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WI: Wolf pack kills sheep near Rapids

Karen Madden, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

SIGEL – A pack of wolves killed seven sheep at a farm about five miles north of Wisconsin Rapids July 4, the state Department of Natural Resources confirmed Tuesday.

David MacFarland, a large carnivore specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the attack was unusual in both the number of animals that were killed and the species involved — wolves don’t often attack sheep and rarely kill so many at once.

The number of animals killed makes it likely it was a pack of wolves, MacFarland said. But he also said the attack doesn’t represent any new threat to the area or any danger to people.

“Wolves are pack animals and they frequently hunt as a group,” MacFarland said. “Wood County has had wolf packs for quite some time.”

MacFarland did not know how many wolf packs are in Wood County, but he said 222 packs comprising between 866 and 897 wolves live across the state.

DNR staff is working with the owner of the sheep to prevent future wolf attacks, MacFarland said. One method that has worked is hanging a line with flags above an electric fence. The wolves hesitate going past the combination of the electricity and blowing flags, MacFarland said.

Residents with family pets don’t need to be too concerned about the wolves, MacFarland said. Wolves kill about five or six pet dogs per year in Wisconsin.

“While it certainly is a horrible occurrence when you’re someone who’s lost a family pet, it’s really a small percentage of the number of dogs in the state,” MacFarland said.

People with hunting dogs can reduce the risk of a wolf attack by keeping control of their dogs through having them on a leash of having good voice control of the dog, MacFarland said.

Anyone who experiences any problems with wolves or bears should contact a hotline set up by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and DNR, MacFarland said. For Wood and Portage counties, call 1-800-433-0663. For Marathon County, call 1-800-228-1368.