BLACK RIVER FALLS — A state plan to hunt wolves is being met by resistance by some western Wisconsin residents who say killing more than half of the state’s wild wolves goes too far.
Others say it’s not far enough.
Wisconsin’s first wolf hunt begins Oct. 15.
There are 812 documented wolves in Wisconsin, with established packs in Monroe, Juneau and Jackson counties, area considered part of the wolf’s primary range.
The state has a long-range goal to trim the population to 350.
John Kraemer of Chippewa Falls says the quota is too high.
He and about 60 others attended a meeting Friday in Black River Falls, where officials from the Department of Natural Resources presented their plan to cull the wolf population.
Kraemer said killing that many would have a negative impact on wolf genetics.
“Are they out just to get rid of them just like in times past?” Kraemer said. “It seems kind of crazy to me.”
Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill April 2 authorizing the wolf hunt. Wolves were considered extinct in Wisconsin from 1960-75 before returning on their own from Minnesota.
“They naturally moved back into the state,” DNR wolf specialist Adrian Wydeven said. “They were not reintroduced into Wisconsin. They got here on their own.”
The DNR estimated the state’s wolf population at 25 in 1980, and it has continued to increase since, to the point the animal is no longer considered endangered.
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Now, wildlife experts are concerned the population has grown too large. Reports of wolves preying on livestock have increased, and there are concerns the animals are outgrowing their habitat.
Under the bill, livestock depredation claims are to be paid from hunter license revenue.
Livestock owner Werner Haas of Hixton questioned the changes in depredation claims.
If the revenue is insufficient, the payments are pro-rated. The DNR has paid $1.4 million in depredation claims for livestock and pets since 1985.
“Do you know what a beef cow costs?” Haas said. “If you want to keep the timberwolf in Wisconsin, you had better treat the cattle producer decent.”
Jim Johnson of Hixton challenged the idea of the wolf as a benign animal. He said they have a negative impact on the deer population and threaten human beings.
“These things are actually vicious, vicious animals,” Johnson said. “Right now they have no fear of humans.”
The hunting bill sets the license fee at $100 for a resident and $500 for a non-resident. The application fee is $10.
The season runs from Oct. 15-Feb. 28, and DNR officials anticipate a harvest of 142-233 animals.
DNR biologist Bill Vander Zouwen said it’s difficult to predict the hunter success rate or how long it will take to get the population down to 350.
“We really don’t know what it’s going to be,” he said. “We’ll know next year.”