STATEWIDE – State wolf experts disagree on the best size for Wisconsin’s gray wolf population.
Last spring, the state Department of Natural Resources estimated there were about 900 wolves in Wisconsin, not including a small number on Native American reservations. That’s about 2 1/2 times the wolf population goal the DNR set in 1999. It’s possible the DNR will write a new management plan in the next couple of years.
But wildlife biologist Peter David of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission told a weekend forum in Milwaukee that the tribes don’t feel it’s right for humans to be setting a population goal for wolves.
“(Tribes) would like the wolves to be able to establish their own numbers on the landscape. And all the evidence is that wolves are probably quite close to doing that in Wisconsin right now,” David told the audience at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show.
Retired DNR wildlife director Tom Hauge said he prefers a range of between 600 and 800 wolves. Hauge said that’s in case wolf hunting is allowed again, or a disease hits the wolf population.
“We’re not perfect, and if we get to a point where we’re having a harvest season or another disease — let’s say something in the wolf world comes along like we’re dealing with chronic wasting disease — we’re going to want a robust enough population to be able to withstand whatever that challenge is.”
Wisconsin had a wolf hunting season from 2012 to 2014, but the practice was stopped when a federal judge placed the gray wolf in most of the western Great Lakes region back on the federal endangered species list. Some members of Congress are trying to force delisting through legislation, but efforts are stalled.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the DNR’s top wolf expert was originally scheduled to speak on the panel but the state agency later had large carnivore specialist Scott Walter pull out of the event.
In a statement to WPR, a DNR spokesman disputed that characterization, saying Walter wasn’t “prevented” from participating and that it was a “mutual decision” that the panel was “not the right time or place to get into a debate over wolf policy.”
The statement reiterated the DNR’s stance that they will be ready to implement a wolf hunt if or when Congress decides to delist the gray wolf.