Updated Thurs. 6/7 – Earlier this year the federal government delisted the gray wolf from the endangered species list for the Western Great Lakes Region. This spring, Act 169 was passed by the Wisconsin Legislature and signed by the governor, directing the Department of Natural Resources to develop a wolf hunting and trapping season rule, harvest management zones, harvest quotas, and hunter and trapper permit levels.
“The department is committed to conservation of wolves in Wisconsin. Long-term conservation includes managing this important wildlife population within our borders,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.
DNR has had an approved wolf management plan since 1999. That plan allows for a wolf harvest when the population exceeds 350. The wolf population first attained that level in 2004. The 2012 winter wolf count estimated a minimum of 815-880 wolves currently in Wisconsin. This exceeds the population for delisting at both the state and the federal level.
DNR biologists have developed a proposal for wolf harvest zones, wolf harvest quotas by zones, wolf hunting and trapping license levels, and other associated rules.
“We are being conservative in establishing quotas,” said DNR Wildlife Ecologist Bill Vander Zouwen.
The goals of the first wolf hunting and trapping season will be to: provide wolf hunting and trapping opportunities; begin to move the wolf population toward the established goal of 350; and monitor, learn and adapt for future seasons.
“Harvest quotas are expected to move the wolf population downward, but are cautious as we seek to evaluate the impacts of the first season,” said Vander Zouwen.
The department is looking for feedback on a preliminary proposed range of harvest quotas totaling between 142 and 233 wolves.
Chippewa tribes may make a declaration of up to 50 percent of the final quota within the Ceded Territory. The department has begun and will continue consulting with the tribes in developing these rules.
The proposed number of state hunting and trapping licenses assumes a 20 percent success rate which equals five times the final quota. Harvest zones would be closed to hunting and trapping when the quota is approached in each zone. License holders could hunt in any zone.
The proposed wolf zones are intended to manage for a sustainable wolf population and will take into account areas of the state that may be more or less suitable for wolves.
“The department is committed to managing the wolf as a sustainable native species in Wisconsin. Our wolf management will be guided by the management plan, science, and social considerations,” said Vander Zouwen. “Wolves are very important to many people both because of their values and concerns for their impacts. The DNR will continue to involve a wide diversity of stakeholders in management discussions as we move forward.”
“We’ve identified primary habitat zones where we’ll manage for a higher density of wolves than elsewhere in the state. These zones are primarily forested,” added Vander Zouwen.
“Secondary habitat zones are areas of transition from forest to farms where the goal will be to manage for a lower density of wolves than in the primary zones. Finally, zones labeled as ‘unsuitable’ are areas with more agriculture and/or more people, where substantial conflicts with wolves have occurred or are likely to occur in the future. Harvest quotas are intended to reduce wolf populations in these unsuitable zones.
Secretary Stepp added, “On-going wolf monitoring will be very important to successful conservation efforts. All of Wisconsin should be very proud of the dedicated volunteers who have given thousands of hours over the years to get out and collect information on Wisconsin’s many wolf packs. We will continue to rely on their dedication and I want to encourage others to join them. If you are interested in doing so, please contact our department by calling (715) 762-1363. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires a five year post delisting monitoring period. We will do what is needed to successfully complete this monitoring period.”
The wolf proposals are being taken out to the public for feedback, and to the Chippewa Tribes for consultation as required by the Voigt Treaty Rights court decision.
Final DNR recommendations will be made by early July and will be reviewed and acted on by the Natural Resources Board on July 17 through an emergency rule.
People may provide input at public meetings or by filling out an online survey on the DNR website, or by writing Wolf Management-WM/6, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.
To fill out the online survey, search for “wolf” on the DNR website and then click the links for “public survey on wolf season.”
The local wolf information meeting will start with an open house for visiting with DNR staff at 6 p.m. Staff presentations will begin at 7 p.m. with time for questions and comments to follow. The meeting is being held on Friday, June 15, in the James Williams Middle School Auditorium, 915 Acacia Ln. in Rhinelander.
As information is developed, it will be shared on the DNR website. For a map of the potential wolf zones and quotas or to complete the survey online, visit the DNR website and search the keyword “wolf.”
If implemented by the DNR Board, wolf license applications are expected to be available through the ALIS licensing system Aug. 1-31. Those successful in the drawing will receive notice in early September. The wolf hunting and trapping season would begin on Oct. 15.