By Chris Hubbuch

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is recruiting volunteers for a committee to develop a new wolf management plan after hunters killed nearly twice the quota in a court-ordered hunting season.

The Wolf Management Plan Committee will provide recommendations for a new scientifically and socially supported management plan for the animals, which were removed earlier this year from the federal endangered species list.

The existing plan was last updated in 2007 and aims for a population of 350 wolves, less than a third of the most recent population estimate.

Hunting and trapping groups, wolf advocacy and education organizations and agricultural interests can each have up to six representatives on the committee, which will also include DNR staff and representatives from other government agencies, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, and the Ojibwe tribes which retain hunting rights in the northern part of the state.

Applications to serve on the committee must be submitted by March 19.

The wolf management plan is to be developed over the next 18 months with a draft plan to be released for public comment in February. The DNR said it will begin by soliciting broad public input.
Outdoor recreation surged during pandemic, but will funding follow?
Outdoor recreation surged during pandemic, but will funding follow?

While it’s unclear if the trend will hold, a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum says interest in the outdoors may signal a need to boost funding for public lands in a state that ranks near the bottom in spending on parks.

Meanwhile, the DNR will convene a separate advisory committee to provide quota recommendations for the next wolf hunting season, which opens Nov. 6, according to state law.

That committee will include organizations from the committee that advised the DNR on quotas for the 2014 season, the last hunt held before the gray wolf was added to the endangered species list.

Wisconsin Green Fire, the Sierra Club and Midwest Environmental Advocates have also asked to be part of the new quota committee. The DNR plans to present a quota recommendation to its policy board in August.

Hunters and trappers took just three days last week to kill 216 wolves, or roughly 18% of the estimated population and nearly twice the quota for non-Native hunters of 119 wolves .

Dylan Jennings, spokesperson for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, said Wednesday the tribes used their allocation of 81 wolves “to preserve an ecologically and culturally important species” rather than hunting them.

Jennings said the tribes will work with the DNR to update the management plan but criticized the agency for allowing hunters to exceed the state quota.

“The tribes stay within their quotas … but the state can’t seem to do the same,” he said. “The tribes have welcomed that collaboration. It’s just unfortunate that it comes after the fact of such a poor demonstration of management.”

DNR officials said they are confident the state’s wolf population is “robust and resilient” and will likely sustain the loss from that hunt.

Wisconsin law requires a wolf hunt be held from November through February when federal protections are not in place.

The DNR initially planned to wait until November, saying it could not establish science-based quotas and comply with Native American treaty requirements, but a Jefferson County judge ordered a hunt to be held this winter after a Kansas-based hunting group sued.

A state court of appeals dismissed the DNR’s request to block the order.

via DNR forms committee to advise on wolf plan; to include hunter, farmer, advocacy groups | Madison