Hunter Nation v. DNR (2021)
Case Name: Hunter Nation v. DNR
Type of Case: Rule of law
Court: Jefferson County Circuit Court
Filed On: February 2, 2021
Current Status: Writ of mandamus ordering Wisconsin DNR to hold a gray wolf hunt
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), on behalf of Luke Hilgemann and Hunter Nation, filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court against Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole, the Wisconsin DNR, and the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, for ignoring a state law requirement to schedule a wolf hunt season this winter. The gray wolf was delisted from the Endangered Species Act on January 4, 2021, triggering a 2011 state law that requires Wisconsin’s DNR to schedule a gray wolf hunting season between November and February.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act in March 2019. On November 3, 2020, US Fish and Wildlife promulgated a final rule to delist the gray wolf effective January 4, 2021.
Wisconsin state law is clear that if the gray wolf is not protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Wisconsin DNR “shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves.” The law further states that DNR must “establish a single annual open season for both hunting and trapping wolves that begins on the first Saturday in November of each year and ends on the last day of February of the following year.”
But the Wisconsin DNR, despite years of advance warning and months to prepare for a January 2021 delisting of the gray wolf, refused to permit the hunting and trapping of wolves in January and February of 2021.
WILL represents Hunter Nation President and CEO, Luke Hilgemann, and Hunter Nation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting America’s hunting heritage and the right to hunt.
WILL’s lawsuit alleges DNR’s decision to forgo a gray wolf hunt until November 2021 violates state law and the Wisconsin state constitution’s guarantee of a right to hunt. Once the gray wolf was delisted on January 4, Wisconsin DNR had an obligation to comply with state law that permits the trapping and hunting of gray wolves for a season between November and February.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Bennett J. Brantmeier issued a writ of mandamus on February 11, 2021 requiring the DNR to hold a gray wolf hunt in February 2021. Judge Brantmeier found that the Wisconsin DNR violated state law by refusing to schedule a winter 2021 gray wolf hunt when the gray wolf was delisted from the Endangered Species Act on January 4, 2021.