wolves in the Wisconsin ceded territory as a necessary prerequisite to a population that would fully effectuate the Tribe's rights," wrote James Zorn, GLIFWC Executive Administrator in a letter to Cathy Stepp, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Secretary.
The statement comes after Ojibwe tribes repeatedly encouraged WDNR officials to slow plans for sport-harvesting wolves only months after the US Fish & Wildlife Service removed them from the endangered species list. Tribal representatives made the same appeals to Minnesota policymakers, calling for government-to-government discussions on the co-management of the 1837 ceded territory wolf population. Tribes said live wolves had value on the landscape.
But officials in both states pushed ahead, creating wolf harvest units that lay both inside and outside the 1837, 1842 and 1854 Treaty ceded territories. In Wisconsin, policymakers seek to pare wolf numbers from an estimated 850 down to 350 over time.
For Ojibwe as well as additional American Indian tribes, the wolf is regarded as a brother; in origin stories, ma'iingan is a teacher and companion. In tribal society, members of the wolf clan are known as guardians and providers. Through traditional teachings, many believe that wolves and Ojibwe Indian people share the same fate—what happens to one will happen to the other. Tribal representatives communicated these principles to state policymakers at length throughout much of 2012, including testimonials from Bad River elder Joe Rose Sr. and other natives before the WDNR Board on July 17 at a public hearing.
Tribal representatives stress that launching a harvest plan to drive down wolf numbers to 350 animals is reckless and unnecessary, especially since scores of wolves are already being removed from the landscape through poaching, accidental kills, and the legal take of wolves that depredate on livestock. From January through July, more than 40 depredating wolves have already been killed in Wisconsin alone.
"The tribes' goal is for all suitable wolf habitat to be fully occupied, thus enabling wolves to perform their appropriate ecological function on the landscape," Zorn said. "The State's goal is to reduce the population to a level the tribes consider ecologically unsound, culturally inappropriate, violative of their rights and potentially unsustainable."
Wisconsin officials divided the state into six management zones, each with a harvest goal established by the WDNR. Tribal leaders helped secure zero-quota zones for wolves on the state's largest reservations: Menominee, Stockbridge-Munsee, plus GLIFWC members Lac du Flambeau, Bad River, Red Cliff and Lac Courte Oreilles. Wolf hunting is prohibited inside these reservations—even where non-Indians own alienated tribal lands.
Michigan officials have not established a wolf season.
At their low-point in the western Lake Superior region, wolves were extirpated from Wisconsin by the late 1950s through taxpayer-funded bounties. What animals remained found refuge on Isle Royale and far northern Minnesota. Federal protection in the mid-1970s encouraged population growth, and packs from Minnesota recolonized Wisconsin and Upper Michigan through the end of the 20th Century.