By Kayla Breese
River News Feature Writer
A Manitowoc man has been charged with killing a collared timber wolf in the town of Cassian on Nov. 18.
Steven R. Kohl, 48, was charged Jan. 17 with one count of mistreatment of animals, a Class I felony, after a monitored wolf was found dead in a Harshaw swamp.
According to the criminal complaint, the investigation began Nov. 21 after a Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist notified a conservation warden that the global positioning system (GPS) unit of a collared wolf was giving the mortality signal. The signal was coming from a location on the property of a Harshaw cranberry marsh, according to the complaint.
Several conservation wardens and the wildlife biologist went to the property owner Nov. 22 and received permission to retrieve the wolf’s body.
The mostly black wolf was found in a marshy area and had suffered “significant trauma to the left and right rear legs,” according to the complaint.
“Based on experience and training, the trauma appeared consistent with a gunshot wound,” warden Timothy Ebert wrote in his report on the incident. “One or both of the rear legs appeared to be broken.”
The wardens also noticed the wolf had dragged himself approximately 35 yards before dying, based on the flattened trail behind him.
Approximately 200 yards west of the wolf, the wardens noticed an elevated tower stand overlooking the marsh. “The line of sight from the deer stand to the wolf was clear,” the report states.
The wolf’s body was removed and held for evidence while two wardens approached the stand to look for a hunter. They discovered a rifle, backpack and binoculars, the report states. One of them then followed a foot trail in an attempt to track the hunter while the other waited in case the hunter came back.
The warden who was tracking the hunter discovered shell corn on the ground and a trail camera overlooking the pile, both of which were in clear view of the stand. The camera was seized as evidence of a deer baiting violation as well as evidence of who might have been hunting in the area.
In an interview with the wardens, the property owner reported that Steven Kohl uses the stand and advised where he could be located.
When the wardens made contact with Kohl he admitted he had been using the stand all deer season and that the items in the stand belonged to him.
He told wardens “he shot at and missed a buck on opening day from the deer stand and saw three wolves from the stand on opening morning …” according to the complaint. “Kohl described the three wolves running from the north towards the south across the swamp.”
The wardens told him they received a mortality signal from the black wolf’s collar and the animal’s body was found near his stand.
According to the complaint, Kohl told the wardens none of the wolves had appeared injured and he did not shoot at the wolf in question. One of the wardens reviewed the evidence again and suggested Kohl made an error in judgement by taking a shot at the wolf.
“Kohl then admitted he ‘shot to keep them going’ and that he doesn’t shoot to kill. Kohl stated he took one shot at the black wolf when it was out in the swamp straight east of him. After shooting at the wolf, Kohl stated he didn’t see the wolf again,” the complaint states.
Kohl also stated he didn’t know whether he had hit the wolf and didn’t look for it.
The wardens seized his gun as evidence and instructed him to clean up the corn.
If convicted, he may be fined no more than $10,000, imprisoned no more than three years and six months, or both.
He is expected to make his initial appearance in Oneida County Circuit Court on Feb. 5.