MADISON, Wis. — Hunters shot and killed at least four wolves on the opening day of Wisconsin’s first organized wolf hunt, the state Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday.
The first reported killing, of a male, took place at 7:15 a.m. Monday in Rusk County, according to the department’s website. Another male and two females were taken within the next 11 hours.
The hunt is scheduled to end Feb. 28, but it could close sooner; the department has set a statewide limit of 116 wolves.
The Department of Natural Resources has awarded 1,160 wolf licenses through a computerized lottery, although little more than half of the winners had purchased one by Monday morning.
Wildlife officials estimate that as many as 850 wolves roam Wisconsin and 3,000 more live in Minnesota. Farmers have complained for years about wolf attacks on livestock.
Federal officials opened the door to hunting in both states when they removed Great Lakes wolves from the endangered species list earlier this year. Legislators in Wisconsin and Minnesota quickly passed laws establishing hunts, and hunt legislation is pending in Michigan.
The hunts are a flashpoint of contention. Animal welfare advocates insist wolf populations in both Minnesota and Wisconsin are too fragile to support hunting.