Cornell hunter takes first wolf of new season

Cornell, Wis. — Staring at the photo of a wolf hanging from a rafter, Jim Lane declared, “That was probably 99 percent luck. Probably any eighth-grade kid could make the shot I did.”

But at around 7:15 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 15, it was Lane’s fate to be the first person to legally kill a wolf during Wisconsin’s first wolf season since the animal was delisted as a federally endangered species. Wolves went onto the endangered species list in 1974, and had been protected there until January of this year.

As of Oct. 23, at least 21 more wolves had been killed by hunters or trappers. The state’s total harvest goal is 201 – split among Chippewa tribal members and non-tribal sportsmen to reduce a wolf population that was said to have a minimum count of at least 850 animals in April. Non-tribal wolf permit holders have a quota of 116 wolves. Tribal members have a quota of 85. However, tribal officials have said they do not intend to allow tribal members to kill wolves.

Lane, 64, a dentist who has hunted big game across North America and Africa, said he learned from a patient about wolves in southwest Rusk County harassing a domestic dog. After drawing one of the 1,100-some permits issued to non-tribal members, Lane went to that person to seek permission to hunt his patient’s land. While there to scout, Lane learned from the landowner that wolves were still around. The landowner and a passing bus driver also confirmed the wolves were being seen around 7 a.m. daily.

“So I figured wolves were working that area,” Lane said, adding that he also had studied the DNR wolf website on pack activity for leads. “It wasn’t like I had to search for them. The search was already done. I felt if I hunted that area every morning for a week I had a heckuva good chance of seeing one. I didn’t expect it to happen that first day. I was lucky.”

On the way to his hunting spot on opening day of the season, Lane heard a radio broadcast announcing the season was about to open, but that hunters and trappers probably would hold off on killing wolves until their pelts were prime.

Shortly after arriving at his hunting area, Lane spotted a wolf weighing about 65 to 70 pounds crossing a cut cornfield. He took aim and killed it with one shot from a .222 Swift. Carefully walking up to the animal, Lane said he immediately felt he’d made the right decision to shoot it.

“The hide, I felt, was really good,” Lane said. “I wasn’t going to turn down the chance once I had it. I don’t think I’ll see too many more of these.”

Wolves taken by hunters and trappers must be registered within 24 hours of the kill. Once harvest goals are reached in the various wolf zones, the season will be closed. Within five days of the end of each month of the season, the animal’s carcass and pelt must be presented to the DNR for sampling. Researchers will extract a tooth for aging, take a tissue sample for DNA analysis, and remove the female’s reproductive organs.

“From (reproductive organs) we can determine how many females are producing pups, what’s the average litter size and variability in the litter size, and the ages of the females,” said Kris Belling, wildlife supervisor for the DNR’s West-Central Region.

The DNA sampling will be another alternative to determine the size of the state’s wolf population, Belling said.

Going into the wolf season trappers were pegged as the most likely to kill a wolf, but early on most of the wolves were being shot by hunters. Trappers nearly brought the harvest to a 50-50 split as of Oct. 23. One Price County trapper had a wolf pull out of a foot-hold trap.

Lane said he respects wolves as “intelligent, top-of-the-line predators,” but he doubts the state will reach its goal of 201 wolves without allowing hunters to use tracking hounds. Hunting, he said, is going to “take some of the boldness away” from wolves that are coming close to homes, domestic animals, and livestock.

Belling said the DNR has developed a sound, science-based wolf-management program.

“The department has spent years monitoring wolves. The population can sustain the harvest,” she said. “A season on wolves is a milestone, but it doesn’t lessen our interest in learning about the wolves. If anything, it increases our interest. We’ll continue to monitor the population as closely as we can.

“It’s a great species. We’re proud of the conservation success, and we want it to continue to be a success.”

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