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DNR Hears Quota Recommendations From Wolf Harvest Committee

Wisconsin DNR

The wolf harvest advisory committee is charged with recommending harvest quotas for this year’s fall wolf hunt to the Department of Natural Resources.

With so many different backgrounds and priorities when it comes to wolf hunting, the group didn’t come to a quota recommendation for the hunt.

But the DNR wasn’t necessarily expecting them to. Instead, the department plans to use the feedback from the meeting to create the quota.

The DNR has stated all along that their goal for this upcoming hunt, like the February hunt, is to maintain the current wolf population until a new management plan is created, which is in the works right now, but won’t be ready by this fall.

One of the issues that come up during the wolf harvest advisory committee meeting, was that the DNR doesn’t know exactly what the population looks like right now.

The DNR estimates the overwinter pre-hunt 2020-21 wolf abundance to be 1,136 wolves. There is a 95% chance that the population falls in the range of 944 to 1,377 animals, with the most likely population in the middle of that range. 

In past years with a hunt, the DNR would do population surveys after the hunt. Because the February hunt was so late in the season, the DNR’s data is pre-hunt. It also doesn’t know the impact having a hunt during breeding season, which is typically late January through early February, will have on the population.

Because of that, wolf advocates on the committee like Jodi Habush Sinykin with Midwest Environmental Advocates called for a more conservative quota in favor protecting the wolf numbers.

“Acknowledging this full-on uncertainty, it is recommended for the precautionary principal and just common sense to go with the most conservative. The option that is most reliant on science and data,” said Habush Sinykin.

Others on the committee argued a conservative quota can go either way. The DNR doesn’t want the population to decrease significantly, but it doesn’t want it grow significantly either.

Steve Suchomel with Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation argued the DNR isn’t basing any of the science on a plan since it’s not following the 350-wolf population goal laid out in the current management plan. Though even with that, there’s disagreement on whether that’s an actual population goal with that plan.

“I’m just concerned because we’ve gone from a management plan to a non-management plan to a point where to a point where we’re not going to decrease current populations which is not based on any management plan,” said Suchomel.

The committee also gave input which, if any zones, should be more heavily hunted.

Majority of committee members who spoke up thought zones where human-wolf conflicts were more likely rather than the northern forests with the wolf’s core habitat should allow for proportionately more wolves to be taken.

Peter David with Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission gave some perspective from the tribes.

“I think from a cultural role there’s a feeling that it’s really not actually our place to decide what’s suitable for wolves or not. Wolves are quite capable of making that decision on their own,” said David.

The DNR still needs to consult with the Ojibwe tribes before it makes quota recommendations to the Natural Resources Board in August.

Ultimately, the board will make the final decisions on the quota.

It is state law that Wisconsin must hold a wolf anytime the species is not federally protected.

The next wolf hunt in Wisconsin is November 6th through February 28th or until quotas are met.

You can apply for permit now through August 1st.

Drawing results will be available by mid-September.

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