Tag Archives: Wolves

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?

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

This summer you’re invited to listen to the call of the wild gray wolf in Wisconsin.

Imagine the following scene. You step as quietly as you can from your vehicle in the forest, where it’s so dark, that you cannot see your hand in front of your face. You walk several feet to the front of your vehicle, and meet with the rest of the wolf howl survey group. Everyone waits patiently for the sound of the vehicle’s engines to quiet down. Then, you hear the first of several low human made howls, and you listen for the response from wild gray wolves. Finally you hear them respond! The howling is music to your ears. It’s the sound of a wild gray wolf pack. You listen to every wolf howl, coming from the entire wolf pack, pups included, and it’s an intrinsically magical sound; filling up your spirit with pure delight! The sound of wild wolves howling is an ancient sound that has been missing in the forest until recently. Join me on a howl survey. There’s no charge. You’ll need to drive to the northwoods and meet with us. You can contact me through email wolvesdouglasco@gmail.com Kids welcome so bring the whole family.

The howling survey continues to be a valuable citizen science program.

Adrian P. Wydeven
Timber Wolf Alliance Council, Chair
Certified Wildlife Biologist (TWS)
Minnesota gray wolf. Photograph credit Voyageurs Wolf Project.

Timber Wolf Alliance (TWA) and Timber Wolf Information Network (TWIN) picked up the coordination of the howl survey in summer 2020. For more information on how you can learn more about volunteering Contact TWA here.

The forest canopy is so thick that it blocks out all light, even the stars. It’s so dark that you cannot see your hand in front of your face.

I’ve been conducting summer wolf howl surveys since the year 2000.

Rachel Tilseth, citizen science program volunteer

http://www.timberwolfalliance.org

Please Take Action: Petition seeks to remove the allowance of dogs for hunting wolves in Wisconsin

Petition: Repeal Act 169 6:2, Use of Dogs to Hunt Wolves. To sign the petition click HERE

No Grounds For Hounds designed by Ned Gannon

Ned Gannon started this petition to https://appengine.egov.com/apps/wi/governor/voice-an-opinion and 2 others

This petition seeks to remove the allowance of dogs for hunting wolves in WI, which is allowed through Act 169 passed by the Walker Administration in 2012. It results in terrorizing of the animals, sometimes running them to death or cornering them in vicious fights that are nothing more than legalized dog fighting. No other state with wolves allows this form of hunting. It does not honor the dog safety or the wolf’s life. Wolves are a vital part of ecosystems allowing for a balance of wildlife and healthy robust plant diversity. Wolves also tend cull deer with Chronic Wasting Disease lowering the disease’s spread. Those advocating for the need to kill wolves through management programs should not be opposed to this process. In February of 2021 WI hunters killed at least 216 wolves in three days going nearly 100 over the state determined quota. This was months after the animal was taken off the Endangered Species Act in a moment of political theater. The normal wolf season is supposed to run from October to February. The species can’t endure a season that long if these methods allow such a high kill rate in three days. Advocates for wolves as a “recovered” species that no longer need protection rarely account for the hatred of this animal that is much higher than other species that recover such as Bald Eagles and Sandhill Cranes. Additionally, wolves are an attractive part of the allure of the outdoors for many non-consumer recreationalists in WI. And there are no reported incidents of wolves attacking humans in the state.

To sign the petition click HERE

Art work by Ned Gannon https://illustrationwest.org/57/artist/ned-gannon/

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.

Will the gray wolf, an endangered species, just fresh off the list get its due process?

Image of gray wolves credit Voyageurs Wolf Project http://www.voyageurswolfproject.org

In the latest round of gray wolf delisting news, a conservative advocacy group, Hunter Nation Inc, filed a lawsuit on February 2, 2021, against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Natural Resources Board (NRB). The plaintiffs believe the NRB violated their rights by not approving a wolf hunt in February. The plaintiff’s complaint states:

The Department of Natural Resources refuses to comply with
unambiguous state law requiring it to allow the hunting and trapping of wolves. This refusal violates the constitutional and statutory rights of hunters throughout the State of Wisconsin. The Plaintiffs respectfully request that this Court order DNR to obey the lawful commands of the Legislature that created it and immediately establish an open season for hunting and trapping wolves.

The state law the complaint refers to is 2011 Wisconsin Act 169 states:

If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department (DNR) 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. 

A recreational hunt is not in the best interest of people or gray wolves.

Rachel Tilseth, founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin

Thus, the DNR is mandated by the law to manage a wolf hunt in Wisconsin.  The plaintiff’s want the DNR to immediately establish an open season for hunting and trapping on wolves. And hunters get use dogs to track and trail wolves. That’s bad for gray wolves. 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..

Opening a wolf hunt in February would disrupt the gray wolf’s breeding season. On Friday January 22, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board met virtually for a special meeting to discuss the next steps to establish a wolf hunt in Wisconsin in 2021. The public was invited to weigh in and the following was my comment on it.

Hunters want to run their dogs on wolves during prime breeding season.

January and February is prime breeding season for wolves. As a volunteer Wisconsin DNR wolf tracker I’ve witnessed how wolves behave this time of year. Holding a wolf hunt during this time would be disastrous for grey wolves and the wolf hunter’s dogs. Here’s why. During January I’ve followed wolf tracks and witnessed the entire wolf pack moving along the border of their territory

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what would happen if they threw hunters into the mix running their dogs during wolf prime breeding.

Following wolf tracks in January revealed how they behave during breeding season. Every member of the pack followed the alpha pair as they scent marked along the road. The road was a mile long and the alpha pair scent marked every tenth of a mile. At the end of the road I found a tiny snow-covered pine sapling with rust colored urine on it. The rust colored urine indicated the alpha female was in estrus. A tracker knows that sign reveals wolves are in prime breeding season. All of these signs from the alpha pair took place on the border territory indicating this was an aggressive act meant to declare territory.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what would happen if you threw wolf hunters into the mix running their dogs on wolves during wolf prime breeding. I’m against this, and I’m sure other Wisconsinites, if given the facts about grey wolf prime breeding season, would not be in favor of a hunt at this time of the year either.

Senator Rob Stafsholt, a member of Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, is pushing for an immediate wolf hunt.

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

The NRB voted no to an early wolf hunt.

Thankfully Wisconsin’s tribes spoke up for their brother “Ma’iingan” the wolf and the Natural Resources Board voted no to an early February wolf hunt. So now instead of accepting the NRB decision a conservative advocacy group, Hunter Nation Inc has filed a lawsuit to immediately open a wolf hunt in February during prime breeding season. I asked Collette Adkins what she thought of the lawsuit.

“I’m sickened by the eagerness of trophy hunters to kill Wisconsin’s wolves,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Through this lawsuit, trophy hunters seek to open a wolf hunt now without prior consultation with the tribes, in the middle of the wolf breeding season and against the direction given by experts at the Department of Natural Resources. I’m confident that the court will reject this baseless lawsuit.”

 

Furthermore, the The Plaintiff, Hilgemann, President and CEO and a member of Hunter Nation, “would like to exercise his constitutional and statutory rights to hunt wolves…” Lawsuit filed by Hunter Nation Inc.

Should Hilgwmann’s rights supersede others rights?

But what about the rights of the volunteer DNR wolf trackers? Trackers count wolves during the winter months.  What will happen to wolf trackers when hunters run their dogs thru the woods at the same time? How can trackers get an accurate count if a hunter”s dogs disperse wolf packs? 

The Biden administration ordered a broad review of the Trump administration’s delisting of gray wolves.

Just one week after President Biden ordered a broad review of the Trump administration’s anti-wildlife policies, including the decision to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service summarily asserted today that the previous administration’s decision to delist the gray wolf was valid in a cursory, three-paragraph letter to conservation groups. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org press release.

Is the lawsuit frivolous, baseless and without merit; not worth the judges time?

In the end, it is up to a judge to determine whether or not the plaintiff’s case is baseless or not. Will an endangered species, just fresh off the list get its due process? Will DNR get to update the wolf management plan allowing the public to weigh in?

Update as of 02/15/21 a judge ruled in favor of Hunter Nation Inc’s lawsuit and the ruling ordered DNR to open a hunt immediately. The NRB just opened a wolf hunt starting on 02/22/21 setting a quota at 200 wolves. The following is part of my interview with WPR. Click the listen now button in the link: https://www.wpr.org/listen/1761701

In short, a more inclusive, scientifically sound, culturally sensitive and publicly supported wolf program would be much more likely to garner success in removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region.

Adrian Wydeven, Good stewardship is key to removing wolf from endangered list

Wisconsin’s tribes spoke up for their brother “Ma’iingan” the wolf and Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board (NRB) voted no to early wolf hunt.

Image credit stock photo

Thankfully Wisconsin’s tribes spoke up for thier brother “Ma’iingan” the wolf and the Natural Resources Board voted no to an early February wolf hunt.

The following is from NPR article on today’s NRB hearing.

Board member Marcy West questioned whether a hunt would be worth risking the state’s relationships with tribes and other organizations, as well as state management of the wolf.

“I just really have a concern that we have to prove right now that the state is credible in managing the population,” said West. 

Much of the concern discussed by the board revolved around the state’s obligations to Wisconsin tribes.

Representatives of the Red Cliff, Menominee, Lac Courte Oreilles, Bad River and Lac du Flambeau tribes urged the board not to hold a wolf hunt this winter. Several referenced a 1983 court ruling known as the Voigt Decision that affirms tribal rights to hunt, fish and gather in ceded territory under treaties with the federal government. Under the ruling, the state must consult with tribes on natural resource management.

“In making any decision about wolves, the department must abide by the requirements to consult and collaborate with the tribes as set forth in court decisions and agreements,” said Mic Isham, executive administrator with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Tribal officials said the hunt would have a detrimental impact on the wolf population in Wisconsin. Tribal members, including Red Cliff tribal elder Marvin Defoe, said they view the wolf as a brother and that the animal is significant to their cultural and religious practices.

Continue reading Wisconsin’s tribes spoke up for their brother “Ma’iingan” the wolf and Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board (NRB) voted no to early wolf hunt.

Organizations Leading the Way in Wolf Education & Recovery

Making a difference for Wisconsin’s wild grey wolf.

A Wisconsin Grey Wolf. Photograph credit Al Sherwinski

The following two organizations have been around for decades and have proven track records on educating the public about grey wolves. Both these organizations regularly hold wolf education seminars led by expert wolf biologist & professionals in the field.

Timber Wolf Alliance (TWA) “The Timber Wolf Alliance is committed to investigating the facts and relies on research to dispel myths and unfounded fears associated with wolves. TWA provides training in wolf biology and ecology, develops and disseminates educational materials on wolves, and supports volunteers to help with wolf monitoring efforts.” http://www.timberwolfalliance.org

“Northland College started the TWA in 1987 with the Wisconsin DNR and other organizations to promote wolf recovery and educate people about wolves in the state. In the early 1990s, TWA expanded to promote wolf recovery into Michigan as wolves began to recolonize that state.” http://www.timberwolfalliance.org

Timber Wolf Information Network (TWIN) “Mission: To increase public awareness and acceptance of the wolf in its natural habitat and its ecological role in the environment.” http://www.timberwolfinformation.org

Wisconsin’s Green Fire Voices for Conservation was established in 2017 in response to recent developments at the state and national level that threaten science-based practices and long-term vision in natural resources management.”

Wisconsin’s Green Fire (another organization) “urges the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to immediately resume work on developing a new state wolf conservation plan using the best science and public attitude data available on wolves. WGF strongly recommends that WDNR reestablish a two-faceted advisory committee structure, described in our full statement. This will allow for an inclusive and transparent wolf governance process that reflects public perceptions and incorporates the latest social and ecological science on wolves in Wisconsin.” http://www.wigreenfire.org

Look to these three organizations to make a real difference for Wisconsin’s wild grey wolf!

The grey wolf has always been a part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy. —Rachel Tilseth

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Reports Increased Gray Wolf Numbers but Threats to Recovery Loom Ahead

Photo by John E. Marriott

Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported a 13% increase in the number of wolves in the state over the last year, bringing the estimated total to just over 1000.

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

This year, the DNR added a patch occupancy modelling technique to its methods for counting wolves. This strategy uses repeated detections to come up with a probable average. The signs include actual wolf sightings, markings of wolves like scat and paw prints, and photos.

Data is mostly gathered by DNR staff and volunteers. For decades, the DNR has partnered with the Timber Wolf Alliance and the Timber Wolf Information Network to include the public in wolf count surveys. In addition, outdoor enthusiasts also submit their findings to the DNR.

Out of 313 wolf observations, about a third were verified. And out of 328 photo sequences, a little more than half were verified. The DNR includes both verified and probable data sets to come up with its numbers. The total results in an average.

What the new technique lacks in preciseness it makes up for in ease and affordability. That may be great for the DNR but it might not play out well for wolves.

In states where this model is currently used like Idaho and Montana, large estimates are used to set aggressive hunting quotas that wipe out entire packs. The DNR will use these numbers to justify delisting, thus turning wolf management over to the states.

Rep. Tom Tiffany from Minocqua County is already doing just that. In theory, state management is good, but in practice it can be disastrous. In the three years that wolves were delisted in Wisconsin over 500 wolves were killed. In short, delisting is only appropriate if the state can resist the push to kill half its population.

Alas, state management and hunting have sadly been conflated to be almost symbolic of each other. They’re so entangled that Wisconsin is the only state the mandates a wolf hunt once federal protections are removed.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, ranchers should be able to protect their property by killing individuals that threaten their livestock, but killing for population management is cruel and ineffective. 

In fact, research by Adrian Treves has highlighted that indiscriminate killing can actually be counterintuitive. By killing experienced hunters like alphas, you leave young and inexperienced wolves to fend for themselves, which often means they turn to easy prey like livestock.

While knowing how many wolves are on the landscape is key to shaping policy and understanding wolf dynamics, the data is often used in nefarious ways to undermined wolf recovery under the guise of management, a term that’s hard to decouple from killing.

However, there is no biological reason that we need to hunt wolves. It serves no purpose other than to satisfy human bloodlust. Numerous studies, including one by Arian Wallach from Charles Darwin University, have shown that predators are capable of self-regulation. Things like habitat, available food, and environment all factor into population density.

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

Delisting is appropriate when populations are healthy. Killing wolves based on a number count is not.

When federal protections are removed, hopefully the Wisconsin DNR will have a wolf recovery plan that reflects that.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Seeks Public Input on New Wolf Plan

Image by Steve Felberg from Pixabay

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting three live virtual open houses this fall to solicit feedback on the future of the state’s wolf management plan. Starting on September 29th, each meeting will target a different area of the state, beginning with the northwest.

While location-based participation is preferred, people from all over are invited to join. However, you must register before the sessions begin. Registration opens on September 21st and submitting questions in advanced is encouraged.

The open houses come on the heels of a wolf public attitudes survey that was conducted this summer by the DNR and the University of Minnesota. The survey showed overwhelming support for having wolves on the landscape, but there is a small minority who see them in a less favorable light, mainly ranchers and hunters.

With wolves set to lose federal endangered species protections by the end of this year, the state of Minnesota is in the process of crafting an updated version of their wolf management plan, which they hope to unveil sometime early next year. Wolves mean so many things to different people, so getting feedback from all stakeholders is key to having a plan that works for as many groups as possible.

“Discussions about wolves bring out opinions from a broad range of interests,” said Dan Stark, DNR wolf management specialist, on the DNR website. “These public meetings are part of a broader process to update the plan and give people an opportunity to share their views.”

The second and third meetings will be held on October 6th and 8th and will focus on Central and southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities metro area, and Northeastern Minnesota, respectively.

In addition to getting feedback from the public, the DNR is working with an advisory committee and a technical committee to help develop the new plan. Both groups include a diverse array of representatives ranging from advocacy groups to trapping associations.

These sessions will be another chance for the department to gauge interest and see where the public stands on wolves. More importantly, this will be a chance for the public to engage, in real time, with the folks who craft wolf policy in the state.

“We look forward to having a dialogue about wolves in Minnesota,” Stark said. “What people think about where and how many wolves we have, conflicts regarding livestock depredation, the interrelationship of wolf and prey species, and future wolf management options are all important topics.”

If you can’t make it, there will also be a public comment period from September 29th – November 1st.

For many wolf lovers, it is hoped that the increased opportunities for advocates and tribes to engage will mean a better outcome for wolves. The previous iteration leaned heavily on input from ranchers and hunters, which meant killing wolves for sport was the preferred management tool. Let’s hope this time they get it right.