WI: Wallenfang back as DNR’s big-game ecologist

Madison – Green Lake County native Kevin Wallenfang is back at
the DNR after a 10-year absence, this time as the agency’s new
big-game ecologist.

In that role he’ll work with the DNR’s deer, elk, and bear
programs.

Wallenfang, 44, of Middleton, follows Keith Warnke, who
transferred in January from that post to the Bureau of Law
Enforcement. Warnke now works on the DNR’s hunter recruitment and
retention program.

Wallenfang is quite familiar with the DNR’s deer management
program. He worked from August 1991 to February 1998 as the
agency’s assistant big-game and furbearer ecologist. From March
1998 through 2000, Wallenfang worked with the DNR as the Deer 2000
and Beyond coordinator. During much of his time with the DNR,
Wallenfang worked with Bill Mytton in the deer management program.
Mytton worked as the state’s big-game ecologist.

Wallenfang has worked in a wildlife capactiy of one type or
another in Wisconsin since he left the DNR in 2000. He first worked
for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as RMEF’s regional wildlife
biologist in southern Wisconsin and eastern Iowa. He also served as
RMEF’s initiatives director in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and
Michigan.

In that role, he worked with landowners to set up conservation
easements or bought land for habitat purposes that eventually ended
up in public ownership. Wallenfang’s largest Wisconsin purchase for
RMEF was about 1,000 acres near Moose Lake in Sawyer County.

When a slumping economy hit conservation groups hard several
years ago, RMEF downsized its staff and Wallenfang accepted a
similar job with Pheasants Forever, where he also has worked on
land purchases for habitat purposes. He will continue working with
PF through Dec. 18 in order to wrap up three or four land purchases
that he has in the works.

He begins his new role as the DNR’s big-game ecologist Dec.
19.

“I’m staying with Pheasants Forever through Dec. 18 to finish up
three land purchases, but it might be more because I just started
another land purchase (today),” Wallenfang said in an interview
Nov. 9.

By the time he begins working for the DNR, Wallenfang will have
completed at least eight land purchases for PF that will total
about 500 acres.

Wallenfang said he’s looking forward to his new job.

“I’m fired up about it. I was there for 10 years. I stepped away
for 10 years, and I think that will give me a different perspecitve
when I step back in,” he said.

Wallenfang is a hunter and fishermen, and he can add trapping to
his background. He has hunted big-game in the United States,
Canada, and Africa with gun and bow, and he hunts upland game,
waterfowl, and turkeys. When he fishes, Wallenfang usually will be
in a small boat row-trolling for muskies.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have Kevin heading up the
big-game program,” said Tom Hauge, director of the DNR’s Bureau of
Wildlife Management. “Kevin’s an avid big-game hunter and he
understands and respects the passion Wisconsin has for our deer,
bear, and elk populations.”

Wallenfang holds a bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology from
UW-Madison and has worked in wildlife management for more than 20
years.

“Everyone knows deer management is a real hot-button issue in
Wisconsin,” Wallenfang said. “But that just shows how important it
is to our state, both for individuals as hunters and to our
economy. I’ve really hated to see the loss of some of the passion
that some deer hunters have had in Wisconsin in recent years
because of issues like CWD. I’m hoping that together, with the help
of hunters and the various groups out there, that we can bring back
the excitement and tradition that is missing for some people.”

“Kevin has an excellent reputation as a leader in Wisconsin
conservation and as a biologist, but his real strength is his
likable personality,” Hauge said. “He is a good communicator and
has the knack of working with partners to get things accomplished
and in finding middle ground on tough issues. Big-game management,
especially deer, has always been a challenge and I think these
traits will serve the public and him very well.”

Wallenfang’s work with RMEF focused on preserving land and
habitat for elk, and providing public access and permanent habitat
protection through purchases and conservation easements.

“I’m proud that I was here in the beginning of Wisconsin’s elk
reintroduction and spent several years of my career working on
various aspects of that effort,” Wallenfang said.

And about bears, he adds, “Wisconsin has an incredible bear
resource, both numbers and trophies. I’ve enjoyed a lot of great
bear hunts from Wisconsin to Alaska, and hope I can put that
experience to work on behalf of not only the bear resource, but for
hunters, as well.”

More than 20 people applied for the DNR’s big-game ecologist
job. The DNR interviewed two candidates, one of which was
Wallenfang.

Prior to Wallenfang’s hiring, Conservation Congress Big Game
Committee Co-Chairman Al Phelan said Wisconsin sportsmen would be
happy with the DNR’s choice, if that person took the job. The DNR’s
choice was Wallenfang. Phelan participated in the interview
process.

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