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Lack of Population Goal, Fear of Future Hunts Highlight Wolf Plan Listening Session

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by Henry Redman, Wisconsin Examiner
February 9, 2023

At a listening session over the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) proposed new wolf management plan, members of the state’s Native American tribes and agricultural groups expressed doubts about proposed wolf hunts and the lack of a stated population goal. 

The plan, which was unveiled last year, does away with a specific population goal for different regions of the state and instead moves to a so-called adaptive management system in which scientists assess whether the population in that zone needs to be increased, decreased or maintained. 

For now, the wolf is on the federal endangered species list, meaning the animal can’t be hunted, but Wisconsin has a law requiring a wolf hunt when wolves aren’t listed. The last wolf hunt in the state, in February 2021, was widely criticized for surpassing the quota set by the state. 

“I think it’s a very well thought-out plan,” said Michelle Beaudin, a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians Tribal Governing Board. “You did identify in your plan that the wolves were relisted on the federal endangered species list and also in the plan it mentions that the state has always followed the federal endangered species so I’m confused in terms of why we’re considering the hunts. If they’re on the federal endangered species list, we should respect that.” 

But other speakers said they were worried about how the state would control the wolf population without a specific number to target. 

“Our principal concern and one we advocated for as a member of the wolf management plan committee is a lack of a numeric population goal,” Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation Director of National Affairs Tyler Wenzlaff said. “The current plan has a numeric population goal, target, whatever you want to call it of 350 wolves. The draft plan instead favors an adaptive management approach in which a set of ambiguous objectives are set. The lack of a numeric goal makes setting consistent zone harvest quotas virtually impossible as these objectives are broadly stated and can easily be redefined by the department.” 

The DNR has already moved to a similar method in controlling the state’s bear population.

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