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Wisconsin Gray Wolf Hunt Could Be Making A Comeback

Michele Woodford
The gray wolf is native to the Great Lakes landscape, but its story has been one of dramatic decline, rebounding, and steady debate.

The presence of gray wolves in Wisconsin is considered a success story. The wolf is native to the Great Lakes and other parts of the U.S., but by the 1950s, the population was teetering on extinction. The gray wolf was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1975. By 2012, its numbers had rebounded and the gray wolf was taken off the list.

Soon after, Wisconsin legislators passed a bill that mandates an annual wolf harvest season and the controversial use of dogs. Three annual hunts followed until a federal judge put the wolf back on the endangered species list.

But now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing it’s time wolves be removed from the endangered species list again. The decision was expected last month, but nothing has been issued so far.

Credit Adrian Wydeven
Adrian Wydeven, who served as a Wisconsin wolf biologist for more than 20 years, continues to help monitor wolves, including these he tracked in northern Wisconsin.

Under Wisconsin law, when the wolf is delisted, the state's annual hunting season would resume. Adrian Wydeven, who served as the state wolf biologist from 1990 until 2013, wishes the two weren't tied together. 

“Unfortunately, the Legislature tied them together with this legislation and for those who support delisting but may not necessarily support the hunting of wolves, it’s caused a lot of people to support keeping them on the endangered species list,” says Wydeven.

Credit UW-Madison
This photo was taken as part of a UW-Madison research project.

He says if and when delisting happens, the DNR must update Wisconsin's wolf management plan. Wydeven believes essential elements would be "updating the population goal, the other is making sure there is a lot of sound science used in managing the wolf population."   

Wydeven wants to see more studies on how wolves affect the ecosystem of Wisconsin. In particular, he hopes the DNR tests models that suggest wolves help reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer. 

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.<br/>