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WI: Wildlife specialist to present program about wolves and wildcats

Encounters between humans and apex predators such as wolves and wildcats are reportedly increasing as animals’ numbers and the area of their territories increase.

The status of wolves and wildcats in Wisconsin will be the topic of the Friends of the Black River’s April meeting. The meeting will be held beginning at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 12, in the Jackson County Bank community room. The public is encouraged to attend the free program.

Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Scott Roepke will present the program and intends to cover general ecology, distribution and presence of wolves, bobcats and cougars in the state.

“We’ll take both a local and statewide look at each species,” said Roepke.

Wisconsin is one of about a dozen states where timber wolves live in the wild. Also known as gray wolves, timber wolves are the largest wild members of the dog family. Wolves are social animals, generally living in packs. A pack’s territory can extend between 20 to 120 square miles; although, there are incidents of individual animals going off on their own to find new territory.

The DNR has been monitoring the growing population in the state; there are an estimated 800 individuals now calling Wisconsin home. In pre-European settlement times in the 1830s, the number of wolves roaming the state is thought to have been between 3,000 and 5,000 animals. However by 1900, timber wolves were nonexistent in the southern two-thirds of the state.

Over the past decades, however, wolf numbers have been increasing with packs calling Jackson County home. Because of their increased numbers, wolves were federally delisted as an endangered species in January 2012, but were relisted two years later.

Cougars, also known as pumas, mountain lion, panther and catamounts, are the largest wildcat species in North America existing north of Mexico. One of three wild cat species native to Wisconsin, along with the bobcat and Canada lynx, cougars once roamed throughout the state.

Generally, the large cats avoid humans. However, there has been an increase in reported sightings in recent years.

Bobcats are more prevalent and have, at times, been mistaken for cougars. Bobcats weigh about 20 pounds and have large ears sporting short pointed tufts of hair at the ends. In 1970, hunting bobcats was prohibited in the state. After a 20-year hiatus, the DNR removed the protections and set up hunting and trapping seasons for the animals.

Bobcats have also been mistakenly identified as lynxes, but Canada lynxes are now very rare in Wisconsin. Lynx were once trapped for their fur, and with the over-harvesting of the northern forests, the lynx population declined to the point biologists do not think there are any breeding animals in the state.

Roepke’s presentation is part of FBR’s ongoing mission to bring educational programs about the Black River, its watershed and environmental and conservation issues to the community.

For more information about the program and FBR, email