The suit, filed on Tuesday in Dane County Circuit Court, seeks a court injunction halting the issuing of permits by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for a five-month hunting season beginning in October. About 8,400 people have applied for permits so far.
The plaintiffs, which include the Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies and the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, want the rules for the hunt revised.
Critics say it is important to make clear that that dogs should not be used to confront wolves physically and should only be used to track or trail them. They suggest requiring the use of leashes as well as training for both hunters and their dogs. They would also like the state to restrict the use of dog breeds known to be confrontational.
The want hunters to be barred from using dogs at certain times of year, including the breeding season in January and February. That’s when area wolves are most aggressive “toward strange wolves and dogs,” according to a fact sheet at the Department of Natural Resources Web site titled “Dog depredations by wolves in Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin has an estimated wolf population of more than 800 animals. The federal government took wolves off the endangered species list in January, and Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in April establishing the hunt.
Jodi Habush Sinykin, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, asserted that Wisconsin’s rules would “create a high risk of deadly confrontation.” The state’s laws amount to “state-sanctioned animal fighting,” said Ms. Sinykin, who is also a senior attorney at a non-profit law center, Midwest Environmental Advocates.
“What this lack of regulation means practically is that dogs can be used in training and in hunting to come into a direct physical confrontation with wolves,” Ms. Sinykin said. She added that wolves typically gain the upper hand in such encounters while dogs suffer “violent, grievous injuries, and death” if the fighting is not interrupted.
Bill Cosh, a spokesman with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement that the department was “disappointed” by the lawsuit, but he did not comment on its contents, which he said are under review.
“The D.N.R. will continue to accept wolf harvest applications until Aug. 31” regardless of the suit, he said.
Two dogs have been hurt in wolf attacks this year, and four dogs have died. The latest fatal confrontation occurred on July 6 in Forest County when a wolf pack killed two 5-year-old Plott Hounds while their owner was hunting.