Wisconsin DNR Takes Over Gray Wolf Management

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Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Hassett joined officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a wolf spotting flight from Siren to Ashland Monday, March 12. At a press conference at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College in Ashland following the flight, Hassett discussed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's removal of the gray wolf from the federal list of threatened and endangered species and the transfer of wolf management in Wisconsin to a state management plan.

"Today celebrates the decades of partnership, hard work and dedication shown by the partners, organizations and individuals that made this event possible," Hassett said. "Perhaps more than any other mammal, the wolf symbolizes the wild and the free. The wolves we saw from the air today don’t know that they are special or different in any way from their ancestors who were removed from Wisconsin by bounty hunting and trapping earlier in the past century."

The press conference and flight recognized the success of gray wolf recovery in Wisconsin under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Since the gray wolf was first listed under the ESA in 1974, recovery programs have helped wolf populations rebound. Unregulated shooting and trapping, encouraged by a legislative state bounty, resulted in the extirpation of the wolf in Wisconsin by 1960. Wolves reentered the state on their own from Minnesota in the mid-1970s.

A late winter 2005-2006 estimate puts Wisconsin's gray wolf population at 465-502. This includes an estimated 16 to 17 wolves on Indian reservations for an estimated 449-485 outside of reservations. Wisconsin's Wolf Management Plan calls for a population of 350 wolves outside of Indian reservations.

The final rule to delist the wolf in Wisconsin was published in the Federal Register on Feb. 8. The rule became effective March 12. The Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan guides wolf management actions in the state. Protecting wolves, controlling problem animals, consideration of hunting and trapping, as well as maintaining the long-term health of the wolf population will be governed by the state or appropriate tribe.

"Like our neighbor states, we have a management plan, forged in partnership with the citizens of Wisconsin, the tribal nations within our borders, scientists, wildlife managers and many, many stakeholder groups," Hassett said. "It is a good plan. It is a framework for the existence and management of the wolf in Wisconsin and at the same time provides landowners protections and recourse for verified wolf depredations."

Key to Wisconsin's wolf management efforts is the ability of the state to remove depredating wolves from the landscape and for landowners to protect their livestock and pets. Wisconsin's management plan provides for both. The plan also sets stepped levels of tolerance for wolves on the land based on geography and population.

"The Department of Natural Resources, on behalf of the citizens of the state, accepts the responsibility to manage the gray wolf--and we will do this with respect to the citizens of the state and the wolf itself," Hassett said. "Our goal is to maintain a self-sustaining population of gray wolves in Wisconsin and address human-wolf conflicts quickly."