GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - State lawmakers could vote on a bill as early as January that would prohibit local and state authorities from investigating killings of wolves unless the animals are removed from federal protection.
The proposed legislation would also end the funding of wolf management in Wisconsin as long as wolves are protected.
"We need to send a clear message to the federal government, you need to return management of the wolf to the State of Wisconsin, because it's causing serious problems in rural areas of Wisconsin and it's spreading outside of northern Wisconsin now," says Tom Tiffany, a Republican state senator from Hazelhurst.
After the Obama administration removed Great Lakes wolves from the endangered species list in 2012, Wisconsin held three wolf hunting seasons.
But in 2014, a federal judge placed wolves back on the endangered list, and the DNR says the state's wolf population has been growing ever since, up to nearly 1,000 wolves roaming the woods.
"We all agree that wolves should be a part of the landscape but the numbers are out of control," says Tiffany.
DNR statistics show 79 confirmed wolf attacks in 2016 on livestock and pets.
So far this year, 39.
"There's 25 scientists here from the Great Lakes states that signed a letter a couple years ago saying it is time to de-list the wolf, because ultimately if we can't de-list a recovered wildlife population from the endangered species list, then what value is the endangered species list? That's the ultimate concern here," says Tiffany, who expects a hearing on the bill next month and a vote early next year.
A number of wolf advocacy groups, including the Endangered Species Coalition, the National Wolfwatcher Coalition and Friends of Wisconsin Wolves and Wildlife, are blasting the bill, saying it would legalize wolf poaching.