Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
One of Wisconsin’s most charismatic and controversial wildlife species – the gray wolf – will take center stage at the 2018 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show.
A seminar and panel discussion featuring several of the state’s foremost authorities on wolves is scheduled from 3-5 p.m. March 10 at the show’s seminar stage.
The program will begin with a one-hour slide presentation on the history and current status of wolves in Wisconsin by Adrian Wydeven, former wolf biologist for the Department of Natural Resources and now chairman of the Timber Wolf Alliance.
It will be followed by a panel discussion including Wydeven, Tom Hauge, Randy Jurewicz and Scott Walter, as well as a question-and-answer session with show attendees.
Native to Wisconsin, the wolf was aggressively targeted by farmers and others from the 19th to the mid 20th century. Bounties were placed on the animals and virtually any method, including poison, was implemented to reduce their numbers.
After wolves received protection, including through the federal Endangered Species Act, their numbers began to increase in the Upper Midwest.
The wolf population in Wisconsin was estimated at 25 in 1980, 34 in 1990, 248 in 2000 and 704 in 2010, according to DNR reports.
And last year the state had a record high of at least 925 animals, according to the annual winter tracking survey and aerial count performed by DNR staff and volunteers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has delisted the wolf several times in the last two decades in Wisconsin and surrounding states, only to have the moves overturned through legal challenges and federal judges.
The species is currently protected under the ESA due to a Dec. 2014 decision by a federal judge.
While many state residents support high wolf numbers, the inability for the state to use lethal measures to control the animals also generates frustration and anger among others. Farmers who sustain livestock depredations and hound hunters who have their dogs killed by wolves are among the chief proponents for a lower wolf population.
Hauge retired in 2016 after 25 years as DNR wildlife director. From 2012-’14, he oversaw the agency’s management of wolves when the species was delisted.
The state held its first modern-era wolf hunting and trapping seasons in those three years, killing 117, 257 and 154 wolves, respectively.
The wolf population showed a decline during the brief period of state management.
Jurewicz is former wildlife ecologist and administrator of the DNR’s Bureau of Endangered Resources. He helped manage the species for many years as it was increasing in numbers and expanding its range in the state.
Walter was recently hired as the DNR’s large carnivore specialist. He has direct responsibility for wolf, bear and cougar management.
He enters the position at a critical time – beginning this year, the DNR is scheduled to update the state’s wolf management plan, most of which was established in 1999.
The program will provide one of the first public forums for state residents to hear Walter speak about wolf issues as well as ask him questions.
Walter most recently worked as director of conservation programs with the Ruffed Grouse Society, and previous to that was the DNR’s upland game ecologist. He holds a doctorate in wildlife management from UW-Madison.
The 2018 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show presented by Chevy runs March 7-11 at Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center in West Allis.
Its features will include: daily seminars on a variety of hunting and fishing topics, hundreds of displays by lodges, resorts and guides; appearances by Green Bay Packers alumni; live boating and fishing demonstrations on Lake Milwaukee; a fastest retriever contest; fishing in the trout pond; air rifle contest at the Daniel Boone Conservation League indoor range; and performances by the IRONJACKS Timber Team on the Chevy Dealers Main Stage.
Visit jssportsshow.com for tickets and other information.