June 26, 2013

Residents clash over Wisconsin’s new wolf hunting quota

Melissa Smith, organizer of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf, testified against increasing the quota for wolf hunting at a June 26 meeting of the Natural Resources Board in Wausau.

Rory Linnane/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Melissa Smith, organizer of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf, testified against increasing the quota for wolf hunting at a June 26 meeting of the Natural Resources Board in Wausau.

WAUSAU — The state Natural Resources Board unanimously approved a 37 percent increase in the quota for wolf hunting Wednesday, despite opposition from speakers who questioned everything from board members’ research to their consciences.

“Each and every one of you has your consciences and you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem,” Pickett resident Alice Miller told the board. “It’s a shame that Wisconsin residents have to come up and defend our wildlife. That’s what the DNR’s supposed to do.”

The board, the DNR’s policy-making arm, set the quota for hunting and trapping wolves in the 2013-14 season at 275 wolves, up from last year’s 201. Like last season, the DNR decided to offer 10 permits for each wolf in the quota.

Bill Vander Zouwen, the DNR’s wildlife ecology section chief, said the number was a compromise of “quite a diversity of opinions” and would help the DNR achieve its established goal of reducing the wolf population without destabilizing it.

About a dozen people spoke at the meeting, seven in opposition. Two of the supporters were part of the DNR’s wolf advisory committee, which recommended the new quota to the board. A third was the chair of the wolf study committee of DNR’s Conservation Congress.

Ralph Fritsch, who sits on the advisory committee, and represents the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, which is comprised of hunting, fishing, trapping and forestry-related groups, supported the new quota for making progress toward the target population of 350. He said the wolf hunt in 2012 was ineffective in reducing the wolf population, which the DNR estimates at just over 800, at minimum.

“The Wisconsin DNR has the ultimate responsibility to properly manage the wolf population in the state, which is currently at least 2.5 times the management goal of 350,” Fritsch said. “The goal was based on the social carrying capacity of wolves in the state and was made as a commitment to farmers, hunters and citizens of Wisconsin.”

Zouwen, who also sits on the advisory committee, said everyone in the group agreed on the number, except the member representing Ojibwe tribes.

Several speakers Wednesday accused the committee, made up of DNR staff and other stakeholders, of failing to represent the interests of most Wisconsinites. The DNR recently decided to remove University of Wisconsin researchers from all wildlife advisory committees (including the wolf committee).

Tom Hauge, director of the DNR’s wildlife bureau, described the change to the Wisconsin State Journal as a move “to be efficient with department resources.”

Melissa Smith, organizer of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf, testified against increasing the quota for wolf hunting at a June 26 meeting of the Natural Resources Board in Wausau.

Rory Linnane / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Melissa Smith, organizer of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf, testified against increasing the quota for wolf hunting at a June 26 meeting of the Natural Resources Board in Wausau.

Others were more critical. Melissa Smith, organizer of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf, said the advisory committee was dominated by special interests and the quota was set dangerously high.

“We need to listen to scientists, get the best data possible, and run it through the best minds we can,” Smith said.

Howard Goldman, Minnesota senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said he had been on the advisory committee for three years before he wasn’t invited back this year.

“Wolves present no threat to humans; they’re being hunted only for sport and trophy,” Goldman said. “It’s taken 38 years for wolves to recover in Wisconsin. We must be very conservative in our management approach. Too much is at stake to do anything else.”

Goldman cited a recent poll of Wisconsin residents that found 81 percent of respondents opposed “the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves for sport,” after being told wolves are an important part of the ecosystem.

In defense of the composition of the committee, Zouwen said, “We’re past the recovery stage; now we’re in the management stage. It makes the most sense to have the people at the table who are OK with managing and not always fighting that battle.”

  • Della Munnich

    It is unbelievable the slaughter of wolves, even more so is the inhumane way they are slaughtered. Something is truly amiss, wrong and evil!

  • Antonia Vassila

    Fight hard for THEM. Dont let more killings

  • William huard

    The former and current wolf biologists both have told me that the biological carrying capacity of wolves is around 1200 animals. Mr fristch and most of the legislature, NRB, and DNR are being untruthful and disingenuous when they say the target goal is 350 animals. That number was an estimation of where management activities could begin and there were only a few hundred wolves in Wisconsin at the time. Like everything that has happened under the walker administration this is about politics. The bear hunters have a lobbyist (welch)that was hired by an NRB member kazmierski who makes decisions that are clearly a conflict of interest….the bear hunters bait black bears in the summer so they are easier to track in the fall…..wolves are territorial and they like bait- so they kill the invading hounds. Several reformed hounders told us that 30% of black bear cubs do not make it to a tree before the hounds attack and kill them. This is fact. These same “sportsmen” want to train the hounds on wolves in March when wolves will be preparing to have their pups….they will defend the dens and be shot by the SLOB Hunters. This is all perfectly acceptable science based management to the DNR and NRB….yep- only in wisconsin

    • oldbiologist

      Huard is exactly right. No one should be quoting that 350 population number. It is DECADES old and was only a PLACEHOLDER in the original mgt. plan when little data was available and the biologists were learning about wolf ecology in WI. It really pisses me off, esp. when cited by anyone in the DNR as they damn well know better. The way the DNR is being manipulated and crushed by the legislature and the Gov’s appointees is sickening and tragic, as is the way some of the employees are going along with it. The makeup of this committee is OUTRAGEOUS and someone should file a lawsuit about it since WI citizens are not being represented. It is 99% wolf haters with several that would like to see them totally eliminated. People need to speak out!

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  • L Rolf

    The Wisconsin DNR does not even know the actual wolf population of Wisconsin so it created a fictitious number and commences killing them. That is about as unscientific a plan as I have ever heard. The WI DNR’s behavior toward toward the wolves is reckless and unforgivable in light of the fact that just last year they were endangered. The only reason they want 350 wolves in WI is to keep the trophy hunters, trappers and bear hounders happy. Wolves are native to WI and they kill less than 1% of livestock. They absolutely avoid humans and the WI deer population is grossly overpopulated. The WI DNR’s plans have nothing to do with the survival of the wolf species in WI and everything to do keeping hunters, trappers, hounders and other special interests like mining happy. The wolves aren’t bad they just happen to be in the way of gutting the state of Wisconsin for it’s natural resources. People of Wisconsin please speak out for the wolves and for your beautiful state!

  • joekam

    There is great passion on both sides in this debate, some want no wolves, some want as many wolves as possible, the answer is or should be somewhere in the middle.

    As far as the DNR estimate, yes it possibly could be high, it as just as possible it could be low. It is impossible to get an exact population count on any wild animal, the best that you can do is come up with the best estimate possible.

    In regards to biological carrying capacity, the number stated by mr.Huard may be accurate, however that does not always equate to social carrying capacity. 18 county boards in northern Wisconsin, where most of the wolf population lives, have passed resoultions calling for a population of 350 or less. This would suggest that the people living directly in wolf country in general have a much lower tolerance than people living in the southern part of the state, or people from out of state.

    Finally in regards to the 30% of cubs are killed by hound hunters. The numbers just do not add up. Until a few years ago the bear population was estimated to be 13,000. Since then the population estimate has been raised to about 26,000 bears. There have been accusations that the doubled population estimate is simply a made up number to provide more tags for bears to be harvested, so I will use the 13,000 bear estimate. With the 13,000 population estimate, around 2,500 – 3000 bears were harvested, and registered every year. This does not take into account car kills, natural mortality, or instances where problem bears may be shot by homeowners, or cabin owners that then run off and die in the woods unreported. If you were to add an addional 30 % mortality by cubs from hounds, the population would not be able to be what it is. Also many times a sow will protect her cubs, or put them up a tree, and continue on circling back to check on them time after time. Finally most bear hunters try to avoid running sows with cubs.

  • joekam

    Another point regarding the alleged 30% of bears run by hounds are killed by dogs before making it up a tree. Notice that I said bears not cubs. On another site, this single, not several “reformed bear hunter (s) who supposedly said that 30% of all bears run by hounds never make a tree but are killed on the ground. Either way why is it that this alleged action has never come to light before? What I mean by this is supposedly bear hunters are lazy and never get out of the truck except to go to the tree. Also hound hunters are supposedly hated by the rest of the hunting community. Add this to the fact all the non hunters who are randomly roaming the woods enjoying the flora, and wildlife. Put all of this together, and literally there should be hundreds, if not thousands of bear carcasses in the woods every year. Why has this never been discovered and reported before now? Also when it is reported it apparently is told to wildlife advocacy groups rather than to law enforcement, or public news media. Hmm! Sounds kind of strange. Finally bear hunting with hounds in Wisconsin has been going on for decades, if this 30% alleged killing were true, there would not be a population of bears left in the state.