Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Commentary: Take time to comment on Wisconsin’s wolf plan

The Wisconsin DNR has extended the deadline to provide input on the wolf management draft plan to Feb. 28. (Photo courtesy of USFWS)

The DNR has extended the deadline to provide input on the wolf management draft plan to Feb. 28.

Many people, including Safari Club International–Wisconsin Chapter, had expressed a desire to extend the deadline as many would not have had a chance to review the plan and comment by the original Jan. 6 deadline.

Readers may go to the “wolf management plan” web page on the DNR website. When you get to the page, the entire plan, as proposed, is available for viewing. As a member of the DNR wolf study committee, I have participated in the process and followed up by placing my/Safari Club’s comments on the proposed plan. There were several areas of the plan that we are very much opposed to.

RELATED CONTENT: Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Board files 32 wolf plan objections

One of the plan’s major issues is the lack of a specific wolf population goal for the state. As you may recall, for the majority of the time since wolves have been restored to the state, that population goal has been 350 animals.

Throughout the meetings we had, myself and others repeatedly asked what number the DNR was comfortable with. The question was continuously dodged. Several times during this discussion, the DNR indicated that the 350 number was a number established by the legislators and not based on scientific data. As you may recall, there was a huge outcry after our last season that the wolf population would be drastically reduced by the slight overharvest. This proposed management plan proves that to be incorrect.

Even in what we consider an “under reporting” analysis, the current population is estimated at 812 to 1,193 wolves with the best guess, and it truly is a guess, at 972 wolves.

SCI-Wisconsin Chapter has gone on record opposing the new “occupancy model” vs. wolf population goal for several key reasons. First, the estimates the DNR uses is based on volunteer and staff tracking reports. Then, we find out that several key wolf tracking units were understaffed and under reported, and, in some cases, units were not tracked at all.

During the committee meetings, I had an opportunity to ask the primary wildlife biologist responsible for the estimates to explain several troubling population methods. Currently when a pack is identified, the DNR places the average pack size at six animals, which we feel is under estimating the overall pack size and, therefore, underestimating the overall population. In addition, lone wolves are not counted at all.

The argument from the biologist is that these lone wolves are part of a pack and will rejoin the pack. Our last season has shown us that hound hunters will usually release their dogs on single or pairs of wolves. To release dogs on a pack would put the dogs in great jeopardy of being attacked, injured, or killed.

Our argument has continuously been that lone wolves can make up 10% to 15% of the overall population. This estimate is backed up by many experts across the country.

By underestimating pack size, and not counting lone wolves, we feel the state’s population estimates are low. The fact that our latest wolf season closed after just two days is one of the reasons we feel that the state’s population estimates are not accurate. All of the population estimates are critical, as the DNR begins to establish quotas in specific management areas.

I would encourage everyone to go online, review the draft management plan, and take time to file comments.

You should also take the time to complete the survey. I do give the DNR credit for extending the deadline to submit public comments to Feb. 28.

I also participated in the bear study committee. While I have forwarded my notes and comments to the individual SCI boards, I will be providing data with the most up-to-date information from those meetings in future writings.

Dan Trawicki, of Waukesha, is past president of the Safari Club International-Wisconsin Chapter.

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