Wisconsin wolves are under scrutiny following a call for a statewide wolf population goal. State lawmakers say establishing one would allow for “clarity for a wolf hunt” should wolves be delisted in the future, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
The current state wolf management plan was adopted in 1999 and revised in 2007 with a set population goal of 350 wolves. When the plan was first drafted, the state wolf count was roughly 250 wolves. Since then, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) data reports that the population has “grown four times that number” with “nearly 1,000 wolves.” Further, growth seems to be “stabilizing.”
The rationale behind the set goal is to determine a harvest quota for a potential future wolf hunting season if wolves are eventually delisted. However, WDNR Large Carnivore Specialist Randy Johnson spoke against the bill, stating that “a numeric goal may be appropriate for a recovering species, but often become ineffective” and that it would be “difficult to find an ‘appropriate’ number that reflects the wide range of social preferences and biological considerations with a changing population.”
It could also be ineffective in managing wolves based upon how they are dispersed across the state.
“There are certain areas of the state that may have more wolves or fewer wolves and more conflict and less conflict,” said Johnson. “A single goal fails to address those dynamics.”
Others like former WDNR Secretary George Meyer, say that establishing such a number will only “lead to disagreements as to when the wolf population is above, below or meeting” objectives.
The current draft plan calls for six updated wolf management zones with set harvest quotas to maintain, grow or decrease wolves within these zones once federal protections are lifted, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
There will be two open houses to discuss the revised draft plan on Oct. 2 and 3 in Ashland and Marshfield. Approval of the plan will occur at the Natural Resources Board meeting on Oct. 25 before moving onto the state legislature and governor for final approval.
Read the full draft plan here