While a Dane County judge may have ruled last Friday that dogs can be used to hunt wolves, but not trained to hunt them, that confusing decision has not settled the issue.
In what will be an atypical legal move, the plaintiffs in the case plan to file a motion next week asking Dane County Circuit Judge Peter Anderson to essentially take another look at his decision and consider clarifying or changing his mind about it, according to Carl Sinderbrand, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
The move is akin to filing an appeal, but rather than asking a higher court judge to rule on a lower judge’s decision, the move allows the original judge to take a second look at his own ruling.
Sinderbrand says in his 30-plus-year career, he has filed such a motion about a dozen times.
“The notion is … if the judge made a mistake or the decision is unclear on an important point, state statute provides this procedure for the judge to take another crack at it,” Sinderbrand told me Wednesday.
As to what portion of the judge’s ruling needs clarifying, Sinderbrand wouldn’t yet say.
“I can’t give out that information yet,” he says. “We are still deciding on how we want to frame the motion.”
The state Department of Natural Resources and the judge are aware of Sinderbrand's plans. Anderson had not released his written decision as of Thursday, but the plaintiffs' motion does not preclude him from doing so.
The lawsuit was brought against the DNR and its board in August by animal welfare groups and individuals who claimed the state had insufficient rules in place to protect the safety of dogs involved in hunting wolves.
Wisconsin, which initiated a modern wolf hunt for the first time this past fall, is the only state in the country to allow the use of dogs for wolf hunting. However, the filing of the lawsuit led to a temporary injunction against their use.
The state went ahead with the hunt, which began Oct. 15 and was scheduled to run through February unless the quota was met early. The quota of 116 wolves was met early, with 117 actually killed — many through trapping — and the season was closed at 5 p.m. Dec. 23.
The state’s Native American tribes refused to participate in the hunt, citing spiritual connections to “brother wolf,” and declined to pursue their allotted share of the quota.
Despite the motion asking Anderson to reconsider his decision, the DNR is moving forward to both clarify its wolf hunting rules as well as revamp its entire wolf management plan, according to DNR attorney Tim Andryk.
He stressed the updated plan would include specifics on how and when dogs could be trained and said the public would be involved “quite a bit” in the process over the course of the next year, including the tribes and other stakeholders.
Andryk says the plan is to have the new rules and management plan in place by 2014, which means the training and use of dogs in the 2013 hunt remains a murky issue.