Jul 24

WI: Humane Society state head holds Ashland listening session

  • Animal related issues, including wolf hunt are topic in visit

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) bills itself as the largest non-profit animal rights organization in the world. With reported revenues of over $125 million in 2012, and organizations in all 50 states, it is certainly one of the most influential, with a broad range of issues in it’s agenda, including those affecting companion animals, wildlife, farm animals and the like.

Its work is often controversial, but according to Wisconsin HSUS Director Melissa Tedrowe, the goal of the organization has been the same since its formation in 1954; to celebrate animals and to confront animal cruelty wherever it is found.

Tedrowe, who was named to her current post some four months ago, has been engaged in visiting the various HSUS organizations in the state to get a first hand understanding of the animal welfare related issues in the state.

Tedrowe visited Ashland on Wednesday for an informal listening session about those issues.

“It’s about building strong relationships with people, and I really believe the best relationships are not formed over email, they are formed in person. I wanted to travel around, and meet people at local shelters,” she said.

Tedrowe said among the issues most under discussion in her travels were those relating to Wisconsin wildlife, in particular, issues related to wolves and the wolf hunt.

“It is relatively recently that wolves were delisted from the endangered species list and that Wisconsin has instituted a wolf hunt,” she said. “There has been lots and lots of discussion on all sides of the opinion spectrum, about what that means, how many wolves should be killed, and so on,” she said.

Tedrowe said part of her visit was to access how the Ashland community felt about the wolf hunt, which is opposed as a policy matter by HSUS, as is hunting wolves with dogs.

“We believe Wisconsin’s wolf population is still too fragile, too near the brink of recovery from the endangered list to conduct a full out hunt,” she said, noting that after one hunting season the population had fallen by nearly 20 percent. “We think that is too much for our wolf population.”

Tedrowe said she was “very much in a listening stage” in her visit.

“What I really want, and that’s the reason for my visit is to hear what hunters in the north want, to hear from hunters who are concerned about some of our practices, to hear about what they think and what they would like to see.”

Tedrowe noted that although HSUS opposes the wolf hunt, and indeed opposes trophy and sport hunting, it does not oppose hunting for food and sustenance, although it does encourage humane hunting practices.

She said HSUS also does not contest the right of farmers to protect their livestock, but said that culling of wolves should be done on an individual basis, and not with an open hunting season.

Although the wolf hunt is the current hot button issue, Tedrowe said HSUS is involved in many other animal rights issues, including those involving companion animals.

“A big part of this trip has involved visiting shelters, seeing what they need, helping to connect them to funding, to professional development opportunities, providing some of those opportunities. We work closely with law enforcement to investigate animal cruelty, hoarding or neglect cases,” she said.

Tedrowe said the organization was particularly interested in the development of “factory farms” in Wisconsin that may house thousands of farm animals in a confined area.

“We are working more and more with environmental groups who are concerned with the effects that those kinds of facilities are having on air, water, people and animals in Wisconsin’s rural areas,” she said.

Tedrowe said HSUS favored humane and sustainable farming practices.

“We believe that there are best practices around animal husbandry, treating animals as beings and not production units, the way they are now,” she said.

Tedrowe said the situation in Wisconsin mirrored the state of agriculture in the rest of the nation; the same number or more number of animals are being produced while the number of farmers is decreasing,” she said. “When a concentrated animal feeding operation has not set up in your community, it’s easy to think it’s ‘out there’ it’s not something to be concerned about, an abstract idea. But I’ve just spent a week traveling around the state, visiting communities who have been hard hit by factory farms, and their water quality is plummeting and manure-spraying operations are affecting air quality, a huge concern. People are moving out of communities, property values have crashed in those communities. And we are not even talking about animal welfare issues at that point, that’s just the human and environmental tolls these places are taking.”

Tedrowe said HSUS would like to see Wisconsin “fight back” against huge industrialized agricultural facilities, giving more support to traditional farmers.

She said HSUS was seeking to work to find common ground with people like farmers and hunters who have been opponents in the past.

“It is one thing for a woman who doesn’t hunt to come up from Milwaukee, but for someone who is a hunter, who believes in ethical practices, who does it in the best possible way, in an honorable way to say what we are doing with wolves is not right, and not good for Wisconsin, that carries so much weight,” she said.

Tedrowe said while hunters, farmers and HSUS might not always agree on all issues, there was a lot of common ground all shared. She said HSUS should not be painted as a fringe organization.

“It’s a big tent organization; it has meat eaters, it has farmers, but what we have in common is that the egregious practices like intensive confinement of farm animals or relentlessly harassing wildlife and causing suffering instead of killing them humanely, that just isn’t right in our society.”


Jul 19

NEW Zoo pups offer hope for endangered wolf species

Rachel Minske, Press-Gazette Media

SUAMICO – Six red wolf pups spent Friday morning sitting snugly inside their shelters at the NEW Zoo.

Just 2 months old, the young wolves occasionally poked their heads outside to look at a zoo employee who put out bowls of food and cleaned the animals’ enclosure.

“They’re just now getting to the state where they’re all over the place and spending more time awake and wrestling,” said Carmen Murach, curator of animals at the NEW Zoo.

The red wolf breed is extremely endangered, Murach said. In an effort to rebuild the population, the zoo is one of many across the country breeding the animal in captivity with the hopes they may eventually be released into the wild.

“We’re trying to create as close and diverse to the original population as possible,” she said. “We do pay a lot of attention.”

In 1973, the red wolf was officially declared endangered in the wild, said Will Waddell, the red wolf species survival plan coordinator from Point Defiance Zoo in Washington state. Waddell helped coordinate the relocation of the red wolf population at zoos across the country.

By 1980, all remaining red wolves in the wild — 14 total — were captured and placed in captivity. At that point, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the animal was extinct in the wild. For the past 24 years, the red wolf population has slowly grown as they’ve been bred in captivity and released into the wild, Waddell said.

“In zoos, they’re doing pretty well,” said Waddell, who noted that 209 are in captivity and approximately 100 are in the wild.

“They’re stable and it’s something we evaluate every year.”

The NEW Zoo stepped up to help, and it acquired two adult wolves — a female named Mayo and her mate, Tamaska. Two months ago Mayo gave birth to healthy pups, Murach said.

At this point in their lives, the wolf pups are similar to domestic dogs and easily worn out.

In an effort to prepare them for successful release into the wild, the zoo limits human interaction and does not feed the baby animals by hand.

Although the red wolf population is growing, Waddell said the wolves are not doing well once they’re released into their natural habitat. Many are often shot by people or hit by cars.

Because they were captured in the wild and brought into captivity, the red wolves at the NEW Zoo are owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Lisa Mandell, deputy field supervisor for the department’s Minnesota office.

“Anyone who’s going to take animals out of the wild for whatever reason, they’re going to need authorization to use those animals in captivity, and it would normally be for recovery purposes,” Mandell said.

It has not yet been decided whether the pups at the Green Bay zoo will be released back into the wild, Murach said. They may be relocated to various zoos once they’re mature adults two years from now.

“We’re really proud of this one,” Murach said of the healthy population. “These little pups are adorable and cute but also so important.”


Jul 17

Wolves, beavers in spotlight at Cable forum

Terrell Boettcher, news editor

One is a plump twig-and bark-eating rodent with a powerful tail. The other is a long-legged furry predator who typically runs with a pack and is good at stalking deer.

The beaver and the timber wolf were spotlighted during a July 9 forum at the Cable Community Center, with former state wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven as the guest speaker at the Joseph Jenkins Lecture Series presented by the Cable Natural History Museum.

Wydeven, who currently works as a wildlife specialist with the Department of Natural Resources and lives in the Cable area, said the DNR is in the process of updating management plans for both species. The wolf and the beaver have several similarities as animals and have benefits for the northern Wisconsin forest ecology as long as their numbers are not too high, he said.

They “are monogamous mammals — one male and one female raise their young,” Wydeven said. “They’re both territorial, where they mark and protect their boundaries.”

They give birth to their young in the springtime; a typical wolf litter is five to six pups and a beaver litter is four to five kits. And “they provide habitat for each other and impact each other’s lives,” Wydeven added. “Beavers are a major food source for wolves” in the spring and fall when beavers are roaming on land to cut and gather wood to build dams and eat.

Wolves will use old beaver lodges as den sites, he added. The meadows created by beavers are favored rendezvous and pup-raising sites for wolves in the summertime. “Without wolves, beaver populations would grow to high levels,” he added.

Built of sticks and mud, beaver dams create widespread flooding of woodlands, which benefits other wildlife including otter, mink, muskrats, turtles, deer, bear, waterfowl, grouse and some kinds of fish.

On the other hand, beaver dams create problems on trout streams, blocking trout from migrating upstream and reproducing. and harmfully warming the water. Also, beavers can plug up culverts, causing flooding.

Wolves and beavers went through similar cycles of scarcity and abundance in Wisconsin, Wydeven said.

In the 1730s there are records of over 100,00 beaver pelts coming from the upper Mississippi region. The forest was made up primarily of hemlock, maple and pine, “which is not the best habitat for beaver,” he added.

By the 1850s, beavers were drastically reduced. The logging of the 1800s created more habitat for beaver, but uncontrolled trapping made them nearly extinct by the early 1900s. Seasons were closed from 1903-16 and 1924-33; there was limited trapping from 1934-39, and closed seasons in the mid 1940s.

By 1985, there were 225,000 beaver in the northern two-thirds of Wisconsin, and the major emphasis of the state beaver management plan in the 1990s was to reduce their population through liberalized trapping.

The wolf story

The rebound of beaver and wolf numbers “represent success stories,” Wydeven said. “Now there are very healthy populations of both species.”

“Beavers were nearly killed off because of fur trappers, while wolves were nearly killed off because people just didn’t like wolves,” he said.

When Europeans first came here, there were an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 wolves in the state, he said. By 1950, their numbers had decline to fewer than 50 wolves. By 1960, they were considered gone from the state.

The state bounty on wolves was eliminated in 1957 and they were first listed as a protected wild animal. They were listed as a state endangered species in 1967 and a federal endangered species in 1973.

“All of these reduced the killing of wolves and provided some level of protection,” Wydeven said. “That allowed the population in northeast Minnesota to spread out into northern Wisconsin. Around 1975, they started slowly coming back. In 1999, the population had increased to the point where they were listed as threatened, and in 2004 they were de-listed by the state and became a protected wild animal. In 2012, they were designated as a game species” in Wisconsin and the Legislature approved a wolf hunting season.

The wolf population rebounded to about 850 in 2012, declined to 810 in 2013, and to 660 in 2014. The decline has been mainly due to hunting, Wydeven said.

The federal listing of wolves “is a little more complicated” than the state listing, he added. Wolves were an endangered species from 1974 to 2003, were downlisted to ‘threatened’ in 2004, went back on the endangered list from 2007-08 due to lawsuits, “and we hope were finally delisted in January 2012. We’re at a point now where they are a state-managed species, which offers more flexibility.”

Since 1979, wolves in Wisconsin have been counted through live trapping and radio telemetry and with 1,300 miles of snow track surveys in the winter, using both DNR staff and up to 150 volunteers. The DNR also is looking for reports from people observing wolves in person and on their trail cameras, Wydeven added.

By 2012, there were about 200 wolf packs across northern and central Wisconsin. “We count wolves in mid- to late winter, but in the springtime that population probably doubles for a short time,” Wydeven said. “By the end of their first year, only 30 percent of the pups survive, and before the hunting/trapping season starts on Oct. 15 we’re probably losing about one-quarter of the adults each year.”

The cause of pup deaths is unknown, he said. “We don’t put radio collars on wolves until they’re six months or older.”

Life of a wolf

The average wolf pack is four to five animals, but they can be as large as 12, Wydeven said. Last winter, the Seeley Hills Pack had eight or nine wolves.

Wolves are very territorial; they defend their territories by scent marking, spraying urine, “which is like a ‘no-trespassing’ sign.” They also howl in the wintertime, and can be heard by other wolves from as much as six miles away. A typical territory is 50 square miles. On occasion, they will chase, injure and kill another wolf that has entered their territory.

In areas where wolves are not controlled by people, “the number one factor in wolf deaths is other wolves,” he added.

Wolves raise their young in a den that they usually dig in March. The pups are born in April.

A wolf will kill and eat 15 to 19 deer per year, plus more than 20 beavers, plus snowshoe hares when hares are fairly abundant, Wydeven said. He added that the carcasses of animals that wolves kill become food sources for other animals such as ravens, fishers, eagles, pine martens and bobcats.

By mid-June, the wolf family moves to a rendezvous site such as a beaver meadow, where the pups can romp around while the adults go out to hunt. A pack will use from two to 10 rendezvous sites throughout the summer until early October. Then the pups can move around with the rest of the pack.

When they’re about two years old, wolves will disperse to join another pack or start a new pack. “We’ve found wolves that have dispersed as much as 500 miles to northern Missouri or central Indiana,” Wydeven added.

“Wolves can be beneficial to the forest ecosystem,” he said. “Where they’ve been on the landscape for a long time, there is a higher diversity of forbs, deciduous trees and shrubs, including cedar and hemlocks. Where there is a higher deer population, there are more grasses and ferns, sedges.”

Wolf control

During a question-and-answer session with the audience of about 50, Wyden said that having management in place is a big factor in reducing the number of farms that sustain livestock losses to wolves.

The number of farm livestock killed by wolves peaked at 47 in 2010 and has been declining every year since then, he indicated. “We don’t find every animal that has been killed by a wolf.”

Until 2004 when wolves were delisted, “we had to move all the depredating wolves over to northeast Wisconsin,” he said. That led to at least two counties passing resolutions against this practice.

Losses of bear-hunting hounds and pets to wolves are another issue. Wolves are very defensive of their pups in July and August when bear dogs are being trained. As many as 23 bear hounds have been killed by wolves per year, Wydeven said.

Eight pet dogs were injured and five killed in 2010, “the highest pet losses we’ve had,” he said. “We do need to remove wolves when they behave in that fashion because they’re becoming habituated to humans.”

The state is required to compensate the owners of pets or hunting dogs killed or injured by wolves. In 2014, the state has paid $151,333 to owners of livestock or pets that were killed or were treated by a veterinarian due to injuries from a wolf. In 2013, the state paid out $139,174.

If a wolf is attacking a pet or livestock on their own property, people can legally shoot that wolf, he said. If there’s been a previous depredation problem, the landowner can get a permit to shoot a wolf coming onto his land. All those animals are turned over to the DNR. Also, government trappers are allowed to trap and remove wolves that have killed livestock. Trappers can do proactive trapping in areas experiencing perennial depredation.

‘There have been wolf attacks on humans, but we’ve never documented any in Wisconsin,” Wydeven said. “There have been two cases of people being killed by wolves in North America in the past 100 years: one was in Saskatchewan in 2005, where a geology student walked away from a camp and his body was found later. This was in a mining camp area where wolves fed on garbage that was dumped nearby and become habituated.

“In 2010 a teacher in Alaska was jogging near a remote village and saw some wolves. He panicked and ran away, which is not the thing to do if you’re confronted by a dog or wolf,” Wydeven added. The teacher was killed.

There have been a few people injured by wolves, he added. By comparison during the past 100 years in North America, 65 people have been killed by black bears and 20 people have been killed by cougars. More than 22 people each year are killed by dogs.

“They’re (wolves) a large predator and we have to respect them,” he said.

“Most of the time they’re very fearful of people.”

The state’s current management goal is 350 wolves outside Indian reservations, Wydeven noted. In 2012, the Legislature approved the first wolf hunting/trapping season in Wisconsin, with quotas set by the DNR. The hunter must report any wolf harvested to the DNR via telephone or email within 24 hours.

The difference between wolf management plans in Minnesota and Wisconsin is that “Our hunting seasons have been designed to reduce the wolf population, but in Minnesota they’re designed to provide a hunting and trapping opportunity, not to lower the population,” Wydeven said.

“Both states have similar levels of wolf depredation control, with government trappers and permits issued to land owners. They don’t monitor the population as intensely as Wisconsin does. We try to count individual wolves, as does Michigan. But Minnesota estimates the total wolf range, and based on how many known packs they have in a given area, they estimate the state’s population. But Minnesota has a lot more wolves — 2,200.

“We’re trying to come up with less labor-intensive methods of counting wolves, such as DNA surveys of scat and hair samples,” he added.

The Joseph Jenkins Lecture Series is sponsored by the Cable Natural History Museum.


Jul 10

Wis. Court: Hunters Can Train Dogs On Wolves

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A state appeals court ruled Thursday that hunters can train dogs to chase down wolves, rejecting arguments from a group of humane societies that wildlife officials are allowing deadly wolf-dog clashes and cementing one of the most contentious elements of Wisconsin wolf hunting.

The 4th District Court of Appeals’ ruling marks another chapter in the bruising political battle over the state’s wolf hunt. Republicans and farmers contend that the hunt is necessary to control a burgeoning wolf population that’s preying on livestock and deer; conservationists and animal lovers say the population is still fragile and that the animal is too majestic to kill.

A Republican-authored law establishing the wolf hunt permits hunters to use up to six dogs to track and trail wolves after the state’s 9-day gun deer hunt ends every November, making Wisconsin the only state that allows dogs to track wolves.

The Department of Natural Resources crafted emergency rules implementing those provisions. The rules contained just two restrictions: hunters can’t use dogs at night and the dogs must be tattooed or wear an identification collar.

The humane societies and the National Wolfwatcher Coalition sued. They alleged that the DNR failed to adopt any meaningful restrictions on hunting wolves with dogs, clearing the way for bloody dog-wolf fights in the woods and violating both the wolf hunt’s track-and-trail limitations and animal cruelty statues.

Dane County Judge Peter Anderson rejected those arguments last year. But he did declare DNR rules stating anyone can train dogs on wild animals without a license to be invalid as they apply to wolves. The humane societies, the DNR and dog trainers interpreted that ruling to mean people can use dogs in the hunt but can’t train them on wolves.

The appellate court concluded that the lack of restrictions in the DNR’s rules doesn’t conflict with the wolf hunt law or animal cruelty statutes. The court said it’s unclear how many restrictions the agency would have to impose to achieve compliance.

The DNR made a rational decision on the extent of restrictions, the court added. Hunters with experience with dogs tracking wolves during coyote hunts told the agency they had never seen any violent encounters and wolves typically try to outrun the dogs.

As for Anderson’s ruling invalidating training, the court said Wisconsin residents have a common law right to hunt. The freedom to use dogs extends from that right, not from DNR regulations. Therefore Anderson’s ruling invalidating dog training rules as they apply to wolves has no legal effect, the court found.

Jodi Habush Sinykin, an attorney for the humane societies, said she was saddened by the ruling. The decision creates more urgency to change state law to prohibit using dogs on wolves outright “so Wisconsin can be like the rest of the country and the civilized world,” she said. She had no immediate comment on a possible appeal to the state Supreme Court.

An attorney for the sportsmen groups didn’t immediately return messages. DNR spokesman Bill Cosh said the agency was pleased with the decision.

The agency examined 27 of the 35 wolves killed by hunters using dogs this past season. The DNR couldn’t find any evidence of fights or law violations but the evaluation was inconclusive; the carcasses had already been skinned when the agency examined them.

The DNR has been working on permanent rules governing dogs in wolf hunts. Agency officials have said those regulations would restrict training on wolves to daylight hours during the wolf season and the month of March and mirror the law’s six-dog restriction.

The rules were supposed to be ready by the 2014 season’s October start. But Cosh said agency officials couldn’t get them done in time and now hope to have them in place by the 2015 season.


Jul 10

Appeals court says hunters can train dogs on wolves in Wisconsin

By John Beard

MADISON (WKOW) — A Wisconsin appeals court overrules an earlier ruling and says hunters in the state can train their dogs to chase wolves.

The state law that established Wisconsin’s wolf hunt allows hunters to use dogs to track wolves, but a group of humane societies sued in 2012 claiming the Department of Natural Resources failed to place any restrictions on dog use, setting up bloody wolf-dog encounters.

A Dane County judge eventually ruled hunters can run dogs on wolves during the season, but can’t train them on wolves the rest of the year.

The 4th District Court of Appeals on Thursday found the training prohibition has no legal effect and hunters can train dogs on wolves.

An attorney for the humane societies says Thursday’s decision creates more urgency to change state law to clearly ban dog use on wolves.


Jun 30

DNR board sets wolf hunt quota at 156

By Jan Shepel


The Natural Resources Board last week approved a lower quota for this year’s wolf hunt, falling in line with a proposal from an advisory committee that suggested state hunters and trappers be allowed to take 156 wolves.

The upcoming season’s quota of 156 is a decrease from 2013′s quota of 275 wolves, which was not met by state sportsmen. State hunters and trappers harvested 257 wolves in 2013.

The Wolf Advisory Committee includes state wildlife officials, members of the Chippewa tribes and stakeholders from agriculture, Wisconsin Conservation Congress, hunting groups and other groups with an interest in natural resource and wolf management issues.

DNR officials said the quota was set “with the intention of continuing to reduce the state’s wolf population in accordance with the goals identified in the wolf management plan.”

The state’s wolf management plan has a suggested wolf population of 350 animals in the state. The latest wolf count — done during the winter months in early 2014 — showed a probable population of around 700 wolves across the state.

A year earlier, the winter count found the state had somewhere in the range of 809-834 wolves.

Wildlife experts noted that the population doubles during the summer as wolves give birth to their pups.

Still, the latest wolf count showed a 19 percent decline from last year’s wolf population and was used in coming to conclusions for this year’s wolf management quotas

This year’s hunting season for wolves will be the third since the state was allowed to pursue its wolf management plan. Up until then, Wisconsin was prevented from doing any wolf management — like a hunting season — because of several lawsuits brought by animal rights groups.

During the time the DNR’s approved wolf management plan was in limbo, wolf numbers continued to rise as wolves migrated from Minnesota and reproduced.

When the Endangered Species Act protections were deemed not applicable to the Great Lakes wolf population — in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan — it opened the door for a wolf season here.

The Natural Resources Board and the Wolf Advisory Committee use scientific models to predict how the population will react to hunting quotas. The decline in wolf population seen in the most recent count was predicted by the models after two wolf hunting seasons were completed.

The late winter wolf count is conducted with aerial and ground crews that observe wolves when there is snow on the ground because it makes counting easier. It also coincides with the wolf population’s lowest point in the year.

Analysis of the state’s wolf population with various modeling tools suggests that the new quota, if reached, will result in a reduction in the 2014 late winter wolf population, but at a lower rate than was seen last year.

The wolf quota will be distributed across Wisconsin’s six hunting and trapping zones.

According to DNR officials, the wolf quota established for each zone concentrates hunting pressure more in areas that have higher potential for agricultural conflicts — where farmers are losing livestock to wolf predation — and less where that potential for conflict is lower.

The season is set to begin Oct. 15 and will run in each zone until the zone is closed by the DNR or the last day of February, whichever occurs first. The department has the authority to close hunting zones when quotas are met or if deemed biologically necessary.

Though the quota has been decided, the number of wolves harvestable by state trappers and hunters may be adjusted based on tribal harvest declarations, officials said.

The department will maintain the 10-to-1 license-to-quota ratio from the 2013 season. One half of available permits will be issued randomly among all permit applications, and the second half will be issued through a cumulative preference point drawing.

Wolf license applicants who are not successful in the drawing will be awarded a preference point toward future license drawings.


Jun 29

DNR secretary confirms that wolf hunt opponents were removed from advisory committee


Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp revealed at a DNR Board meeting on Wednesday that the agency removed people who were staunchly opposed to wolf hunting from the state’s Wolf Advisory Committee.

While a lot of the public discussion during the meeting was about a new wolf hunting quota, some of it was also about a change over the last two years in the makeup of the DNR’s advisory committee on wolves.

Stepp confirmed what her critics have alleged: that wolf hunting opponents were by and large kicked off the committee.

“When we’re charged to manage and to implement a hunt, coming in and telling us, ‘Don’t hunt wolves,’ is not a productive way to run a committee, frankly,” said Stepp. “That’s just the candid way to lay it out. We had to have people who were willing to work with us in partnership, and be willing to help us and advise us along the way in implementing state law.”

Rachel Tilseth of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin was a volunteer DNR tracker of wolves for about a dozen winters, and attended a few meetings of what used to be called the Wisconsin Wolf Stakeholders Group. Tilseth testified about the wolf hunt proposal during Wednesday’s meeting.

She later said she didn’t care for Stepp’s remarks.

“I was just appalled that somebody like Cathy Stepp, who’s in charge of this important issue, is saying something like that,” said Tilseth. “It sounds to me like it’s a committee that they want made up of wolf-killers.”

Several DNR staff are on the recently created Wolf Advisory Committee, as are representatives of several pro-hunting groups. A smaller number of wolf hunting skeptics also remain on the committee, including a representative of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.


Jun 26

WI: Reduced Quota Fails to Assuage Concerns of Wolf Hunt Critics


In less than four months, Wisconsin’s third wolf hunt will commence. The quota will be 156; nearly 100 less than last year’s.

DNR biologists say the reduced quota is designed to continue, but slow the pace of, a planned reduction in the state’s wolf population.

At its meeting held in Milwaukee Wednesday, the Natural Resources Board approved the plan Wednesday.

There was no shortage of public comment. Some testified long-distance, via a computer connection in Rhinelander.

Rachel Tilseth belongs to a group called Wolves of Douglas County. She urged the board to relist the wolf as endangered, insisting it has not yet adequately recovered from its endangered days.

Sturgeon Bay resident Laura Menefee traveled to the meeting on behalf of the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club.

“I urge the Natural Resources Board to consider our opposition to the proposed 2014-15 quota of 156 wolves. The Sierra Club has serious reservations regarding an aggressive recreational and trophy harvest that has the potential to reduce Wisconsin’s wolf population from approximately 850 to 350,” Menefee says.

Menefee was referring to the DNR’s goal of whittling the number of wolves to 350. That’s the goal the agency set in a wolf management plan laid out in 1999.

Bob Welch says the number would ensure a wolf density both the landscape and residents can support. Welch represents the Hunters Rights Coalition.

“The goal is 350, don’t change that goal, a lot of people are saying change that goal, the goal was set for a reason,” and Welch added, “I want to say, we don’t hate wolves – we manage wildlife and we think it should be based on science.”

After several hours of listening, the Natural Resources Board issued a speedy vote.

DNR biologists and its wolf advisory committee have busy times ahead. In eight months, they must return with a permanent wolf management plan in hand.


Jun 26

DNR Board Approves New, Smaller Wolf Hunt Quota For 2014

New Limit Of 156 Wolves Marks Decrease Of About 100 Compared To Last Year’s Quota

By Chuck Quirmbach

The Department of Natural Resources Board has passed a hunting and trapping limit of 156 wolves for this fall at a Wednesday meeting in Milwaukee.

DNR staff recommended the number, which is about 100 wolves fewer than last year’s quota. The board approved that recommendation after hearing two hours of testimony from the public.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said the recommendation was based on good science.

“We feel it is or else we wouldn’t be bringing it forward,” she said. “We’ve got a good team of folks who have been working on this.”

The DNR said the recommended kill total was lower because of several factors, including overall wolf mortality rates over the last two years and what the agency calls its “early and somewhat limited understanding” of how the wolf harvest affects the state’s wolf population.

Stepp said one thing not affecting the more moderate wolf kill proposal is election year politics from the Walker administration.

“Election year has absolutely nothing to do with our decisions,” she said. “We really base it on the science that our team puts forward, and then balancing that with the social and economic impacts it can have as well.”

One of the activities that upset wildlife advocates the most during last year’s wolf hunting season was the use of dogs to track wolves. Stepp said dogs will still be allowed.


Jun 26

Natural Resources Board approves wolf harvest quota of 156

By Paul A. Smith of the Journal Sentinel

The Natural Resources Board on Wednesday approved a harvest quota of 156 wolves for the 2014-’15 Wisconsin hunting and trapping season, a 38% reduction from last season.

In the world of Wisconsin wolf management, a domain of greatly divergent views, the action was supported by none of the 28 citizens and representatives who testified.

“I don’t know if that’s a standard of success, but our goal is to continue to put downward pressure on the wolf population but at a slower rate than last year,” said Dave MacFarland, Department of Natural Resources large carnivore specialist.

The quota was recommended to the board by biologists and administrators. It is also the number advanced by the state’s Wolf Advisory Committee.

The kill of 156 wolves combined with other sources of mortality would result in a 5% to 20% reduction in the state’s wolf population, according to estimates from two population models used by the DNR.

The agency is working to reduce the state’s population toward the goal of 350 expressed in the 1999 wolf management plan. The state is updating the plan; a draft of the next version is expected in 2015.

Wisconsin had a minimum of 660 wolves in 197 packs in late winter 2013-’14, down from 809-834 in 214 packs in 2012-’13.

Wolf populations typically double in spring after pups are born and decrease through the year from various sources of mortality.

Wolves were removed from protections of the federal Endangered Species Act in 2012 and returned to state management. The Wisconsin Legislature passed Act 169 later that year, specifying terms of a wolf hunting and trapping season.

In 2012, 117 wolves were killed in Wisconsin by hunters and trappers. The kill increased to 257 in 2013, when the wolf quota available to non-tribal hunters and trappers was more than doubled.

The 2013 kill resulted in an 18% decline in the wolf population, according to DNR estimates.

The harvest quota and uncertainties regarding last year’s impact on wolf packs and breeding behaviors attracted criticism Wednesday in public testimony.

“It defies common sense to further erode pack stability through another high quota,” said Jodi Habush Sinykin, senior attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates.

Habush Sinykin said approving the quota “based on so tenuous scientific and legal footing placed Wisconsin in legal and ethical peril.”

She advised easing off the quotas and promoting nonlethal practices.

Pro-hunting groups also were dissatisfied with the quota but for different reasons.

The harvest level of 156 will not have a “significant effect in lowering the population of wolves towards the 350 wolf management goal,” said Ralph Fritsch, representing the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

The federation wanted a harvest quota of 250 wolves.

After discussion, the board approved the DNR recommendation.

The harvest quota would be divided among the state’s wolf management zones. Zone 1 in the far northwest would receive a quota of 33 wolves; Zone 2 in the far northeast, 16; Zone 3 in the northwest, 41; Zone 4 in the northeast, nine; Zone 5 in the west central, 21; and Zone 6, most of the southern two-thirds of the state, 36.

The numbers may be decreased slightly in coming weeks, pending declarations from Chippewa tribes.

Following tribal declarations last year, the state reduced by 10% the quota available to non-tribal hunters in the ceded territory.

American Indians in Wisconsin have consistently opposed wolf hunting and trapping and have not killed a wolf in either of the previous seasons.

Hunters and trappers have a Sept. 1 deadline to enter the lottery for a wolf kill permit. The state plans to issue 10 times more permits than the final harvest quota.

The 2014-’15 Wisconsin wolf hunting and trapping season is scheduled to begin Oct. 15 and run through late February or until the harvest quota is reached, whichever comes first.

The quotas have been reached in December in the two previous seasons.

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