MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin wildlife officials want to dramatically scale back the state's third annual wolf hunt this fall, saying the wolf population is decreasing as planned and they want to study the effects of last year's harvest.
The Department of Natural Resources plans to ask its board next week to limit the total 2014-15 kill to 156 wolves and again issue permits equal to 10 times the quota, or 1,560 permits. That's down sharply from last year's 251-animal, 2,510-permit parameters. The DNR could reduce the quota even more depending on the state's Chippewa tribes.
DNR Wildlife Management Bureau Director Tom Hauge said the agency wants to back off for several reasons.
In this photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, a gray wolf is seen roaming a wooded area near Wisconsin Dells, Wis. Wisconsin wildlife officials are considering reducing the quota for the next wolf hunt, set for later this year. (AP photo)
The first two seasons accomplished the agency's goals of halting the wolf population's growth and starting to reduce the animals' numbers, he said. The DNR estimates 660 to 689 wolves were roaming the state late last winter, down from 809 to 824 animals in 2012-13.
The DNR's goal is 350 animals, but the agency doesn't want to take a "pedal to the metal" approach because hunting's effects on wolves are still not fully understood, Hauge said. Hunters exceeded the 251-animal quota last year by six animals, and the DNR wants to study the effects of such a successful season on the population.
"Learning as we go is the way most biologists prefer to go about this," Hauge said.
The DNR's board is set to consider the quota at a meeting in Milwaukee on Wednesday. If it's approved, the state's six Chippewa tribes would then have an opportunity to declare how many wolves tribal hunters want to kill in the ceded territory, a huge swath of northern Wisconsin the Chippewa handed over to the federal government in the 19th century.
The tribes are entitled to half of the total quota in the ceded territory. Under the DNR's proposal, that quota would be 129 wolves. Tribal hunters would have the exclusive right to kill up to 65 of them. That would mean non-tribal hunters and trappers could take the remaining 91 wolves.
But the Chippewa oppose hunting wolves because they see the animal as a spiritual brother and tribal hunters haven't taken a single wolf during the first two seasons. Even so, the DNR likely will reduce the statewide quota by some amount to offset any potential tribal take, Hauge said. Last year, for example, the agency originally proposed a 275-animal quota but reduced it to 251 to allow the tribes to take 24 wolves if they decided to do so.