The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Wisconsin's wolf numbers show 2.2 percent decrease


June 7, 2018


Wisconsin’s wolf population remains nearly three times higher than the Department of Natural Resources’ goal.

The DNR said Tuesday data suggests the wolf population may have begun to stabilize, however.

Data collected by more than 100 volunteer trackers and DNR staff members during the 2017-18 winter reveal a minimum count of 844 to 925 wolves, a 2.2 percent decrease from the previous count.

The number of packs increased from 232 to 238, however.

Scott Walter, WDNR large carnivore ecologist, said the state’s official wolf population goal is 350 animals.

Wolves in Wisconsin remain listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act and management authority is held by the federal government. Federal listing status restricts lethal wolf management tools.

“The Endangered Species Act did its job. Its protections were instrumental in allowing this species to successfully reestablish itself within our wildlife community,” Walter said, “however the population has been well above established recovery goals for two decades and there is no biological reason for wolves to remain on the endangered species list. Federal delisting would allow more flexibility in dealing with issues like wolf depredation of livestock and pets and divert important endangered species funding and resources to the conservation of species that are truly at risk.”

Wolves were removed from the federal Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011. The following year Wisconsin lawmakers established a wolf hunt, which included the use of dogs. Hunters killed 654 wolves during three consecutive hunting seasons. In 2014, wolves were returned to the endangered species list by a federal judge.

Wolves know no boundaries and the exact Wisconsin population can’t be determined, especially when packs from the Upper Peninsula and Minnesota can freely roam into and out of the state. Wolf packs can range more than 100 miles in search of food sources.

Wolf surveys are conducted annually during winter, when snow cover allows suitable tracking conditions. The wolf population is at its lowest point during winter, so survey results are considered minimum counts. The population increases each spring with the birth of pups, then declines throughout the remainder of the year because of various mortality factors, including poaching and disease.


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