Tracking the wolf pack – Wisconsin 

Winter is the best time of year to get out to track wild wolves in Wisconsin. I’m looking forward to the fresh cold air, red rosey cheeks and spotting the first wolf track of the season. It’s time to track the wolf pack in Wisconsin.

First up is a tracking re-fresher course which I took in December and hosted by Crex Meadows Wildlife Area. A part of Wisconsin’s scenic Indianhead Country, the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area is located in beautiful Burnett County, just north of the Village of Grantsburg. At 30,000 acres, Crex is one of the largest state owned wildlife areas in Wisconsin.


Crex Meadows Wildlife Area lobby
My journey north to the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area took two hours. On the way I saw a flock of sandhill cranes,  red-tailed hawks and a couple of deer.  I arrived just before nine and ready to learn!

The volunteer Carnivore Tracking and Wolf Ecology Workshop was held on December 12 & 13, 2015. I tracked from 2000-2013 and being an experienced tracker only needed the carnivore tracking workshop. 

The day began with tracking skills held in the center’s classroom.  Wisconsin DNR biologists and experienced technicians reviewed track identification and interpreting gait (how an animal walks).  The instructors taught us how a wolf direct registers when it walks, the front foot is larger, and how to measure track sizes and gaits. Lastly, taught the important skill of how to tell the difference between a dog and a wolf track. 

Although the focus is on the wolf, the instructors also taught us how to identify other wild animal tracks. We were shown slides of fox, snowshoe hare, field mice, skunk, and bobcat to mention a few of the animal tracks.  Of course there was a test and a lunch was served. 

Next, the afternoon portion of the tracking workshop involved going out into the field.  We were told to dress for snow, unfortunately there wasn’t any. 

The instructors went out the prior evening to find us some fresh wolf sign and found tracks in a sandy area of the wildlife area.

Sarah Boles, a WDNR Wildlife Technician, instructing carnivore/wolf trackers. – Photograph by Rachel Tilseth

We were lucky to see fairly fresh coyote, fox and wolf tracks that afternoon.

Wolf track found at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area during carnivore track training workshop on December 12, 2015 – photograph by Rachel Tilseth

We found fresh wolf scat as well. Finding black wolf scat indicates a fresh kill. 

Fresh wolf scat found at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area during carnivore track training workshop , December 12, 2015 – Photograph by Rachel Tilseth

There were roughly 30 carnivore tracking class participants that day. Participants ranged from outdoor enthusiasts, hunters and DNR staff.  Even UW-Madison students made the five hour journey north to attend the tracking workshop.

Carnivore tracking workshop participants check for wolf sign at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, December 12, 2015 – Photograph by Rachel Tilseth

The  carnivore tracking workshop ended in early afternoon. I signed up for my tracking blocks on the DNR Wisconsin’s volunteer carnivore tracking program and I’m ready to get back into tracking wolves in Wisconsin.

Why am I back tracking wolves?

I spent decades working on Wisconsin’s wolf recovery program as a volunteer winter wolf tracker. During those years I was a wolf stakeholder and allowed a voice/input on the wolf management process. 

That all changed when Wisconsin implemented a trophy hunt on wolves, read on;

On April 2, 2012 Act 169 If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves and shall regulate such hunting and trapping as provided in this section and shall implement a wolf management plan. (Source)

Wisconsin legislators pushed a trophy hunt on wolves (supported by Wisconsin Bear Hunter’s Association and other hunt clubs) the  DNR Secretary Confirms That Wolf Hunt Opponents Were Removed From Advisory Committee. Thus, wolf stakeholders, like myself were cut out from having a voice in Wisconsin’s wolf management.

Before wolves were delisted and deemed a game species to be hunted, wolf stakeholders consisted of Human Society of the U.S., Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and volunteer wolf trackers such as myself. The wolf management process was very comprehensive and well informed with scientific, citizen and hunter input. 

But now, the Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee consists of WDNR biologists, bow hunters, bear hunters, hound hunters, agriculture, trappers, with one seat for native Americans, and one seat for wolf advocacy. As you can see hunters have the majority of citizen input. 

In 2012 Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin was formed to fight the war on Wisconsin’s wild wolves and to Ban the use of dogs to hunt wolves in Wisconsin. 

With wolves back on the ESA, now is the ideal time for me to get back into tracking wolves. Hunters have been tracking wolves over the past three years. I hope to have a voice in wolf management once again,  and that’s why I’m back tracking wolves.

I began tracking wolves 3 weeks ago, and will keep you up to date. Click HERE to follow Track the pack – Wisconsin on Pinterest. 

In the meantime, please help wolves by contacting your representatives in congress and ask them to oppose any legislation that calls for delisting of wolves. At this time there’s anti- wolf legislation in a rider attached to the sportsman’s act making its way way through congress.

Trophy hunts are about power not conservation. 

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