Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf Population Grew in 2012


Wisconsin’s gray wolf population at the close of the 2011-2012 winter was estimated to be 815-880, a roughly 4 percent increase over the 2010-2011 end-of-winter estimate. A total of 41-42 wolves were counted on Native American reservations and thus the total count of wolves outside of reservations was 774-838 wolves. A late winter population of 350 wolves outside reservations is the current state wolf population goal for Wisconsin.

Wolves in Wisconsin were removed from the federal endangered species list on January 27, 2012, and management authority was returned to the states and tribes for gray wolves living in the Western Great Lakes. Since 2004, the State of Wisconsin listed the gray wolf as a protected wild animal, and on April 2, 2012 it was designated a game species. The Department of Natural Resources is developing rules to allow a public wolf hunting and trapping season (PDF) starting October 15, 2012.

The annual winter wolf count relies on aerial tracking of radio-collared wolves, and snow track surveys by DNR and volunteer trackers. Also included are wolf sightings by members of the public and other agencies, including observations from trail cameras. The agency has conducted these counts since the winter of 1979-1980 when there were 25 wolves in the state.

A total of 213 wolf packs were detected in Wisconsin during the winter count consisting of at least two adult wolves each. Biologists found 51 packs distributed across central Wisconsin and 162 packs in northern Wisconsin. The largest pack in the state was Fort McCoy Pack in Monroe County with 10 wolves. At least 63 packs had five or more wolves in them.

It appeared the wolf population increased in 2012. With federal delisting and new status as a game species, controls will be applied to the wolf population to reduce conflicts, and reduce the population to more socially accepted levels, while maintaining a sustainable and healthy wolf population.

In 2010 the Wisconsin DNR initiated a Web notification of all wolf attacks on dogs for hunters and others concerned about wolf depredations. People can have their email address added to the notification list by searching for “wolf” on the DNR website and then clicking on the link for “dog depredations.”

DNR continues to encourage volunteers in monitoring wolves

Wisconsin’s wolf population estimate is based on data gathered by agency biologists and technicians, and more than 150 volunteers. DNR has conducted annual wolf surveys since winter 1979-1980, and volunteers have been involved in the surveys since 1995.

“Volunteer trackers have become a critical portion of our surveys that have allowed us to obtain reliable estimates of the state wolf population in winter,” said Adrian Wydeven, DNR mammalian ecologist who coordinates the wolf survey. “We hope to continue attracting citizens in helping to determine the annual population of wolves in the state.”

There are two upcoming training and educational opportunities for wolf survey volunteers (links below exit DNR).

  • The Cable Natural History Museum in Cable, is sponsoring an afternoon tour and evening wolf howling event in the Cable/Clam Lake area on July 14, from 3 p.m. to mid-night. Costs are $50 for members and $55 for nonmembers to cover travel and dinner at Lakewoods Supper Club. The event will include short hikes through the forest during the day, and enjoying the summer night sky along forest back roads after dark. The tour will be led by DNR wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven, and wolf program technician Sarah Boles. For information call 715-798-3890.
  • The North Lakelands Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters, is sponsoring a weekend with wolves from Friday evening August 3 through mid-day Sunday August 5. Training will be provided on wolf biology, ecology, survey methods, and latest wolf management activities. Visits will be made to local wolf territories during daytime and howling surveys will be conducted at night. Training will be conducted by DNR and Discovery Center Staff. The wolf weekend qualifies as wolf ecology training for persons planning to become volunteer trackers, but is open to all members of the public. For information call 877-543-3255.

Volunteer trackers, who have attended wolf ecology and carnivore tracking training, will be assigned survey blocks of about 200 square miles each, and will be asked to conducted at least three good surveys of their block during winter. Details on the volunteer tracking program and additional training opportunities are found on the Wisconsin DNR website, http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/volunteer.html

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