Gray wolves had always been native to Wisconsin’s wilds, and with the settlement of European colonists, their presence was often regarded as a threat, leading to their removal through shooting or trapping until 1957. After protections were given to them under the Endangered Species Act in 1974, wolves began immigrating from Minnesota to established territories in Wisconsin. In January 2012, they were delisted from the endangered species list, with the state managing their numbers until December 2014, when they were promptly put back on the endangered list. It wasn’t until January 2021 that they became delisted once again, and placed under the management of the Department of Natural Resources.
Last year, wildlife conservationists were concerned that another wolf-hunting season could drop the animal’s population size to that of an endangered level and would surely see to the beginning of the end of the species. Wildlife experts are now estimating that the wolf population currently sits at about 970 animals, which is far higher than what they originally expected after the February 2021 hunting season and shows that thankfully there was little impact to the population as a whole.
Wisconsin Public Radio reported that the Department of Natural Resources officials released their new population estimates at the agency’s board meeting last month. Estimations sat between 812 and 1,193 wolves currently roaming the state, with 972 as its closest likely estimate. Conservationists were concerned that last year’s hunting season would devastate the population after hunters reported a total of 218 kills in just three days, about 100 more wolves than the DNR allowed. About 1,100 wolves were reported before the hunting began. Regarded as a slaughter by officials and wolf-lovers alike, we can all breathe a sigh of relief as the new numbers show little impact.
The DNR planned to hold another hunt in November 2021, however, a Dane County judge placed the season on hold in October 2021, giving enough time for protections to be restored for gray wolves across most of the country following a federal judge’s ruling, and preventing the state from holding another wolf hunt this year. Wisconsin’s current wolf management plan – established in 1999 – calls for a capping of population size at 350 wolves, but now the DNR is working to update the plan with no new reports released as of yet.