In an effort to deter the species from moving into farmland and urban areas, wildlife experts are resorting to digital recordings of howling wolves.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Wolves in northern Wisconsin are hearing some competition this summer: digital recordings of other wolves howling, which wildlife managers hope will someday work to push problem wolves away from farms and other areas where they conflict with humans.
Five “howling boxes’’ have been deployed in forested areas of northern counties to see if the recorded howling will scare wolf packs into moving their rendezvous sites — the place where the pack keeps its pups and brings them food each day from nearby kills.
“If it works, we’d like to use it near farms and residential areas where wolf packs set up rendezvous sites too close to people,’’ Adrian Wydeven, wolf expert for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, told the News Tribune.
Wisconsin’s 181 wolf packs might be pushed to move their rendezvous sites if they believe the howling is coming from a competing pack that has moved in too close, Wydeven noted.
In addition to the five packs that are hearing the recordings, five other “control’’ packs are being studied to see how often they move their rendezvous sites for comparison.
Because wolves remain federally protected in Wisconsin, it’s illegal to trap or kill them even on farms. So the DNR is looking for nonlethal ways to reduce wolf predation on livestock and pets while the state waits for federal action to remove wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Wydeven said Wisconsin’s estimated 700 wolves are on pace to break the old record of 30 farms where livestock are killed.
A similar effort worked a decade ago in northern Burnett County, where, near a farm where 26 calves were killed in one summer, the DNR played recordings of wolves howling. It’s believed the pack’s rendezvous site was adjacent to the farm.
“That pack causing the trouble moved farther north than they ever had gone before. But that (recording) equipment wasn’t very sophisticated and the wolves eventually got used to it,’’ Wydeven said. “Now we have the ability to play only at night, to move the boxes around a bit and to change the times it plays.’’
Wolves generally use a series of rendezvous sites to gather and feed their pups from mid-June to September. The study will include the 2010 and 2011 rendezvous seasons and is being conducted by University of Wisconsin graduate student Christine Anhalt.