Wisconsin wolf population hits modern-era record
DNR estimate of 825 animals includes 32 packs in central Wisconsin
April 17, 2011
Sustaining a recovery that evokes both wonderment and concern, the Wisconsin population of gray wolves has reached a modern-era record of about 825 animals in more than 200 packs, according to state biologists.
The estimate, derived from tracking surveys and aerial counts conducted during the winter of 2010-'11, represents an increase of 100 wolves over the previous period, said Adrian Wydeven, wolf ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources.
The estimate was announced Friday at the annual Wisconsin Wolf Stakeholder Committee meeting in Wausau.
The official population range was listed as 801 to 858 wolves.
The estimate includes at least 207 wolf packs, including 175 in northern Wisconsin and 32 in the central part of the state.
Notable in the latest assessment: Several packs of 10 or more wolves were recorded, including a pack of 12 in Douglas County.
The estimate is conducted in winter when wolves are easiest to track and count, but also at a time when the population is near its annual low.
The population estimate came a day after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to remove the wolf in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan from the federal Endangered Species List.
The delisting effort is expected to play out over the next several months. The latest Wisconsin wolf estimate will bolster the federal government's case; the species has exceeded recovery goals throughout the region.
Wisconsin had established a recovery goal of 350 wolves.
The animals have shown substantial increases in both population and range over the last decade, Wydeven said, and are proving capable of exploiting habitats not previously thought suitable.
"No one would have predicted 20 years ago that we'd have wolves in northern Waupaca County," Wydeven said. "But we're learning more each year."
Native to Wisconsin, the gray wolf was subjected to bounty hunting and eliminated from the state in the late 1950s, according to DNR reports. It returned in the mid-1970s and has increased dramatically with state and federal protection.
The Wisconsin wolf population was estimated at 25 animals in 1980, 34 in 1990 and 248 in 2000.
Each year since 1993 wolves in Wisconsin have shown year-over-year increases in both number of individuals and packs. The increase from 2009-'10 to 2010-'11 is the largest on record.
Wolf observations classified as "probable" or "possible" were received from 55 of the state's 72 counties in 2010.
The growing wolf population has led to increased attacks on domestic animals.
A 1999 wolf plan assumed annual reimbursements for wolf depredation in the $20,000 to $40,000 range. But the state paid a record $203,943 in wolf damage claims in 2010, up from $91,328 in 2009 and $134,752 in 2008.
State records show 47 farms sustained wolf depredation in 2010, compared with 28 in 2009. And there were 14 cases of wolves attacking dogs near residences last year, double the previous year.
Though there is no record of a wolf attack on a human in recent years in Wisconsin, there have been several incidents of wolves showing dangerous tendencies near people, according to the state.
Sixteen wolves were killed by U.S. Department of Agriculture and state officials in 2010 because of concerns for human safety.
There were 72 documented cases of wolf deaths in Wisconsin in 2010, including 26 from vehicle collisions and 14 from illegal shooting.
Still, Wydeven characterized wolf mortality rates as moderate and disease rates as low. Several cases of mange were noted.
The challenge for the future is managing conflicts between the charismatic predator and human interests.
"We hear from people who are thrilled to see a wolf in the wild," Wydeven said. "But as the population grows, the potential for problems increases. We're hopeful as wildlife managers that control of the wolf will be returned to the state."
Discuss wolves (news, sightings, etc.).
3 posts • Page 1 of 1
AUGUST 2009 USER OF THE MONTH
I'm glad that the wolf population is rising, but I think it should be controled, because of there are too many wolves, then that could lead to interaction with humans, and maybe even injuries, or even fatal attacks on pets and humans.
Well, since wolves are being delisted at Wisconsin, they will be allowed to "trim" the populations again, and control the wolf numbers by hunting. We'll see what happens. Over 800 wolves in one state is rather a lot, and it can cause issues unless it is managed properly.
AUGUST 2009 USER OF THE MONTH