Wisconsin lawmakers consider allowing woodchuck hunting

Woodchuck or groundhog in De Pere, April 24, 2017 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

WAUPACA COUNTY, Wis. (WLUK) -- Some state lawmakers are circulating a proposal in Madison that would remove the woodchuck, or groundhog as it's also known, from the state's protected species list, and create a hunting season for the animal.

But not everyone supports the idea.

At about two feet long, and weighing up to 10 pounds, the woodchuck could soon be a target for hunters in Wisconsin.

"We call it the woodchuck bill," said State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst.

Tiffany is one of the lawmakers looking for support. The measure would drop the woodchuck's protected status, and could create a hunting season from the beginning of July, to the end of December, with no bag limits. Advocates of the plan say the woodchucks, or groundhogs, dig holes that cause damage to flower beds, foundations and more.

"There's a need. The woodchuck population is sufficient that we can hunt in Wisconsin. And it's like any other animal, you need to make sure your keep them under control, so their numbers don't get out of control," said Tiffany.

But not everyone supports the idea of a hunt.

"They often are looking for more opportunities to pull the trigger," said Bob Welch who lives in the Town of Dayton.

Welch is a teacher and environmentalist in Waupaca County. He points to a state nuisance law which already covers woodchucks.

"Private landowners have the ability to take out any woodchuck that may be causing problems on their private property. So basically, this law would open up hunting on public lands. And they're not doing damage on public lands," said Welch.

Department of Natural Resources biologists characterize the Wisconsin woodchuck population as rather abundant. They say groundhog hunting may not be popular because the small squirrel-like animal is hard to process, and musk glands may taint the meat.

Either way, the "woodchuck bill" and the surrounding debate are moving forward.

"There's no reason that you couldn't have a hunting season for woodchucks," said Tiffany.

"It's a protected animal outside of private lands, so let's keep it that way," said Welch.

This is the second time lawmakers are pushing for a woodchuck hunt. A similar bill in 2013 stalled in an Assembly committee.

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