Target: Wisconsin State Representative, Andre Jacque
Goal: Stop the bill that would create an open hunting season on woodchucks in Wisconsin.
Decades ago, the dwindling of Wisconsin’s woodchucks, also known as groundhogs or marmots, prompted state laws that protected the species from hunters and trappers. Woodchucks provide an important ecological function in that they dig large burrows that can then be populated by other species such as rabbits, foxes, opossums and weasels. According to Scott Craven, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, the classification of woodchucks as a protected species in Wisconsin was partially driven by a desire to safeguard this important ecological role. Due to laws protecting the species, woodchucks have since made a comeback in the state and are estimated to be “fairly common,” though no concrete population numbers currently exist. Now, State Representative Andre Jacque wants to pass a bill that would strip woodchucks of their protected status and allow an open hunting season on the animals running from March through December each year. This ten-month long season would run for the entire length of time that the species was not hibernating, and would make it legal to hunt or capture an unlimited number of woodchucks.
Currently, it is legal in Wisconsin for homeowners to trap or kill woodchucks on their property. Jacque claims that taking away the animals’ protected status entirely is justifiable for similar reasons that homeowners are legally allowed to destroy them, because they are “abundant and a nuisance.” Woodchucks are known to destroy gardens through their burrowing and aggressive herbivorous appetites. However, the fact that it is already legal to kill woodchucks within the bounds of one’s personal property raises the question of whether or not an open hunting season is truly necessary. Many believe the proposed hunting season to be irresponsible. Shahla Werner, director of the Sierra Club in Wisconsin feels that there is no need to go after the animal, stating that she has never heard of anyone eating woodchuck meat, and woodchucks that classify as a “nuisance” can already be terminated on private property. Furthermore, the fact that the species has only recovered its numbers in recent years leads to doubts concerning whether it is ecologically responsible to kill them once again, as the unlimited hunting of the species could easily lead to the decimation of the population once again.
Help protect the Wisconsin woodchuck population by asking that State Representative Andre Jacque reconsider the bill to create an open hunting season on the animals in light of the potentially negative ecological effects of such legislation.
Dear Representative Andre Jacque,
The Wisconsin woodchuck is an important species that provides a specific ecological function. Its burrows are important to the survival of other valuable species including rabbits, foxes, weasels and opossums. Despite the fact that in recent years the woodchuck’s population has increased, they are nonetheless an important element of Wisconsin’s ecosystem.
Currently, it is legal to trap or kill woodchucks that are a nuisance, so long as it is done on private property. This, coupled with the woodchuck’s history as a protected species due to low numbers, casts doubt on the need for an open hunting season on the animals. The species recent return to a full population is not a reason to hunt them back down to potentially dangerously low numbers.
I urge you to reconsider the proposed bill to create an open season on woodchucks in Wisconsin until the full ecological effects of unlimited hunting and trapping can be evaluated. Until then, it is vital that we strive to protect all species, especially those that have only relatively recently regained a full, healthy population.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: April King via Wikimedia Commons