MADISON — The Wisconsin Wolf Stakeholder Caucus, a wolf advocacy and education group based in Madison, is speaking out to dispel what they consider to be 'barstool myths' regarding the number of wolves roaming the state, and their impact on deer and elk numbers.
Elizabeth Huntley, spokesperson for the caucus, stated “I’ve seen published accounts about wolf numbers ‘assumed’ to be much higher than the Wisconsin DNR estimates, due to the results of the high mortality rate of wolves during the latest wolf hunting season. But that’s simply untrue for several reasons, and it’s important that Wisconsin residents know and understand the facts instead of blaming wolves for everything.”
Huntley explained that Wisconsin has one of the most accurate method of counting wolves in the Great Lake region. This is due to the fact that every year wolves in Wisconsin are counted via tracking in the winter, howl surveys in the summer, and ongoing radio telemetry. Wolves in Minnesota are monitored every 5 years, and in Michigan wolves are monitored on a biennial basis. Only areas where there is little suitable wolf habitat and where there’s little evidence of the presence of wolves are wolf surveys not conducted.
Huntley also added that “disperser” wolves – usually loners – will travel many miles, but do not represent a population of breeding wolves; wolf sightings and trail cam sightings seen by many people represent only a handful of animals traveling over huge areas. In fact, lone wolves have been sighted as far away as central Illinois where they’ve been mistakenly shot as coyotes.
Further, according to Huntley, the 2013 wolf hunting season was particularly brutal on wolves: trappers immediately got to work baiting wolves one week prior to setting their trap lines, and by day 14 of the wolf hunt trapped wolves accounted for 78% of wolves killed compared to 55% killed in this manner in 2012. “Humans have proven time and time again that we’re really very efficient at finding and killing wolves – that’s why they were nearly extirpated from the lower 48 states by the mid 1930’s.”
Another circulating myth is that wolves are significantly reducing the deer herds in northern forests. According to the Wisconsin DNR, Huntley says that human harvest and winter conditions have the greatest impact on deer populations, and most of the deer population in northern Wisconsin is near or over their population goal.
Last, some hunters have expressed concern about wolves taking too many elk in the Clam Lake and Butternut areas. In consultation with the DNR, Huntley learned that bear, wolves, and vehicular accidents figure into the mortality rate of the elk, as well as habitat limitations. Black bear are major consumers of elk fawns, and their populations are nearly twice the state population goal of 11,500 bears. The current elk herd stands at 180 animals, with an average growth rate of 13% per year. “Elk and deer herds continue to climb in this state, despite natural predation; that’s Mother Nature’s way” Huntley says.
For more information, please contact the Wisconsin Wolf Stakeholder Caucus at 224-588-7471.
Elizabeth Huntley is the spokesperson for the Wisconsin Wolf Stakeholder Caucus and can be reached at 224-558-7471