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DNR starts issuing wolf alerts

DNR starts issuing wolf alerts

By Karen Madden
Central Wisconsin Sunday

The state Department of Natural Resources has a new e-mail alert system to let residents know about wolf activity in their area so they can take steps to keep pets safe.

There have been nine confirmed reports of wolves attacking dogs in Wisconsin this year, according to the DNR website. Four of the attacks resulted in dog deaths, including one in Adams County. People can sign up to get an e-mail or text message anytime wolves attack hunting dogs or other pets. The system, which has been in place about two weeks, is designed mostly for people who hunt with dogs, said Adrian Wydeven, DNR ecologist.

“The alert is not meant to alarm or scare anyone, but to let them know where wolves are causing problems,” Wydeven said.

There are about 700 wolves in the state, about 10 percent more than in 2009, according to a recently completed DNR count.

Last summer, wolves killed Rick Nelson’s 9-year-old coonhound, Maggie, while he was training the dog to track bear. Nelson, 46, of Loyal, said he has been hunting in the same area since he was about 12 years old and won’t change that because wolves are there.

Nelson said he wasn’t aware of wolf activity in the area when Maggie was killed. He said he would have used more caution and kept a closer eye on his dog if he had been warned. However, he said he doesn’t think the alerts will change anything.

If people know there is wolf activity in their area, they should make sure no food scraps are left outside, Wydeven said. Garbage can attract wolves, and so can animals that are left outside. The most dangerous time for pets is just before sunrise or after sunset.

“Turn lights on and make noise when letting them out at night or early morning,” Wydeven said.

People feeding deer might also unwittingly draw wolves to the area. Deer are wolves’ main food source, with each wolf killing about 20 deer per year, Wydeven said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took wolves off the endangered species list in 2007. Once they’re off the list, DNR officials can take steps to control the population. However, they were put back on the list in September 2008 because of a legal challenge, Wydeven said. A failure to hold a public hearing caused a second attempt at delisting to fail in 2009. A research project to evaluate the wolves’ status is further delaying efforts to take them off the endangered species list.

The DNR set a wolf management plan in Wisconsin that had a goal of 350 wolves, about half the current number, outside of American Indian reservations, Wydeven said. There are 20 to 30 wolves on reservations in the state.

Additional Facts

On the Web

The state Department of Natural Resources has created a new wolf activity alert program.

To sign up for wolf activity alerts from the DNR, go to and search for “dog depredation by wolves.” From there, follow the directions to subscribe.

People who see wolves in their area can alert their local DNR station. People who want to report a wolf attack should call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 800-433-0663 if the incident occurred below the Portage-Marathon counties line, or 800-226-1368 if above the line