Wednesday, May 21, 2014

1st-Hand Account Of How DNR's Advisory Committee Set 2014 Wolf Kill Quota

There has been extensive discussion on this blog about wolf hunting in Wisconsin. I count 121 posts since 2011, with a recent focus on how the State of Wisconsin sets its wolf hunting season kill quotas. 

Other subjects have included the only-in-Wisconsin permitted use of dogs in wolf hunting and legal efforts to ban the practice.

The Wisconsin Legislature authorized the wolf hunt in 2012.

One recent post was a guest submission by Douglas County wolf advocate Rachel Tilseth. She has submitted the account below of the May 19, 2014 meeting of the DNR's Wolf Advisory Committee meeting where its members made their 2014-'15 wolf kill quota recommendation.

The final kill quota determination will be made by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, to which the DNR reports. The Board accepted the committee's 2012-'13 and 2013-'14 wolf kill quota recommendations.


The division between science-based versus recreational hunting factions was very apparent at this meeting. Fortunately for wild wolves, the science and biology experts were heard.

The agenda was to cover the following:

Review of US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan (PDM) criteria
Tracking report by Biologist David MacFarland

It was noted that more DNR personnel tracked wolves than in past years. Pro- hunter committee members stated several times that they receive numerous calls of wolves in areas not being tracked. DNR asked them to send in these incidents and they would investigate the sighting and add more trackers if necessary. DNR reiterated that this winter track survey is a minimum number, but not exact science. However, this is the best model for tracking wolves, to date.

Review of population data

This is the concern noted by the DNR biologists, that the quota must be lowered this years to maintain a healthy population of wild wolves. Discussion on the data revealing that pack size is smaller this year, down to 3.2 wolves per pack. And unfortunately, the breeding numbers were down. The majority of the committee was in agreement that the quota should be kept within a 12% or lower number in order to stabilize the population.

Adrian Wydeven suggesting that 40 to 180 number is best to maintain healthy wolf populations. There was sharp disagreement from Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association
and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, who are members of this committee. 

These members believe the 1998 wolf management plan calling for a maximum wolf population of 350 must be the objective goal. Other members of the committee explained that 1998 plan is out-dated and a new one would be written that takes in all of the scientific factors of today.

2014 season objective/quota considerations

Chair Dave MacFarland asked each committee member to fill out an anonymous questionnaire putting their highest quota and their lowest quota numbers and quota percentile on them. The chair then put the data gathered from the questionnaire into a chart. 

It was noted that one committee member abstained. This data showed the consensus of the committee to be 156. Committee members raised concerns for or against the quota, with the majority in agreement to accept the 156 numbers, except Wisconsin Bear hunters Association which wanted a 300 quota and maintained an objection to the 156 numbers. 

Review of population models Stenglein/Roberts

Quota recommendations

A consensus of 156 was approved and was then distributed to the zones.

Quota allocation to zones

Each zone was filled with numbers based on need for problem areas of wolf depredations or public safety. There was considerable discussion on Zone 6, which is part of the state considered unsuitable wolf habitat. Wisconsin Bear Hunters suggested a unlimited number of wolf tags with Timber Wolf Alliance objections.  It was decided that  a higher number of tags could be allotted in Zone 6 but not an unlimited number as requested.  

Dog training regulations

Due to time constraints, sadly this was not addressed. This was the most important topic for Wolves of Douglas County, (WODCW).

Hunting/trapping regulations

Lack of time tabled this discussion as well.

For the first time the chair allowed the public input portion of the meeting to take place before the quota was decided, asking them to be as brief as possible to allow for more discussion.

Public Input

The public input part of the meeting there were 9 pro-wolf attendees that made statements. I made the statement that we would like to see the wolves back on the endangered species list, in total agreement with both Humane Society of the United States statements from new state Director, Melissa Tedrowe and Minnesota Director, Howard Goldman.

Then went on to discuss WODCW‘s primary focus to remove the dogs from the wolf hunt because we believe than this is not necessary, and that public does not want dogs in the wolf hunt. Furthermore, that we will be conducting a statewide petition drive to remove the dogs from the wolf hunt. I requested that the dogs be removed from the hunt. Other pro-wolf commentators also gave their statements against the wolf hunt. It must be noted that this committee is stacked heavily in favor of pro-wolf killing interests. But it was made clear by other anti-wolf hunting commentators that a wolf hunt is not needed.  Interestingly enough, the only pro-wolf hunting advocates in the room, sat on the Wolf Advisory Committee.

It is important to note here that this is a middle-of-the-road number, the 156. It was clear that a few members of the committee, namely, Wisconsin Bear Hunters and Wisconsin  Wildlife Federation, refused to acknowledge any scientific justification on keeping quota within safe numbers for the health of wild wolf populations. I had heard about a lack of science being taken seriously by committee members, but what I saw amounted to a shameful lack of compromise from these two organizations' representatives on the committee.   

However, I do have to complement the DNR biologists, Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife, and Timber Wolf Alliance for holding the line in favor for  sound scientific data that supports wild wolves in Wisconsin. If given the vote on this issue, I would advocate for 0 quota, instead focus on non- lethal methods of wolf management. 

I would like to add that this is not over yet, that this is an advisory committee and that these numbers will be discussed at the June 25th Wisconsin Natural Resources Board meeting in Milwaukee. 

- - Rachel Tilseth is founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, a wolf advocacy organization.

"Wolf hounding is barbaric, in-humane and archaic and has no place in a civilized society." Rachel Tilseth 


Anonymous said...

inci3471o wolves or any other animal should be killed in any

A. Treves said...

The link to the 5-year post-delisting monitoring document of the USFWS seems incorrect. I believe it should be