The Great Lakes gray wolf seems like a staple of Wisconsin’s environment, but it wasn’t long ago that that the wolf was nearly wiped from the regional landscape. During the 1950s bounties, poisoning and unregulated hunting took a toll on the population pushing the gray wolf to near extinction in the state.
Since then, the wolf can be considered one of the great success stories of the Endangered Species Act. Slowly, beginning in the 1980s, the state’s population began to rebound. Wisconsin’s wolf population was estimated at 25 in 1980, 34 in 1990, 248 in 2000 and 704 in 2010, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reports. Currently, DNR reports estimate Wisconsin’s population at over 900 animals, nearly three times the state’s population goal.
As the wolf populations have grown steadily over the last few decades, the responsibility of wolf management has shifted between state and federal. Currently in the Great Lakes region, federal courts have returned federal protections to the wolf. Previous to that decision – as recently as 2014 – Great Lakes states managed wolf populations to great success. For two years, Wisconsin successfully managed their wolf population with licensed hunts keeping the population under control. During that time, the wolf population continued to grow and exceeded the state goal of 350 wolves. Now unmanaged, the wolf population has ballooned to over 900 wolves and has led to increased conflict with wolves and livestock – causing unfortunate and disastrous consequences
In 2016, the DNR conducted a Wolf Tolerance Survey where they surveyed residents both within the current wolf range and outside. Most of the survey respondents expressed concern about the risk that wolves pose to the safety of children (63%), this belief was shared equally among respondents both within wolf range and outside. Sixty-eight percent of respondents want the same or fewer wolves on the landscape. Even in DNR’s own survey’s a clear majority of Wisconsinites support a managed wolf population.
Western states have gone through the same issues facing the Great Lakes states. Fortunately for a few of those states, signed federal legislation delisted the gray wolf and allowed state management. Wisconsin is now asking for the same ability, to management it’s wildlife without federal intervention. We proved with two years of hunts that we could successfully manage wolf hunts and still grow the population.
There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, three bills have been introduced in Congress to allow Great Lakes states to manage their wildlife: H.R. 4494 authored by Con. Peterson (D-MN), S. 831 authored by Sen. Johnson (R-WI) and S. 3140 authored by Sen. Lee (R-UT). These bills will finally return wolf management where it belongs, to the population that must live with the management decisions that are made, as opposed to federal judges thousands of miles away.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau supports the efforts to return the gray wolf population to state management and encourages you to contact your federal representatives and senators asking for their support. Wisconsin has proven we can manage wolves in the past and we can do it again with your help.
Please take a few minutes to call your federal legislators and ask for their support on returning gray wolf population management responsibilities back to the state DNR.
District 1 – Congressman Bryan Steil (202) 225-3031
District 2 – Congressman Mark Pocan (202) 225-2906
District 3 – Congressman Ron Kind (202) 225-5506
District 4 – Congresswoman Gwen Moore (202) 225-4572
District 5 – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (202) 225-5101
District 6 – Congressman Glenn Grothman (202) 225-2356
District 8 – Congressman Mike Gallagher (202) 225-5665
Senator Ron Johnson (202) 224-5323 | Senator Tammy Baldwin (202) 224-5653
Tyler Wenzlaff is the director of governmental relations for Wisconsin Farm Bureau.
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