Posted by: Katie Shonia
A proposed Assembly Bill 712 and its companion Senate Bill 602 attempt to make substantial changes to the management of the wolf population in Wisconsin.
According to the Wisconsin State Legislature website, the bill prohibits Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from expending any funds for the management of the wolf population other than paying claims under the endangered resources program for the damage of private property and domestic cattle caused by the wolves.
The bill prohibits Wisconsin DNR law enforcement officials from their ability to enforce the laws relating to wolf management or assist federal authorities in the enforcement of any federal or state laws relating to endangered species of wolves. This involves restriction of funding towards any educational activities or management research of these animals.
Scott Hygnstrom, Director of the Wisconsin Center for Wildlife, UW-Stevens Point professor, Wildlife Specialist and Douglas R. Stephens Endowed Chair in Wildlife, taps into some of the possible reasons for the bill.
“The wolf population goal for Wisconsin is 350 wolves, but we currently estimate that there are 925 to 950 wolves,” Hygnstrom said. “There are perhaps two to three times as many wolves as there should be based on tolerance of wolves in Wisconsin”.
Shawn Crimmins, assistant professor of Wildlife Ecology, explained that the initial wolf population goal was based off the notion that wolves could not thrive in areas with human activity.
“Turns out [wolves] are much more adaptable than we thought” Crimmins said.
There have been records of wolf attacks across the state of Wisconsin. There were about 100 complaints of wolf depredation by the farmers last year and about 37 confirmed cases of cattle or calves being lost. While that loss is significant from the individual farmer’s perspective, this represents a very small number of the statewide cattle population.
“A few people in Northern Wisconsin are having significant impact”, Hygnstrom said. “From my perspective, and I work in wildlife damage management, it is our state’s and my responsibility to help those individuals who are most impacted by problem species”.
The passing of the Assembly 712 bill would hinder the state’s ability to manage wolves by the Department of Natural Resources.
In addition, the passing of the bill would be a major setback from a scientific perspective, as it would mean no more funding for the research procedures relating to wolves and tracking of important information, such as diseases in wolves and data on individual wolves and wolf packs.
Shawn Crimmins encourages UW-Stevens Point students and community to get involved in the proceedings and public hearings about the bill.
“If you have an opinion about it and you have the capacity to express that opinion, I would encourage folks to do that” Crimmins said.