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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Wisconsin DNR says proposed plan protects wolf population & balances diverse public interest, public reacts

The gray wolf population continues to be seen as a conservation successful story by some and source of concern for others in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin DNR
The gray wolf population continues to be seen as a conservation successful story by some and source of concern for others in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource wants to update the state’s wolf management plan.

The agency seems to be attempting to strike a balance between science-driven conservation and the sometimes chasmic differences in opinion about wolves.

You heard some of that earlier this week during a three-hour virtual public listening session carried by WisconsinEye where approximately 50 people shared their views.

Doug Cox called in from the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsinin Keshena. “On behalf of the tribe, we want to thank DNR for precision that they put into developing this plan in relation to Menominee and other tribal nations that have been able to participate. We are also are happy with the adaptive wildlife management approach and we hope DNR sticks with that,” Cox says.

Others told the DNR to stick to the existing plan. It dates back to 1999 when the species was still slowly rebounding after its extirpation decades earlier. That plan set a goal of reaching and sustaining 350 wolves on the landscape.

Last year’s count was estimated at 972 by the DNR.

Wisconsin DNR's 2022 wolf report figures
Wisconsin DNR
Wisconsin DNR's 2022 wolf report figures.

During the hearing, large carnivore specialist Randy Johnson said the management approach now being proposed for wolves is similar to the DNR’s management of the black bear and white-tailed deer.

"The measure of success would be evaluating the on-the-ground conditions related to key items such as wolf population numbers, wolf-related conflict levels and providing various outdoor opportunities associated with the wolf population, rather than managing the population based on a single numeric population goal," Johnson says.

Sawyer county resident Mike Robers says his call to set a limit on wolves is based on personal experience and that of neighboring farmers.

"Our particular farm in 2021 had a cow killed not more than 30 feet from our dairy barn. In the last two years, we've had two beef cows and three calves confirmed and numerous kill suspects by wolves within a 20-mile radius of our farm," Robers says. "I think a person's way of making of living should rate high on the list of the priorities on wolves."

The DNR is accepting public comment via an online tool, mail or email through Feb. 28:

Wolf Management Plan Comments
101 S. Webster Street PO Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707-7921

In 2012 a new state law signaled a mandated annual Wisconsin wolf hunt, but before and since the species has swung on, off and then on federal endangered species protection.

The most recent harvest, in February 2021, was widely criticized for exceeding the quota by 83%.

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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