A southwest Wisconsin lawmaker has signed onto a bill that would ease restrictions on the shooting of wild animals that cause damage to highways.
The proposal, co-sponsored by state Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, authorizes municipal and state wildlife officials to discharge a firearm within a 50-foot distance of the center of a roadway.
Marklein, who was traveling, could not be reached for comment.
According to Brad Koele, wildlife damage specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the bill aims to respond to nuisance beavers, specifically incidents in which the busy rodents construct dams and cause flooding to adjacent roadways.
“That would cause … in extreme situations erosion of the roadways,” he said. “Some of the municipalities are asking that they be allowed to shoot beaver from within that 50-foot setback to be a little more efficient about removing (them).”
Under the proposal, any municipal designee could apply for a permit from their local county wildlife biologist.
Charles Lovell, district supervisor with USDA wildlife services, said he hears of cases with increasing frequency throughout Wisconsin, including Grant and Crawford counties.
“With beaver pelt prices being down and the abundance of water that we’ve had this year, the population seems to be expanding in the state,” he said. “A lot of times, counties will just handle it themselves by just removing the dam.”
Grant County Highway Commissioner Dave Lambert is currently investigating with Wisconsin Department of Transportation and DNR officials a possible aquatic carpenter in the City of Boscobel.
The recent flooding of Sanders Creek at a box culvert that extends under U.S. 61 is likely the result of accumulated debris within the structure, but downstream, a suspicious dam-like structure could account for some of the backup. The floodwaters have inundated a nearby recreational trail.
“Right now, we’re looking to put up a drone in the air to identify the blockage,” said Matt Seguin, a DNR district supervisor.
Because the area is a wetland of interest, Lambert said, the DNR will determine the course of action.
“They used to allow people to go in and throw a stick of dynamite into the dam, but you can’t do that anymore,” he said.