Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Conservation Wardens are on the case investigating the illegal killing of a Gray wolf. The Gray wolf in the photograph was found dead on a driveway in Washburn county on February 22, 2020. So far all that is known is the wolf was shot and killed on private property. Gray wolves in Wisconsin are a federally protected endangered species . If you have any information related to this crime please call the WDNR’s tip line 1-800-847-9367 to confidently share your information.
People convicted of killing a federally protected wolf can face up to six months in jail and/or a $25,000 fine, according to the WI DNR . Penalties can include the loss of a hunting license.
Gray wolves are shy and elusive creatures living in Wisconsin’s northern & central forests. Today there are around 978 gray wolves in Wisconsin according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 2018-2019 wolf count. I’ve been a part of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) winter wolf tracking program for 20 years now. One thing I’ve learned is that you may never actually catch sight of a gray wolf while conducting a tracking survey, but signs they leave behind will definitely make up for it. The following is one such story of the life of a gray wolf pack I observed while conducting a winter wolf tracking survey in northern Wisconsin.
In 2006 in late January while conducting a winter wolf track survey I ran across sign that indicated the alpha female was in estrus. On a snow covered road I found sign of the alpha pair’s scent marking every 10th of a mile down the road. I observed that whole wolf pack were leaving sign, from subordinate individuals, to the alpha pair. Subordinate individuals leave squat urination signs, and the alpha pair leave raised leg urination. Typically only the alpha male and female make the raised led urination signs. The alpha male also leaves raised leg urination sign along with scat markings indicating this is his territory and he intends to guard it! These markings were made at the edge of their range, and wolves are very territorial at this time of the year.
I continued tracking, observing and documenting all the sign along the snow covered road full of wolf tracks. A mile or so down the road I found the evidence I was hoping to find; a snow covered pine tree sapling with rusty-red colored urine on top of it. The rusty-red colored urine was the tell tale sign that the alpha female was in estrus.
You might never actually see a gray wolf, but the signs they leave behind makes up for it! And this was a winter wolf tracker’s dream come true.
The citizen’s volunteer wolf tracking program was developed by Adrian Wydeven, head of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wolf Recovery Program, as a way to involve citizens in the monitoring of wolves. Adrian Wydeven is now retired but remains active in the WDNR volunteer wolf tracking program.
I’ve been a volunteer Wisconsin DNR winter wolf tracker since the year 2000. In 2018 I was interviewed by WXPR radio show host Ken Krall about my role as a WDNR volunteer wolf tracker.
Listen to the interview
Citizens Volunteer Wolf Tracking Program
At the time of this interview in 2018 there was an attempt made by a couple Wisconsin state legislators to basically dump any type of management of wolves by the state in an effort to force the federal government to delist Gray wolves. The volunteer citizens wolf tracking program was on the chopping block if the proposed bill passed. Thankfully after public hearings at the state Capital the legislation was scrapped.