One issue in managing the Wisconsin wolf population is a threshold known as “the 350 goal.” Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF) Adrian Wydeven and Tom Hauge discuss the history, science, public attitudes, and more regarding the contentious “350 goal.
A press release from Wisconsin’s Green Fire Released: The 350 Wolf Goal in Wisconsin: An Assessment by Wisconsin’s Green Fire on Setting Population Goals for the State’s Gray Wolf Population
In the WGF press release Rhinelander, WI – How many gray wolves should live in Wisconsin? Public debate over wolves continues, with U. S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s recent proposal to delist wolves in the Upper Midwest Region from the federal endangered species list and a new wolf management plan expected from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) in fall 2023. One contentious issue in managing the Wisconsin wolf population is a threshold known as “the 350 goal.”
The 350 goal for Wisconsin’s wolves originated in the WDNR’s 1999 Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan. Some argue that the wolf population should be capped at 350 and want the population reduced to this level. In 36 Wisconsin counties, resolutions by county boards supported capping the wolf population at 350. However, according to scientific surveys in 2014, 2016, and 2022, most members of the public support a wolf population above 350, including most Wisconsin wildlife professionals, tribal members, and people living in wolf range.
Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF), a nonpartisan, independent nonprofit, reviewed the history and science behind the 350 goal in a newly published Conservation Bulletin report, “The 350 Wolf Goal in Wisconsin: An Assessment by Wisconsin’s Green Fire on Setting Population Goals for the State’s Gray Wolf Population.” The lead contributors on this WGF report include some of the original authors of the WDNR’s 1999 plan, such as wildlife biologist and WGF wildlife work group co-chair Adrian Wydeven.
According to Wydeven, “Having been involved in wolf conservation planning since the late 1980s, I saw that numeric goals were useful for gauging the early recovery of the Wisconsin wolf population, but as the wolf population is approaching saturation levels, numeric goals are no longer necessary and may be detrimental to sound wolf management. The old 350 goal makes no sense for managing a population of about 1000 wolves.”
Some of the key findings from the WGF report on the 350 wolf goal include:
- The authors of the DNR’s 1999 wolf plan never intended the 350 goal to be a cap on the state wolf population. Rather, the 350 goal set in 1999 was a threshold level above which public harvest and more flexible controls of wolves could be authorized.
- Scientific understanding of suitable wolf habitat and carrying capacity in the state has changed dramatically over the last few decades. The latest scientific estimates show the current wolf population is stabilizing around 1000 wolves.
- Public attitude surveys from 2014 and 2022 show that most members of the public support having a wolf population well above 350, including people living in wolf range and the majority of Ojibwe tribal members.
- Impacts from wolves on livestock and hunting dogs have mostly stabilized since 2010, despite increases in the wolf population. Localized controls can manage these impacts more effectively than a low statewide goal fixed at 350 wolves.
- Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF) supports the targeted and adaptive options for wolf management proposed by the WDNR in the 2022 draft wolf management plan. This approach uses zones and subzones across the state to guide management practices as is done with white-tailed deer and bears in Wisconsin.
Tom Hauge, WGF wildlife work group co-chair, adds “The 24-year-old 350 goal must be updated using all the knowledge we learned over the last two decades. Our new management plan will be stronger if we use our best science in setting the population framework for the future. The WDNR’s proposed system is sound and worthy of our support.”
Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF) is a statewide nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to science-based management of natural resources. The WGF wildlife work group members who created this Conservation Bulletin include career natural resource professionals with expertise in wildlife and wildlife issues.
The full Conservation Bulletin is available on WGF’s website: https://wigreenfire.org/our-publications.