MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources apparently underreported wolf poaching over the last three decades, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study.
University researchers reviewed the deaths of 937 wolves from October 1979 to April 2012, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday (http://bit.ly/2kKEt0c ). The state’s first wolf hunting season began that fall.
Of the 937 wolves, 431 wore radio collars. The researchers found that 64 percent of the radio-collared wolves’ deaths were due to human causes. A 2012 DNR report found humans caused 55 percent of the deaths and the cause of the remaining 18 percent of deaths was unknown.
The researchers said they found “abundant evidence” of gunshot wounds and injuries from trapping that may have been overlooked as factors in the animals’ deaths. Underreporting poaching raises the possibility of the wolf population crashing, the researchers wrote.
One of the researchers, Adrian Treves, has criticized the state’s now-defunct wolf hunting and trapping seasons. He has questioned whether wolves can sustain themselves in the face of hunting and trapping.
DNR officials said the data they collect is meant to determine population and pack territories and isn’t intended to determine wolf deaths. Adrian Wydeven, a retired department ecologist, told the Journal Sentinel that he disagrees with the study’s findings, saying in an email to other wolf experts that the study seems to suggest the agency intended to underreport poaching when it was simply reporting raw data.
Wisconsin held wolf hunting and trapping seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2014. A federal judge ended the seasons in December 2014 when he found federal wildlife officials had improperly removed gray wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan from the endangered species list.