Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Board files 32 wolf plan objections

Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. — The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF) Board of Directors took in Randy Johnson’s review of the DNR’s draft wolf management one night, then compiled a list of 32 objections or suggestions to that plan the following day.

Johnson, the DNR’s large carnivore specialist and main plan author, met with the WWF board Friday, Dec. 9, at Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids to run through the draft plan. Board members then met the following day to work through the plan and identify any concerns. There were plenty, including the WWF’s insistence the DNR provide a longer public comment period.

That change has already been made. The DNR has extended its original 60-day comment period (Nov. 9 through Jan. 6, 2023) to Feb. 28 at 11:59 p.m. at WWF’s urging. The WWF is now asking the DNR to schedule public hearings in wolf territory. The DNR offered no public hearings with the plan’s release on Nov. 9, the day after Gov. Tony Evers was re-elected.

WWF also criticized the DNR for offering only a website link as means of submitting public comment on the plan. WWF President Patrick Quaintance asked that the agency also offer a way to submit email and hard copy comments. In extending the public period, the DNR also followed WWF’s suggestion and will now accept questions and comments via mail and email at: Wisconsin DNR, C/O Wolf Management Plan Comments, 101 S. Webster Street, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, or email DNRWildlifeSwitchboard@wisconsin.gov.

Citizens also may review the draft plan online at the DNR website and submit comments via the online tool.

After meeting with Johnson Dec. 9, WWF board members want to see a numeric wolf population goal in the final plan. The draft plan sets aside the current population goal of 350.

The WWF strongly requested maintaining that 350-wolf population goal, suggesting also the DNR set a timeline for reaching that goal.

WWF board members noted that about 40% of the DNR’s wolf tracking units were not tracked to the agency’s required three-time-per-winter standard. In addition, not all wolf units were tracked even once. The WWF also asked the DNR to include lone and dispersing wolves in population estimates. That has never been done during the state’s wolf reintroduction program, although Western states include lone wolves in their estimates. Some states, like Idaho and Montana, add 12% to 15% to their wolf population estimates to account for lone and dispersing wolves.

Some WWF board members also were very critical of the DNR’s decision to expand buffer zones around Indian reservations.

As the plan sits now, in Zone 1A, which surrounds four reservations in northern Wisconsin, a total of four wolves would be allowed to be harvested in those zones. Once that number is hit, all areas of 1A would be closed. However the rest of Zone 1 would remain open until the quota is filled. In Zone 2B, only two wolves would be allowed to be harvested. Once that cap was reached, 2B would be closed, but the remainder of Zone 2 would stay open.

Johnson said the purpose was to attempt to balance the local issue of the importance of wolves to tribes, while giving the DNR the ability to regulate harvest close to reservations. In the first wolf season, only one wolf was harvested in 1B, meaning 1B would have never closed. The next year, however, 14 wolves were harvested within that space, which would have a high impact on the wolves that live near and on the reservations.

“As a landowner, if I would have had a say at the table when you discussed this with the tribes, I would have told the tribes, ‘Hey you are restricting me from hunting and trapping on my own land,'” Quaintance said.

“We’re trying to be good neighbors,” Johnson said. It was not just a tribal request, however, he said. There were “a lot of other people” who asked that these tribal requests be honored.

“If there’s one thing we can meet, as far as the tribes’ interest, I think this is it – short of not hunting wolves. I don’t mean to downplay it. I get it. And I expect to hear more of the same.”

WWF Board Member Matt Lallemont sat on the DNR wolf committee, and said those who agreed with the zones were from “wolf expansionist groups” centered in Milwaukee and Madison.

“I don’t give a rip if it’s on public land,” said Quaintance, of Bayfield, who lives near the border of the Red Cliff Indian Reservation. “But I do when you are talking about taking my property rights away from me and in the way you are doing (it) you’re making it legal. That’s the whole problem I’m having here.”

Quaintance has had wolves within 50 feet of his house and there was nothing he could do.

“If we don’t come up with a sensible, reasonable plan, who’s going to suffer from this is the resource. And I have a problem with that,” said Quaintance, adding most people are not against wolves, but want them to be managed.

Other WWF board members expressed concern that larger buffer zones would further negatively impact farmers and landowners near reservations who are impacted by wolves.

WWF Board Member Corky Meyer said that when sub-zones close, USDA Wildlife Services trappers could still be called in, and get paid, to control wolf damage, instead of allowing licensed hunters and trappers to remove those animals. In 2021, Wildlife Services killed 70 wolves; the quota for hunters and trappers was 119. While the quotas in those sub-zones would be reduced, Meyer said, federal trappers would continue to be paid to come in and euthanize problem wolves.

“That’s bizarre,” Meyer said.

“We’ve done plenty of work on this plan, but I think you guys have a lot of work to figure it out. The city of Milwaukee does not control the wolf population. They’re not affected. Nor is Waukesha or Dane counties.”

WWF board members want the DNR to make more use of GPS collars in tracking wolves, and asked the agency for the online reporting tool to be better advertised and reinforced to the public that personal information is kept confidential and protected.

WWF board members are unhappy the plan did not sufficiently address depredations of non-agricultural domestic animals, such as dogs. Targeted population reduction, including all legal methods of harvest, should be included in, they said.

Board members allege the draft plan holds biases against hunting with dogs, and implies that any hunting conflicts that occur in the future will be the fault of the hunter.

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation wants numeric population goal as part of plan

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF), with more than 211 affiliated
hunting, angling, and conservation clubs throughout the state, drafted a
response to the DNR 2022 Draft Wolf Management Plan listing 32
observations or objections. The WWF asked the DNR take action to address
the following points in a revised draft or final plan.

Public comment

1. The 60-day public comment period is not an adequate amount of time to
gather input considering the timing of the release overlaps with hunting
seasons and multiple holidays. WWF asked for a 90-day comment period.

Editor’s note: The DNR has since extended the comment deadline to Feb. 28 at 11:59 p.m.

2. Not all residents have email or computer access in their homes. The
DNR should provide multiple and widely distributed announcements of
opportunities and methods for public input.

3. There is no means for submitting additional supporting information to
the DNR for consideration. The WWF requests the DNR provide the public
with an email and mailing address to submit comments and information.

4. The WWF strongly requests the DNR hold public hearings across the state and hold more in wolf-affected zones.

Inclusion/exclusion

5. There is no provision for the inclusion of comments from county and
local governments. Many county and local governments have taken
positions on wolf population goals and must be included in the process.

6. A functional advisory committee with a balanced mix of impacted stakeholders would vastly improve this process.

Public survey methodology

7. The public survey does not adequately represent those impacted by
wolves. Use of county and zip codes to select samples does not
accurately reflect those exposed to wolves and impacted by wolves. WWF
suggests the DNR seek out those impacted by wolves and place greater
emphasis on their perspective.

8. Survey design is flawed. Survey length discourages responses from some
individuals. Terminology is undefined and could be seen as biased.
Some questions lack balance in positive and negative responses, causing
an imbalance in responses. All these features of the survey alienate
some individuals, causing them to not respond.

Population estimates

9. Approximately 40% of the wolf tracking units are not tracked to the
required three-time standard and not all units are tracked.

This lends itself to under-counting and under-reporting wolf population in those wolf tracking units.

10. Lone and dispersing wolves are not counted in the population model, as
is done in western states. Some states add 12% or 15% to their
estimates to account for lone and dispersing wolves. WWF urges lone
wolves be included in Wisconsin’s population estimate.

11. The DNR is not taking full advantage of public reporting of wolf
sightings. The online tool for reporting should be better advertised and
the DNR should clarify that personal information is protected and not
available as public record.

12. GPS collar tracking provides the DNR with useful information on travel
patterns and pack locations for counting. Increased use of GPS collars
should be considered.

Conflict management

13. The draft plan is passive and lacks active conflict management for
depredations of non-agricultural domestic animals, such as dogs and
other pets. Increased harvest is not a method identified in the draft
plan to reduce such depredations. Include targeted population reduction
in areas of heavy depredation of dogs and other non-agricultural
domestic animals. This should include all legal methods of harvest for
targeted population reductions.

14. The draft plan does not address a numeric conflict reduction goal. WWF
requests a goal be set and included in the plan so effectiveness of
methods can be measured.

15. The draft plan appears to have biases against hunting with dogs.
Hunting with hounds has the same statutory and state constitutional
protections as agriculture and should have equal active measures
preventing depredations.

16. WWF opposes the plan wording encouraging low road densities in large
tracts of public lands, which is another means to prevent hunting,
fishing, trapping, and other public land use.

17. WWF opposes wording that implies hunting conflicts are the fault of
the hunter. The draft plan needs to address using population management
of wolves as a method to reduce hunting conflicts. Hunters have
constitutional rights to hunt lands open to them despite wolf presence.

18. There are multiple systems for sending alerts for livestock, hunting
dogs, and nonagricultural animals, but the plan is missing human health
and safety alerts. Receiving the same notification with a 4-mile radius
map is necessary to help prevent potential conflicts for land users,
pet owners, and dog hunters around those areas. The DNR should provide
equal notifications for equal protections for all land users.

19. Those who have experienced conflicts with wolves may have traumatic
experiences and stresses. The psychological impacts on humans caused by
livestock and domestic depredations by wolves is real and needs to be
considered. The draft plan ignores the psychological impacts wolf
conflicts have on humans and this needs to be addressed in the plan.

Zone changes

20. The plan would create buffer zones surrounding reservations,
effectively giving the management of the wolf population on public and
private lands outside of reservations to the tribes. WWF opposes the
creation of buffer zones surrounding reservations that would take away
the rights of private landowners and public land stakeholders. WWF also
opposes giving away state wildlife management authority.

21. The agricultural areas in these newly created buffer zones in the
draft plan will go largely unprotected and have inadequate protections
for pets and livestock.

Landowners will have unequal treatment under the law for which they are protected under the constitution.

22. The zone restructure is now based on wolf occupancy and not based on
suitable habitat. The unmanaged wolf population has forced wolves out of
prime suitable habitat into inappropriate areas, creating conflicts.
Not all areas are appropriate for wolves. WWF requests the zone
structure return to the original science-based, habitat-based zones.

Goal statement/objectives

23. The plan’s goal statement does not address where wolves are
appropriate. The draft plan needs to take a hard look into what is good
for wolves and what is good for humans. Low interactions between the
two are best. Wolves should only reside in high-quality wolf habitat
and not be managed to the maximum biological carrying capacity. No
other species in Wisconsin is managed to its maximum biological
carrying capacity.

24. The draft plan implies the elimination of hunting with dogs, which is
constitutionally protected. It also implies wolves have more rights to
the land than hunters. This narrative is not science-based and all such
implications should be removed.

25. Objective B is missing long-term controls for agricultural conflicts.
Wolves are known to move “down the road” and create conflicts with just
short-term controls.

26. The goal statement or objectives do not address any form of population
control. The official position of the WWF is a population goal of 350
wolves in the state. WWF strongly requests the numeric population goal
of 350 wolves be maintained in the final plan.

Numeric population goal

27. The draft plan allows for a subjective process for managing wolves.
The population goal was established in the 1999 plan due to lack of
confidence in a subjective wolf management strategy. There is no
accountability without a numeric population goal.

The only scientific analysis of wolf habitat done to date of Wisconsin
landscape quantified the social carrying capacity as 350 wolves. The WWF
strongly requests maintaining the numeric population goal of 350
wolves in the final plan.

28. For increased accountability the population goal needs to have a
timeline for completion. The goal timeline allows measuring of progress
towards meeting the set population goal with milestones along the way.
The WWF requests a population goal timeline be added to the plan.

Quotas/permits

29. The western states have 13 years of harvest data in establishing
quotas to reach their wolf population goals. WWF recommends including
this data in the draft plan to aid in setting quotas.

30. Permit issuing methodology should be based on the likely harvest methods used in the season they will be issued.

31. Western states have been unable to reduce their wolf numbers
consistently despite high levels of human harvest. As wolf expert David
Mech said, “Wolves are prolific, disperse long distances, readily
recolonize new areas where humans will allow them, and are difficult to
control when populations become established.”

Delisting

32. For lethal wolf conflict control and population management to take
place, federal delisting is required. To date the Wisconsin DNR has had
no visible involvement in planning, researching, and federal delisting
efforts with the USFWS, or with legal representation in delisting
efforts. The WWF strongly requests the DNR have a strong and visible
presence, and active involvement in all federal delisting efforts that
impact Wisconsin and in support of all other states actively working
towards delisting wolves in their states.

 

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