Will the Government Ever Get it Right on Delisting the Gray Wolf in the Great Lakes Region?

These and other questions come to mind as the Federal Government Working On Removing Gray Wolf From Endangered Species List . Will Wisconsin be transparent in its management of the Gray wolf population, and once again allow for greater pubic input as it did prior to the 2012 USF&WS delisting decision.

In 2011 WISCONSIN ACT 169 legislation mandated a trophy hunt on the newly delisted Gray wolf. Wisconsin Act 169 allowed reckless management policies such as; Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.” Wolf Hounding Fact Sheet

In 2013 & 2014 Wisconsin sanctioned the use of dogs to hunt wolves.

This reckless management of the Gray wolf was overturned as part of Humane Society of the United States lawsuit of USF&WS’s 2012 delisting. In December 2014 a federal judge put Gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region back on the Endangered Species List. USF&WS appealed the 2014 ruling, but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled Gray wolves in the Great Lakes region should remain on the endangered species list, July 2017.

Besides the horrific wolf management policies by the state of Wisconsin, problems exist within the way USF&WS determines criteria for wolf delisting in the Great Lakes Region in 2011. It’s seems USF&WS got its “hand slapped” by a judges ruling for trying to delist using the following:

“The proposal identifies the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of wolves, which includes a core area of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as parts of adjacent states that are within the range of wolves dispersing from the core recovery area.” USF&WS Press Release 2011

But then, on July 2017, the three-judge panel unanimously said the wolves should stay under federal protection. The judges wrote, “The Endangered Species Act’s text requires the Service, when reviewing and redetermining the status of a species, to look at the whole picture of the listed species, not just a segment of it.”

As the Associated Press reports the judges ruled that,

“The service had not adequately considered a number of factors in making its decision, including loss of the wolf’s historical range and how its removal from the endangered list would affect the predator’s recovery in other areas, such as New England, North Dakota and South Dakota.”

Just how reckless is Wisconsin in its management policies of the Gray wolf?

If the Gray wolf in Wisconsin gets delisted tomorrow; it’s a law that a wolf hunt must take place:

“If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves and shall regulate such hunting and trapping as provided in this section and shall implement a wolf management plan. In regulating wolf hunting and trapping, the department may limit the number of wolf hunters and trappers and the number of wolves that may be taken by issuing wolf harvesting licenses.” 2012 Wisconsin Act 169

A brief history on Wisconsin’s reckless management of it’s wolf population, 2012 through 2014.

Wisconsin’s Wolf Advisory Committee is not far and balanced. In other words, there is no transparency in WI DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp’s Wolf management process (WDNR secretary at the time).

WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee met once a month during the legislatively mandated trophy hunt on Wisconsin’s Gray wolf. The WAC recommend how wolf management in Wisconsin should be done. Here is a list of Cathy Stepp’s (WDNR secretary at the time) 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

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

I was was interviewed on June 2014 regarding DNR secretary kicking off wolf hunt opponents Rachel Tilseth of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin was a volunteer DNR tracker of wolves for about a dozen winters, and attended a few meetings of what used to be called the Wisconsin Wolf Stakeholders Group. Tilseth testified about the wolf hunt proposal during Wednesday’s meeting. She later said she didn’t care for Stepp’s remarks.

“I was just appalled that somebody like Cathy Stepp, who’s in charge of this important issue, is saying something like that,” said Tilseth. “It sounds to me like it’s a committee that they want made up of wolf-killers.”

Recap of the last two years in the never-ending political rhetoric designed to stir public sentiment against an endangered species.

Wisconsin’s annual nine-day gun deer hunt sees increase in statewide buck harvest 2016. The largest change in buck harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone (30 percent increase from 2015) after two consecutive mild winters and limited antlerless tags. From WI DNR Press Release 

The increase in buck harvest is hopeful news, because fringe hunters, along with some politicians are claiming that wolves are killing all the deer. This news puts a damper on republican Senator Tom Tiffany’s efforts to delist the wolf.

“A Great Lakes Summit in September 2016, was organized by two Republican lawmakers from northern Wisconsin, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Adam Jarchow, who hope control of the wolf population returns to state governments.” MPR News

The 30 percent buck increase in the Northern Forest Zone (where the wolf lives) is good news as DNR’s own scientific data is proving wolves aren’t eating all the white-tailed deer in northern Wisconsin.

Yet, certain politicians in Wisconsin refuse to believe scientific fact.

As with any cause, a biased or misleading view can be used to promote, to publicize a particular political cause or point of view.  Here we have several anti-wolf politicians making claims to distort the public’ veiw of wolves; wolves are decimating the White-tailed deer herds, attacking livestock and killing hunting dogs.  Let’s set the record straight; wolves do hunt White-tailed deer, have killed some some livestock and did kill 37 bear hunting dogs.  But in reality; is there a big-bad-wolf here? Let’s get the facts before we sanction the killing of an endangered species.

Are wolves killing more livestock?

Let’s take some statistics from The Wisconsin Gray Wolf Monitoring Report for the period of 15 APRIL 2015 THROUGH 14 APRIL 2016 and read the graphic for yourself. There were 52 wolf depredations on livestock.

There were 52 wolf depredations from April 15, 2015 through April 15, 2016. To put it in perspective, that was 52 livestock deaths by wolves out of 3.50 million head of livestock in Wisconsin. Read for yourself:

“The total inventory of cattle and calves on January 1 rose 3 percent from 2014 to 2015, to 3.50 million head. The number of milk cows rose by 5,000 head to 1,275,000 head and the number of beef cows rose 25,000 head to 275,000 head. On the U.S. level, slaughter prices rose to $153.00 per cwt. for cattle and $255.00 per cwt. for calves. As a result, Wisconsin’s value of production rose 33 percent to $1.92 billion.”  Source: USDA Wisconsin statistics

Wisconsin’s wild wolf is the most talked about animal of late.  Politicians in Wisconsin have villianized the wolf, and are pushing to delist him.  It’s no secret that one cannot trust politicians. Politicians are in competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership; they’ve created propaganda to make the wolf look bad.

Politicians have removed science from wolf management and replaced it with political rhetoric. They put together a Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee with stakeholders primarily from the hunting community.

The WAC is heavily slanted towards recreational trophy hunting of wolves with 9 citizen pro wolf hunting organizations to 1 pro wolf citizen organization. Further, according to Cathy Stepp this committee is more productive than opponents of the wolf hunt. There is evidence to the contrary that shows the WAC productiveness is comparable to reality TV’s Housewives of NYC.  From WODCW’s Blog

In conclusion, if USF&WS, the government, gets it right this time in delisting the Gray wolf in the Great Lakes Region Wisconsin citizens must push for greater transparency in wolf management. Because trophy hunts are about power not conservation. We owe the Gray wolf, that was exterminated from our forest, an ethical & compassionate conservation management plan, because we have done enough harm to this iconic predator.

Wolves are a part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy…

Wolves have an amazing olfactory sense. They will blow on the bed where a White-tailed deer slept causing all the particles to flow up and into their olfactory sense. By doing this the wolf can tell if the White-tailed deer is healthy or not. A wolf can tell if the tick that fell off the White-tailed deer has puss in the blood. Wolves can tell if a White-tailed deer has a tooth infection by smelling a chewed leaf. Wolves have kept a healthy balance in the wild for centuries. Yet, the politician claims to be the best at deciding the fate of the wolf. Stand firm, speak for wolves, because we have the moral high-ground. Wolves are a part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy. They keep the White-tailed deer healthy.

Featured image by John E Marriott

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A new conspiracy theory has wolf advocates inflating white-tailed deer numbers…

In Wisconsin deer hunters can now register deer electronically. And now…A northern Wisconsin newspaper believes, that wolf protectionists bought gun deer licenses and called in or logged in fake bucks in hopes of boosting the northern Wisconsin harvest. The Lakeland Times

Wisconsin’s annual nine-day gun deer hunt sees increase in statewide buck harvest 2016. The largest change in buck harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone (30 percent increase from 2015) after two consecutive mild winters and limited antlerless tags. From WI DNR Press Release 

The increase in buck harvest is hopeful news, because fringe hunters, along with some politicians are claiming that wolves are killing all the deer. This news puts a damper on republican Senator Tom Tiffany’s efforts to delist the wolf. 

“A Great Lakes Summit in September 2016, was organized by two Republican lawmakers from northern Wisconsin, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Adam Jarchow, who hope control of the wolf population returns to state governments.” MPR News

The 30 percent buck increase in the Northern Forest Zone (where the wolf lives) is good news as DNR’s own scientific data is proving wolves aren’t eating all the white-tailed deer in northern Wisconsin.  

Right? 

Except there’s a conspiracy theory about these buck increases …

Wisconsin now allows deer hunters to register their deer kills by phone and here’s where the conspiracy theory begins.

A northern Wisconsin newspaper thinks wolf advocates may have bought deer hunting licenses in wolf country, then called in registering bucks to inflate the deer hunt numbers. 

Read this conspiracy theory for yourself, read on: 

From the Lakeland Times  “That’s why one northern Wisconsin deer hunter is taking the buck by the horns, so to speak, in an attempt to get to the bottom of this whole situation. Gregg Walker is the publisher of The Lakeland Times, a bi-weekly newspaper out of Minocqua in Oneida County. Walker isn’t taking the news of the 30 percent increase in the Northern Region buck kill at face value. He has filed a Freedom of Information Request with the DNR to get all of the hunter registration information for the Northern Region. Once he gets that info, Walker and newspaper staff members are going to being making phone calls to deer hunters.”

More from the Lakeland Times: “Walker believes, that wolf protectionists bought gun deer licenses and called in or logged in fake bucks in hopes of boosting the northern Wisconsin buck kill.” Lakeland Times  And here’s why. “Ahead of the deer season, word started spreading that there is a good chance that a federal legislative move to finally delist timber wolves once and for all in the Great Lakes states and Wyoming might soon pass with Donald Trump as president.  If that happens, then Wisconsin is going to need an updated wolf management plan. Perhaps the biggest wrestling match in that plan will be the setting of a wolf population goal. Wolf protectionists know this. They also know they want to see a goal between 750 and 1,000 wolves. They also know if there isn’t a perceived increase in the northern buck kill – at least on paper – then hunters are going to dig in their heels and fight like hell to keep the state’s wolf goal at 350. So, could there really be wolf protectionists out there buying deer tags and registering fake bucks?”



The Lakeland Times is investigating this and other conspiracy theories relating to the 30 percent increase of bucks, and I’ll be waiting to read the results. In the meantime, you can read the full Lakeland Times article by clicking HERE. Hunters questioning 30 percent increase in Northern Region buck kill by Dean Bortz. 

Every ethical hunter knows that when wolves are present the deer herd is healthier. Any increase, especially a 30 percent increase, during a deer hunt is a positive for both hunter, deer and wolves. 

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Featured image by John E Marriott

Gray wolves in northern Wisconsin are saving the forest 

The Research,  The work took place at Notre Dame’s Environmental Research Center that straddles the border between Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula and Northeast Wisconsin. The site has forest, bogs and swamps, with red and sugar maples as the dominant hardwoods — a preferred food for deer.

Of wolves, deer, maples and wildflowers by Eric Freedman first published on June 16, 2016 Source breaks the results of the research down in the following article:

Grey wolves are good for wildflowers like the nodding trillium and the Canada mayflower in the Great Lakes region. They’re also good for young red maples and sugar maples.
That’s because white-tailed deer are bad for both wildflowers and maple saplings. And wolves are bad for deer.

WDNR photograph of White-tailed deer in Wisconsin

With the resurgence of wolves in the region, smart deer are learning to keep away from areas with many of the predators, meaning that wildflowers and young maples there have a better chance of survival, according to a recent study by scientists from the University of Notre Dame and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The work took place at Notre Dame’s Environmental Research Center that straddles the border between Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula and Northeast Wisconsin. The site has forest, bogs and swamps, with red and sugar maples as the dominant hardwoods — a preferred food for deer.

In scientific terms, it’s not a question of deer getting smart. Rather, they adapt their behavior in wolf-heavy areas to improve their chances of survival — and incidentally improve the survivability of the maples and forbs, or herbaceous flowering plants. On a practical level, that means deer have adapted by spending less time foraging in “heavy wolf use areas,” the study found.

We conclude that wolves are likely generating trophic cascades which benefit maples and rare forbs through trait-mediated effects on deer herbivory, not through direct predation kills.”

Biologists call the process “trophic cascades.” The phrase refers to “trait-mediated” indirect effects that carnivores, meat-eaters, have on plants by killing plant-eaters or changing plant-eaters’ behavior. In other words, trophic cascades happen when predators, in this case, wolves, kill or change the behavior of their prey, in this case, deer, in ways that benefit the type of plants that deer eat.

Wolves in Wisconsin photograph by WDNR

Plant-eaters can have a major impact on environmental change, including biodiversity and the structure of plant communities, the study said, and the findings may help managers of wildlife and public lands in the Great Lakes region.

Historically, wolves were “the natural top predator of Great Lakes deer,” the researchers noted, but hunting eliminated them in the study area by the late 1950s. They stayed extinct in the area until the MDNR discovered a new pack around 2000-06.

The department’s winter 2015-16 survey found a “minimum population or 618 wolves in the U.P. That’s “a very conservative count,” said Kevin Swanson, a Marquette-based wildlife management specialist in the MDNR bear and wolf program. White-tailed deer populations in Great Lakes forests increased dramatically without grey wolves, a trend with “significant negative impacts on forest sapling growth and forb biodiversity,” the study said.

There are no official estimates of the U.P. deer population but numbers are “the lowest for several decades” due to recent back-to-back hard winters, said Swanson, who was not involved in the wolf-deer-maple-wildflower research project.

Lead author David Flagel, assistant director of Notre Dame’s Montana-based Environmental Research Center West, said an estimated 5 to 15 percent of Wisconsin deer die each winter,
Originally, deer in the region chowed down on yellow birch and eastern hemlock, “but the combination of lingering logging effects and years of deer eating saplings has eliminated a lot of them from the understory,” Flagel said.

Maples are “not an absolute favorite,” but once the preferred birch and hemlock are gone, they’re “going to eat something else. Like with your fridge at home,” he said.
The study said, “Deer exhibited very different behavior in areas of high and low wolf use. Deer visited high wolf-use plots less frequently than they did low wolf-use plots, and the duration of the visits to high wolf-use areas was shorter. Deer also spent a lesser proportion of their time foraging in high wolf-use areas.”

Differences were dramatic. Deer density was 62 percent lower in high-wolf areas, where deer visits were 82 percent lower and foraging time was 43 percent shorter, it said.
And what about the maple saplings and wildflowers?
Not surprisingly, deer browsed a significantly larger proportion of them in low wolf-use areas, while the richness of wildflower species “was also significantly affected by wolf use,” the study said. The average richness of the wildflowers increased from 38 to 110 percent in low wolf-use sites.
“The results of the experiments revealed that the negative impacts of deer on sapling growth and forb species richness became negligible in high wolf-use areas,” the study said. We conclude that wolves are likely generating trophic cascades which benefit maples and rare forbs through trait-mediated effects on deer herbivory, not through direct predation kills.”
Study co-author Dean Beyer Jr., a MDNR wildlife biologist, called the findings “an important step, albeit, an early step in investigating trophic cascades in the Great Lakes region.”
He said, “We have known about deer response to wolves for quite some time, including a1980 study that found increased deer use of areas between wolf territories.” And in a 2014 report on research in the south-central U.P., Beyer and other scientists discovered that adult does avoid core areas that wolves use.
If additional research produces similar results, “I would expect that this information would eventually begin to influence forest and wildlife management plans,” Beyer said.
The study appeared in the journal “Community Ecology.”
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Featured image John E Marriott