V. WOLF MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

A. Wolf Management Zones

Zone management is frequently recommended as part of wolf recovery plans and management plans (Mech 1995) and the establishment of protective areas helps assure long-term survival of small, disjunct wolf populations (Haight et al., (1998). The Federal Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf provides 5 different zones for managing wolves in Minnesota (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1992). Fritts (1990, 1993) suggested 3 levels of zone management for wolves in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Fritts (1990) indicated that normally only 3 zone levels would be needed for wolf management to avoid unnecessary confusion. On the other hand, the Alaska Board of Game adopted a strategy for wolf management in 1991 that incorporated 7 zones, ranging from Zone 1 (Full Protection) to Zone 7 (High Use/Intensive Management) (Anonymous 1992).

The purpose of zone management is to vary management depending on potential wolf habitat and the possibilities of conflicts between wolves and humans. Fritts (1993) listed 3 assumptions inherent in zone management for wolves:

Generally the fewer the zones, the more simplified the management and greater the understanding by the public and agency personnel (Fritts 1990). A disadvantage to fewer zones is that less fine tuning of management is possible.

The WDNR will utilize 4 zones to manage wolves in the state (Figure 8). Such a system provides maximum protection in most portions of suitable habitat, yet allows a flexible system for controlling wolves in less suitable areas where higher levels of conflict are likely to occur. The characteristics of the 4 zones under this management system are listed below. On tribal lands, tribal governments will determine management of wolves once the species is delisted.

Zone 1 Northern Forest: This zone consists of 18,384 square miles within the Northern Forest Deer Management Units and Menominee County. About 634 square miles of Zone 1 would consist of Indian reservations that have unique management systems and in many cases would provide additional protective areas for wolves. . Zone 1 could support an estimated 300-500 wolves. Habitat consists mainly of forest and contains relatively little farm land or urban area. The zone includes 90% of the states' favorable (primary) wolf habitat. Reimbursement for losses and perhaps payments for abatement practices would be provided. Depredation controls would include livetrapping and translocation if suitable habitat exists, or euthanization of depredating wolves. Agents of the USDA-Wildlife Services; Department of Natural Resources and law enforcement agencies could euthanize nuisance animals within 0.5 miles of depredation sites. Normally lethal control would not be authorized on or adjacent to large blocks of public land in suitable wolf habitat. Wolf habitat maintenance would be encouraged on suitable portions of public lands by access management, protection of den and rendezvous sites, and forest management to support adequate prey populations. An existing coyote hunting closure during the deer firearm season would remain in effect for Zone 1. This would be an acreage reduction from the existing coyote closure area of 44% of the state to 33% of the state.

Following state delisting control of depredating wolves could be done by landowners/occupants acting on private land under WDNR permit; they also will be allowed to kill wolves in the act of attacking pets or livestock on their land. If the management population is exceeded, proactive trapping by government trappers may occur in areas with chronic wolf depredation problems.

Zone 2 - Central Forest Zone: This zone consists of 4,521 square miles in the Central Forest Deer Management Units. The area is capable of sustaining approximately 20-40 wolves. Wolf habitat maintenance would be encouraged on suitable portions of public lands by access management, protection of den and rendezvous sites, and management for younger forests to support prey population. No major change in management would be required in this zone as the wolf is delisted. The wolf population would be allowed to fluctuate with the deer population. Deer populations are primarily impacted by hunter harvest, and winter severity. Reimbursement for losses and perhaps payments for abatement practices could be provided. Depredation controls would include livetrapping and translocation if suitable habitat exists and euthanization of wolves within 0.5 mile of a depredation site. Agents of the USDA-Wildlife Services; Department of Natural Resources and law enforcement agencies could euthanize nuisance animals. No coyote closed area is being proposed for this zone.

Following state delisting control of depredating wolves could be done by landowners/occupants acting on private land under WDNR permit; they also will be allowed to kill wolves in the act of attacking pets or livestock on their land. If the population exceeds 350 proactive trapping by government trappers may occur in areas with ongoing wolf problems.

Zone 3 - Wolf Buffer Area: This zone represents areas having very limited habitat for packs to colonize, but probably contains patches of suitable dispersal habitat that connects the north and central management zones. The zone covers about 18,000 mi2 including the mixed forest/farming areas of central Wisconsin and the rugged Coulee country of western Wisconsin (counties are 20% to 60% forested) . Most of the area has less than a 10% chance of being occupied by wolf packs, but some of the rugged bluff country or bottom land areas along the Mississippi River have greater than 25% chance of being occupied by wolf packs. Generally less than 20 wolves are likely to occur in this zone. Because of the importance of maintaining genetic diversity in the Central Forest wolf population, some level of protection will be provided for dispersing wolves in this area. Unless these wolves cause problems, they will not be controlled. Wolves that do become depredators on livestock or pets will be vigorously controlled. Trapping by government agents can be conducted up to 5 miles from depredating sites. Wolf packs that establish may be allowed to persist, but if depredation occurs the whole pack may be removed.

Following state delisting, control of depredating or nuisance wolves could also be done by the landowners/occupants with WDNR permits; in addition the landowners/occupants would be allowed to kill wolves in the act of depredationon their land. Proactive trapping by USDA-Wildlife Services would be considered If the wolf population builds up in an area and causes chronic problems after the wolf population exceeds 350.

Zone 4 -- This zone represents areas that have almost no opportunity for colonization by wolf packs. Wolves entering this zone have a high probability of conflicting with people. This zone would include southern and eastern counties that have less than 20% wildlands and would include all the urban areas across the state. The zone would cover about 16,000 mi2. Few wolves are likely to occur in this area. Although non-depredating wolves that avoid areas of human or livestock concentration can receive some level of protection, any wolf or wolf-like animal that lacks fear of people and readily approaches pets, livestock or people should be captured or controlled. Many of the wolf-like animals that would be controlled under such circumstances would probably be free roaming wolf-dog hybrids. Along with federal and state trappers, local law enforcement and animal control officers will be allowed to control nuisance wolf-like animals in this zone.

Following state delisting, landowners or occupants could be granted WDNR permits to kill wolves or wolf-like animals on their land. Proactive control by government agents could begin once delisting has occurred at the state population of 250, unlike other zones where the proactive control would not occur until a mangement goal of 350 is reached.

B. Population Monitoring and Management

1. Population Monitoring

Accurate counts are necessary to determine if wolves are attaining management goals. Radio tracking of collared individuals is the most precise way to monitor wolf populations (Mech 1974). By observing collared wolves with other pack members, complete counts can be made of wolf packs in winter (Mech 1974). One or two radioed animals per pack enables biologists to monitor whole packs. However, the presence of a collared wolf is not always a guarantee that the whole pack will be monitored. Sometimes collared wolves disperse prior to winter, or a pack may occur in dense conifer cover where few observations are possible. Snow tracking can be used to estimate pack size (Thiel and Welch 1981, Wydeven et al. 1996). Counting wolves by snow tracking is less precise than observing wolves from the air, but is useful for assessing wolf numbers, especially if done in conjunction with radio telemetry. The tracks of a wolf pack need to be observed several times over a winter to get an accurate count.

Howling surveys are useful for determining summer home sites for wolves and pup production (Harrington and Mech 1982). These surveys are done mainly from July to October. Although howling surveys rarely allow opportunity for accurate counts of wolves, the technique does allow assessment of relative numbers and helps to separate packs.

Since 1979, the Wisconsin DNR has surveyed the state wolf population using the techniques described above. Wolf live-trapping has been performed during each spring and summer (approximately May 1 to September 15), and 3-17 wolves were caught and radio-collared each year. Wolves were located by airplane 1-2 times per week and remained on the air from 1 week to 4 or more years. Normally about 15-20% of the population was captured each year and 30-40% of the population had active transmitting collars during the year. During the winter about 50-60% of packs had at least one collared wolf. Usually 2 crews, each consisting of 2-3 people, conducted live trapping each year.

It requires 10-12 days to trap each wolf. Radio collars placed on wolves cost about $350 and it normally costs about $300 to locate all the collared wolves using aerial surveys. It costs about $1,000-1,500 to capture each wolf. Live-trapping and radio-tracking is the most precise system for monitoring wolves, but is expensive.

Snow tracking has been used to supplement telemetry data on wolves. Most winters, 2,500 - 3,000 miles of survey were conducted in suitable habitat. These surveys normally proceed at about 4-5 miles per hour thus representing 500-750 hours of track surveys.

During summers, howling surveys are conducted in pack territories across the state to determine pup production. These surveys take about 100 hours to complete.

Monitoring efforts need to expand with population growth for the foreseeable future. Federal funds for monitoring will be eliminated 5 years after federal delisting. The WDNR will survey wolves at current rates of monitoring for the next five years and will incorporate information from other surveys to supplement and enhance wolf population information. Efforts will be made to more thoroughly gather reports of wolf observations by the general public.

Existing and potential surveys that could help assess wolf abundance include:

  1. Furbearer winter track counts, consisting of 2 ten-mile segments per county of snow covered roads that are examined for furbearer abundance each winter by wildlife managers.
  2. Annual reports of observations by DNR field people on selected state mammals.
  3. Marten surveys done by Endangered Resources and Science Service personnel by snow tracking 100-300 miles in the Chequamegon and Nicolet National Forest.
  4. Wolf reports by the general public and agency personnel (rare mammal reports) will be collected, investigated, placed in a data file and used to guide winter and summer DNR surveys.
  5. Bow hunter surveys of wildlife observations by bow hunters.
  6. Reports from USDA Wildlife Services on depredating wolves.
  7. Additional population modeling may be possible in the future using indices from other surveys, as well as information from road kill and depredation controlled wolves.
  8. Occasional statewide population counts may be done similar to Minnesota where field people are asked to assess areas occupied by wolves and the population estimated is based on known densities, pack size and other parameters of the wolf population (Fuller et al. 1992).

A volunteer carnivore track survey was initiated by the WDNR in fall 1995 (Wydeven et al. 1996). Surveyors were asked to conduct 3 or more surveys of 20 - 30 miles each on snow covered roads in each of the 123 survey blocks (200 square miles each). In 1996, 32 of 46 (67%) surveys were returned for assigned survey blocks, and in 1997, 37 of 51 (75%) blocks were surveyed. Surveyors in 1997 conducted 3,317 miles of survey, averaging 90 miles and 4.7 surveys per block. Volunteer surveyors were very close to WDNR estimates of wolf numbers in 1996, but much less in 1997, probably due to poor tracking conditions. Once the volunteer tracking program has been adequately tested and refined, it may also be used as a monitoring tool, and be turned over to a volunteer organizations such as the Timber Wolf Alliance (TWA) and Timber Wolf Information Network (TWIN).

General recommendations for wolf population monitoring under threatened status and as a delisted population are described below.

Threatened and Delisted Status - Live-trapping of wolves and radio-tracking will continue. As the wolf population increases, the percentage of wolves captured and radio-collared each year will decline. Emphasis would be on collaring packs in new areas, core areas, Central Forest Areas, or in research projects where special funding is available. Other packs would be monitored mostly by snow tracking and summer howling surveys. Greater reliance would be on tracking and howling surveys conducted by volunteers. Other WDNR surveys would also be used more extensively for comparing wolf abundance with track and telemetry surveys. Meetings will be conducted each spring with agency wolf surveyors and members of the general public to determine the overwinter wolf population.

2. Population Management

The Wolf Advisory Committee believes population growth will be slowed by actions listed in this plan, including take by USDA-Wildlife Services related to depredation, control by law enforcement officers, and the take by private landowners of wolves in an act of depredating, or landowner control by permit in chronic problem areas.

USDA-WS will be allowed to use lethal control as soon as federal reclassification occurs. Landowner control throughout the state and proactive control by government agents in Zone 4 can occur when the wolf population exceeds 250. Such control actions, along with normal mortality, will impact overall population growth. If the population exceeds 350, proactive depredation control by government trappers will be allowed in Zones in 1, 2 and 3.

Threatened Status --- Only wolves causing depredations on pets or livestock would be euthanized while wolves are classified as threatened. All depredation control activity would be conducted by WDNR or USDA-WS. Under special circumstances, authorization to control nuisance wolf-like animals can be given to local law enforcement or animal control officers in urban areas. Landowner control would not be considered while wolves are listed as threatened.

Delisted status - Once delisted, the gray wolf would be classified as a "protected nongame species" (similar to the badger) . Most control activity would continue to be done by WDNR or USDA - WS personnel. Within Zone 4 and urban areas, local law enforcement officers and animal control officers could be authorized by WDNR permit to control wolf-like nuisance animals that are free-roaming in urban areas. Control in these type of situations should be flexible and be based on animal behavior. Most wolf-like animals that would be controlled in these situations would probably be wolf-dog hybrids or captive raised wolves.

Once wolves are delisted landowners/occupants may be issued permits to kill nuisance wolves on their land. Landowners/occupants would be allowed to shoot wolves in the act of attacking pets or livestock on their land with the requirement that a Conservation Warden must be contacted within 24 hours. All wolves killed by landowners must be turned over to the State.

Proactive control by government trappers would be used by the WDNR to control the wolf population once the management goal of 350 is achieved. This would consist of lethal controls in areas with a history of depredation problems, or areas with a high probablity of wolf-human conflicts. Such controls would have the effect of slowing or perhaps stabilizing the growth of the wolf population.

The development of legislation that would allow a limited public harvest of wolves will require extensive public interaction as part of the process. Harvest by private citizens will be controversial, but the taking of wolves in a recovered population is consistent with the management of other furbearers in the state of Wisconsin. Any public harvest would be closely monitored to ensure that the population does not decline below the management objective of 350 wolves. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources adheres to the principles of adaptive management, and the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan will be periodically reviewed and adapted to meet changing biological and social conditions.

C. Wolf Health Monitoring

Health monitoring is necessary to assess impact of diseases and parasites on the wolf population. Health monitoring includes collection and analysis of biological samples from live-captured wolves, analysis of wolf scats, and necropsies of dead wolves found in the field. While federally listed as endangered/threatened, biological samples of live captured wolves and analysis of scats will be conducted by WDNR, and wolf necropsies will be conducted by the National Wildlife Health Lab in Madison. When federal delisting occurs, all health monitoring will be the responsibility of WDNR.

Intensive health monitoring will continue while wolves are listed as a state endangered or threatened species. Live-captured wolves will be tested for diseases, physiological condition and parasites. Ideally about 10% of a population of 100 wolves should be examined, but as the population continues to increase, the percentage of the population live-captured will decline. In recent years 12 to 17 wolves were captured annually. Wolf scats will be collected to monitor canine viruses and parasite levels. Dead wolves will be necropsied to determine cause of death, physical condition and disease status. .

Following state delisting, live-trapping will continue, but the percentage of the population captured each year will decline. Periodic scat analyses will be performed to test for diseases and parasite loads in wolves. WDNR will continue to examine dead wolves. Special research studies may occasionally be conducted on wolves and these should include health monitoring. Wolf health monitoring should be part of the capture protocol of all live-capture studies of any wild wolves in Wisconsin, and should be carefully coordinated with WDNR wildlife health specialists.

D. Habitat Management

1. Potential and Favorable Wolf Habitat. Based on computer models, Wisconsin contains large tracts of potential wolf habitat (Mladenoff et al.1995, 1997, Appendix C). The variables used to determine what makes up potential habitat include human population density, prey (deer) density, road density, vegetation cover, spatial landscape pattern, and land ownership. Of these, density of improved roads and complexity of spatial pattern are most important. Wolves have selected areas that are most remote from human influence, and with the least amount of landscape pattern (e.g. least amount of agricultural land, lakes, and other separate land cover patches). Based on these findings, there are currently 5,812 mi2 (15,052 km2) of favorable wolf habitat in Wisconsin (Figure 6). Favorable (primary) habitat is defined as areas that have a greater than 50% probability of being occupied by wolf packs. Most of this favorable (primary) wolf habitat is located on public land, especially county forests, followed by national forests, and private industrial forests (Mladenoff et al. 1995 Appendix C). Wolves have naturally expanded into Wisconsin and have better defined what favorable habitat is to them by currently occupying 2,200 mi2 (5,700 km2), most of which is also within the areas identified as favorable through computer models (Figure 6).

The Wolf Advisory Committee will facilitate cooperative habitat management efforts with land agencies and industrial forest and private land owners, especially in the 5,812 mi2 of the most favorable habitat (Mladenoff 1995, Appendix C). Habitat management should include efforts at access management, corridor protection, vegetation management, and den site protection. Such habitat management should continue for wolf populations listed as threatened or delisted.

2. Access Management. Wolf populations are affected by human caused mortality (see Appendix F). Motorized access, and the level of human use on such access, has been shown to be a key factor in establishing and maintaining wolf populations (Thiel, 1985; Mech et al. 1988). These studies suggest that wolves exist primarily in areas with less than, or up to, one linear mile of open improved road per square mile (0.6 km/km2). Mladenoff et al. (1995) showed that road densities within pack territories were lower, averaging 0.37 mi/mi2 (0.23 km/km2). The expanding wolf population in the Lake States, however, has shown increased tolerance for slightly higher road densities in recent years (WDNR unpubl. data; per comm. Bill Berg, MN DNR).

Access management is important for many economic, social, and biological reasons. Managing the amount, type and level of public motorized access is recommended for Zone 1 and 2. Access management can include avoidance of new road construction, using temporary or winter-only roads, closure of existing roads not needed for management or public access with gates berms or large rocks, and road obliteration. Emphasis in access management should be on maintaining existing low road densities in areas of suitable habitat. Access management may help reduce maintenance costs, provide remote recreational experiences, and may benefit certain wildlife including bear, marten, bobcat, moose, goshawk, and spruce grouse. In deciding upon an access management program, variables such as administrative controls, economic and recreational land use, human population demographics, ownership patterns, attitudes of the local population towards wolves, and historic trends in wolf mortality need to be taken into account.

Low standard roads (the ones that are not shown on county maps, including Forest Service class D roads), and off-road motorized vehicle trails (including all-terrain vehicles and dirt bike areas) and open areas, are access situations not adequately addressed in the Wisconsin Wolf Recovery Plan. Low road density correlates well with wolf colonization because road density is directly related to levels of human access. Impacts associated with open areas where off-road vehicles are not restricted to trails, and the occurrence of low standard roads are difficult to measure, but probably have similar effects on wildlife species such as wolves. Development of low quality roads or trails for motorized vehicles should receive thorough review when being proposed in areas with suitable wolf habitat.

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3. Vegetation Management. Wolves require deer, beaver and other prey to survive. Deer are generally most abundant in early successional forests. Historically, disturbances such as windstorms and fires created this vegetation condition, but in recent times timber harvest and other forest management practices have provided this habitat. Beaver are especially fond of aspen for food. Aspen, jack pine, and regenerating forests of all types are preferred by deer. Oak is important to deer in central Wisconsin, and seasonally throughout the state for its periodic acorn crop. Dense conifer cover such as hemlock, cedar and mixed conifer swamps are important as winter thermal cover for deer. Small grassy upland forest openings are important components of deer summer range. Wolf pack territories have a higher proportion of mixed conifer-hardwood forest and forested wetlands than non-pack areas (Mladenoff et al. 1995). Wolf territory size tends to increase as local deer populations decrease, and territory size decreases when deer numbers increase (Wydeven et al. 1995).

An ecosystem management approach to forest management on public and private land will balance considerations for wolves with other forest species. Young forests provide summer habitat for deer and mature conifer forests provide wintering areas. Young forests provide higher populations of prey, and large blocks of forest with a low density of roads provide seclusion for wolves.

4. Habitat Linkages and Corridors. Wisconsin is more fragmented with roads, towns, and open agricultural land than is northern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. To maintain a wolf population in Wisconsin, it is important to provide forested habitat linkages and corridors for wolf dispersal to and from Minnesota and Michigan, as well as within Wisconsin. Forested blocks of land that connect wolf habitats across Wisconsin should be maintained. The WDNR will encourage private landowners, tribal governments and public land agencies to cooperatively manage corridor habitats. Protection of corridor habitat should be a factor in considering acquisition of public land for other conservation purposes.

5. Den and Rendezvous Sites Management. Wolf pups are born in dens in April and remain there until mid to late June. Dens may be excavated in the ground, or may be hollow logs and stumps, old beaver lodges, or rock caves. Wolf pups are moved to rendezvous sites in mid or late June which are used until late September or early October when wolves begin their nomadic hunting period of fall and winter. Rendezvous sites often consist of grassy areas or sedge meadows near beaver ponds or forest streams, often near dense conifer cover.

Active den sites and rendezvous sites in areas of suitable wolf habitat need protection. Areas within 330 feet (100m) should receive total protection from tree harvest, and areas within 0.5 miles (0.8km) would be recommended for protection from disturbance such as logging from March 1 to July 31. These recommendations would generally serve as policies on public land, andbe encouraged on private land in areas of suitable wolf habitat. Den and rendezvous site protection should be included even after wolves are delisted. Wildlife biologists responsible for designating such sites, and foresters will be encouraged to cooperate to manage logging operations to protect wolves during forestry projects. Normally only one or two den sites would affected within a 50-square mile area.

6. The Role of Wilderness and other Forest Reserves. Federal wilderness (69 mi2, 5 areas), state wilderness (50 mi2) and other non-timber managed forest reserves with limited or no motorized access contribute to wolf habitat in that they provide refuge areas where wolves are not subject to high human disturbances. Although designated wilderness areas are used by wolves, experience in Wisconsin and other areas of the Great Lakes have shown that managed forests with adequate access management also provide suitable wolf habitat. Therefore it is not necessary to designate areas as wilderness for the benefit of wolves.

E. Wolf Depredation Management

Wolf depredation management is one of the most sensitive segments of this Wolf Management Plan. WDNR is charged with protecting and maintaining a viable population of wolves in the state, but also must protect the interests of people who suffer losses due to wolf depredation.

Wolves occasionally kill livestock, poultry, and pets. Although wolf depredation is not anticipated to impact a significant portion of the livestock growers, poultry producers, and pet owners, it can bring hardship to individuals. Minnesota currently has more than 2,000 wolves but fewer than 1% of the farms in wolf range experience wolf depredation problems.

WDNR paid $55,575 in wolf damage compensation claims for 45 calves, 11 sheep, 140 turkeys, and 36 dogs during 1976-98. (See Appendix A.) Depredation on dogs represented 76% of reimbursement payments provided by WDNR. Only 0.4% of the farms in the current wolf range have experienced wolf depredation problems. Through 1998, six wolves have been translocated as a result of depredations.

Reclassifying wolves from federally and state endangered to threatened status will provide an option to euthanizing depredating wolves. Under threatened status only government agents would euthanize wolves. Once wolves are delisted, permits may be issued by WDNR to enable private landowners to take depredating wolves. Public comments in autumn 1996 revealed concerns about killing wolves, particularly through public harvests. Other comments strongly supported public harvest. Most who supported euthanizing depredating wolves felt this should only be done by government professionals. Many urged educational programs and preventive efforts by livestock producers to minimize depredation losses. There was strong support for continued damage compensation programs.

1. Depredation Management Plan

The objective of the wolf depredation program is to minimize depredations and compensate people for their losses. Euthanization is listed a depredation management option everywhere, but depredation management will focus on prevention and mitigation rather than wolf removal. The Department will work with the livestock industry to develop guidelines for preventing or minimizing wolf depredations. Wolf removal without adequate prevention and mitigation, will likely result in large annual expenditures of time and money.

2. Verification Procedures

Quick, uniform, and accurate verification of wolf depredation is critical. Previous experience has shown that the majority of wolf complaints turn out to be non-wolf problems when properly investigated. Immediate response to complaints by qualified people is necessary to reasonably determine cause of death.

  1. Upon receipt of a possible wolf depredation complaint, WDNR will immediately notify USDA-WS agents responsible for investigating complaints.
  2. USDA-WS will contact the complainant by phone within 24 hours and make an onsite inspection within 48 hours of receipt of the complaint if it appears to be legitimate.
  3. USDA-WS will classify the complaint under one of the following categories:

1. Confirmed Depredation. Clear evidence that wolves were responsible for the depredation, such as a carcass present with bite marks and associated hemorrhaging, wolf tracks in the immediate vicinity or other wolf sign.

2. Probable Depredation. Carcass missing or inconclusive but presence of good evidence such as kill site, blood trails, wolf tracks and scat in the immediate vicinity

3. Confirmed Non-Wolf Depredation. Conclusive evidence that something other than a wolf killed the animal. Wolf-dog hybrids and wolves that appear to have been raised in captivity will be treated as domestic animals.

4. Unconfirmed Depredation. Any depredation or livestock loss that does not meet the above criteria. This could be missing animals, animals that died of other causes, and even animals killed by wolves but unconfirmed because of lack of evidence.

The first two categories, "Confirmed" and "Probable" are the only ones that will warrant further action. If the investigating USDA-WS agent classifies a depredation complaint as "Confirmed Non-wolf Depredation" or "Unconfirmed Depredation", no further action will be taken except that the incident will be recorded and, if the depredation is determined to be caused by wild animals other than wolves, USDA-WS will provide the appropriate assistance.

3. Control Response Options

Five control response options are available to resolve confirmed or probable depredations. (Table 3a and 3b) The depredation management program will use a combination of these options as appropriate depending upon the individual situation. These include:

  1. Technical assistance to help prevent/minimize problems,
  2. Compensation for losses caused by wolves.
  3. Livetrapping and translocation of wolves causing problems.
  4. Trapping and euthanization of depredating wolves by government agent.
  5. Landowners /occupants may be allowed to kill depredating wolves by DNR permit after delisting has occurred. They would also allowed to shoot wolves attacking pets or livestock on their land.
Table 3a: Depredation Management Options by Management Zones
                 For a Threatened Wolf Population in Wisconsin (80-250 wolves)
Possible Depredation
Control Activity
Zone 1 Zone 2 Zone 3 Zone 4
Technical Assistance
and Compensation
allowed allowed allowed allowed
Translocation of Wolves allowed allowed allowed not allowed
Euthanize Wolves
(USDA-Wildlife Services)
allowed allowed allowed allowed
Private Landowner Control not allowed not allowed not allowed not allowed

 

Table 3b: Depredation Management Options by Management Zones
                 For a Delisted Wolf Population in Wisconsin (250+ wolves)
Possible Depredation
Control Activity
Zone 1 Zone 2 Zone 3 Zone 4
Technical Assistance
and Compensation
allowed allowed allowed allowed
Translocation of Wolves allowed allowed allowed not allowed
Euthanize Wolves
(USDA-Wildlife Services)
allowed* allowed allowed allowed
Private Landowner Control allowed allowed allowed allowed

* Lethal Control will rarely be used on or adjacent to large blocks of public land.

Under cases of "Confirmed Depredation" or "Probable Depredation", the local WDNR Wildlife Biologist, the WDNR Regional Wildlife Expert, and USDA-WS will jointly determine appropriate management activities using the following criteria:

A. Technical assistance will be provided in all Wolf Zones. These may include suitable abatement materials or practices. This may also include development of a depredation prevention plan for the farmer and recommendations for increased abatement measures which would be cost-shared by WDNR.

B. Compensation will be provided in all Wolf Zones for verified and probable losses of domestic animals to wolves. The present compensation program is funded through Endangered Resources revenues, but following delisting, compensation for damage done by gray wolves may no longer be available. The WDNR is seeking sources for funding the compensation program . The Mammalian ecologist will notify possible claimants of the findings of USDA-WS within 7 days of receiving verbal notification that a wolf kill has occurred. The Madison Office of the WDNR will respond to a claimant within 14 days either affirming the claim and initiating processing or seeking additional justification for the claim. Farmers must follow any technical assistance recommendations to remain eligible for compensation payments. Damage appraisals will continue to be performed by USDA-WS to provide accurate, timely and fair compensation for losses.

C. Translocation - Depredating wolves may be translocated from Zones 1, 2 and 3. Translocation may be effective in some situations, but success will vary depending on the trapping history of a problem wolf. Eventually translocations may be limited as the number of suitable release sites become occupied by wolves. Identification of suitable release sites and agreements with appropriate land owners/managers must be done before translocation efforts can be initiated.

D. Euthanization - Some wolves may be euthanized in the future due to conflicts with humans. This option can be used when:

  1. there have been significant documented, confirmed losses at a site,
  2. the producer has a signed depredation management plan for the property and follows abatement/husbandry recommendations,
  3. the USDA-WS Depredation Specialist recommends euthanasia, and the WDNR approves.
  4. Wolf-dog hybrids will be euthanized in any zone where they are captured at depredation sites.

Initiation of translocation and/or euthanization efforts will depend upon the Wolf Management Zone in which the depredation problem occurs and the status (threatened or delisted) of the wolf population. Guidelines for each Wolf Zone are as follows:

  1. Zone 1 - On large blocks of public land in primary wolf habitat, euthanization of wolves will not normally occur.
  2. Zones 1 and 2 - While wolves are state threatened trapping efforts will be initiated only in cases with repeated depredation problems. Trapping will be limited to areas within 0.5 miles of the confirmed depredation site. Wolves will be translocated or euthanized depending on previous trapping history of the wolf and availability of suitable release sites. After wolves have been state delisted, landowner/occupant control with DNR permit will be allowed at depredation sites on their property which have had a history of recurring problems.
  3. Zone 3 - While wolves are state threatened trapping efforts will be limited to repeated depredation problems and to areas within 5.0 miles of the depredation site. Wolves will be translocated or euthanized depending on previous trapping history of the wolf and availability of suitable release sites. After wolves have been state delisted private landowner control will be allowed with DNR permit to control wolves on their property.
  4. Zone 4 - Only USDA-WS agents, with WDNR approval, will be allowed to trap and destroy wolves causing problems. After wolves have been state delisted, proactive trapping may take place, local law enforcement officers may be allowed to dispatch wolves, and private land owners or their agents may be given permits to dispatch depredating wolves.

F. Wolf Education Programs

Public education about wolves was a major factor in the success of wolf recovery in Wisconsin. Education emphasized greater acceptance of wolves and have reduced unfounded fears and myths. Education about wolves will continue to be important in future wolf management, with more focus on ways to live with wolves, needs for wolf control activity, and needs for more of an understanding of the role of wolves in forest ecosystems. Educational information will also be needed to explain the reclassification and delisting process to the general public as wolves pass through threatened and delisted status.

A multifaceted and multi-agency approach will be used to encourage wolf education in Wisconsin. Some of the major education steps are listed below.

1. Develop Special Education Materials

  1. The current (1996) edition of the "Timber Wolf Life Tracks" publication will be updated about every 5 years or when major changes in status or population occur.
  2. A pamphlet will be developed between WDNR and USDA-WS on means for livestock owners to reduce or avoid depredation problems by wolves and other predators.
  3. A booklet will be prepared that explains Wisconsin wolf management to general audiences.
  4. Periodically write and publish news releases and articles on Wisconsin wolves for state newspapers, magazines, and others include the "Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine".
  5. Incorporate information on wolf identification, protection, and trap release methods in hunting and trapping pamphlets, and incorporate wolf identification/ecology information into hunter and trapper education courses.
  6. Incorporate wolf information on the WDNR's Web Page (www.dnr.state.wi.us)

2. Work with other organizations

WDNR will continue to work with other organizations to promote wolf education including: Timber Wolf Alliance (TWA), Timber Wolf Information Network (TWIN), International Wolf Center, and other organizations involved in promoting wolf education. The WDNR will provide a person to serve on the advisory committee for TWA, provide training at TWA workshops, review and edit educational material for TWA, and help TWA promote the annual "Wolf Awareness Week". The WDNR will assist TWIN with workshops when requested and provide survey information for TWIN to use in developing educational materials. Periodic updates on Wisconsin wolf status and management will be provided to the International Wolf Center.

WDNR will assist other wolf organizations, schools, colleges, and educational organization to teach members about wolves and assist in developing wolf education material.

3. Provide Special Training

As wolf populations continue to expand, and wolf management becomes more decentralized, there will be more of a need to teach others about wolf management including WDNR wildlife biologist and technicians, other WDNR field workers, other agency personnel and tribal natural resources personnel. Education on wolf management would include: identification of wolves and wolf sign, methods of determining local wolf populations, methods of trapping and releasing wolves, procedures for wolf habitat management, and means for reducing wolf depredation problems. The WDNR will develop and conduct such programs to teach others about wolves. Other programs in which WDNR wolf program personnel will be involved would include training for USDA-WS trappers, and track training for WDNR, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), tribal natural resource personnel, Forest Service, and other agency personnel conducting furbearer and carnivore surveys. WDNR wolf program personnel will assist in the training of university personnel conducting wolf studies on methods of trapping, handling and monitoring of wolves.

4. Provide general wolf presentations

The WDNR wolf program coordinator will continue to provide presentations to the general public on Wisconsin wolves, as will others working on the wolf program. But as wolves become delisted and wolf management becomes more decentralized, no one individual will be as intensely involved with the wolf program. Therefore the need to give wolf presentations should be shared more broadly with other WDNR wildlife biologists, park naturalists, other agency biologists, and trained volunteers.

G. Law Enforcement

Strict legal protection has been a key in the improved status of wolves in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region. In Wisconsin, important factors in the increase of wolves has been the closing of coyote hunting across the northern half of the state during the firearm deer hunting season, increased fines for killing of endangered species, and vigorous investigation of illegal killing of wolves. Changes and potential regulations necessary for reclassified and delisted wolf populations are listed below:

1. Threatened Status Regulations

  1. The term "threatened species" needs to be added to Wisconsin Stats. 29.65 (civil actions for damage caused by law violations), and 29.9965 (wild animal protection assessments). These statutes would set the value of an illegal killed wolf at $875, the value set for all endangered species, but currently not including threatened species. This amount would be added to the penalty for illegal killing of a wolf upon conviction.
  2. Penalties for killing threatened species remains the same as for endangered species, that being (Wisconsin Stats. 29.605 (formerly ss 29.415 (5) (a) (1): ) Unintentional violations would be subject to a fine of $500 to $2,000 and 1 year loss of hunting privileges. Intentional violations would be subject to a fine of $2,000 to $5,000 or up to 9 months in prison, or both, and loss of hunting privileges for 3 years.
  3. A state endangered or threatened species permit would be required for possessing of captive wolves.
  4. Coyote-closed zones during the gun-deer season would be modified to cover Zone 1 (Figure 8), and would reduce areas with restricted coyote hunting from 44% to 33% of the state.
  5. While wolves remain federally listed as endangered or threatened, all law enforcement work will be coordinated with the USFWS. Decisions as to whether to prosecute violations as state or federal will be made by federal and state wardens in consultation with the local district attorney. Generally, federal violations carry much heavier fines and longer periods of imprisonment.

2. Delisting Regulations

  1. The wolf should be added to the animal list in Wisconsin Stats. 29.65 (1) (6) and 29.9965 (1) (6) (2). It would be added to moose, elk, fisher, prairie chicken, and sandhill crane as animals valued at $262.00 for illegal kills.
  2. The wolf should be added to the list of species for which unlawful hunting would result in a "forfeiture of not less than $1,000 nor more than $2,000 and revocation of hunting privileges for 3 to 5 years" which currently exits for moose, elk, bear, and deer.
  3. Additional regulations should be added to Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 29 making it illegal to possess either wolf or wolf-dog hybrids in captivity without obtaining a permit from the WDNR. Legislative authority should be sought for Conservation Wardens to destroy free-roaming wolf-dog hybrids.
  4. Wolves would be added to Wisconsin Administrative Code NR 10.02 (1) as a "protected wild animal".
  5. A coyote-closed zone would be maintained during the gun-deer season only in Zone 1.
  6. Investigations of illegal killing of wolves would be done by Wisconsin Conservation Wardens or Tribal Wardens, and federal involvement would not occur unless transport of illegally killed wolves crosses state lines.
  7. Wolf dens would be included under the category of regulations against disturbing or molesting in Wisconsin Administrative Code under NR 10.13(2) and create a new subparagraph "(d) Molest or disturb any gray wolf den".

H. Inter-Agency Cooperation/Coordination

Achieving the objectives of this plan requires the continued involvement and cooperation among many agencies, private individuals and organizations. The WDNR will continue to mesh its objectives with the USFWS Recovery Plan (1992), Minnesota DNR, Michigan DNR, Wisconsin counties, industrial forests owners, Native American Nations, and other concerned agencies and organizations.

In 1992 a Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee was formed similar to other species advisory committees coordinated by the WDNR. The Wolf Advisory Committee is charged with reviewing and making recommendations on policies and management procedures affecting wolves. The current management plan was developed by the Wolf Advisory Committee. Advisory committee membership includes WDNR, USFWS, U.S. Forest Service, GLIFWC, County Forests, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, USDA-WS, and Wisconsin Conservation Congress. The committee will continue to meet regularly once the plan is approved to review and monitor progress. Committee meetings are open to the general public and other agencies.

Since 1989 Great Lakes Wolf Stewards (an informal group of state, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service biologists working with wolves) has met during most years to discuss wolf management issues affecting the Great Lakes region. This group consists of representatives from various agencies and private organizations from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The "GIS Analysis of Wolf Habitat in the Great Lakes Region" (Mlandenoff et al. 1995) and "Guidelines for Wolf Management in the Great Lakes Region" (Fuller 1995) are two products that resulted from these meetings. The WDNR will continue to promote, support and occasionally sponsor Great Lakes Wolf Stewards meeting.

The chair of the Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee and the U.S. Forest Service representative also serve on the Federal recovery team for the eastern population of gray wolves in the U.S. This committee is reviewing the 1992 recovery plan to determine if reclassification and delisting criteria are being met. The Wisconsin members serve on the federal recovery team with members from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin Chippewa tribes, and the National Park Service. This committee will finalize recommendations for federal delisting in close cooperation with the states.

Once wolves are state delisted, the Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee will meet at least annually to review wolf management in the state. Wisconsin biologists will meet periodically with biologists from Michigan and Minnesota to coordinate wolf management especially maintenance of habitat corridors that connect wolves across the three states.

I. Program Guidance and Oversight

A Wolf Advisory Committee will continue to oversee state wolf management in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee reports to the Bureaus of Endangered Resources and Wildlife Management and Division of Lands, Land Leadership Team of the Department of Natural Resources. Plans prepared by the Wolf Advisory Committee are subject to approval of the Natural Resources Board. The chairperson of the wolf advisory committee will be the coordinator for wolf management activity in the state. Composition of the Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee (DNR Wolf Technical Committee) may include the following:

  1. The chairperson should be the mammalian ecologist in the WDNR Bureau of Endangered Resources.
  2. WDNR wildlife biologists from regions that have wolves,
  3. WDNR wildlife education specialist,
  4. WDNR wildlife depredation specialist,
  5. WDNR wildlife health specialist,
  6. WDNR conservation warden,
  7. USDA-WS,
  8. USFWS biologist,
  9. USFS biologist,
  10. tribal biologists,
  11. WDNR mammalian research ecologist,
  12. WDNR public affairs manager,
  13. Conservation Congress representative,
  14. a County Forest Administrator,
  15. WDNR Furbearer Ecologist,
  16. GLIFWC biologist, and
  17. WDNR, BER Staff Biologist.

The DNR will also create a stakeholders group that will include agencies, organizations, and other members of the general public interested in wolf management (Appendix D). The Wolf Advisory Committee should meet at least once per year with the stakeholders group to assess the state wolf population, assess wolf management zones, review depredation control activities, assess impact of educational activities, review problems and determine needs for new policies or management procedures. The stakeholder group will provide a balanced spectrum of publics concerned about wolves. Other public involvement techniques also will be used to encourage all persons who are interested in wolves to participate in discussions. All interested people should have a chance to make their viewpoints known. Annually the Wolf Advisory Committee (technical group) will make a written report to the public. At 5 year intervals, a thorough review should be made of the state wolf population status, and a public review should be made to assess concerns and support of wolf management.

J. Volunteer Programs

Many people have volunteered for wolf recovery efforts since the development of the Wisconsin Wolf Recovery Program in the 1980's. Volunteers have assisted in education programs, population monitoring, and financial donations to wolf management. Such efforts have expanded levels of wolf recovery work, provided additional funding, and helped foster citizens that are very committed to wolf recovery. As the wolf population expands, and are reclassified to threatened and eventually delisted, greater reliance will be placed on volunteers to conduct wolf conservation activity.

Timber Wolf Alliance (TWA) was formed in 1987 as a means for involving private citizens into Wisconsin wolf recovery efforts. The Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute out of Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin sponsors TWA, in a similar fashion as it has sponsored Loon Watch, a successful program for volunteer monitoring of loon populations in the Great Lakes. TWA has developed a speakers bureau of volunteers that give wolf talks and assist at wolf education programs at sports shows and other events. TWA also has an Adopt a Pack program which provides education to groups and donates part of those proceeds from the program to DNR wolf population monitoring efforts.

Students of Northland College and UW-Stevens Point have monitored wolves. Students monitor wolves through snow tracking, howl surveys, and radio-tracking. Programs such as these can continue, and could expand to include universities, technical college and high schools.

Timber Wolf Information Network (TWIN) was formed in 1990 to encourage wolf recovery through wolf education programs. TWIN provides a wolf ecology course through which many people have been taught about wolves. TWIN also has an Adopt a Pack program to teach schools and youth groups about wolves and encourage wolf research. Volunteers trained through TWIN's workshops have assisted on wolf population monitoring efforts in the state.

The WDNR initiated a volunteer tracking program in 1995, to use trained volunteers to search for wolves in winter and assess abundance of other medium and large carnivores in Wisconsin. Forested portions of north and central Wisconsin were delineated into 123 survey blocks averaging 200 square miles each. Volunteers are requested to conduct 3 or more good snowtracking surveys covering about 30 miles of snow covered roads each on their survey block each winter.

Opportunities for volunteers to work directly with WDNR wolf workers are limited, therefore WDNR will continue to work with other organizations and develop the volunteer tracking program. The WDNR will continue to search for other opportunities for volunteer involvement.

Work with volunteers will also be important in developing methods for preventing depredation and providing factual information to members of the public about wolf behavior. It may be desirable to enlist a volunteer organization to fund wolf depredation claims once delisting occurs and WDNR endangered species funds are no longer available.

K. Wolf Research Needs

The WDNR has been monitoring the status of the wolf population in the state since 1979. Emphasis has been placed on determining population status, pack sizes and distribution, mortality rates and factors, productivity, rates of recolonization, dispersal behavior, and disease/health status. More intensive research was initiated in 1992 in extreme northwestern Wisconsin to determine the impacts of highway expansion on resident and dispersing wolves near U.S. Highway 53. Results of these efforts have provided excellent data for tracking the progress of Wisconsin's recovering wolf population.

Reclassifying of wolves from "Endangered" to "Threatened" status, and hopefully down to "Protected" status in the future will require additional research to safeguard the wolf population and develop/evaluate future wolf management practices. Future wolf research needs include:

Availability of funding and personnel will determine the rate at which these research needs will be met. Other research priorities may arise with changes in wolf populations, human development, and land management practices. Some research would be conducted by WDNR, universities and other cooperators. Attempts will be made to secure outside funding to allow more thorough research than possible under current funding.

L. Wolf-Dog Hybrids and Captive Wolves

A wolf-dog hybrid is the offspring of the mating of a wolf (Canis lupus) with a domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Normally these are bred in captivity because wild wolves rarely breed with dogs. These animals have rapidly grown in popularity in the late 1980's and 1990's and seem to be the pet of choice for a growing segment of the public that wants a pet that is different, intelligent, semi-wild, and independent. The characteristics of wolf/dog hybrids make them highly desirable to some people but also highly unpredictable. Estimates of the number of privately owned hybrids in this country run as high as 400,000 (Hope 1994).

The normal "predatory behaviors" of wild predators like the gray wolf have been lost in most domestic dogs. However, in hybrids these instincts are present to varying degrees yet the animals commonly lack a fear of humans.

Attacks, maulings, dismemberment's and deaths caused by wolf/dog hybrids have received national media attention. Four children are known to have been killed by hybrids between 1981 and 1988. The death of a four year old in Florida in August of 1988 seemed to heighten media attention on this subject. In this case a publicly trusted institution--an animal shelter--featured a hybrid as the "pet of the week". Two hours after the animal had been brought to it's adoptive home, it killed the neighbor's child. The shelter paid a $425,000 settlement to the boy's family. This tragedy set a national precedent for animal shelters/agencies: wolf/dog hybrids are to be put down or returned to their original owner, but are not to be adopted out to an uneducated, unsuspecting public.

This precedent makes it very difficult for distressed owners of unmanageable adult wolf/dog hybrids to find a "good home" for the animal they still love but just can't live with anymore. There are numerous wolf and wolf/dog hybrid shelters throughout the country, however, space is limited and such shelters are often filled. Unfortunately for the animals and the reputation of wild wolves, many overwhelmed hybrid owners resort to "setting their wolf free" when they cannot find a suitable home for them. These freed hybrids however lack the hunting skills and pack structure needed to survive by hunting wild prey. When these animals become hungry they instinctively return to humans for food, invariably get into trouble and often are shot to death by local enforcement officers. There have been twenty-one cases of free-roaming wolf/dog hybrids in Wisconsin between 1989 and 1998. (see Appendix G).

Free-roaming hybrids, and the problems they cause give wild wolves a bad reputation. Wildlife biologists may spend an extensive amount of time attempting to identify wolf-dog hybrids, document problems, and attempt to rectify such problems, which diverts time and expenses from management of wild wolves.

Wildlife biologists are concerned about escaped or released wolf/dog hybrids interbreeding with wild wolves--diluting the gene pool with the instincts and behaviors of domestic dogs (Hope 1994). Dog genes in a wolf population may reduce long term viability and increase rates of livestock depredation.

Attacks on humans by captive wolves and wolf/dog hybrids will continue to contribute to a negative image of wolves to the public. Additionally, released/escaped hybrids have the potential of destroying the genetic purity and hence, the legal status, of wild wolves in Wisconsin.

Possession of pure wolves is presently allowed only by WDNR permit. While this species is listed as Endangered or Threatened the WDNR Bureau of Endangered Resources is responsible for issuing such permits. These permits can only be issued for "zoological, educational, or scientific purposes or for propagation for preservation purposes" (s.29.604 WI Stats.). The possession of wolves will continue to be highly regulated following delisting. The WDNR will promulgate specific Administrative Rules to ensure this.

Possession of wolf/dog hybrids also needs to be regulated due to their potential impact on wild, free ranging wolves. The WDNR will seek statutory authority to regulate the ownership of these animals in the state. Twenty-five other states presently regulate the possession of these animals; these regulations range from simple registration to a total prohibition of possession.

Free-roaming wolf-dog hybrids trapped at depredation sites will be euthanized unless collars provide the identification of an owner. The owner of such an animal may be responsible for the cost of depredations. Legislative authority will be sought to allow Wisconsin Conservation Wardens to destroy free-roaming wolf-dog hybrids. Local law enforcement officers may kill animals which cause a substantial risk or threat to human life by attack or aggressive behavior.

M. Wolf Specimen Management

To date wolf carcasses found in the wild have been necropsied (examined) to determine cause of death and health status. While wolves were listed as endangered, the DNR policy was to have all wolf carcasses studied by the National Wildlife Health Lab in Madison, Wisconsin. Eventually all became specimens at research institutions, with most wolf specimens deposited at the University of Wisconsin - Zoology Museum in Madison. With reclassification and eventual delisting, the management of wolf specimens will be modified. The Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee developed guidelines for managing wolf specimens under threatened and delisted classification.

1. Wolf Specimen Management - Threatened

With reclassification to threatened, research, population monitoring and health evaluations of dead wolves found in the wild will remain the top priority. Additional wolf carcasses will be made available as euthanasia of depredating wolves become possible, and accidental mortality caused by vehicle collisions increases. All wolf carcasses will be necropsied (examined) by the National Wildlife Health Lab, and specimens will be turned over to interested research museums when there is an identified need and use for such specimens. If specimen remain available after research needs have been met, the second priority for use of wolf carcasses would be for education purposes and Native American cultural and religious purposes. Such carcasses can be made available to tribal governments, nature centers, state parks, wolf education organizations, WDNR and other agency offices. Carcasses would not be available for private ownership.

Wolves found dead in the field should be collected by wildlife biologists, wildlife technicians or conservation wardens and placed in WDNR freezers until arrangements can be made to ship the carcasses to Madison. Any wolves euthanized by USDA-Wildlife Service will also be turned over to WDNR for necropsies. All carcasses should be tagged, and labeled with all pertinent information kept with each carcass. The WDNR regional wildlife expert should be notified of all wolf carcasses found in his/her region. The wildlife expert will coordinate shipment, necropsies, and eventual designation of specimens. Regional wildlife experts will keep lists of organizations interested in receiving carcasses, and will coordinate distribution of carcasses. Reports will be submitted at the end of each year to WDNR-Endangered Resources by regional wildlife experts on carcasses collected, and final disposition of each. Any wolf suspected of being killed illegally will be held for conservation wardens until legal investigation and prosecution are completed.

2. Wolf Specimen Management - Delisted

When wolves are no longer listed as threatened or endangered in Wisconsin, ownership of wolf carcasses can be broadened. Wolf carcasses would be available from depredation control activities, natural mortality, illegal kills, and accidents.

Research will continue to be an important priority, but will require a research proposal identifying needs and anticipated results, and such proposals would need WDNR and/or tribal approval. A portion of carcasses collected each year may be requested by WDNR-Wildlife Health specialist to evaluate health status, and all skinned carcasses may be requested most years. Following research and health monitoring, wolf education and Native American cultural use would be the next priority for ownership of wolf carcasses. Skins and skulls would be made available for Native American tribal governments, schools, nature centers, state parks, WDNR and other agency offices, tribal centers, and wolf education organizations. Wolf specimens could be turned over to private individuals if specimens are not needed for above purposes. No carcasses should be provided to landowners conducting control on their land, or to persons involved in accidental killing of wolves. Dead canids suspected of being wolf-dog hybrids, but which appear to be mostly wolf, should be treated as wolves for the purpose of wolf specimen management.

Regional wildlife experts will coordinate wolf specimen management in each WDNR region. The wildlife experts will maintain lists of organizations and individuals interested in receiving specimens, and will determine disposition of carcasses. Annual reports will be submitted to WDNR Endangered Resources on carcasses collected and handled in each region, including biological information and final disposition of carcasses.

N. Ecotourism

Ecotourism has developed in recent years as a means for obtaining financial benefits from natural ecosystems and wild animals, while also encouraging protection of wildlands (Hunter 1996). Ecotourism at times can be a double-edged sword; it may encourage protection and conservation of biological diversity, but at times could cause disturbance of wild animals and disruption of their habitats. Guidelines and occasional regulations may be necessary to prevent or minimize negative affects of ecotourism.

Wolves can at times contribute to ecotourism. In Ely, Minnesota, tourist visits to the International Wolf Center provide a $3 million annual impact to the local economy (Mech 1996). Ecotourism dealing with wolves is not likely to be as profitable in Wisconsin, but there are means that ecotourism involving wolves could impact local economies. Howling sessions could potentially be conducted by tour guides across portions of northern Wisconsin. Tours of wolf territories to search for wolf sign could be done during winter months. Snowmobiling and ATV tours of wolf territories have been suggested for the Minocqua area. Volunteer or paid naturalist at resorts could include wolf programs and tours of wolf territories. Naturalist programs by WDNR, Forest Service or National Park Service could attract tourist use of surrounding areas by providing wolf programs. Persons attending wolf workshops at Drummond and Tomahawk, make use of restaurants, taverns, gas stations and convenient stores in the local areas.

Ecotourism could also potentially have negative impacts on wolves in Wisconsin. Excessive howling sessions could cause abandonment of preferred rendezvous sites, and perhaps displace wolves to less suitable areas Disturbance of den areas may cause premature abandonment of den sites, and may expose pups to mortality; wolf pup mortality is already fairly high in Wisconsin.

The Timber Wolf Alliance and Timber Wolf Information have developed guidelines for minimizing impact from howl surveys on wolves. These guidelines include: avoid howling during the denning period in April-June, limit howls in specific territories to once per week or less, avoid repeated howlings at individual wolf packs, and refrain from visiting rendezvous sites. Similar guidelines would be recommended to others planning to conduct wolf howls in Wisconsin.

Encouragement will be made to groups conducting wolf tours or howl sessions to minimize impact on wolves, avoid certain portions of wolf territories, and refrain from excessive visits to wolf areas. It would also be recommended to any groups conducting such tours that these be conducted by individuals knowledgeable in wolf ecology and behavior. It may be necessary in the future to regulate wolf tours done for profit, in a fashion similar to existing guide permits.