A Dane County judge has postponed until Friday a ruling on a lawsuit that could halt a wolf hunting and trapping season scheduled to begin in Wisconsin this fall.
A hearing on the case was held Wednesday morning by Judge Peter C. Anderson in Dane County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit filed by a coalition of humane societies and individuals seeks to stop the use of dogs to hunt wolves.
The defendants in the case are the Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Board. The lawsuit contends the state failed to set up reasonable protections for dogs used in the hunt.
The Wisconsin Legislature this year passed Act 169, which authorizes the use of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin is the only state to allow the practice.
The state's wolf hunting and trapping season is scheduled to begin Oct. 15.
The coalition wants the court to issue a temporary order blocking the DNR from issuing licenses for the hunt. The plaintiffs entered statements from several acknowledged wolf experts, including retired DNR wildlife managers and University of Wisconsin researchers, warning of violent encounters between dogs and wolves under the rules of the hunt.
The injunction, if granted, could prevent the department from issuing licenses until additional restrictions are adopted on the use of dogs for tracking and trailing wolves.
Given the time it would take to initiate a rule making process, such an action could cancel the 2012-'13 Wisconsin wolf hunting and trapping season, according to the DNR.
The state had sold 16,187 wolf hunting and trapping permit applications as of Wednesday morning. Sales of the $10 applications continue through Friday. The DNR plans to hold a lottery and begin issuing licenses for the season in September.
Earlier this month, DNR officials said they will likely issue 1,160 licenses in an effort to harvest 116 wolves. The agency allotted 85 wolves to American Indian tribes out of a statewide harvest quota of 201.
In a statement released by DNR spokesman Bill Cosh on Wednesday afternoon, the "department continues to believe that the rules on use of dogs, which are prescribed in statute and rule, and which are similar to those that are currently in place for bear and many other species, are adequate, reasonable and practical regulations."
Anderson said he would issue a decision Friday after reconvening the hearing at 1:30 p.m.