Wisconsin’s gray wolf population at the close of the 2009-2010 winter is estimated to be 690 to 733 wolves, a roughly 10 percent increase over the 2008-2009 end-of-winter estimate of 626 to 662 wolves. The current estimate is more than twice the population goal prescribed by the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan.
Wolves continue to be listed as endangered in Wisconsin and elsewhere. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has attempted to remove the wolf from this list in portions of the Great Lakes states so that management could be handed over to the states.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources submitted a petition to the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging them to complete the delisting process and return management authority to the state. So far, attempts to delist the wolf have been blocked by the courts based on lawsuits brought by animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, Help Our Wolves Live, Friends of Animals and Their Environment, and Born Free USA.
“Wisconsin has worked cooperatively with the Department of the Interior on wolf recovery for more than 30 years and has supported Interior’s recent efforts to delist the gray wolf,” said DNR Secretary Matt Frank. “We believe, and scientific evidence supports, that delisting and transferring management of the wolf to Wisconsin is timely and will lead to improved management through effective action on problem wolves.”
With the growth of the wolf population in Wisconsin, there have been depredation problems with wolves killing livestock and hunting dogs. Although owners of livestock and hunting dogs have been compensated for their losses, additional management tools will allow better control of the population and greater protections for livestock and pet owners.
Deer hunters also question the impact wolves have on the number and distribution of deer, as evidenced by the fact that Wisconsin hunters harvested their lowest number of deer in 27 years during the 2009 season. The DNR estimates that wolves killed 13,000 deer in 2009. Researchers from DNR and the University of Wisconsin will be studying the impacts of predators (wolves, bears, coyotes and bobcats) on deer more intensely over the next three to five years.
The annual winter wolf count relies on aerial tracking of radio-collared wolves, trail cameras, and snow track surveys by DNR and volunteer trackers. Also included are wolf sightings by members of the public. The agency has conducted these counts since the winter of 1979-1980 when there were 25 wolves in the state.
A total of 180 wolf packs were detected in Wisconsin during the winter count consisting of at least 2 adult wolves each. Biologists found 30 packs distributed across central Wisconsin and 150 packs in northern Wisconsin. The largest packs in the state were the Moose Road Pack Douglas County with 11 wolves, the Crotte Creek Pack in Douglas County with nine wolves and the McArther Pine Pack in Forest County with nine wolves. At least 52 packs had five or more wolves in them.
The Wisconsin wolf population is considered to be one of the most closely monitored and managed animal species in the nation, according to Adrian Wydeven, a DNR conservation biologist and wolf specialist.
Wisconsin Offering E-mail Alerts on Wolf Activity
Dog trainers, pet owners and others interested in keeping track of recent wolf activity can now sign up for an e-mail or wireless service that will send an alert anytime wolves attack hunting dogs or pets.
The new feature relies on an easy-to-use service called GovDelivery. From the DNR home page search for “dog depredation by wolves” and follow the simple instructions for subscribing to the alerts. It is possible to unsubscribe at anytime.
The alert will be sent to a subscriber’s e-mail and/or wireless addresses of choice and will include a link to details of 2010 depredations and a caution map based on the location of any attacks. Wolves killed 23 dogs, including many hunting dogs, and injured 10 others in 2009, and 21 dogs were killed by wolves in 2008, according to the DNR.
Wisconsin’s dog training season opens July 1 and runs through Aug. 31 leading up to the opening of Wisconsin’s 2010 black bear season on Sept. 8. Bear season runs through Oct. 12. It is legal during this training period for hunters with a class A or B bear hunting license to train dogs on wild bear on public property open to bear-dog training.
“This new system will give dog trainers rapid alerts to problem areas with information that can help them avoid attacks on their dogs,” said Wydeven. “We will post new alerts just as soon as attacks are confirmed. We’ll also continue to maintain our wolf alert web pages with documentation of all attacks throughout the current season.”
Wolves with pups leave the den area where the pups were born and occupy one or more rendezvous sites within the pack territory during summer months. A wolf pack changes rendezvous sites somewhat unpredictably but will defend the current site and pups from any hunting dogs that get too close.
Alerts on other topics are also available through the GovDelivery feature. At the DNR home page select “Subscribe to DNR Updates” and select the topics you want to follow.