The 2013 Wisconsin wolf count indicates there are a minimum of 809 to 834 wolves in the state, including 215 packs and 15 lone wolves, according to Department of Natural Resources officials. This count compares to the 2012 count of a minimum of 815 to 880 wolves, including 213 packs and 20 lone wolves.
“The 2013 wolf count relies on a combination of radio-telemetry, pilot observations, and winter track counts conducted by staff and trained volunteers across wolf range in Wisconsin,” said David MacFarland, DNR carnivore specialist. “The count is conducted at a time when the wolf population is at its lowest point in the annual cycle. The population nearly doubles when pups are born, but mortalities of adults and young bring those numbers down by the following winter.”
All known mortalities for 2012 fell within expected ranges, including 117 from hunting and trapping, 76 from depredation control, 24 from vehicle collisions, 21 from illegal kills, and five from unknown causes.
Wolf counts have been conducted by DNR and cooperators in Wisconsin since winter 1979-1980 when 25 wolves were counted in the state. The 2013 count represents the fourth time since 1985 that no increase was detected in the wolf population from the previous year.
“Generally the wolf population increased at a rate of 20 percent or more in the 1990s, and at a 10 to 12 percent rate in 2000s,” said MacFarland. “Though the recent count suggests that the wolf population has stabilized or showed a slight decline, science suggests that human caused wolf mortalities must reach close to 30 percent before wolf populations are reduced. The total known human-caused mortalities of wolves in 2012 amounted to 28 percent of the previous winter’s count, but some level of undetected mortality likely occurred.”
The state’s wolf management objectives for 2012 were to ensure a sustainable wolf population; begin to reduce the wolf population through depredation control removals and the hunting and trapping season toward the established population goal; quickly and effectively address depredation problems that landowners were having; and learn for future wolf management adaptation.
“We were consciously taking a more conservative approach to quotas the first season. Our aim was to have a safe, respectful, and legal hunting and trapping season that starts giving us strong data on which to base future management decisions. We achieved that,” said MacFarland. “We will continue to learn with each season.”
The Wolf Advisory Committee, a diverse group representing agency, non-agency, hunting and non-hunting interests, will meet May 23 to develop 2013 wolf quota recommendations. Department leadership will consider their recommendations before developing final Department recommendations for Natural Resources Board approval at its June meeting.