State groups call for better control of wolves

Correspondent

Madison The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board recently took
wolves off the threatened list in Wisconsin and changed their
status to a protected wild animal.

“This is a success story for Wisconsin’s natural heritage,” said
Signe Holtz, director of the DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources.
“This is a species that returned on its own and re-established
itself on its own.”

The federal government must remove wolves from the federal
endangered list before the state takes over wolf management.

The state wolf plan, approved by the NRB in 1999, set a
population goal that had to be met in order for the DNR to consider
delisting the wolf.

That goal that the late winter population outside of Indian
reservations must exceed 250 wolves for one year was reached in the
winter of 2003 with a count of 328 wolves (outside of
reservations). The previous year it had been 313.

“The department concludes that this population is sufficient to
ensure the long-term survival of the gray wolf as part of the
state’s ecosystem,” Holtz said.

The DNR held hearings on the proposal last November and received
1,052 comments. There was strong support (93 percent) in favor of
delisting.

George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife
Federation (WWF), told the board the WWF supported the
delisting.

“The federation has historically been a strong supporter of the
gray wolf program, which has truly been a success. There has been a
very substantial increase in the state’s wolf population and
distribution,” Meyer said.

Meyer expects there will be depredation of domestic animals, and
the federation supports wolf control, including dispatch, of any
wolf causing depredation of domestic animals on public and private
land.

“We request the development of a process and a plan to
eventually restore the wolf to furbearer status,” Meyer said. “We
do not want to see happen in Wisconsin what happened in Minnesota
where the population has become so large that there’s a loss of
respect for the animal and program. A plan to consider it a
furbearer needs to be initiated now.”

NRB member Steve Willett, of Phillips, had concerns about
hunters who turn their bear dogs loose in wolf country. If a dog is
killed by wolves, should hunters be reimbursed? Meyer said damage
payments are necessary in order to gain public support from the
hunting, fishing, and trapping community.

Beef producer Eric Koens, of Bruce, said depredations are
increasing. He asked board members: “Would you put up with this
type of killing and harassment of your animals that happens on your
private property? I don’t think there are too many people who
would.”

Koens said he’s glad the delisting process is going forward, but
said the livestock industry does not view the program as a success
in the same way as the DNR. “Wisconsin is ranked seventh in the
nation in livestock production. I fail to see the wisdom of
promoting a large wolf population,” Koens said. “I want it
understood that I am not against the wolf. However, its population
has to be controlled so that these animals are not in unsuitable
habitat.”

Koens said he met the week before with wolf expert Dr. David
Mech in Minnesota. Mech told Koens that Wisconsin’s wolf population
was already too large to use traditional methods of harvest.

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