Gray Wolves No Longer Federally Protected by Endangered Species Act

Jan 4, 2021

Credit Gary Kramer / USFWS

Gray wolves are no longer federally protected in Wisconsin or anywhere else in the continental U.S. expect for a small subspecies in the southwest.

Several wildlife biologists in Wisconsin WXPR talked to over the last few months agree that the species has recovered, at least in the Great Lakes Region.

According to the Wisconsin DNR’s latest wolf count, there’s an estimated 1,100 wolves roaming the state.

With gray wolves being removed from the Federal Endangered Species List there are some changes that go into effect immediately.

Livestock and pet owners are allowed to take action if there’s an immediate threat to their animal by a wolf says DNR Fish, Parks, and Wildlife division administrator Keith Warnke.

“If a livestock producer or anyone else witnesses a wolf attacking, biting, trying to depredate one of their domestic animals be that a dog or another form of livestock they can take immediate action to kill that wolf and then they’ll have to contact the DNR,” said Warnke.

The change also gives the DNR more leeway to deal with wolves that are killing livestock.

“It will free up a lot of the tools that we can use for livestock depredation to help out farmers and livestock owners if wolves are depredating their livestock on their farms. It reopens the toolbox for us to use lethal control to remove those wolves in problem areas,” said Warnke.

The change doesn’t mean it’s just open season on wolves.  As WXPR previously reported, the DNR has scheduled a wolf hunt for the fall as required by state law, a law some conservation groups in Wisconsin want to see changed.

Until then, it’s illegal to shoot or kill a wolf that isn’t threatening people or pets and livestock.

A DNR Law Conservation Warden told WXPR the consequences are similar to killing a deer or bear outside of their hunting seasons.

Before the wolf hunting season begins, the DNR is busy forming a wolf management plan committee, gathering public input for a new management plan, and setting quotas for the hunt.

“We are fully confident that we will be able to manage wolves in a way that respects all of the citizens of Wisconsin and all of our stake holders," said Warnke. "So that’s going to be the important goal going forward is making sure we have that deliberative interactive process so that people can make their voices heard.”

WXPR will continue to keep updated on the wolf management plan as it is created.