Despite criticism from both sides of the debate, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board recently unanimously approved a gray wolf hunt.
The harvest limit was set at 201 animals, nearly a quarter of the state's population. Hunters and farmers seeking relief from wolf attacks on their livestock argued at the that the number was too low, pointing out the DNR has estimated as many as 880 wolves may roam the state, far exceeding the department's goal of 350.
According to the DNR, there were 162 wolf packs active in Wisconsin in 2010, including 23 in Central Wisconsin and 139 in Northern Wisconsin. A pack consists of at least two adult wolves, and at least 47 of the packs had five or more wolves.
Those are just some of the facts I just read out of the Shawano Leader. Here's what I know already... Wolves are the largest wild member of the canine family. They are highly sociable and live in packs up to six to ten animals, led by a dominating alpha male and female. The dominant pair is a charge of the pack, raising the young, capturing food and maintaining territory.
A wolf pack's territory may cover up 20 to 120 square miles. That is a lot of ground to cover! A fact that does invite conflict with wolves biggest enemy, humans. Remember this, wolves by nature are shy and timid around people and are rarely seen.
A glimpse of Wisconsin's history with wolves may offer insight on the struggles between man and wolf, according to the DNR... Before Wisconsin was settled in the 1830's, wolves lived throughout the state with a estimated population of 3,000 to 5,000 of these creatures. Explorers, trappers and settlers transformed the native Wisconsin habitat into farmlands, hunted the bison and elk to extirpation, and reduced deer populations. As their prey species dwindled, wolves began to feed on easier to find prey-livestock. This did not go too well with the farmers, whom put pressure the Wisconsin Legislature to put a bounty on the wolves. By 1960, wolves were declared extirpated from the state.
A similar story occurred among the lower 48 states with the exception of Minnesota, which claimed to have 350 to 500 wolves in their state. In 1974, the federal government recognized the dire need of the wolves by placing them under the protection of Endangered Species Act, making it unlawful to kill the wolves. About this time frame, some wolves from Minnesota reentered Wisconsin and established home in the northwest corner.
In 1979, the DNR began an extensive recovery program for the wolves by the intense monitoring of these creatures. Attempts to capture, attach radio collars and radio-track wolf movement throughout the state. Part of recovery program was not only to educate, provide legal and habitat protection and provide compensation for problem wolves, but to set a goal to reach 350 wolves in the state for reclassification to a threatened species. This goal was reached in 2004. As of now, there are about 880 of them.
As their numbers increased, so did the the conflict between man and wolf. In 2012 so far, there has been eight confirmed cases of wolf depredation in the state, six of them to livestock and other two to hound dogs. So far the state has paid out $214,794 this year in compensation for the losses. (Some of them may be fraud). This raises a concern to farmers and dog owners. A concern that may be well valid.
The hunting season will begin Oct. 15. Permit sales will begin Aug. 1, with an application of $10. License fees are $100 for residents, $500 for nonresidents.
This whole thing raises some thoughts out of me. 880 wolves doesn't seem too big of a number to me compared to about 1.16 million deer and about 40,000 bear in Wisconsin. Are the farmers using wolves as scapegoats? True, wolves are carnivorous creatures that have attacked livestock. Yet, the bear population has exploded in the the northern regions of Wisconsin in an alarming rate, creating a nuisance out themselves. And yes, they are being hunted. Are the bear responsible some of the attacks? At an 880 wolf count is a wolf harvest really necessary? I understand the farmers' plight, for they do have a right to their investments. Is $719 for a lost cow or $1500 for a lost hound enough compensation? Would getting rid the wolves solve the problem?
I'm not a NRA lover nor a PETA activist. I draw my line the middle somewhere. I don't hunt, yet my father does and I have no real issues those who do. He has taught me the integrity of a good hunter, that is take what you need and leave alone the rest. However, I do enjoy spending time the in woods taking wildlife pictures. I dream of the day where I can gaze into a wolf's eyes just before I snap a shot, for I have never seen a wolf in the wild (save for a few tracks). Wolves are an integral part of nature's ecological system. They help keep the deer population under control by feeding on the young, old, sick and the weak. It's the way Mother Nature conducts her business....
What do you think about proposed wolf hunt? What are your thoughts?