Wisconsin wolf population largest ever at 925 animals

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Anders Illum (CC-BY-NC-ND)

STATEWIDE – Wisconsin’s wolf population grew by 6.8 percent in 2016, according to new figures released by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The figures from the overwinter count show between 925 and 952 wolves, the most ever counted in the state, said David MacFarland, large carnivore specialist with the DNR.

“We don’t know how large the population will get. It continues to grow, and we continue to monitor that,” MacFarland said in Wausau, where the DNR revealed the numbers.

In 2011, there were just 660 wolves.

The wolf population has grown each year since a court ruling stopped the state’s hunting and trapping season in 2014.

“Population growth of 13 percent, 16 percent and now 6.8 percent respectively in the last three years,” MacFarland said. “That doesn’t represent stabilization. The population is still growing. Eventually we would anticipate that the population would stabilize, but we don’t know exactly what that point would be.”

MacFarland said wolves are moving into more populated areas, particularly in central Wisconsin.

“Historically wolves were in primarily northern forest areas, and now we are seeing wolves living in places where there is more human activity,” he said.

One exception is Crawford County in southwestern Wisconsin, which used to have wolf activity, but showed no wolves in the latest survey.

The DNR counts wolves each year between Dec. 1 and April 14 with the help of trained volunteers, who look for tracks and other evidence.

A ruling is expected soon from an appeals court which could take wolves off the endangered list, and allow the state to resume hunting and trapping.

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