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Wisconsin DNR releases first draft of new wolf management plan


The Wisconsin DNR released the first draft of its new wolf management plan.

The DNR started developing the plan when wolves were briefly removed from the federal endangered species list last year.

With wolves relisted, the state has minimal control over management right now, but the DNR still wanted a new plan in place for when the species is delisted in the future.

The current management plan hadn’t been updated since 2007.

Adrian Wydeven used to head the state’s wolf management program, is actively involved in wolf conservation, and was on an advisory committee for the plan. He’s advocated for a science-based approach to wolf management.

Overall, he thinks the DNR’s done a good job with it.

“They’ve recently updated social surveys and it shows the majority of the public continues to support wolf conservation and the majority of the public seems to be okay with the wolf population that exists on the landscape so they’ve kind of geared their plan to fit those social concerns that have been expressed by the public. I think they’ve done a good job,” said Wydeven.

With the new wolf management plan there is no numeric population goal.

Instead of focusing on the number of wolves in the state, the plan focuses on three main objectives:

  • Ensuring a healthy and sustainable wolf population to fulfill its ecological role.
  • Addressing and reducing wolf-related conflicts.
  • Providing multiple benefits associated with the wolf population, including hunting, trapping, and sightseeing.

Wydeven thinks not having a set population goal is a good thing.

“The previous plan which I was partially responsible for. At the time, 350 was a management goal, but it’s become like an albatross around our necks. I think it’s no longer reasonable to have a goal like that,” said Wydeven. “We’ve got healthy wolf populations in the state and focus ought to be on other factors such as maintaining a healthy, ecologically beneficial wolf population, especially in core wolf areas.”

The plan calls for breaking the state up into different zones and managing each one slightly differently.

Proposed wolf management zones.
Wisconsin DNR
Proposed wolf management zones.

For example, in zones three and four, which is largely the middle of the state where there are more farmlands and higher conflicts with wolves, reducing those conflicts would be the main management goal.

In zones one and two, which make up the northernmost portion of the state and that core wolf area Wydeven mentioned, the priority would be ensuring a healthy and sustainable wolf population that would have ecological benefits.

That’s not to say the other objectives won’t be taken into account, they just wouldn’t be the main objectives.

“Where people dominate the landscape with their agriculture and their livestock, wolves really don’t have that much of an ability to have ecological benefits, but in those kinds of situations they have more of risk of being a nuisance because there’s a greater ability of livestock and pets can create conflict situation,” said Wydeven. “So having more controls in those kinds of areas and more focus on the ecological kind of benefits in the wilder areas makes sense. “

Other objectives laid out in the plan include increasing education of wolves in Wisconsin and conducting scientific research to inform wolf management.

One update Wydeven said he was pleasantly surprised to see concerned tribal reservations.

Wolves are culturally significant to Native Americans.

The plan calls for creating subzones around reservation land. Harvest quotas would be lower in those subzones to help protect wolf populations on tribal land.

Wydeven says it’s something the tribes have been requesting for years.

He would have liked to see zero quotas in those subzones, but with the state requirement to hold a hunt he thinks it’s a good compromise.

“While the state did acknowledge the tribes, that wolves could not be hunted on reservation lands, there’s probably not a pack living on any reservation that don’t extend part of their territory outside the reservation. So they’re all potentially exposed to hunting and trapping seasons. This gives better protection for those packs that are overlapping reservation lands and lands next to reservations,” said Wydeven.

You can view the draft on the DNR’s website. That's also where you'll find a link to comment on the draft.

There is a 60-day comment period that ends on January 10, 2023.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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