Last Wednesday, a state appeals court ruled that Wisconsin hunters can once again train dogs to track and hunt wolves. The decision comes after another court ruling last year allowed the use of hounds in tracking wolves, but forbade training dogs specifically to hunt the predators. According to the Associated Press, the appeals court found that Wisconsin residents have a common law right to hunt and the freedom to train hunting dogs stems from that right, therefore invalidating last year’s ruling by Dane County Judge Peter Anderson.
The original lawsuit was filed by an alliance of humane societies and the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, which asserts that using dogs in wolf hunts increases the likelihood of violent encounters between the two canines. Attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin, who represented the plaintiffs, told the Wisconsin Radio Network that she was disappointed by the court’s decision but did not comment on whether she will bring the case to the state Supreme Court.
Supporters of the court’s decision say that wolves generally outrun dogs, and that fights between the two species rarely break out. Wisconsin is currently the only state that allows the use of hounds to track wolves, which requires hunters to mark or equip their dogs with identifying collars.
Despite the controversy over the use of hounds in Wisconsin’s wolf season, the state’s 2014 wolf quota has been cut to 156 animals from 2013’s 275—a decrease of more than 40 percent. The drop is due to a dip in the wolf population, which currently hovers between 660 and 689 individuals. Wisconsin’s wolf season will begin on October 15.