The State of Wisconsin officially has its own say over the fate of wild gray wolves within its borders. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's removal of the animal from the federal list of threatened and endangered species goes into effect this week, which means the Department of Natural Resources can designate rules to control the wolf population through a state management plan.
State DNR Secretary Scott Hassett took a spotting flight from Siren to Ashland recently to signify the event. He says protecting wolves, controlling problem animals, regulating hunting and trapping, as well as maintaining the long-term health of the wolf population will now be governed at the state level.
Since the gray wolf was first listed under the ESA in 1974, recovery programs have helped their population rebound. Hassett says unregulated shooting and trapping, encouraged by a legislative state bounty, resulted in the extirpation of the wolf in Wisconsin by 1960. But the animals re-entered the state on their own from Minnesota in the mid-1970s.
The DNR says a late winter 2005-2006 estimate puts Wisconsin's gray wolf population at around 500. This includes an estimated 16 to 17 wolves on Indian reservations for an estimated 449-485 outside of reservations. Wisconsin's Wolf Management Plan calls for a population of 350 wolves outside of Indian reservations.
"Like our neighbor states, we have a management plan, forged in partnership with the citizens of Wisconsin, the tribal nations within our borders, scientists, wildlife managers and many, many stakeholder groups," Hassett says. "It is a good plan. It is a framework for the existence and management of the wolf in Wisconsin and at the same time provides landowners protections and recourse for verified wolf depredations."
Farmers are pleased with the move because the new management plan gives the state legal authority to remove depredating wolves in order to protect livestock and pets.