Kennan-area wolf pack decimated
DNR says a record number were killed; farmer says pack will still be a problem
Wildlife officials killed an unprecedented number of wolves on a Kennan-area farm earlier this month.
Eight animals were trapped and shot, and two were shot from long range in an area where wolf depredations were becoming common, DNR wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven said. Those numbers exceed kill totals from any single location in the recent history of wolf management in Wisconsin.
During the past several months, at least two dogs and one heifer have been attacked by the so-called Skinner Creek pack, named for the area it inhabits. All of the dead wolves are from that pack, Wydeven said. Seven of the dead wolves are pups, he added.
One more wolf pup was found near the trapping area dead from a gunshot wound. Officials suspect the animal was shot by a poacher or errant coyote hunter. Wydeven said an investigation is unlikely because the animal does not appear to be a full-blooded wolf.
Several of the Skinner Creek animals might be cross-bred with domestic dogs, he said.
Wolves are protected under state and federal law, but wildlife officials have had the authority to kill some wolves in depredation cases since 2003.
Dog-wolf hybrids are considered to be a stain in the population’s genetic pool and are typically more aggressive than their full-blooded counterparts. If it is certain that an animal is a hybrid, the DNR has more liberty to act.
“Some of them have very obvious dog characteristics,” Wydeven said of the specimens from the Skinner Creek pack. “We would want to eliminate a pack like that from the wild.”
But the pack has not been eliminated. The trapper in the case reported seeing at least one more adult wolf at large in the area, and three pups that were captured before Aug. 1 were released with ear tags (Aug. 1 is a benchmark date under federal wildlife rules).
Wydeven said the pups, each of which weighs approximately 30 pounds, have a good chance of survival if they reconnect with one of the pack’s adult survivors.
Wildlife authorities ended their activities in the area Aug. 12 and will not return unless there is another depredation. Trapping began on July 29.
The pack has been a problem in the area because it was using farm fields as rendezvous points. It learned to kill livestock and was very aggressive to barnyard dogs.
“They were starting to consider it their territory,” and considered other canines to be trespassers, Wydeven said.
The pack’s boldness is part of the reason so many were caught and killed, he said.
The total number of wolves trapped at the Kennan site (11) also exceeds the previous record for any one location in the state (nine wolves were trapped at a site in Burnett County and released elsewhere several years ago, before officials had the authority to kill problem wolves).
Terry Wanish farms the land on County Highway J, approximately three miles north of the village of Kennan, where the wolves were killed. He said they have been gathering in his fields once or twice a month for several years. He lost a 1,100-pound heifer to the pack before the trapping started.
Even after 11 wolves were removed from the area, Wanish said he’s not confident his wolf troubles are over.
“(I) watched seven of them in a field after the trappers were done,” he said Monday. “There are lots of big ones left.”
The dead wolves will be sent to two Madison-area labs for genetic analysis and other tests. Among other things, the tests will show whether and to what extent the animals are crossed with domestic dogs. The results will be available in approximately five to six weeks.
The precise lineage of dog-wolf hybrids is difficult to trace. Wydeven said verified wolf-dog breeding encounters – not initiated by humans – are extremely rare. He said in most cases, dog-wolf hybrids are products of human design.
It is illegal to intentionally breed a full-blooded wolf with a hybrid wolf or a dog in Wisconsin, but hybrids can be imported.
When hybrids escape or are released, they sometimes join a wolf pack, Wydeven said.
Wolf activities elsewhere in Price County
In related news, two full-blooded wolves from a different pack were trapped and killed earlier this summer on Ed Jasurda’s home farm in the town of Worcester.
Jasurda’s 14-year-old dog survived a wolf attack in May, and wildlife authorities started trapping there shortly thereafter. Wydeven said the two wolves – a male and a female – are believed to have been the only animals in the Musser Creek pack.
Trapping was attempted in an area south of Catawba recently for animals in the Green Creek pack, which are thought to be responsible for livestock depredation there. That attempt did not yield any wolves, Wydeven said.
The DNR attempted live-trapping in the Kimberly Clark Wildlife Area northwest of Phillips in late July but was unsuccessful. Those wolves would have been released with radio-tracking collars.
In the state of Wisconsin, wildlife authorities have killed 16 full-blooded wolves this year, not including nine Skinner Creek animals that are thought to be hybrids. The 16 wolves include the two in the Musser Creek pack and one from the Kennan site.
There have been 39 wolf-depredation incidents statewide this year, including eight in Price County. That comprises verified occasions when a pet or livestock were killed or injured by wolves. Some of those incidents comprise multiple livestock depredations on single sites.
Twenty-two Wisconsin farms have had verified depredation incidents this year. There are also many farmers who have reported wolves stalking herds without actually attacking.