Social Network


Analyzing data from Wisconsin’s wolf hunt

Paul Smith | Outdoors Editor

Hunters and trappers killed 117 wolves in Wisconsin’s first regulated wolf harvest, according to wildlife officials with the Department of Natural Resources.

The season opened Oct. 15 and ended Sunday after the harvest quota was reached.

The department had set a statewide harvest quota of 116 wolves for non-tribal hunters and trappers.

“Overall, we consider the season fairly successful,” said DNR wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven.

In a year marked by lawsuits and legislative action, the wolf in Wisconsin went from protections of the federal Endangered Species Act to a game animal.

Wolves were considered undesirable and subject to bounties through the middle 20th century in Wisconsin.

The population began to recover in the 1970s with protections from state and federal laws. By late winter 2012, Wisconsin had an estimated population of 815 to 880 wolves in 213 packs.

With state management restored in January, the DNR announced its desire to reduce the wolf population to a “biologically and socially acceptable level.”

The legislature established a wolf hunting and trapping season to run from Oct. 15 to late February if harvest quotas had not been reached.

The state set a statewide wolf harvest quota of 201 wolves, 85 of which were reserved for American Indian tribes.

The tribes, which opposed the wolf hunt, declined to use the permits.

Six wolf management zones were established, each with a harvest quota. The quotas and wolf kills were:

Zone 1: wolf quota 32, wolf kill 32; Zone 2: 20, 19; Zone 3: 18, 19; Zone 4: 5, 5; Zone 5: 23, 23; Zone 6: 18, 19.

Sixty-two of the 117 wolves (53%) were taken by trappers using foothold traps, the remainder by hunters using firearms.

Fifty-nine percent of the wolves were male. Four of the animals had worn radio collars.

The state sold 886 resident and six nonresident wolf licenses to non-tribal hunters and trappers. The licenses cost $100 for residents and $500 for nonresidents.

Revenue from sale of wolf hunting and trapping application permits and licenses will be used to compensate residents for wolf depredation to livestock and pets.

Hunters and trappers in Wisconsin were required to submit the carcass from each wolf kill to the DNR for analysis, including age, health and reproductive status.

Test results will be coming back to the DNR over the next seven months, Wydeven said.

“We’re looking forward to all the information that will be coming in,” Wydeven said. “It’s going to add substantial data to our wolf management program.”

Genetic testing will be performed on tissue from each wolf, helping form a catalogue of DNA information from wolves in the state.

The wolf population is likely to decrease substantially this year. In addition to the 117 wolves killed by hunters and trappers, 124 wolves were confirmed killed through other means, Wydeven said.

The other sources of mortality include 57 killed by federal wildlife agents, 22 hit by vehicles, 18 killed by landowners and nine killed illegally by hunters.

The wolf population doubles each spring after pups are born then declines to an annual low by late winter.

Before the season, the DNR estimated a 10% success rate among hunters and trappers. The 117 animals killed among 892 licensees equals 13%.

Based on the experiences of state and federal wildlife personnel, trapping was expected to be the most effective method of taking wolves in Wisconsin.

Before the season the DNR reported 240 of the 1,160 people authorized to purchase a wolf license had trapping experience and likely would attempt to take a wolf through the use of either foothold traps or snares.

It’s not known at this point how much and what type of effort was expended by the 892 license buyers.

But if 240 trappers did attempt to take a wolf, they would have achieved about a 25% success rate.

The agency may consider revising its system to emulate states like Minnesota that give people chosen through a lottery until a certain date to purchase a license.

The unsold licenses in Wisconsin cost the department at least $26,800 this season.

Wydeven said the season was a learning experience.

“We’ll be evaluating all aspects of it as we move toward next season as well as making a permanent rule,” Wydeven said.

The DNR is updating its wolf management plan; public hearings will be held in the coming two years. A final version is expected in 2014.

Hearing in wolf lawsuit rescheduled: Last week’s winter storm caused a postponement in a hearing in the lawsuit regarding wolf hunting with dogs.

Judge Peter Anderson rescheduled the hearing for Jan. 4 in Dane County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit was filed by several Wisconsin animal welfare groups and individuals against the DNR and Natural Resources Board. The lawsuit claims the DNR has insufficient rules in place to prevent deadly encounters between dogs and wolves during the wolf hunting season.

Wisconsin is the only state to authorize the use of dogs to hunt wolves.

Based on earlier hearings in the case, Judge Anderson issued a temporary injunction and prevented the use of dogs to hunt wolves during the recently concluded season.

Gun deer hunt: The final Wisconsin firearm deer hunting season of 2012-’13 is open through Jan. 6 in the state’s chronic wasting disease management zones.

The same rules and regulations apply that applied in the CWD units during the November nine-day gun-deer season.