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Wolf hunt appears likely

Delisting in state occured early in year
By Cory Dellenbach

It has been a difficult couple of months for Wisconsin wolves.

Late last year, wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin were removed from the federal endangered species list.

The state Department of Natural Resources delisted the animal Jan. 27, which enabled landowners to receive permits to shoot problem wolves.

And then the Wisconsin Senate voted this week to create a state wolf hunt.

Wolves have not been a major problem in Shawano County, but there are packs active here and in Oconto County and they have at times threatened and destroyed area livestock.

According to the DNR, there were 162 wolf packs active in Wisconsin in 2010, including 23 in Central Wisconsin and 139 in Northern Wisconsin. A pack consists of at least two adult wolves, and at least 47 of the packs had five more wolves.

Shawano County’s only pack, the Miller Creek Pack, located near the Stockbridge-Munsee Reservation, was among the state’s largest.

There have been four confirmed wolf attacks in Shawano County in the last two years, according to the DNR.

A bull calf was attacked by a wolf pack near Tigerton last year. The Miller Creek Pack last year harassed 25 Holstein heifers and had two confirmed attacks in 2010.

“One situation was an injury to a dog and that was because it was near a site with pups,” said Kay Brockman-Mederas, Shawano County DNR wildlife biologist, and the other was when a calf was attacked.

There are three recognized packs in Oconto County: a pack, which moves on and off the Menominee Indian reservation, in the Suring area, a second in the Peshtigo Brook area and a third in the northwest part of the county in the Chequemagon-Nicolet National Forest.

According to the DNR, seven bear-hunting dogs were killed by wolves in Oconto County in 2010 and 2011.

What delisting means

When wolves were delisted as an endangered species, a system was put in place for landowners suffering deprivation because of the packs.

Landowners can shoot wolves attacking domestic animals and can receive permits to shoot any wolf coming on their land if they have experienced wolf problems within the last two years. U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Service trappers also have been made available to trap and euthanize problem wolves.

“They’re still a protected species and you can’t just go out and shoot them,” Brockman-Mederas said. “You can protect an animal, but you cannot, without a permit, shoot them or trap them.”

In Shawano County, three farmers have been sent applications for permits, but none have been returned, Brockman-Mederas said.

Brockman-Mederas said if a valid application is returned, she would then issue a permit to shoot the offending animals.

“A lot of the times these wolves aren’t there anymore,” Brockman-Mederas said. “The alpha wolf may die and it’ll be replaced by a different one. There’s a whole dynamic within a pack, so things aren’t always going to be the same as when the deprivation occurred.”

Any wolf shot or trapped must be reported to the DNR within 24 hours, and the carcass must be turned over to the DNR.

“We try to get it as soon as possible so the site isn’t scavenged by other animals,” Brockman-Mederas said.

Ron Vander Velden, a retired environmental education teacher from Marinette County, has kept tabs on packs in Oconto County as a volunteer with the DNR Carnivore Tracking Program.

“It’s just a delightful animal,” he said.

Yet he knows not everyone appreciates having the large predators close by.

“It’s not some remote place where these animals live, they’re in our neighborhood,” Vander Velden said.

Hunting bill advances

The Assembly next week plans to consider the wolf hunting bill approved by the state Senate on Tuesday. The bill establishes a wolf hunting and trapping season from mid-October through the end of February.

Hunters would be allowed to use bait and dogs and could hunt at night.

According to the proposal, the DNR would determine how many licenses to issue. If the number of applicants exceeds the number of licenses, the DNR would award half of the licenses randomly and the other half to applicants with the most preference points.

The Associated Press and Oconto County Times Herald editor Joan Koehne also contributed to this story