There is no apparent reduction in wolves
As the Wisconsin wolf harvest moves towards a second season, it is important for people to realize that the minimum wolf count was 774-845 off reservation wolves before the harvest in 2012, and 785-813 off reservation wolves for the winter 2013 count season.
Essentially, there is no apparent reduction in wolves due to the government's and producer's increased ability to eliminate problem wolves, and no reduction due to Wisconsin's first sport harvest of wolves.
Wolf depredations were down in 2012, with 2010 still being the record for farm depredations.
In 2012, there were 76 animals taken by control measures in response to depredations, 117 taken in the harvest, and 49 known mortalities from other causes, for a total known mortality of 242.
In 2012, there were 95 confirmed complaints caused by wolves. These complaints included 36 farms in wolf harvest management zones 1, 2, and 3. Nine farms had more than one depredation (termed chronic farms).
It is important to remember that the confirmed wolf problems are only the tip of the iceberg, and that much of the damage done by wolves results from harassment, not just livestock mortality.
Decreased weight gain, an increase in nervous behavior, increased pregnancy losses - all are proven by research. And who can measure the effects of wolves on a producer's family?
The state is currently working on a new wolf management plan that will answer the question, "What is the appropriate number of wolves for Wisconsin?"
A new advisory group is meeting monthly, with the final plan presented to the DNR's Natural Resources Board in June, 2014.
Of the 24 people on the committee, 12 are employees of the Wisconsin DNR, four are employed by other agencies (USFWS, WI Co Forest Assoc., USFS, USDA wildlife services), one from the Ojibwa Tribes, six from sporting groups, one from the Timber Wolf Alliance, and only one representing farm interests - Eric Koens of rural Bruce.
While you have a champion in Eric, it is distressing to see only one farm representative on this important committee.
The wolf management plan will determine the direction this program takes for the next 10-15 years.
Will wolves continue to be widespread, saturating the areas of northern and west central Wisconsin where experts from the UW and DNR have determined wolves should live?
Will wolf depredations continue at historically high levels, or will depredation response, landowner permits, and the sport harvest allow a reduction in negative interactions between wolves and humans?
Will social acceptability play a role in wolf management in Wisconsin, for the first time?
Will wolf mortalities remain high from human-causes in areas of denser human population? Or will managers return to the original philosophy of wolf management - that wolves prefer to live in remote areas, and people prefer wolves to live in remote areas?
During 2009 - 2011, 18 county boards in northern and west central Wisconsin passed resolutions encouraging the DNR to reduce the wolf population to a goal of 350 or less.
The vote was unanimous at many of these county board meetings, and overwhelmingly in favor of the reduced wolf population in the others. These votes represent a population of 400,000 Wisconsin residents.
In the western states, very high involvement on the part of hunting/trapping groups and livestock ranchers has resulted in high wolf harvests and delisting by an act of the U.S. Congress, making their program less susceptible to lawsuits.
For every Wisconsin resident that cares about wolf management, this is an important time to ensure that views are represented by the associations, and by participation in wolf management plan development during the coming year.
To learn whether a county board has passed a wolf control resolution, contact Laurie Groskopf, Tomahawk, 715-453-6301.