Wisconsin opened its second regulated wolf hunting season Tuesday, less than a month before Minnesota's second season begins.
Both states authorized hunts last year after the gray wolf was removed from endangered species protection in the western Great Lakes region.
Wisconsin officials have authorized a kill of 251 animals — about 30 percent of the state's wolf population — up from 117 last year. That jump has angered hunt opponents.
"It's really important that we come together and just declare, no sport hunting of wolves," said Melissa Smith, director of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf, who spoke at a rally in Duluth Saturday. "We are going to lose them."
Wisconsin's goal is to reduce the population from its current level of more than 800, down to 350, said Dave MacFarland, large carnivore specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Hunt opponents say 350 wolves is too few to maintain a sustainable population.
"At any point you're reducing a population, there is the potential there could be a risk," MacFarland said. "But from every analysis that we've done, we don't believe that the population level of 350 would risk extirpation of the species from Wisconsin."
Minnesota is taking a more conservative approach to its second hunt.
The state has cut the number of wolves that can be killed this year to 220, down from a quota of 400 last year. A recent survey shows the state's wolf population has declined by 24 percent since 2008, from 2,921 wolves to 2,211.
Minnesota's second wolf hunt begins Nov. 9. Wisconsin's season ends Feb. 28.