MADISON — A handful of animal lovers tore into a bill that would establish a Wisconsin woodchuck hunting season, blasting the measure as unnecessary during a hearing Wednesday and calling it another sign that legislators are obsessed with killing wildlife.
Only eight people addressed the Assembly Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage Committee about the bill. One was the measure’s author, Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere. Another was a Department of Natural Resources wildlife ecologist. The others all spoke against the proposal.
“I think the primary (motivation) here is thrill kill,” said Randy O’Connell, 59, of Omro, who described himself after the hearing as a recovering hunter. “This culture, not a heritage, needs to come to an end.”
Woodchucks, also known as groundhogs or whistle-pigs, are beaver-like creatures known for burrowing and gobbling up plants at a manic pace. They’ve been on the state’s protected species list for decades. Property owners can kill nuisance woodchucks but anyone else needs a license.
DNR ecologists don’t have any estimates on how many woodchucks live in Wisconsin, but they say they’re abundant and it’s not clear why they were ever placed on the protected species list. Some experts have speculated wildlife officials wanted to ensure woodchucks continued to burrow because the holes can provide shelter for other animals.
Jacque introduced a bill earlier this month that would remove woodchucks from the protected species list and establish a hunting and trapping season from March 1 through Dec. 31. The bill would prohibit the DNR from setting any bag limits.
Hunters already can kill a wide range of animals in Wisconsin, including deer, bears, wolves, mourning doves, coyotes, squirrels, rabbits and wild pigs. Legislators also have contemplated feral cat and sandhill crane seasons in recent years.
Jacque told the committee his bill is more about maintaining the integrity of the protected species list than hunting. He said there’s no biological or scientific reason why woodchucks deserve protected status. See full story here: