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Wisconsin's rising wolf population and the dangers of urban wolf packs

Illustration of wolves in Wisconsin.
Nate Kitch
Illustration of wolves in Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee-area is home to a lot of wildlife. Whether it’s the Bay View fox or the turkeys of ‘Tosa, our urban area provides a great habitat for many wild animals. But there are some animals we’d rather not see on our city blocks, which are predators that can pose a risk to our pets and ourselves.

Although the wolf’s resurgence in Wisconsin has been great for its ecosystems, there are concerns about what they could mean for urban areas.

"The challenge in today’s world is trying to find the balance of keeping space and suitable habitat for these carnivore and wolf populations, but also addressing and responding to, and preventing conflicts with humans," says Randy Johnson, the Wisconsin DNR's large carnivore specialist.

Johnson's work was featured in an article in this month's Milwaukee Magazine, which looks at how wolves have become increasingly problematic for cities worldwide as populations have risen. Although Milwaukee is already home to predators like coyotes, the sheer size of wolves makes them less adaptable to urban life. They eat larger prey and need a larger territory for hunting, which puts them at greater risk of coming into conflict with humans.

"There's a higher chance that those wolves will die from human causes ... things like roads, vehicle collisions, or illegal killing, or certainly the potential for them to depredate livestock or take pets," Johnson explains.

Aside from a few isolated sightings, Milwaukee doesn't have wolf packs in the city itself. And while the presence of larger prey makes Milwaukee suburbs a better habitat for wolves, Johnson says the dangers of living near people make it unlikely that wolf packs that move into the area can sustain life there.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
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