Wis. DNR wants to increase wolf hunt limits

Trotting wolf
A wolf trots across a grain stubble field in northern Minnesota. Neighboring Wisconsin is considering raising the quota in its second annual wolf hunt this fall.
Steve Foss for MPR

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Hunters and trappers would be allowed to kill dozens more wolves during Wisconsin's second wolf hunt this fall, under new quotas released Tuesday by state wildlife officials.

Department of Natural Resources officials say the new quotas will help shrink the state's burgeoning wolf population to what they think is its ideal size of 350 animals. But the plan promises to incur the wrath of conservationists and wolf lovers who are still bristling after last year's inaugural season.

"They are too delicate of a species to have a general hunt," Melissa Smith, organizer of Friends of Wisconsin Wolves, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "I haven't seen any consideration of science or people who wish to see wolves alive rather than dead."

The DNR's proposal calls for a statewide quota of 275 wolves across six zones for the hunt, which is set to begin in mid-October and run through the end of February. The state's Chippewa tribes would be entitled to 115 of those wolves, leaving 160 for nontribal hunters and trappers. The agency wants to issue 2,750 permits, or 10 permits for every wolf.

That compares with a statewide total of 201 wolves and 2,010 permits last year. The Chippewa were entitled to 85 wolves, but the tribes are adamantly opposed to hunting wolves and didn't kill a single one. The DNR closed the season two months early in December after nontribal hunters and trappers took 117 wolves, which exceeded their quota by one.

DNR Ecology Section Chief Bill Vander Zouwen said the DNR is trying to reduce the state's wolf population to 350 animals and that last year's hunt did little to shrink it. The DNR estimated that as many as 834 wolves roamed the state this winter, which was down from as many as 880 last winter.

If the new quota is reached, the number of vehicle collisions and illegal kills remains unchanged from 2012, and depredation kills decrease by half to reflect fewer wolves, humans would have killed about 44 percent of the total population in 2013, the DNR estimated. Achieving the kill quota alone could reduce the population by up to 23 percent, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison models cited in a DNR memo to the agency's board.

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