By Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel
A University of Wisconsin – Madison wolf expert said Wednesday that a bill creating a hunting season for wolves is written in a way that might affect the long term health of the state’s gray wolf population. The bill also doesn’t target areas where there is heavy depredation of livestock and pets.
Treves is an expert on the public attitudes on wolves. He and his research team have surveyed more than 2,100 Wisconsin residents five times since 2001 about their preferences and opinions on wolf policy in the state.
Based on his research, Treves said he thinks Wisconsin residents will not accept many aspects of the bill. In his surveys, he found twice as much opposition as support for hunting wolves with the use of dogs or traps. The bill would permit the use of dogs and traps.
Treves said the issue isn’t whether a hunt should be allowed, but rather how and where the hunt is conducted.
Also, Treves’ research shows that 11 out of 12 wolf attacks on farm animals occurs in less than one-third of the state. However, the bill would allow a season on wolves over the entire state.
He predicted opponents would challenge the bill by making it a ballot issue with voters and by filing lawsuits in state court, with litigants invoking the state’s public trust doctrine.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued final rules in December to remove the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes from a list of threatened and endangered species.
The western Great Lakes’ wolf population is estimated at more than 4,000 animals, including 2,922 in Minnesota, 557 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and 690 in Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s population is now well above the 1999 management goal of 350.