Tag Archives: WDNR

This past year has been quite the whirlwind for Wisconsin’s grey Wolf!

Wolves were delisted in January 2021 and the fight began. Fringe hunters wanted their trophy wolf! And in February 2021 they got their trophy wolf hunt because a conservative advocacy group filed a lawsuit and won. In February the hunters went over there quota causing a firestorm of controversy.

A Douglas County wolf. Credit Snapshot Wisconsin .

February 2021 wolf hunt went over quota taking the tribe’s portion plus more. A total of 218 wolves were harvested by state license holders. Of the 218 wolves harvested, hunting accounted for 208 wolves (95% of total take) while trapping accounted for 10 wolves 3(5% of total take). Of the 208 wolves taken by hunters, 188 (86%) were taken with the aid of trailing hounds, 16 (7%) were taken with the aid of predator calls and 4 (2%) were taken by stand/still hunting. Of the 10 taken by trappers, 7 (3%) were taken with foothold traps and 3 (2%) were taken with cable restraints WDNR Data

Of the 208 wolves taken by hunters, 188 (86%) were taken with the aid of trailing hounds. WDNR February 2021 Wolf Hunting Data. Photograph credit Wisconsin Wolf Hunting’s Facebook page.

Six Chippewa tribes filed a lawsuit on Sept. 21 seeking to block the hunt, saying hunters killed too many wolves during the state’s February season and kill quotas from the fall hunt aren’t grounded in science.

I think the Six Ojibwa Tribe’s Lawsuit has the strongest case yet to settle the never ending argument regarding how wolves are managed in the state of Wisconsin. The tribe’s lawsuit actually has solutions that can work and it is all about the tribe’s partnership with their brother, the “wolf”! They have lived in partnership for centuries with grey wolves, and they understand that the wolf belongs on the land where he is needed; working in harmony with nature, and the creator. And they do not want their brother hunted for a trophy. They want their treaty rights! And I’m definitely for this solution!

The tribes are represented by the California-based environmental group Earthjustice. The Ojibwa’s case took an unusual turn due to a preliminary injunction all ready in place on the wolf season handed out Oct. 22 in a similar case by a Dane County judge. With the season already effectively blocked, judge Peterson said he wasn’t able to issue relief. But he heard arguments and testimony over 7 hours Friday. I have no doubt that the tribe’s injunction would of been granted but for another lawsuit that was granted first.

Traditionally the first week of December is when wolf hunters are allowed to use dogs to track and trail grey wolves. Wisconsin is the only state that allows wolf hunters to use dogs because of a law, 2011 Wisconsin Act 169 that was enacted during the Walker administration. But a Dane County Circuit Court Judge issued a temporary injunction Friday halting the season, which was set to begin Nov. 6.

The following is my opinion editorial that I wrote in August 2021.

NRB POLITICS THREATENS WOLF RECOVERY.

Laid out before me was the skeleton remains of a White-tailed deer: clear signs of a wolf kill site. The ribs were facing up-right, the hide was in a tight bundle beside the remains, and the fur lay on the ground in a circle all around the remains. I felt a great deal of respect for both the deer and the wolf. This was part of nature’s plan, part of the predator and prey dynamics. I came upon the site in the year 2003 while scouting my wolf tracking block, and those memories remind me of my time spent observing wolf signs during Wisconsin’s wolf recovery program. 

When I became a volunteer Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Winter wolf tracker in the year 2000, there were just 66 wolf packs. I was assigned a wolf tracking block in Douglas County, Wisconsin. The gray wolf population flourished while under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Thirty years after Wisconsin began its wolf recovery program, I witnessed it disappear altogether. Wolf recovery went from zero to sixty, resulting in three consecutive wolf hunts, mandated by the conservative controlled state legislature.

The most unfortunate aspect of this process was the loss of public education & input: the conservative party controlled wolf management. And, to top it off, anti-wolf fringe hunters also came to dominate politics. They pushed misinformation instead of science. They began campaigns full of political rhetoric designed to scare the public. The propaganda by anti-wolf politicians & fringe hunters were claiming wolves are killing all the deer, and the people in the northwoods don’t want them in their backyards. 

Today I’m reminded of these same political dynamics that surrounded gray wolf management in Wisconsin back then. I debated writing about the recent events surrounding wolf management in Wisconsin because I felt drained by the drama of it all. It’s just more of the same, just a different day, different year and different decade with politics that surrounds the wolf. It’s more about people than wolves because people drive the politics. 

Take for instance the recent August 11, 2021 meeting of the Natural Resources Board (NRB). The chair, Dr. Prehn (R), wants a wolf hunt so bad that he refuses to relinquish his seat to Governor Ever’s (D) appointee Sandy Naas and it’s made headlines all over the world.

The Natural Resources Board chair Dr. Prehn (R).

At the NRB meeting, chair Prehn and four other board members went against the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) scientific recommendations of a wolf quota of 130 and voted to up it to 300. They also voted that the DNR must get approval from the NRB if they change the 300 quota number. That move puts conservatives in the majority to control wolf hunting in November 2021. 

For the most part, it’s interesting to add for public information that many are the same players from the past decade.  The same party holds majority power, and refuses to hear any scientific evidence, just as before during the prior three wolf hunts. These same tactics led to the gray wolf being relisted. A Federal Judge ordered that endangered species protection be restored immediately in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan on December 19, 2014. 


I’m witnessing the same political ploys being carried over to today’s NRB.  In the past, the wolf advisory meetings that were run under then DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp (R) were chalked full of dirty politics and it’s no different today. It was as hard to watch then as today. Because the same anti-wolf propaganda is being carried on in today’s wolf management. Just like back then, the anti-wolf crowd would have you believe everyone living in wolf country doesn’t want them there. 

Meanwhile, I don’t believe the anti-wolf’s argument that all the people living in wolf territory want them gone or hunted down to a population of 350.

Based on my experience, not everyone in wolf country hates & fears wolves. I track wolves in Douglas Ccounty, Wisconsin. In 2004 I needed a plot map for tracking and went over to the Douglas County forestry office to purchase one. While I was standing by the counter, in the office waiting for someone to wait on me, I looked up to see several pictures hanging above the counter of wolf puppies.

Douglas County Forest Office in Solon Springs, Wisconsin

In conclusion, in a DNR Public Attitudes Towards Wolves Survey taken in 2014, Douglas County has the highest density of wolves and people, with 56% of the citizens wanting to live with wolves. Interestingly enough, Douglas County has the oldest populations of wolves and the most tolerant people, showing that Wisconsinites can coexist with wolves. 

Therefore, I encourage Wisconsinites to get involved in the wolf management plan that is in the process of being written.

Listen on SoundCloud as Adrian and Peter discuss the following questions. Why did the State Circuit Court pass an injunction on the Wisconsin wolf hunting and trapping season? What decision did the federal court make in the case by Earthjustice on behalf of the Ojibwe Tribes? Do these two court cases eliminate the possibility of any wolf hunting and trapping season occurring this fall or winter? What is the current wolf population and how does this compare to 10, 20, and 30 years ago? Does it appear that the wolf population is still growing rapidly or starting to stabilize? How does the DNR count wolves? What current regulations on use of dogs for hunting wolves exist for Wisconsin, and will this change with a new wolf plan? What efforts are being made to update the state wolf conservation and management plan? Will the wolf plan make any major changes in wolf hunting and trapping regulations in Wisconsin?

Monday December 6th at 7:00 PM Wort Radio’ Access Hour Presents: A Wisconsin Wolf Hunt Discussion

Host Rachel Tilseth returns to the Access Hour where she will update us on the several lawsuits in the works that have stopped the Wisconsin wolf hunt for this year.

I’m Rachel Tilseth, author of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin inviting you to join me Monday, December 6th, at 07:00 PM on WORT Radio’ Access Hour , hosting an in-depth conversation regarding the lawsuits and the use of dogs in Wisconsin’s wolf hunt 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.

Join us by calling in to take part in an informative discussion on Monday December 6th at 7:00 pm – 8:00 PM on Wort Radio’ Access Hour .

Traditionally the first week of December is when wolf hunters are allowed to use dogs to track and trail grey wolves. Wisconsin is the only state that allows wolf hunters to use dogs because of a law, 2011 Wisconsin Act 169 that was enacted during the Walker administration.

SPECIAL GUESTS 

Adrian grew up in northeast Wisconsin, and has a BS in biology and wildlife management from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (1976), and an MS in wildlife ecology from Iowa State University (1979). Photograph courtesy of Adrian Wydeven.

Special Guest Adrian Wydeven grew up in northeast Wisconsin, and has a BS in biology and wildlife management from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (1976), and an MS in wildlife ecology from Iowa State University (1979). His master’s research was on the ecology and food habitat of elk in the Wind Cave National Park, SD. He worked as a wildlife manager in Missouri and Wisconsin from 1980-1990. Adrian headed up the state gray wolf recovery and conservation program for Wisconsin from 1990 through 2013, while also working with other rare mammals and wildlife. He retired from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in 2015 after nearly 33 years. Adrian continues to be actively involved in wolf surveys and conservation through the Timber Wolf Alliance and Wisconsin Green Fire.

Peter David assists GLIFWC’s member tribes in the implementation of their off-reservation, treaty-reserved rights.

Special guest Peter David is a wildlife biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, where he assists GLIFWC’s member tribes in the implementation of their off-reservation, treaty-reserved rights. He received his education (bachelors and masters in Wildlife Ecology) from UW-Madison, and from the tribal elders and members for whom he has worked for the last 35 years. At the Commission, he has had the opportunity to steward resources as varied as wild rice and wolves.

HOST

Producer & Host Rachel Tilseth is a freelance writer, fine artist, educator, and environmentalist. Tilseth has been a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Volunteer Winter Wolf Tracker since the year 2000. Tilseth worked with the Wisconsin Wolf Recovery Program as a volunteer since 1998, and as a result learned about the lives of wild gray wolves. Tilseth worked to draw attention to the plight of Gray wolves during the three years Wisconsin held wolf hunts. Rachel is founder and owner of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin. Tilseth received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education in 1992 from UW-Stout, graduating with cum laude honors.

A brief summary.

Judge Jacob Frost halted Wisconsin’s fall wolf season two weeks before hunters were set to take to the woods. Frost issued a temporary injunction halting the season, which was set to begin Nov. 6.

Frost said, “The law creating the wolf season is constitutional on its face, but that the DNR failed to create permanent regulations enacting it.” 

The law gives the DNR great leeway in setting kill limits, hunting zone hours and the number of licenses making it all the more important that the department follow the regulatory process to ensure it doesn’t violate the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches. 

This means if DNR can meet the requirements put forth by Judge Frost there could be a hunt this season.

October 1, 2021 Six Ojibwe tribes file motion for preliminary injunction against the state

Madison, WI—EarthJustice  is back in court today on behalf of six Ojibwe tribes seeking a preliminary injunction to stop Wisconsin from holding a wolf hunt in November. The motion asks the judge to hold a hearing before the planned hunt slated to begin on Nov. 6.

This motion is part of the tribes’ lawsuit filed Sept. 21 in the Western District of Wisconsin against the state claiming the proposed hunt violates the tribes’ treaty rights. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved a quota of 300 wolves, ignoring the recommendations of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and willfully acting to nullify the Ojibwe Tribes’ share of wolves which the tribes seek to protect. Even the lower quota of 130 wolves recommended by the Department has no grounding in sound biological principles because, in developing the recommended quota, the Department failed to obtain a population estimate of the Wisconsin wolves that are remaining after a rushed hunt held in February.

During that three-day hunt, non-Indian hunters killed at least 218 wolves, including all of the Ojibwe tribes’ share in violation of the tribes’ treaty rights. Neither the Board nor the Department has made any changes to the management of the hunt to prevent a repeat of February’s disastrous overkill of wolves. Scientists estimate that a third of all wolves in Wisconsin have been killed since federal delisting.

THE FOLLOWING ARE STATEMENTS FROM EARTHJUSTICE AND TRIBAL REPRESENTATIVES FROM THEIR DECLARATIONS FOR THE COURT:

“This case is about Wisconsin’s responsibility to protect and conserve the natural resources we all share,” said Gussie Lord, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s Tribal Partnerships program. “The Ojibwe’s treaty rights guarantee them the ability to coexist with the natural world in the way that they believe is appropriate and necessary to sustain the future generations. Wisconsin does not have exclusive rights here. The state has set the stage for yet another violation of the Ojibwe’s treaty rights and we are asking the Court to step in and prevent that from happening.”

“Our treaties represent a way of life for our tribal people. Eroding and disregarding our treaties is unacceptable. We view violations of our treaty rights as hostile actions against our tribal sovereignty and the very lives of tribal people.” – From the declarationof Mike Wiggins, Jr., Chairman, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

“What happens to ma’iingan happens to Anishinaabe. What happens to the wolf happens to humanity. That is universal law. The ecosystem is all connected. That is the message the ma’iingan is giving to humanity.  Look at what we are facing today — the fish are dying, the trees are dying, the climate is changing, the water is drying up.  Look at what is going on with the earth — what is taking place. I believe ma’iingan is saying — pay attention.” – From the declaration of Marvin DeFoe, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

“The wolves are part of the ecosystem. The deer herds in Wisconsin are infected with Chronic Wasting Disease. When the wolves see the herd, they take the weak animals to try to keep the herd strong. We need strong deer herds, we need the body of the waawaashkeshi, to feed our families.” – From the declaration of Robert VanZile, Chairman, Sokaogon Chippewa Community.

“The Ojibwe that hunt, fish and gather, we take and give back. We are supposed to be looking out for the next seven generations. I try to do that by teaching my grandsons to just take what they need to survive. We teach our children this — when we know it is wrong to hunt, we do not hunt. We take a step back and assess the damage. We determine how we can help so we can have the animals, the plants, the fish, for our future.” – From the declaration of John Johnson, Sr., President, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Earthjustice represents the tribal nations Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community, and St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.

The Ojibwe word for “wolf” is ma’iingan, for “white-tailed deer” is “waawaashkeshi,” and the word to describe the people of the Great Lakes region connected to this culture is Anishinaabe

Wisconsin wolf photograph credit Steve Meurett

Commentary: Killing is Not the Only Choice for Gray Wolf Management

I am posting a commentary By CHARLIE RASMUSSEN, communications director for the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), because it makes perfect sense when considering how the tribes Honor their obligations towards the Natural Resources of Wisconsin. I’m going to post the last paragraph of Rasmussen’s commentary first because it’s the perfect lead for the post:

“Looking ahead to this November ma’iingan season, Ojibwe bands have declared one-half, or 50% of the wolf quota established by the NRB. Wisconsin DNR officials must also account for the 99-wolf overkill that occurred in the runaway February season. The sum of 99 should be subtracted from the state’s share of wolves after the tribal declaration. When clerical errors have resulted in walleye overages by Ojibwe spearfishers, lakes are closed to harvest the following season to account for the overage. Tribal managers account for their mistakes. It’s well past time the state takes on a similar level of accountability.”

The following is the full commentary By CHARLIE RASMUSSEN:

In setting a 300-kill quota, the Natural Resources Board disregarded wishes from tribes and conservationists, and recommendations from the DNR experts.

Six months after Wisconsin wolf packs were left reeling from an unprecedented recreational hunt during the animals’ vulnerable breeding season, state officials are pushing forward plans to kill hundreds more wolves in 2021.

At its August meeting, a lame-duck-lead majority of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB) made clear that its decision to set the wolf quota at 300 had nothing to do with science or stewardship.  Collaboration with Ojibwe bands is absent here as well—an affront to federal court decisions that make up the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Indians v. Wisconsin, or “Voigt” case, which requires the state to coordinate management with tribes in the 1837 and 1842 Ceded Territories.

Wisconsin wolves lost protection under the Endangered Species Act on January 4, 2021. Then, in late February the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) presided over a chaotic wolf hunt in which recreationists killed nearly 100 extra wolves, soaring past a quota limit set at 119 animals. The unprecedented hunt with hounds during the wolf breeding season was so deadly that it had to be shut down after only three days. Fresh snowfalls made for efficient hunting as many tag-holders used dog packs to run down wolves, some of whom were pregnant, across wolf range in the state.

Now, despite calls from Ojibwe tribes to back away from yet another 2021 ma’iingan (Ojibwe Anishinaabe word for “wolf”) kill, as well as advice from Wisconsin DNR biologists to set a more moderate fall quota, the NRB demonstrated that its illegitimate holdover majority is bent on driving down the state’s wolf population. At a meeting in Milwaukee, members of the board scoffed at the state’s own scientific experts for recommending a 130-wolf quota. The board even went so far as to consider a kill goal as high as 504 before settling on 300 wolves. Faced with a science-based analysis, the NRB stumbled through talking points about the need to move the population toward a non-existent population goal in a 22-year old management plan, in order to manipulate the quota. Denying the tribes their share of a science-based quota—thereby undermining Ojibwe bands’ treaty rights—appeared to be a priority.

Killing is not the only choice when it comes to managing a quota of natural resources. Each sovereign entity, whether tribal or otherwise, decides how its share is used.  While the DNR Board may struggle to comprehend this judicious use, it’s a precept the DNR, the agency, understands. For Ojibwe bands, the current sovereign decision is that the best use of wolves comes in the form of live animals, on the land, helping to enhance and maintain healthy ecosystems upon which the tribes depend.  

Looking ahead to this November ma’iingan season, Ojibwe bands have declared one-half, or 50% of the wolf quota established by the NRB. Wisconsin DNR officials must also account for the 99-wolf overkill that occurred in the runaway February season. The sum of 99 should be subtracted from the state’s share of wolves after the tribal declaration. When clerical errors have resulted in walleye overages by Ojibwe spearfishers, lakes are closed to harvest the following season to account for the overage. Tribal managers account for their mistakes. It’s well past time the state takes on a similar level of accountability. 

The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission is an intertribal agency comprised of 11 Ojibwe bands in Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, and Minnesota. GLIFWC works with member bands to both manage and preserve off-reservation treaty reserved resources. Please visit www.glifwc.org for more information.

Charlie Rasmussen

Charlie Rasmussen As communications director for the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), Rasmussen works to help the intertribal agency’s 11 Ojibwe bands manage and preserve off-reservation treaty-reserved resources in Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, and Minnesota.

*Image of gray wolf credit Snapshot Wisconsin

Livestream of Wisconsin’s Wolf Management Plan Committee Meeting, August 19, 2021

Wolf Management Plan Committee (WMPC) Meetings: The WMPC convenes for a series of four meetings to discuss wolves and wolf management and provide input towards the revised wolf management plan. The following is the livestream of the second WMPC meeting today August 19, 2021.

The DNR is currently in the process of revising the state’s wolf management plan. This page will be updated frequently throughout the process.

To stay up-to-date on current and upcoming events, public input opportunities and progress updates:

The wolf management plan provides overall guidance to the state’s wolf management efforts. During the plan update process, the DNR will collect extensive public input through a wolf management plan committee, an online questionnaire and an opportunity to review and comment on an initial draft of the management plan. Throughout the process, the DNR will work closely with our tribal partners and other natural resource professionals involved in wolf management in Wisconsin.

Please Submit Comments: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wants public input on the November wolf hunt kill numbers.

If wildlife and its habitat are not protected under a strong and sound public trust system, the public will not have the ability to challenge, and therefore influence, management decisions.

The Wildlife Society

At their next Natural Resources Board (NRB) meeting they will be discussing how many gray wolves to kill for the fall 2021 hunting season that will occur in November. The item on the agenda is 4.H.. Please take action for wolves and provide a written statement for the NRB for consideration during this meeting CLICK HERE and fill out their form. Deadline to submit a comment is August 4, 2021 at noon.

It’s important the the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board here from you. Please register to testify remotely at the August 11th Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. To register to speak please contact Laurie Ross at Laurie.Ross@wisconsin.gov, 608-267-7420. Be sure to provide your name, city, phone number, and email or mailing address. Thank you!

Here’s the deal. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is a government agency working to protect our natural resources, and in this case, gray wolves. The agency scientists were largely removed by the previous conservative administration in charge. Too in charge I would like to add. They seem have a choke-hold on our Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Under this conservative administration a law was written by them and the Wisconsin’s Bear Hunters Association and pushed through the legislature, that mandated a wolf hunt, when gray wolves are not listed under the protection of the endangered Species Act. Therefore the conservative led legislature has essentially tied the hands of our public governmental agency in charge, the WDNR. And the WDNR wants to hear your voice, loud and clear, through a written comment CLICK HERE. Deadline to submit a comment is August 4, 2021 at noon.

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.

Act 169 wolf hunt law strips away WDNR’s powers to manage a species according to the Public Trust Doctrine, essentially what is best scientific practice for the management of gray wolves.

Please make your comment by noon on August 4, 2021 deadline CLICK HERE .

For the Public Trust Doctrine to be an effective wildlife conservation tool, the public must understand that wild animals, regardless of whose property they are on, belong to everyone.

The Wildlife Society

The following is a screenshot from the WDNR site asking for public written comments

Please make your comment by noon on August 4, 2021 deadline CLICK HERE .

It’s important the the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board here from you. Please register to testify remotely at the August 11th Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. To register to speak please contact Laurie Ross at Laurie.Ross@wisconsin.gov, 608-267-7420. Be sure to provide your name, city, phone number, and email or mailing address. Thank you!

Photograph credit C. Anderson

The Washington Post Interviewed Retired Wolf Biologist, Adrian Wydeven, Regarding the February 2021 Wisconsin Wolf Hunt

Adrian’s been working for Wisconsin’s wild wolf since 1991 and that was when I first met him. He’s retired now from the department and is still active sharing his experience on various wolf committees. In the article (click blue highlighted words) to listen to his finally tuned wolf howl! I’ve been on many wolf howl surveys with Adrian, and I’ve alway said, “he’s a walking encyclopedia on wolves!” The Washington Post article captures all the complex intricacies of wolf politics in Wisconsin. ~Rachel

A Wisconsin Wild Wolf. Photograph credit Al Scherwinski Photograply LLC

The Washington Post A wolf hunt blew past its kill quota in February. Another hunt is coming this fall.

Wisconsin, increasingly divided between rural and urban views, faces hard, contentious questions of how big its remaining wolf population should be

By Peter Kendall The Washington Post

CHEQUAMEGON-NICOLET NATIONAL FOREST, Wis. — The howl that Adrian Wydeven sent into the moonless summer night sounded like what a wolf might make, a descending run of low tones, impressively loud and sustained.

The answer that came back from the dark forest was far more authentic, however. It started as a single note, deep and mournful, that rose in volume and complexity as at least one other wolf joined in, their melody lines crossing, inadvertently forming ominous chords as they passed.

“It feels like you are having a conversation with them,” Wydeven whispered as he stood on a lonely fire road. “They are mostly saying, ‘Get out of here! We don’t want you here!’ ”

The retired wildlife biologist was listening for something elusive in those cries from the woods: insights into whether the packs roaming Wisconsin had produced any pups after a furious February hunt at the peak of their breeding season, just weeks after the Trump administration removed their Endangered Species Act protections.

The voices that responded all sounded mature. Wydeven heard none of the higher-pitched howls that would have indicated this wolf pack, invisible but audible amid miles of tamarack and black spruce, was now raising any young.

He wrote on his data sheet: “Wolf 2+ adults. Pups no?”

Wydeven is among the scientists and wildlife managers seeking to understand how many of the animals remain after the state’s rushed February hunt, when participants blew past a quota of 119 wolves and killed 218 in just 63 hours.

Another hunt is coming this fall, as mandated by the state legislature, and its quota will be based on estimates of the surviving population. Because it has been so problematic assessing how breeding was disrupted in February, coming up with those estimates is proving difficult and controversial, as is most everything with Wisconsin’s gray wolves.

The February hunt was just one of the rancorous twists in the big carnivore’s return to a state increasingly divided between its urban and rural areas and roiled by politics that often distrust environmental laws and the government officials who make them. It also brought into sharp relief the ongoing conflicts with wolves and the feelings among many people that they should be gone.

Topographically, Wisconsin is ideal for Canis lupus. Receding glaciers left behind a patchwork of rolling uplands and expansive wetlands, a harsh landscape that defied all early attempts at farming. After the region was mostly logged off in the 19th century, vast tracts of prime wolf habitat came into public hands. By the 1950s, bounties and hunting had all but eliminated the animals here.

Yet once wolves were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1974, they slowly made their way back into the state from neighboring Minnesota. Their numbers have generally been on an upward trajectory since 1980.

Before February, the state estimated that 1,136 wolves were living in rural northern Wisconsin. In that conservative stronghold, which went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in the past two presidential elections, they are far from embraced.

In a 2014 survey, nearly a third of respondents who live near wolves said they would prefer as few of them as possible. Among deer hunters, who often claim wolves reduce herds, almost two-thirds said they wanted fewer wolves.

On a Facebook page for Wisconsin wolf hunters, one typical comment reads: “The only good wolf is a dead wolf.”

“It goes back a long time, at least in European culture,” said Randy Johnson, the large carnivore specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “Look at ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’ It is just ingrained in our culture that wolves are associated with negatives.

“The reality is that they are only just another big predator,” Johnson continued. “We have 24,000 bears and 1,100 wolves, and yet, everybody has a wolf story.”

Most of the wolves’ diet here consists of deer, according to research, although they primarily target the young and old. Yet deer aren’t all wolves eat. State records of attacks on domestic animals last year show that they killed 26 cattle, 32 sheep, seven goats, two alpacas, a potbellied pig and 28 dogs — most of them hounds out hunting bear.

Such attacks drive a tolerance or even enthusiasm for wolf hunting.

Under a 2011 state law, a wolf hunt must be held whenever it is not prohibited by federal or state protections. The Obama administration had taken the wolf off the government’s endangered species list for several years before a court ordered it to reverse course. When the Trump administration delisted it again last fall, despite many biologists calling the move premature, Wisconsin officials announced plans for a hunt in November 2021. But a hunter sued, winning a court order that it take place immediately.

Eleven days after an appeal was denied, the shooting started.

The killing unfolded so quickly that officials couldn’t stop it fast enough to keep the quota from being exceeded by 80 percent. One hunting advocate applauded how many wolves were “harvested.” One researcher called it a “slaughter.”

Everything was on the hunters’ side. The first two mornings of the hunt dawned with fresh-fallen snow, ideal for tracking. Wolves were in the peak of their breeding season, so they were active on the trails, marking their territories.

Perhaps most important, hunters were allowed to use packs of up to six dogs, which would not be allowed in a fall hunt because of its overlap with deer season. Many also used snowmobiles or ATVs, increasing their efficiency as they worked the woods day and night.

The group Hunter Nation quickly trumpeted the final tally and highlighted the hunt’s “positive economic impact” — almost $500,000 from the permit fees plus “the additional revenue spent on supplies, gas, food, and lodging … in mostly rural communities who’ve been struggling during the pandemic.”

The indirect toll on the wolves has been difficult to gauge.null

“The question is, what is the impact on reproduction?” Johnson said. “Will it be impacted more than a normal season, when other things can impact them?”

An accurate answer is especially important now. By early August, a Wolf Harvest Advisory Committee — composed of wolf advocates, hunters, biologists and the state’s tribal members — will present a proposed quota for the November hunt. Another committee is working to revise the long-term species management plan by spring.

Wisconsin uses statistical modeling to estimate the population, basing it primarily on winter tracking surveys and data from GPS collars that are part of the longest-running statewide tracking program in the country. But officials don’t have enough data past February to make a post-hunt calculation.

A recent study concluded that up to a third of Wisconsin’s wolf population potentially has been eliminated, which would put the current count at no more than 695 wolves. The study cited past research that found legalized wolf hunting also drives “cryptic poaching,” meaning illegal, covert killing.null

Lead author Adrian Treves, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, argues that without a more precise number the hunt quota should be set as low as is possible.

“A quota of one would comply with the statute [mandating a hunt] and acknowledge that we have no clue how successfully the wolves reproduced this year,” Treves said. “Because the hunt happened during the mating season, we would need good data on how many packs produced pups, and that is data we do not have.”

Hunting advocates want the quota set considerably higher and based on a new goal for the population overall.

“We don’t have a problem with wolves. We think they belong on the landscape of Wisconsin,” said Dan Trawicki of Safari Club International. “The issue is, how many wolves?”

One data set to be excluded from the official 2021 estimate is the outcome of “howl surveys,” where humans mimic wolves and the wary packs answer, sometimes revealing pups’ higher-pitched voices. One of the only ways to measure breeding success, the surveys in past years identified pups in nearly three of every four packs.null

The effort is so time-consuming, however, that the state is no longer incorporating their findings. That means they can only provide anecdotal insights into breeding success.

“This year will be the most important for the howl surveys, to see how many packs have pups,” said Wydeven, who long led the state’s wolf program until his 2015 retirement and still sits on the advisory committee. “I have a feeling [the total] will be down.”

The surveys are conducted by academic researchers and conservation groups. Howlers typically start at dusk and end hours later, following desolate fire roads that circumscribe an area known to contain wolves. They do a series of 15 prescribed calls at certain intervals, listening for answers and recording results.

Wydeven spent more than three hours in the forest during his outing in early July, the beginning of a months-long period when wolf pups are leaving their dens and their vocalizations can be discerned from those of adults in a pack.

He stopped more than a dozen times to call into impenetrable woods in a remote corner of public land. By the time he quit after midnight, he had elicited responses from wolves three times. None were from pups.

Source

Adrian Wydeven checks his compass after distant wolves responded to his howls in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin in early July. (Peter Kendall) The Washington Post

Take Action For Gray Wolves By filling Out the Survey: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking public input

Seeking Public Input: The DNR seeks public input on the Fall 2021 wolf harvest season as well as the ongoing revision to the state’s wolf management plan. Use the online input tool to provide your comments on both topics between April 15 and May 15.

The wolf management plan provides overall guidance to the state’s wolf management efforts. During the plan update process, the DNR will collect extensive public input through a wolf management plan committee, an online questionnaire and an opportunity to review and comment on an initial draft of the management plan. Throughout the process, the DNR will work closely with our tribal partners and other natural resource professionals involved in wolf management in Wisconsin. https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/wolfmanagementplan

John E. Marriott

Watch People & Wolves Talk Show Host Alexander Vaeth’s interview of retired wolf biologist, Adrian Wydeven

Post Wolf Hunt: The Latest News Concerning Wolf Depredations in Wisconsin

Photograph credit John E Marriott

In February 2021 WDNR was forced by a conservative advocacy group, Hunter Nation Inc, lawsuit to hold a wolf hunt. Needless to say it was disaster for gray wolves in the midst of mating season. I’ve been keeping a close eye on WDNR wolf depredations after the hunt. I was reading through the WDNR Wolf Depredations Report 2021 and wanted clarification on two of the counties, Bayfield & Marquette. Specifically, I wanted to find out if these depredations were due to losing pack members in the February 2021 wolf hunt. In Bayfield county there were 2 confirmed wolf depredations of beef calves on two separate dates post hunt (2-22-21) and (3-08-21). Then in Marquette county one calf on 3-23-21. I contacted Randy Johnson The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Large Carnavore Specialist to ask him about depredations in these two counties and was it tied to packs losing members in the wolf hunt.

He said, “In both cases, I see no reason to believe these conflicts were triggered by the harvest season.”

The following is Johnson’s email response regarding confirmed wolf depredations in the two counties.

There are no (Wildlife Services) WS efforts underway in Marquette County. There were 7 harvested in the south-west part of the county in Feb., including a collared adult female, but the depredation is in the north-west part of the county and well beyond the range of the collared female. The livestock producer is being issued a wolf removal permit which allows the individual to take a number of wolves (I’m not sure the #, often it’s 2 wolves) but this is a much less effective route than WS targeted removal efforts.

There are recent (Wildlife Services) WS removal efforts underway in northern Bayfield County. These are in response to 6 verified conflicts on 3 farms, some of which occurred well prior to the Feb season. WS attempted similar removal in January but were unsuccessful. There were 10 wolves harvested in Bayfield, 9 of which were in the southern part of the county (away from the conflict) and one in the north.

In both counties the depredations occurred after the February 2021 wolf hunt. Marquette county depredations were not in the area were hunters took a collared female wolf. Depredations happened in the north-west part of Marquette county from a different wolf pack. Along with the two depredations Bayfield county that have been occurring prior to the February wolf hunt.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources shut down Wisconsin’s February 2021 wolf hunt after only three days. Licensed hunters had killed 216 wolves, 82 percent more than the 119 quota, in three days. The DNR rules allowed hunters to employ bait in trapping, to hunt at night, and to use dogs to pursue the wolves. Trappers could utilize cable restraints and foot-hold traps. Since the timing of the hunt was during the wolves’ breeding season, and with hunters wiping out 20 percent of the population, wolves may end up on the endangered list again.


Hunt closes Wednesday amidst public outcry of barbarism towards Wisconsin’s gray wolf

Wisconsin’s wolf quota was half full after just one day of hunting and trapping, the the slaughter of pregnant gray wolves will close Wednesday afternoon.

Under a court order the Department of Natural Resources launched a one-week wolf hunt on Monday. The department reports that as of Tuesday morning hunter and trappers had killed 52 wolves, filling nearly 44% of the 119-animal statewide quota. Another 81 wolves are allocated to Ojibwe tribes, for a total of 200 this year.

The hunt was Controversial for several reasons. Opening a wolf hunt in February would disrupt the gray wolf’s breeding season, which means pregnant females will likely be killed. Out of all the states that allows the hunting of gray wolves, Wisconsin is the only state to allow the use of dogs; Wisconsin quite literally throws dogs to wolves.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reduced the wolf quote on opening day in recognition of the tribes’ off-reservation treaty rights. The wolf quota was reduced to 119, with tribes portion at 81 and they will not hunt their brother ma’iingan. The state divided the state into six management areas. The northern parts account for the largest percentages of wolves killed. The DNR is hoping to kill 31 wolves in zone 1, where Douglas County is located. This is the most of any of the six areas. In zone 2, which is the northeastern part of the state, the DNR hopes to kill 18 wolves. And in zone 3, which is situated just under zone 1, they expect to kill 20.

On Monday, February 15th, the Wisconsin board of natural resources committed to killing 200 wolves over the next two weeks to comply with a court order. The order comes from judge Bennett Brantmeier, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge, who ruled that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must hold a wolf hunt during the hunting season if wolves are off the endangered species list. The DNR had filed an appeal but it was denied.

Wolf harvesting zone closures go into effect 24 hours after the department posts notice of the closure. It is the hunter or trapper’s responsibility to determine the closure status of a wolf zone prior to attempting to hunt or trap wolf in that zone. Zone status updates are also available by calling the telephone information system (855-299-9653).

The Public Access Lands atlas provides interactive, detailed views of tribal lands borders, inside which wolf harvest is not permitted.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reduced the wolf hunt quota in recognition of the tribes’ off-reservation treaty rights.

The wolf quota has been reduced to 119, with tribes portion at 81 and they will not hunt their brother ma’iingan

The following is from Peter David, wildlife biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC).

“As this season has unfolded, many people have asked how they can support the tribes’ treaty rights and their desire to protect ma’iingan.”

I think one very tanglible thing is to applaud the DNR for reducing the quota in recognition of the tribes’ off-reservation treaty rights. You may not acually hear GLIFWC applaud them for this; it is afterall, what we expect them to do. But at the same time, DNR will take a lot of heat for doing this from certain quarters, and it is not a given that it will unfold the same way come fall. So I do suggest you let them know it’s appreciated; I think the more people and organizations that do, the better. Thank you all for your efforts!