Proposal would remove wolves from state threatened species list
Public hearings set around the state in November
PARKS FALLS, Wis. -- The population of gray wolves has recovered in Wisconsin to the point under the state’s wolf management plan that the species should be removed from the state’s threatened species list and managed as a protected species, according to state wildlife officials.
“Removing gray wolves from the state’s endangered and threatened species list would symbolize that the population has recovered to the point where they no longer need to be treated as endangered or threatened, but can now be protected as a non-game animal,” said Adrian Wydeven, mammalian ecologist and wolf specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The winter count of gray wolves outside of Native American Indian reservations in Wisconsin in 2002-2003 was 328; the winter count for 2001-2002 was 313. Under the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan, approved by the state Natural Resources Board in October 1999, wolves should be removed from the state endangered and threatened species list once the population remained at above 250 wolves outside of reservations for one year.
Initially, Wydeven said, removing wolves from the state list will have minimal effect on how wolves are managed in Wisconsin, because the species is also listed as threatened under the federal list.
“However, this will set the stage for a more flexible management system when wolves are eventually removed from the federal list of threatened species for Wisconsin,” he said. “After they have been removed the federal list, authority for managing the species will revert completely to the state of Wisconsin.”
The Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan outlines management practices that will be used once the species is removed from both state and federal lists. These include issuing permits to landowners with ongoing problems associated with wolves preying on livestock or other animals to shoot the problem wolves, and allowing people to kill wolves in the act of attacking domestic animals on private lands. State and federal officials would also have greater flexibility in dealing with problem wolves.
The state Natural Resources Board last month authorized the department to hold public hearings on the proposal to remove the gray wolf from the state threatened species list. The public hearings will be held at five locations around the state all beginning at 6 p.m. on the following dates:
Gray wolves, also called timber wolves, occurred throughout Wisconsin prior to European settlement. Those new settlers perceived wolves as a menace to livestock, and the state legislature instituted a bounty in 1865. The last Wisconsin wolf taken under the state bounty was killed in 1959.
In 1973 wolves were protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Minnesota wolf population began expanding and eventually wolves began to migrate back into Wisconsin on their own, with a wolf pack discovered in the border area between Wisconsin and Minnesota south of Duluth-Superior in 1975.
As Wisconsin’s wolf population grew, the state developed a recovery plan, which was later replaced with the management plan, under which wolves were reclassified from endangered to threatened in October 1999. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the federal change to threatened status species for wolves in Wisconsin effective April 1, 2003. The federal change gave state biologists more flexibility to deal with problem wolves, including allowing government agents to destroy wolves that kill domestic animals. Since that change, the state has trapped and euthanized 17 wolves that were preying on livestock at five separate farms.
There are currently an estimated 94 wolf packs in northern and central Wisconsin, with most suitable wolf habitat now occupied by a pack. For that reason, Wydeven said, trapping and moving wolves is no longer a viable option for dealing with problem wolves, as any wolf moved into an occupied territory is usually treated as an invader and may be killed by the pack that occupies the territory, or pushed into areas where wolves cause additional problems.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Adrian Wydeven - (715) 762-3204 ext. 107
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