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US high court rejects Wis. appeal over tribal night hunts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Wisconsin officials who want to keep in place a decades-old ruling that bars Chippewa tribes from hunting deer at night.

The justices did not comment on their decision to let stand an appeals court ruling that orders a federal judge to reconsider the ban.

The Chippewa have pushed for years for a night hunt in northern Wisconsin in large swath of the state that the tribes handed over to the federal government in the 19th century. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled in 1991 that night hunting was too dangerous.

Last year, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered her to re-open that ruling, noting that that Oregon, Washington, Minnesota and Michigan allow tribal night hunts. The appeals court said the deer hunting has grown much safer over the past 20 years and said hunting at night was not likely to pose serious safety problems.

The Chippewa renewed their push for night hunting in 2012 after state lawmakers angered the tribes by allowing hunters to kill wolves at night. The Chippewa consider the wolf a spiritual brother. The wolf-hunting program ended after one season.

The tribes also pointed out that the state Department of Natural Resources had begun to allow night deer hunting to slow chronic wasting disease, protect crops from deer depredation and prevent car-deer accidents.

But Crabb ruled that the tribes failed to show that circumstances had changed enough to reopen her 1991 decision.

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