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WI: State looks to manage rising wolf population

By Stella Porter

TOMAHAWK, Wis. (WSAW)– Wisconsin’s wolf population is rising, and the state is looking into how to best manage the population.

image is a still from file video.

There were 61 wolf attacks where an animal was killed so far this year, the highest number in nearly a decade.

Wolf attacks affect a small number of property owners, but the attacks can be costly for livestock owners. That’s why the state’s Department of Natural Resources is investigating how to manage the wolf population.

“Those impacts can be pretty significant to individual farms,” said DNR Wildlife Damage Specialist Brad Koele.

On an average year, the DNR says 25-30 farms are impacted, but they cost about $137,000 in damages.

“We do pay for that abatement, whether it’s electric fences or some scare devices,” said Koele.

Since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put wolves on the endangered species list in 2014, the state has limited authority to manage the population.

“When wolves are a state-managed species, we also have the option of implementing lethal control options,” he said.

The DNR recently asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to de-list wolves here in Wisconsin, arguing their population is healthy. But that will likely be challenged by national animal groups.

“We have a statewide management plan if, and when, wolves are delisted,” Koele said.

“We want them to be here in appropriate places,” said citizen advocate and volunteer DNR tracker Laurie Groskopf.

Groskopf says there’s more the state can do to gain management authority.

“The state could have been more proactive in getting the delisting. The non-lethal abatement methods work for a while, but they don’t necessarily work permanently,” she said.

Ultimately, it’s about balancing a healthy wolf population with the impact on livestock.

“Having a healthy wolf population, allow for some limited harvest through recreational hunting and trapping but also effectively address conflict,” Koele said.

“What we’d like to see is a balance between human needs and the needs of wildlife,” Groskopf said.