Wisconsin wolf summit leans toward delisting, killing animals

In this February 2008 photo, gray wolves howl at an exhibit area at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minn.
AP Photo/John Flesher 2008 File

Politicians, farmers and hunters dominated a Great Lakes summit on wolves, expressing hope that the animals will soon come off the federal endangered species list.

Participants at the meeting Thursday in the northwestern Wisconsin community of Cumberland talked about solutions to wolf problems, including attacks against domestic animals, in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

The summit was organized by two Republican lawmakers from northern Wisconsin, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Adam Jarchow, who hope control of the wolf population returns to state governments. As long as wolves are considered endangered, killing them is illegal unless it's for personal protection.

The Humane Society of the United States called the event one-sided, USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported.

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Others argued that wolves have a place in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

"A few wolves are OK," said Don Peay, founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and a speaker at the summit. "They're part of the system."

Peay and most others at the summit wanted to manage the wolf population by killing some off. Roughly 4,000 wolves roam the Great Lakes region.

Complaints of attacks on domestic animals have been rising with the wolf population, said David Ruid, wildlife biologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who helps manage complaints of wolf attacks on farms and ranches.

Ruid said the wolves aren't affecting the cattle industry's bottom line, but they are causing great hardship for farmers who live within their territory.

"These things are occurring on the local family farm," Ruid said.

It's not just fatal attacks on livestock that's a problem, either, because wolves will harass animals, which can cause livestock to damage fences or slow their eating because they're on guard, he added.

Congress will likely debate the proposed law after the November election, according to legislative staff at the office of Sen. Ron Johnson, who introduced the bill.