The Wisconsin DNR is focusing on its next wolf hunt planned for this fall.
The last hunt in February faced a lot of criticism for being hastily thrown together following a judge’s order and going nearly 100 kills over the quota.
The states’ Wolf Harvest Committee held the first of two planned meetings on Thursday to determine the quotas and next steps for the for the fall hunt.
The first meeting of the Wolf Harvest Committee was largely informational.
The committee is made up of more than a dozen people with a range of backgrounds. They include DNR staff members, conservation group leaders, wolf advocacy group members, members of hunter groups, and scientists from other federal and tribal agencies.
This group will eventually make wolf harvest quota recommendations to the Natural Resources Board for the wolf hunt this fall.
Their goal will be to set a number that won’t change the wolf population until a new management plan is put in place, according to Keith Warnke with the DNR.
“The committee is expected to work together to provide that input to the department on quota recommendation. Season dates, license issues, methods of take, and zone closing procedures are determined in rule and statute and really won’t be subject to the work you’re doing here,” said Warnke.
This group is separate from the one that will help form the state’s new Wolf Management Plan.
The committee made no decision at the first meeting.
Instead, committee members learned about the February hunt, how the DNR tracks and counts wolves, and how the state manages wolf conflicts.
All factors that will go into the committee’s decision.
With the February hunt update, DNR Large Carnivore Specialist Randy Johnson shared more information with the data the DNR has complied from the hunt. He said a couple things made this hunt different from past ones.
86 percent of the wolves killed were with the aid of dogs.
“This certainly is a departure from previous seasons in which we saw trapping account for probably about 80 percent of the total take. For several reasons, one of which is the use of dogs by statute is not allowed until after the close of the gun season, the deer gun season, which obviously this year in February that’s well past,” said Johnson.
Forest County had the highest number of wolves killed with 19.
Vilas County is the only one north of Highway 10 where no wolves were harvested.
More than 27,000 people applied for a license with 1,500 harvest licenses purchased.
“This is the is the largest number of applications for any of the four wolf seasons that have been held here in the Wisconsin, so a lot of interest,” said Johnson.
The full report on the February hunt should be made public next week.
In addition to DNR experts on wolves, committee members also heard from the public about their thoughts on the upcoming hunt.
Johnson said a public comment period will open next week.
“I just want to make it clear that we’re striving here to provide opportunities along the way to engage the public,” said Johnson.
The committee plans to meet again at the end of May.
At that time, they’ll make quota recommendations that will go to the NRB in August with the wolf hunt set to start November 6.
Wisconsin law requires the DNR to hold a wolf hunt any time the species isn’t federally protected.