Wisconsin DNR: Wolf count up by 13 percent

MADISON, Wis. – Extensive survey efforts conducted by the Wisconsin DNR, tribal biologists and more than 100 trained citizen volunteers indicate an increase in Wisconsin’s wolf population from last year. This increase follows two years of steady abundance estimates and was measured in both the long-standing territory mapping method and the department’s new occupancy-based model, which will provide a more robust estimate of the state’s wolf population for years to come, the DNR said in a news release..

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Comparing the wolf population estimates and minimum counts for the last three years. The minimum count was within the confidence interval of the new occupancy model all three years. (Wisconsin DNR)

The territory mapping method produces a minimum count of wolves in Wisconsin. This year, the overwinter minimum wolf count was calculated to be 1,034-1,057 wolves, a 13% increase from the 2018-19 minimum estimate of 914-978 wolves. The number of packs detected increased from the previous year from 243 packs to 256.

Over the past seven years, the DNR has researched and developed a new occupancy model, which produces highly reliable estimates, provides a more realistic estimate of the total population size and efficiently makes use of state resources.

Using the new occupancy model, the DNR estimated that there are between 957 and 1,573 wolves in Wisconsin, with the most likely estimate being 1,195 wolves. This is an increase from the 2019 range of 835 to 1,333 wolves with the most likely estimate being 1,047 wolves.

After multiple years of research and testing, DNR researchers are confident transitioning to this new monitoring technique. For the past three years, the DNR has calculated both the outgoing minimum count using territory mapping and the incoming population range using the occupancy model. Each year, the minimum count fell within the occupancy model’s population range, giving DNR researchers greater confidence that the new model is a reasonable and reliable alternative to territory mapping for Wisconsin’s wolf population.

Moving forward, the DNR will report the wolf population estimate using the numbers calculated with the occupancy model. The department will no longer produce an overwinter minimum count.

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