Tag Archives: USF&WS

Listen to the recording of Monday Night’s Show: WORT Radio’ Access Hour of Wisconsin’s Thirty-First Wolf Awareness Week Show

Rachel Tilseth, the author of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, hosted this week’s Access Hour. She was joined by Alexander Vaeth this past Monday, October 11th at 07:00 PM on WORT Radio’ Access Hour, where they hosted an in-depth conversation about Wisconsin’s Thirty-First Wolf Awareness Week (WAW) with special guests Adrian Wydeven; who led the Wisconsin DNR Wolf Recovery Program from 1990 through 2013, and Peter David; a wildlife biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

In 1990, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signed the proclamation of Wisconsin Wolf Awareness Week (WAW), a time to celebrate these important animals, by highlighting the threats to their survival, spread the word about what you can do to help wolves stay protected, and help humans learn to live alongside them.

Service to Initiate Status Review of Gray Wolf in the Western U.S.

Excellent news for gray wolves in Idaho, Wyoming & Montana and other western states!

In a press release dated September 15, 2021, The US Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) has completed the initial review of two petitions filed to list gray wolves (Canis lupus) in the western U.S. as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service finds that the petitions present substantial, credible information indicating that a listing action may be warranted and will initiate a comprehensive status review of the gray wolf in the western U.S.

On June 1, 2021, the Service received a petition (dated May 26, 2021) to list the gray wolf Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment (DPS) or a new western U.S. DPS as a threatened or endangered species under the ESA. The Service received a second, similar petition on July 29, 2021(addendum). The Federal Register notice will serve as the 90-day finding for both petitions.

Under the ESA, a DPS is a portion of a species’ or subspecies’ population or range and is described geographically instead of biologically. The first petition proposes listing a Northern Rocky Mountain DPS consisting of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, and a small portion of north-central Utah. Both petitions also propose some alternative Western U.S. DPS to include all, or part, of the Northern Rocky Mountain DPS states with the addition of California, Colorado, Nevada, and in one petition, northern Arizona.

The Service finds the petitioners present substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S. The Service also finds that new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate to address this threat. Therefore, the Service finds that gray wolves in the western U.S. may warrant listing.

Substantial 90-day findings require only that the petitioner provide information that the proposed action may be warranted. The next steps for the Service include in-depth status reviews and analyses using the best available science and information to arrive at a 12-month finding on whether listing is warranted.  If so, listing a species is done through a separate rulemaking process, with public notice and comment.

The public can play an important role by submitting relevant information to inform the in-depth status review through www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-ES-2021-0106, beginning September 17, 2021, upon publication in the Federal Register and will include details on how to submit comments.

The 90-day finding and petition review form associated with this announcement are now available for review.

Visit the Service online to learn more about gray wolves and the ESA petition process.


In the meantime while the review process is in progress gray wolves are being hunted at an unprecedented rate. In Montana hunters get to bag 10 wolves each and there’s no bag limit in Idaho. Wolves of the Rockies organization is working to get an emergency order in place to stop the hunts now.

Natural Resources Board’s fall harvest quota will be an unprecedented reduction to the viability of Wisconsin’s wolf population.

Wisconsin Natural Resources Board Action on the Fall Wolf Hunt Quota

Rhinelander, WI. Wisconsin’s Green Fire statement on August 11, 2021

On August 11, 2021, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB) voted 5-2 to establish a quota of 300 wolves for the fall 2021 wolf hunt.
The removal of 300 wolves again this fall, on top of the removal of at least 218 wolves during the three-day February wolf hunt, could result in a population of as many as 1000 wolves being reduced by over 50 to 60% or more.

This unprecedented reduction will risk long-term damage to the viability of the wolf population. It would also be likely to trigger a review of Wisconsin’s wolf management by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and will support arguments for re-listing wolves under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven, testified to the NRB Wednesday on behalf of Wisconsin’s Green Fire. Wydeven, who spent 23 years as the wolf specialist for Wisconsin DNR, offered this comment: “Removing 300 wolves in another hunt would likely have a de-stabilizing effect on almost every wolf pack in the state. There is no other wildlife species where that level of reduction would be acceptable. And it’s highly likely it would trigger a US Fish and Wildlife Service review of state management”.

Given the significant uncertainties resulting from the February 2021 hunt there is in fact no quota number for a fall wolf hunt that can be justified if we want to maintain stability of our wolf population. The models used to track Wisconsin’s wolf population were not designed to account for the large and unprecedented hunt that occurred in February, in the middle of the wolf breeding season.

Wydeven’s testimony points to three levels of uncertainty regarding the current status of wolves in Wisconsin, making it difficult to justify a state-wide wolf harvest:

  1. The winter 2020/2021 wolf population estimating process was cut short of the normal surveying opportunity through mid or late March due to the February wolf harvest.
  2. The number of wolves actually removed from the population in February is certain to be larger than the number of registered kills, although it is difficult to estimate to what extent.
  3. The impact of the harvest occurring during the middle of the wolf breeding season removed pregnant females and alpha males, and caused overall disruptions of packs, all of which will have drastically reduced pup recruitment in spring 2021. Preliminary evidence of this effect can be seen in howling surveys currently being conducted, but it is too early to know the extent of that loss.
    According to Wydeven: “Given these high levels of uncertainty over the pre-harvest wolf population, uncertainty over the actual removal due to the harvest, and uncertainty over impacts of the harvest on pup production and recruitment, it is difficult if not impossible to justify any wolf harvest quota in Wisconsin if we are committed to maintaining the long-term sustainability of the population”.
    Wisconsin’s adjacent states of Michigan and Minnesota are not planning a fall 2021 wolf harvest. The adjacent states of Minnesota and Michigan are not planning wolf harvest in fall 2021. Michigan with a wolf population of about 700 wolves has no immediate plans for a wolf harvest. Minnesota with a population of about 2,800 wolves has decided to hold off on holding a wolf harvest until an updated approved state wolf plan is in place. Wisconsin alone is pushing ahead with a wolf harvest because it is required to do so by state law.

Wisconsin’s Green Fire is a statewide membership organization dedicated to science-based management of natural resources. The WGF Wildlife work group members and authors of this testimony are natural resource professionals have carefully evaluated wolf population and harvest data and are deeply familiar with the populations models used by WDNR.
wigreenfire.org
PO Box 1206, Rhinelander, Wisconsin 54501

Email: Info@wigreenfire.org

Targeting Wildlife Predators with Poison to Improve Hunting Opportunities is not only Unethical, it is Illegal

The investigation into the poisonings began in December 2018 after animals were found with no clear cause of death, said Lt. Bryan Harrenstein, warden supervisor in the northern area for the DNR. Since the investigation was announced in early 2019, two hunting beagles have been killed by poison in Forest County, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The dogs became very ill after ingesting the poison and died shortly after, according to investigators. WPR reporter Megan Hart

USFWS reward is $1,000.00 for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pet & Wildlife in northern Wisconsin. As of January 2021 three more pet dogs have died. DNR tip line 1-800-TIP-LINE

Over the last year several poison baits have killed domestic dogs and wild animals. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) & Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Conservation Wardens are on the case investigating who’s targeting wildlife predators with poison baits. Several domestic dogs and wild animals have died as a result of eating these poison baits. This is not the first time poison baits have been used to kill wild animals and probably won’t be that last. In 2014 a father & son plead guilty to poisoning over 70 wild animals. In 2014 as a results of federal and state investigation charges were filed in Wisconsin wildlife poisoning investigations.

“Indiscriminately targeting wildlife predators with poison to improve hunting opportunities is not only unethical, it is illegal. Such use of systemic poisons kills non-targeted species, such as our national symbol, and causes environmental contamination,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jackson, February 13, 2014

The charges were the result of a cooperative Federal and State investigation of the use of the highly regulated pesticide Carbofuran to kill as many as six eagles and other wildlife (more than 70 animals total) on the Sowinski property in Oneida County between 2007 and 2010.Poisoned eagle, bobcat and bear documented by USFWS in 2014.

Poisoned eagle, bobcat and bear documented by USFWS in 2014.
A man walks three dogs along the Tri-County Corridor near Moccasin Mike Road in Superior on Saturday, March 7. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
68% of Bald Eagle Deaths Are Caused by Humans Quad City Daily.

As of April 30, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pets and wildlife in northern Wisconsin. Four dogs have died in the past month in Forest County. Testing on two of them confirmed that the pets died from poisoning. Tests are pending after two more dogs died last weekend. Officials believe the deaths are related to the ongoing poisonings in Florence, Forest and Marinette counties that have been investigated for about a year. So far, seven pet dogs have died. Investigators also found dead coyotes, weasels and wolves that were poisoned. The reward is for information that leads to the arrest and/or charges being filed against a responsible party, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. It asks anyone with information to contact its office in Madison.A man walks three dogs along the Tri-County Corridor near Moccasin Mike Road in Superior on Saturday, March 7. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Poisoning like these are not uncommon in Wisconsin. Law enforcement officers became aware of potential poisoning of wildlife in the spring of 2007 when a State warden recovered a dead eagle and three other animals within 100 yards of a deer carcass. Both the wildlife and deer tested positive for Carbofuran. These discoveries let to the arrests & convictions of a father and son in Oneida County. 

According to USF&WS Alvin and Paul Sowinski, father and son, live in Oneida County, where the family owns some 8,000 acres, which include farm fields as well as prime habitat for both wildlife and hunting. The elder Sowinski baited multiple sites on the property with wildlife carcasses or processed meats treated with Carbofuran, hoping to attract and kill bobcats, coyotes, wolves, fishers and other species that prey on the deer and game birds that he and his son routinely hunted on their land.

“The defendants had in their possession a bald eagle which was killed by a pesticide that one of the defendants admits using improperly,” said Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Wisconsin. “Product labels are designed to ensure the safe use and application of pesticides. Using pesticides for purposes other than their registered use is illegal and puts people, animals and the environment at risk of exposure. Today’s action shows that individuals who misuse these products and kill protected wildlife will be prosecuted.” USFWS Newsroom February 13, 2014 68% of Bald Eagle Deaths Are Caused by Humans Quad City Daily. 

“Wildlife poisoning cases are one of the most egregious violations we come across and are among the most difficult criminal natural resource investigations to conduct,” said Brian Ezman, DNR investigative unit supervisor. “Collecting evidence, conducting surveillance and working around highly toxic insecticides – which were being used indiscriminately – required a heightened sense awareness to protect the safety of investigators, the public and our wildlife and natural resources.” USFWS Newsroom February 13, 2014 

“This is a disturbing case involving the reckless poisoning of wild birds and animals,” said Todd Schaller, chief DNR warden, retired in 2019. “To place poisoned baits out into the environment, lethally threatening any and all wildlife in the area, is not only illegal it is unconscionable and not something the citizens of this state will tolerate.” USF&WS Newsroom 02/13/2014

“The investigation was successful as a result of the teamwork and positive working relationships shared between several law enforcement agencies (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oneida County Sheriff’s Department),” said Brian Ezman, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Investigative Unit Supervisor. USFWS Newsroom 

Two Sentenced For Violating Eagle Protection Act Monday, August 4, 2014

United States Department of Justice  Madison, Wis. – John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Alvin C. Sowinski, 78, and his son Paul A. Sowinski, 46, both of Rhinelander, Wis., were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson for conduct relating to the possession of an American bald eagle. Alvin Sowinski received a $30,000 fine, a seven-year ban on his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges, $100,000 in restitution, and one year of probation and four months of home confinement. Paul Sowinski received a $10,000 fine, a five-year ban on his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges, $100,000 in restitution, and one year of probation. Both men pleaded guilty to the charge on May 14, 2014. 

In 2018 investigations of wildlife poisonings in three counties 

The investigation into the poisonings began in December 2018 after animals were found with no clear cause of death, said Lt. Bryan Harrenstein, warden supervisor in the northern area for the DNR. Since the investigation was announced in early 2019, two hunting beagles have been killed by poison in Forest County, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The dogs became very ill after ingesting the poison and died shortly after, according to investigators. WPR reporter Megan Hart

As of April 30, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pets and wildlife in northern Wisconsin. Four dogs have died in the past month in Forest County. Testing on two of them confirmed that the pets died from poisoning. Tests are pending after two more dogs died last weekend. Officials believe the deaths are related to the ongoing poisonings in Florence, Forest and Marinette counties that have been investigated for about a year. So far, seven pet dogs have died. Investigators also found dead coyotes, weasels and wolves that were poisoned. The reward is for information that leads to the arrest and/or charges being filed against a responsible party, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. It asks anyone with information to contact its office in Madison.

The public is advised for safety to keep pets on leashes while walking in public lands.

There’s a push to hold a wolf hunt even though there’s no updated state management plan in Wisconsin.

A wolf hunt in Wisconsin could happen as early as January 2021. The Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association is pushing for a wolf hunt without allowing the public to weigh in. As it stands now with any delisting, because of the Walker administration’s legislation that mandated a wolf hunt, the WDNR has no choice, but to implement and manage a wolf hunt. There isn’t an updated wolf management plan. Updating the 1999 wolf management plan would require public input. And so it should! Wisconsinites I urge you to contact your state representatives and ask them to update the Wisconsin wolf management plan. To find your representatives click HERE

A Wisconsin grey Wolf. Photograph credit Snapshot Wisconsin.

I’ve been involved in Wisconsin’s Wolf Recovery plan since the year 2000. The concern I have with the state management of its gray wolf is the legislative mandated wolf hunt. Wisconsin law, Act 169 states: if the wolf is not listed on the federal or Wisconsin endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves. A legislative mandated hunt of a species just off the ESL goes far beyond reason and usurps the Democratic process. Why did the legislature jump in making it “law” to hunt wolves in Wisconsin in the first place?

As it stands now with any delisting, because of the Walker administration’s legislation that mandated a wolf hunt, the WDNR has no choice, but to implement and manage wolf hunt.

That rush to hunt wolves by the Walker administration only led to a lawsuit. In 2013 a lawsuit by Humane Society of the United States and others aimed to halt the wolf hunting seasons in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and put the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes area back on the endangered species list. After three years of wolf hunting, including the controversial use of dogs, it led to a federal judge ordering that endangered species protection for gray wolves must immediately be restored in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The decision put an end to controversial hunts in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Once again, this October 2020, Feds removed the gray wolf from endangered species list, returning management to Wisconsin and other states. With this latest delisting it seems the state is on the way to repeating these mistakes again. Rob Stafsholt, a Wisconsin bear hunter is pushing for a wolf hunt to begin as early as January 2021.

Rob Stafsholt, a Wisconsin Bear hunter, and is now a senator for Wisconsin’s 10th district is pushing for a wolf hunt. He is on a mission to bypass public input and go straight to a wolf hunt. In a statement Stafsholt said: “This designation has returned management to the state. Under state statutes, the DNR is required to implement a harvest season, unless preempted by federal law. Wisconsin law establishes a wolf hunting season once federal protections are removed to begin on the first Saturday in November, and conclude on February 28th.

The Wisconsin Bear Hunters are pushing for a wolf hunt without allowing the public to weigh in. There isn’t an updated wolf management plan. Updating the 1999 wolf plan would requires public input.

Wolves should be returned back into the hands of the Department of Natural Resources where citizen’s will be allowed to weigh in. First and foremost is updating the 1999 grey wolf Management plan. A plan that allows input from all stakeholders not just Wisconsin Bear Hounders.

Wisconsinites I urge you to contact your state representatives and ask them to update the Wisconsin wolf management plan. To find your representatives click HERE

The grey wolf is part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy!

Grey Wolf Delisting Raises Concerns About Wisconsin’s Management Process

Photograph credit EarthJustice

I’ve been involved in Wisconsin’s Wolf Recovery plan since the year 2000. The concern I have with the state management of its gray wolf is the legislative mandated wolf hunt. Wisconsin law, Act 169 states: if the wolf is not listed on the federal or Wisconsin endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves. A legislative mandated hunt of a species just off the ESL goes far beyond reason and usurps the Democratic process. Wolves should be returned back into the hands of the Department of Natural Resources to be managed as they were for almost 40 years allowing for public input at every level of the management process. —Rachel Tilseth

The following is from Wisconsin Public Television produce October 25, 2010. Since then, Rob Stafsholt has become a representative, and now a senator for Wisconsin’s 10th district and is pushing for a wolf hunt. He is on a mission to bypass public input and go straight to a wolf hunt. In a statement Stafsholt said: “This designation has returned management to the state. Under state statutes, the DNR is required to implement a harvest season, unless preempted by federal law. Wisconsin law establishes a wolf hunting season once federal protections are removed to begin on the first Saturday in November, and conclude on February 28th.

Yet there are so many that want science to be the deciding factor in deciding how Wisconsin’s grey wolf is managed, and not jumping to a wolf hunt.

The following is from a recent WPR article. Peter David and Sarah Wilkins, both biologists, make very sound scientific points regarding wolf management that I strongly agree with.

Peter David, wildlife biologist for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, said the rule is disappointing to tribes. David said Wisconsin tribes have a deep cultural connection to wolves, which play a pivotal role in a healthy ecosystem in the northern forests.

“They’re very interested in protecting wolves and gaining the maximum amount of benefits that wolves provide,” said David. “We know that was fairly different than the management goals of the state the last time wolves were de-listed.”

David said tribes are odds with state law that requires a wolf hunt when the animals aren’t under federal protection.

Conservation group Wisconsin’s Green Fire said it supports returning wolf management to states and tribes because the recovery of wolves in Wisconsin and the surrounding region meet the standards set under the Endangered Species Act. But the group is urging the DNR to update its 1999 wolf management plan, according to Sarah Wilkins, science director with Wisconsin’s Green Fire.

“The 1999 plan, which is the one that’s in place right now is outdated, and it’s not using the most current and up-to-date information around wolf biology and wolf science,” said Wilkins.

The agency’s 1999 wolf management plan set a goal of 350 wolves for the state, but that figure was based on a projected population of 500 wolves across Wisconsin.

The conservation group also urged the agency to work with a science and technical advisory committee along with a committee of diverse stakeholders in developing a plan, as well as Wisconsin tribes.

“We shouldn’t be moving forward and jumping into a hunt right now until we have that conservation plan in place,” said Wilkins.

If the hunt is reinstated, the group said the agency should maintain the wolf population within numbers seen over the last several years in the range of 866 to 1,034 wolves. Wilkins said they’re also recommending changes to state law that would ensure decisions regarding wolf management and the wolf hunt would reside with the agency.


The following is from Lindsey Botts, writer for this blog and submitted excellent points in a recent Op Ed that appeared in The Wisconsin State Journal,

“Wolves are doing better in Wisconsin but still face threats”

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently reported a 13% increase in the number of wolves in the state over last year, bringing the estimated total to just over 1,000.

The annual count, from April 2019 to April 2020, was primarily conducted over the winter when tracking was easier because of snow. But summer howl surveys, territory mapping, radio collars and observation reports also are used to estimate populations.

New this year is a probability average the DNR calculates based on repeated detections, which include wolf sightings, markings of wolves such as scat and paw prints, and photos. Out of 313 wolf observations by staff and volunteers, about a third were verified. And out of 328 photo sequences, a little more than half were verified. The DNR includes both verified and probable data to come up with an average.

What the new technique lacks in preciseness it makes up for in ease and affordability. That may be great for the DNR, but it might not play out well for wolves. In states such as Idaho and Montana where this model is used, large estimates and fuzzy data are used to set aggressive hunting quotas that wipe out entire packs.

The DNR will use these numbers to set its own hunting limits once federal protections are removed. And anti-wolf legislators will use them to speed delisting from the federal Endangered Species Act, turning wolf management over to the states.

In fact, U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua, is already doing just that. In theory, state management is good. But in practice, it can be disastrous. In the three winters that wolves were delisted in Wisconsin from 2012 to 2014, more than 600 wolves were killed. In short, delisting is only appropriate if the state can resist the push to kill half its population.

Sadly, state management and hunting are so entangled in Wisconsin that our state mandates a wolf hunt once federal protections are removed.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, livestock producers should be able to protect their property by killing animals that threaten their cattle, but aimless killing is cruel and ineffective as a management tool.

Research by Adrian Treves, a professor of Environmental Studies at UW-Madison and founder of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab, has highlighted that indiscriminate killing can actually be counterintuitive. By killing alpha and beta wolves that are experienced hunters, young wolves are left to fend for themselves, which often means they turn to easy prey such as livestock.

And that’s when livestock producers get scared. But statistically, cattle are more likely to die from the weather and disease than from a wolf attack. More than 3 million cattle are in Wisconsin, and less than 0.05% die because of wolves.

While counting wolves is key to shaping policy and understanding wolf dynamics, the data is often used in nefarious ways to undermine wolf recovery under the guise of management, a term that’s hard to decouple from hunting and trapping.

Yet we don’t need to kill wolves for any biological reasons. Wolves don’t attack people in Wisconsin, and controlled hunts serve no purpose other than to satisfy human bloodlust. Many studies, including one by Arian Wallach from Charles Darwin University, have shown that predators are capable of self-regulation. Habitat, available food and the environment all factor into population density.

Back in the ‘90s, biologists thought we’d never have more than a few hundred wolves in the state, which is why the current population goal is 350. But new data suggests this was woefully underestimated. Based on information from last year’s wolf count, we know the wolf population has stabilized and that the natural population is probably closer to what we have now, around 1,000.

The increase in wolves is worth celebrating for sure, but it’s what we do with those numbers that will really determine if wolf recovery is a success. If the numbers are used to justify killing lots of wolves, this isn’t a win, it’s a failure.

Once federal protections are removed, which will likely happen before the end of the year, the state will have to develop a new wolf plan. Wisconsinites need to do two things to make sure the latest wolf count lives up to the conservation success it’s touted as being.

First, we should push the DNR to include updated data in the new wolf management plan. This means contacting the DNR and asking them to update the population goal to reflect the current numbers. Second, we must demand that state legislators use accurate science when making laws that concern wildlife. This means reaching out to your local representatives and urging them to end the mandatory wolf hunt.

Delisting is appropriate when populations are healthy. Killing wolves based on numbers is not. It’s time we demand that the DNR and our state legislators understand that.


This week the Trump Administration announced plans to remove endangered gray wolf protections by end of the year.

Photograph credit: photographer David Yarrow “Wolf-in-Chicago” theme.

This has been anticipated by several organizations, including Wisconsin’s Green Fire , that held a webinar last week. The webinar program featured a trio of expert panelists envisioning a future for wolves in Wisconsin. Panelists: Adrian Wydeven, WGF Wildlife Co-Chair; Jodi Habush Sinykin, Midwest Environmental Advocates; Peter David, Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, “Opportunities for Collaboration: A Shared Vision for Wolves in Wisconsin by Wisconsin’s Green Fire http://www.wisconsingreenfire.org

Don’t panic jet yet, instead get educated; Because there are organizations Such as Wisconsin’s Green Fire , that are working to protect Wisconsin’s wild gray wolf and bring science & citizen input back into wolf management.

There is a law on the books from the Walker Administration 2011 Act 169 that mandates a hunt on gray wolves when they are not listed.

Don’t despair just yet, because this isn’t the Walker Administration anymore where; Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves known as wolf-hounding. There’s a new administration now. Under the Evers’ administration the WDNR values science & citizen input. Listen to Wisconsin’s Green Fire webinar to find out more.

There are ways to circumvent Act 169 and bring back transparency & citizen input in Wisconsin’s wolf management.

There’s work to be done! As with dirty politics there’s always extremists, fringe hunters and politicians at the ready, causing misinformation for their personal gain. Listen to scientific experts! We will be presenting the facts through our People & Wolves Talk Show. Listen & join the conversation.

Wisconsin law, Act 169 states: if the wolf is not listed on the federal or Wisconsin endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves…

Photograph of a Wisconsin gray wolf. Credit Snapshot Wisconsin.

It’s very evident that if something isn’t done to change the law gray wolves in Wisconsin will be hunted. The United States Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS will soon be making a decision whether or not to delist wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota & Michigan. More information about proposed delisting can be found on The Federal Registry.

History of gray wolves in Wisconsin

The Gray wolf was extirpated from Wisconsin’s forests by the 1950s. Then, Gray wolves began entering Wisconsin through Minnesota, and by the late 1970s Gray wolves were establishing home territories in Wisconsin. The newly created Wisconsin Wolf Recovery Program began monitoring packs, and soon wolves were establishing territories throughout Wisconsin’s northern & central forests. The most recent wolf population is an estimated 944 gray wolves are living in Wisconsin according to the over the winter wolf count July 2019 WDNR.

Wisconsin’s Gray wolf population has begun to show signs of stabilizing. State officials say the state’s latest wolf count is further evidence that Wisconsin’s wolf population might be stabilizing. Volunteer trackers reported between 914 and 978 wolves from April 2018 to April 2019, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Scott Walter, DNR large carnivore specialist, said that’s about a 1 percent increase from the last monitoring period. “The last three winter track surveys suggested fairly similar numbers of wolves and that follows really two decades of sustained population growth,” said Walter. “It looks like numbers are leveling off.” Source Wisconsin Public Radio

In 2011 just as gray wolves were about to be delisted the Wisconsin state legislature rushed to create a law. Wisconsin Act 169, is a law that mandates a hunt when wolves are NOT listed on the Endangered Species List.

As the USFWS begins the process of delisting, the question at hand is: will Wisconsin throw ‘dogs to the wolves again like they did in 2013 & 2014? Wisconsin Act 169, a law, allowed for hunters to use dogs to track & trail wolves. Beginning in 2012 there was very little public input in how Wisconsin wolf hunts were run. This lack of public input was due to a hunter-stacked Wolf Advisory Committee (WAC). A committee that was in charge of overseeing how the hunts were managed, and the members were appointed by then Secretary of the WDNR Cathy Stepp.

Several DNR staff are on the recently created Wolf Advisory Committee, as are representatives of several pro-hunting groups. A smaller number of wolf hunting skeptics also remain on the committee, including a representative of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.  WPR reporter Chuck Quirmbach June 2014 

At a WI DNR meeting secretary Cathy Stepp admitted, “When we’re charged to manage and to implement a hunt, coming in and telling us, ‘Don’t hunt wolves,’ is not a productive way to run a committee, frankly,” said Stepp. “That’s just the candid way to lay it out. We had to have people who were willing to work with us in partnership, and be willing to help us and advise us along the way in implementing state law.” Source WPR June 2014

WDNR’s Wolf Advisory Committee met once a month to recommend how wolf management in Wisconsin should be done. Here is a list of Cathy Stepp’s hand Picked WAC, that she thinks better suited to, “…people who were willing to work with us in partnership…”:United States Fish & Wildlife Service(USFWS), United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services(USDA WS), Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission(GLIFWC), Wisconsin County Forest Association(WCFA), Wisconsin Conservation Congress(WCC), Safari Club International(SCI), Timber Wolf Alliance(TWA), Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association(WBHA), Wisconsin Bowhunters Association(WBA), Wisconsin Cattlemans Association(WCA), Wisconsin Trappers Association(WTA), Wisconsin Wildlife Federation(WWF) and 10 WDNR biologists. WODCW blog

One of Secretary Stepp’s hand picked WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee Members is Wisconsin Cattlemans Association(WCA) Earl Stahl. Stahl is for delisting wolves and holding a wolf hunt. 

On 12/26/16 Stahl made his stand clear in a Opinion Editorial for the Wisconsin State Farmer “Wisconsin agreed to the original delisting of wolves with the understanding that the population would be capped at 100. The delisting allowed wolves to migrate from Minnesota and the U.P. in spite of the fact that the Wisconsin DNR documented wolf packs in the state in the 1960s and late 1970s.” Earl Stahl 

Seems clear to me that this DNR Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee member, Earl Stahl, thinks wolves are a problem and they only way to manage them is with a wolf hunt. This is how then DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, appointed by the Walker Administration, managed an endangered species. There was no transparency in Secretary Stepp’s DNR Wolf management process. Many Wisconsinites disapproved of Stepp’s management of the wolf hunts.

The barbaric act of Wolf-Hounding is legal in Wisconsin and was sanctioned in 2011 by the legislature. Wisconsin Act 169, is a law that mandates a hunt must be held when wolves are NOT listed on the Endangered Species List.

Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves. The barbaric act of Wolf-Hounding is legal in Wisconsin and is sanctioned when wolves are NOT listed on the Endangered Species List. In 2011 Wisconsin State Legislators backed by Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, rushed to create a law, Wisconsin Act 169, that mandated a wolf hunt just as Gray wolves were about to be delisted. Wisconsin law Act 169 ordered the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to oversee a wolf hunt. In 2013 the brutal act of “wolf Hounding” began in Wisconsin. On December 06, 2013 the first two wolves were killed by the use of dogs reported By Chuck Quirmbach of Wisconsin Public Radio. In 2013 & 2014 wolf hunters used dogs to track and trail wolves until a federal judge ordered them back under federal protection.

About the photograph: This young Wisconsin Gray wolf lost his life to hound hunters in the last sanctioned wolf hunt to use dogs in 2014. On December 19, 2014 a Federal judge ordered gray wolves in the Great Lakes returned to the protection of the Endangered Species List. A little too late for this young Gray wolf being proudly displayed as a trophy for this Wisconsin hound hunter.

The following is from the Wisconsin DNR wolf hunting reports 2014-2015: Wisconsin wolf hunters and trappers harvested 154 wolves during the 2014-15 season. This was a 60% decrease from the 2013-14 harvest of 257 wolves. The 2014-15 harvest was comprised of 87 males and 67 females. Wisconsin requires state-licensed hunters and trappers to obtain a wolf permit to harvest a wolf. Permits are issued through a 2 stage process. The first 50% of permits are issued through a random lottery in which all applicants are entered. The second 50% of permits are issued based upon the cumulative preference points of applicants which give unsuccessful applicants from prior years a greater chance to obtain a permit. Each permit allows the harvest of one wolf by any legal method. Legal methods include trapping with foothold traps and cable restraints, hunting with the use of electronic calls, bait and the aid of dogs.

On December 19, 2014 a Federal judge ordered gray wolves in the Great Lakes returned to the protection of the Endangered Species List.

Gray wolf at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.
Photo by USFWS

In conclusion, if USF&WS delists the Gray wolf in the Great Lakes Region, Wisconsin citizens must push for greater transparency in a wolf management plan, that allows for citizens input at every step in the decision making process; The plan must protect the health of the Gray wolf population, account for pack dynamics, include proactive measures to mitigate wolf livestock conflicts and to educate the public on how to live alongside gray wolves. A trophy hunt on gray wolves is about power not Conservation and has proven to be detrimental to wolf management. The Gray wolf is part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy.

At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst. ~Aristotle

*Wolf hunters are not reimbursed for dogs killed by wolves during a wolf hunt. But bear hunters are reimbursed when their dogs are killed while in pursuit of bear.

Targeting Wildlife Predators with Poison to Improve Hunting Opportunities is not only Unethical, it is Illegal

Over the last year several poison baits have killed domestic dogs and wild animals. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) & Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Conservation Wardens are on the case investigating who’s targeting wildlife predators with poison baits. Several domestic dogs and wild animals have died as a result of eating these poison baits. This is not the first time poison baits have been used to kill wild animals and probably won’t be that last. In 2014 a father & son plead guilty to poisoning over 70 wild animals. In 2014 as a results of federal and state investigation charges were filed in Wisconsin wildlife poisoning investigations.

“Indiscriminately targeting wildlife predators with poison to improve hunting opportunities is not only unethical, it is illegal. Such use of systemic poisons kills non-targeted species, such as our national symbol, and causes environmental contamination,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jackson, February 13, 2014

The charges were the result of a cooperative Federal and State investigation of the use of the highly regulated pesticide Carbofuran to kill as many as six eagles and other wildlife (more than 70 animals total) on the Sowinski property in Oneida County between 2007 and 2010.

Poisoned eagle, bobcat and bear documented by USFWS in 2014.

As of April 30, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pets and wildlife in northern Wisconsin. Four dogs have died in the past month in Forest County. Testing on two of them confirmed that the pets died from poisoning. Tests are pending after two more dogs died last weekend. Officials believe the deaths are related to the ongoing poisonings in Florence, Forest and Marinette counties that have been investigated for about a year. So far, seven pet dogs have died. Investigators also found dead coyotes, weasels and wolves that were poisoned. The reward is for information that leads to the arrest and/or charges being filed against a responsible party, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. It asks anyone with information to contact its office in Madison.

A man walks three dogs along the Tri-County Corridor near Moccasin Mike Road in Superior on Saturday, March 7. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Poisoning like these are not uncommon in Wisconsin. Law enforcement officers became aware of potential poisoning of wildlife in the spring of 2007 when a State warden recovered a dead eagle and three other animals within 100 yards of a deer carcass. Both the wildlife and deer tested positive for Carbofuran. These discoveries let to the arrests & convictions of a father and son in Oneida County.

According to USF&WS Alvin and Paul Sowinski, father and son, live in Oneida County, where the family owns some 8,000 acres, which include farm fields as well as prime habitat for both wildlife and hunting. The elder Sowinski baited multiple sites on the property with wildlife carcasses or processed meats treated with Carbofuran, hoping to attract and kill bobcats, coyotes, wolves, fishers and other species that prey on the deer and game birds that he and his son routinely hunted on their land.

“The defendants had in their possession a bald eagle which was killed by a pesticide that one of the defendants admits using improperly,” said Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Wisconsin. “Product labels are designed to ensure the safe use and application of pesticides. Using pesticides for purposes other than their registered use is illegal and puts people, animals and the environment at risk of exposure. Today’s action shows that individuals who misuse these products and kill protected wildlife will be prosecuted.” USFWS Newsroom February 13, 2014

68% of Bald Eagle Deaths Are Caused by Humans Quad City Daily.

“Wildlife poisoning cases are one of the most egregious violations we come across and are among the most difficult criminal natural resource investigations to conduct,” said Brian Ezman, DNR investigative unit supervisor. “Collecting evidence, conducting surveillance and working around highly toxic insecticides – which were being used indiscriminately – required a heightened sense awareness to protect the safety of investigators, the public and our wildlife and natural resources.” USFWS Newsroom February 13, 2014

“This is a disturbing case involving the reckless poisoning of wild birds and animals,” said Todd Schaller, chief DNR warden, retired in 2019. “To place poisoned baits out into the environment, lethally threatening any and all wildlife in the area, is not only illegal it is unconscionable and not something the citizens of this state will tolerate.” USF&WS Newsroom 02/13/2014

“The investigation was successful as a result of the teamwork and positive working relationships shared between several law enforcement agencies (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oneida County Sheriff’s Department),” said Brian Ezman, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Investigative Unit Supervisor. USFWS Newsroom

Two Sentenced For Violating Eagle Protection Act Monday, August 4, 2014

United States Department of Justice Madison, Wis. – John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Alvin C. Sowinski, 78, and his son Paul A. Sowinski, 46, both of Rhinelander, Wis., were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson for conduct relating to the possession of an American bald eagle. Alvin Sowinski received a $30,000 fine, a seven-year ban on his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges, $100,000 in restitution, and one year of probation and four months of home confinement. Paul Sowinski received a $10,000 fine, a five-year ban on his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges, $100,000 in restitution, and one year of probation. Both men pleaded guilty to the charge on May 14, 2014.

In 2018 investigations of wildlife poisonings in three counties

The investigation into the poisonings began in December 2018 after animals were found with no clear cause of death, said Lt. Bryan Harrenstein, warden supervisor in the northern area for the DNR. Since the investigation was announced in early 2019, two hunting beagles have been killed by poison in Forest County, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The dogs became very ill after ingesting the poison and died shortly after, according to investigators. WPR reporter Megan Hart

As of April 30, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of someone who is poisoning pets and wildlife in northern Wisconsin. Four dogs have died in the past month in Forest County. Testing on two of them confirmed that the pets died from poisoning. Tests are pending after two more dogs died last weekend. Officials believe the deaths are related to the ongoing poisonings in Florence, Forest and Marinette counties that have been investigated for about a year. So far, seven pet dogs have died. Investigators also found dead coyotes, weasels and wolves that were poisoned. The reward is for information that leads to the arrest and/or charges being filed against a responsible party, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. It asks anyone with information to contact its office in Madison.

The public is advised for safety to keep pets on leashes while walking in public lands.

Investigators offer reward for any information leading to the arrest of those poisoning wolves and wild animals.

In all, about half a dozen dogs and (about a half dozen) wolves, as well as several raccoons, weasels and raptors, have been killed by poison in Marinette, Florence and Forest counties, Harrenstein said. Lab tests confirmed the animals were killed by toxic substances, the DNR said in a news release. Source Wisconsin Public Radio

Investigators are offering a reward of $1,000 for any information related to the poisonings that leads to an arrest or charges. The legal consequences for the poisonings could include fines and jail time, depending on which species are ultimately affected. Source Wisconsin Public Radio

Be Leary of anyone in the area claiming to investigate the poisonings. Amateur sleuths could potentially interfere with the work of trained investigators. Wisconsin Conservation Wardens are highly trained and on the case. If you see anything suspicious in the area call the wildlife officials.

Anyone with information or a tip is asked to contact the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Violation Hotline by calling or texting 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. You also may report online at the WDNR website. The hotline is in operation24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay information to conservation wardens.

In 2019, Andrew Lundin, a lieutenant conservation warden with the DNR, told Wisconsin Public Radio someone could be targeting wolves to eliminate predators in the area. Source Wisconsin Public Radio