Tag Archives: Wisconsin wolf hunt

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.


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

People & Wolves Talk Show Topic: Wisconsin wolf hunt with special guest Adrian Wydeven

Air date: Wednesday April 14, 2021, 06:00 PM CST

Host Alexander Vaeth will have a conversation with Adrian Wydeven about the recent February 2021 wolf hunt. The discussion will be live-streamed on People & Wolves Talk Show’s Facebook Page. Click on the following post to go to the livestream. There will be a question & answer session during the livestream. Join the conversation!

And here’s the livestream downloaded on YouTube

Guest Adrian Wydeven

Adrian Wydeven led the Wisconsin DNR Wolf Recovery Program from 1990 through 2013. Photograph courtesy of Adrian Wydeven.

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). 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.

The recent wolf hunt demonstrated what can happen when politics and courts dictate wolf management, instead of being informed by science and an inclusive process of wildlife governance.

Adrian Wydeven, comment regarding the recent Wisconsin wolf hunt.
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.

Air date: Wednesday April 14, 2021, 06:00 PM CST on People & Wolves Talk Show’s Facebook Page.

Host Alexander Vaeth

Alexander Vaeth, photograph courtesy of Alexander Vaeth.

Alex is a volunteer wolf tracker with the Wisconsin DNR, and a Spanish teacher by training. He completed his graduate studies in Spanish at Middlebury’s language schools in Vermont, USA, Madrid, Spain, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and volunteers as a medical interpreter in the city’s community clinic. Alex spends nearly all his free time in the woods tracking and monitoring wildlife with remote cameras and is also keenly interested in wolf advocacy and research.

Alex’s statement regarding the recent wolf hunt

I have always been fascinated by wolves, but had never lived near a wild population until my wife and I decided to move to Wisconsin to work in the UW system teaching Spanish. We moved from North Carolina and ultimately chose UW-Eau Claire for many reasons. The Wisconsin DNR has a longstanding volunteer tracker program that allowed me to move to Wisconsin and get involved in wolf monitoring almost immediately. I have been learning about the packs I track in the Central Forest as well as the history of wolf recovery and wolf hunting in Wisconsin. The most recent hunt was deeply saddening for me, as some of the wolves I have been tracking for two years were likely killed (I have seen no sign of them since the end of February). There is no convincing biological argument I have seen for hunting wolves, let alone slaughtering them in the manner just witnessed here in Wisconsin. It is also frustrating to see the First Nations tribes in Wisconsin so brazenly ignored, as they are tried and true stewards of the natural world and need to have a role in wildlife “management” and decision-making in the region.

Air date: Wednesday April 14, 2021, 06:00 PM CST. Host Alexander Vaeth will have a conversation with Adrian Wydeven about the recent February 2021 wolf hunt. The discussion will be live-streamed on People & Wolves Talk Show’s Facebook Page.

Mission: People & Wolves Talk Show works with dedicated professionals to document the conscious relationships between People & Wolves. People & Wolves Talk show shares stories of people working to coexist with wild wolves. Wild grey wolves are now struggling for survival worldwide. People & Wolves Talk Show works with filmmakers, scientists, academics, journalists, writers, fine artists, Wildlife photographers and musicians, that share a common interest to produce, to share educational stories of People & Wolves.

The show’s producer is Rachel Tilseth. 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. As an environmentalist Tilseth has organized events, film screenings and a film festival. Tilseth received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education in 1992 from UW-Stout, graduating with cum laude honors.

Cathy Stepp’s New WDNR: Dysfunction Junction.

*Updated 06/11/18 – I attended the monthly meetings of the Secretary Stepp’s newly appointed Wisconsin DNR’s Wolf Advisory Committee 2012-2014. I witnessed just how dysfunctional it would get at these meetings. Cathy Stepp is no longer WDNR Secretary and moved on to accept a key position with the Great Lakes EPA. The following is my account of one of these dysfunctional meetings.

Under Wisconsin DNR Secretary, Cathy Stepp’s direction the WI Wolf Advisory Committee (WAC)  decides wolf management policy in Wisconsin. “Cathy Stepp Says Staunch Hunting Opponents Weren’t Being Productive Members Of Advisory Body…” The following news story by Wisconsin Pubic Radio made it clear that a WDNR secretary did indeed kick wolf advocates off her committee: DNR Secretary admits wolf hunt opponents we removed from Advisory Committee

During three years 2012-2014 WDNR managed trophy hunts on Wisconsin’s wild wolf. Wolves hadn’t even been officially delisted when Wisconsin legislators enacted Wisconsin Act 169 mandating in a law that wolves must we hunted when they are not listed.

WDNR was ordered to oversee a wolf hunt under then WDNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. Stepp created a WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee to manage the trophy wolf hunts. 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.

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.

I spent eight hours listening to fringe hunters disrupt the meeting in an effort to further a pro wolf hunt agenda;  At one point during all the dysfunction, a committee member said, ” let’s vote on how dysfunctional this committee has become.”  They further stated (in obvious frustration), “This is like herding cats, said a WCC member.”

Why was this WAC member so frustrated?

The first agenda item was; to set a maximum wolf population number for the new management plan; this agenda item effort took up the entire meeting. Yes! You read this right, it took the rest of the day to accomplish this one agenda item.

The following was a college student’s observation of the WAC meeting:

Valuable meeting time was taken up in finger pointing at each other, so much so, that even the public observers attending the meeting were heard to say, “this committee should act singular with the same goals leaving individual groups names out of the discussions.”

How many wolves can Wisconsin support is even more important factor now that citizens have shown they want wolves on the landscape. Read on:

“Wisconsin residents support a wolf population at least as large as the state has now, according to a draft survey released Tuesday by the Department of Natural Resources. Majority support for at least maintaining the wolf population was present even among county residents in “wolf range,” the area of Wisconsin where wolf depredations are most prevalent. The survey results conflict with a DNR plan to reduce the state’s wolves to 350, a population goal identified in a 1999 wolf management plan.”  Source

The goal of the WAC is to determine what the social  and land carrying capacity of Wisconsin’s wolf population for the 2105 wolf management plan. The WAC has the obligation to work together for this end goal. Right? This was not the case as several pro wolf hunt WAC members refused to move beyond their own organization’s agenda on wolf population numbers.

Is Wisconsin’s Wolf Advisory Committee sanctioning the hunting of an endangered species?

In answer to that question the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Representative said, “Well you have to kill them to save them.”

These types of statements claim their (WWF) own special brand of conservation of an imperiled species. This conservation ethic continues to this day.

Trophy hunts are about power not conservation.

Even worse was the squabbling heard coming from hunting groups directed at the WDNR during the meeting.

WI Bear Hunters Association, and WI Bow Hunters Association Committee members accused the agency (WDNR) of being in favor of higher wolf populations. WBA was clear that they want to stick to the 350 wolf population numbers and no matter what the cost; even bringing up past history. WI Bear Hunters Association committee member claimed the agency is not keeping their promises made to them regarding wolves;  promises made over 30 years ago.

WI Bow Hunter Association (WBA) committee member went to great lengths to justify keeping wolves to the original management plan written in 1999 of 350. They brought up an old unsubstantiated document from Timber Wolf Alliance; regarding discussion on the now  infamous 350 wolf population number from almost a decade ago.

The 350 Wisconsin wolf population number was never meant to be a final cap. It was a suggested number for when wolves could be taken off of life support.

By mid afternoon break it was evident that several pro wolf hunt committee members were not going to compromise on any wolf population number; other than the now infamous 350. Even remarking; that they are not authorized by the organization they represent to approve any other number. Meanwhile, other WAC members were becoming frustrated by this lack of cooperation.

The committee tried to move forward with a vote at that point with one WAC member abstaining from vote because; “it’s become to dysfunctional, said the  GLIFWC member.”

In the end, the WAC committee voted to advance the following goals for public input, which are; establish wolf population either, numerical goal of 350 or 650, or numerical range of 300 to 650 or a threshold of 350.

Many WAC members voiced concerns that these numbers are up for public comment; Furthermore, are only recommendations only. WAC Committee member making it clear; that these numbers need to be taken serious, else wise wolves could be re-listed. Even stating, if any federal agencies sees wolf population numbers drop below healthy numbers they could be re-listed as a result.

Even with this these cautions of re-listing wolves; the Pro wolf hunt WAC members wouldn’t budge, making the process of finding suitable middle-ground impossible.

WAC member from WI Cattlemen’s Association remarked that wolves are harassing and killing their livestock; stating they want 350 populations goals that were established over a decade ago.

On the other end of the spectrum;  was the opinion given from WDNR Depredations manager, that lethal controls are in place for landowner & livestock owners to remove problem wolves. Stating that the wolf hunt is not needed to control problem wolves.

Interview filmed June 11, 2015 while attending a WDNR wolf population meeting.

WAC is not working for for the public trust. Wisconsin’s wild wolf has great value on the the health of ecosystems, such as; trophc cascade throughout wolf range benefiting White-tailed deer herds, prevention of over browsing of forests, and keeping disease in check. The wolf’s value on the ecosystems far outweighs the small numbers of depredations on livestock, pets and bear hunting dogs; which can be minimized by wolf education & awareness, that is sorely lacking in Secretary Stepp’s WAC.

In its current state WAC is dysfunction junction.