DNR providing preliminary wolf population estimate at meeting

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s Wolf Harvest Advisory Committee will convene today to provide input on the fall 2021 wolf harvest season. The Wisconsin DNR has prepared a preliminary wolf population estimate to inform the discussion and aid committee members as they provide input on the upcoming wolf harvest season to open Nov. 6.

The 2021 Wolf Harvest Advisory Committee represents a variety of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, tribal interests, and conservation groups. The committee has the sole responsibility of providing input to the department during the development of a fall 2021 wolf season recommendation. The committee will be presented updated wolf population information, relevant wildlife science and historic season information in order to provide input to the department on several items important to planning the fall 2021 wolf season.

Population data presented to the committee comes from data collected from winter tracking surveys and information from GPS collared wolves to estimate area occupied by wolf packs, average pack territory size and zone-specific average winter pack sizes.

From these estimates, the DNR produces an estimate of wolf abundance in areas of the state occupied by wolf packs. In 2020, the DNR converted to the scaled occupancy approach, which estimates a most likely value with a population range based on the 95% credible interval. The department no longer calculates a population minimum count.

Using the scaled occupancy model, the DNR estimates the overwinter pre-hunt 2020-21 wolf abundance to be 1,136 wolves. There is a 95% chance that the population falls in the range of 944 to 1,377 animals, with the most likely population in the middle of that range. The results from this winter’s wolf survey and monitoring efforts indicate the population remained generally stable from the previous year.

Only data collected prior to the February 2021 wolf season was used in the analysis, which makes this a pre-February 2021 hunt estimate, and the estimate does not account for lone wolves living outside packs. A detailed wolf monitoring report will be available later this summer and will be published on the DNR’s website.

Following the Wolf Harvest Advisory Committee meeting on June 22, the DNR will hold tribal consultations in late June and July. The department will present its wolf harvest quota recommendation to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) at the Aug. 12 meeting.

Once a quota is set by the NRB and the state hunt quota has been adjusted based on any Ojibwe tribal declaration, the DNR will hold a license drawing in late August or early September and notify drawing winners. The 2021 wolf harvest season will open Nov. 6 and close no later than Feb. 28 in accordance with state statute.

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