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Wisconsin officials announce drop in wolf population

This is an undated handout photo of a gray wolf from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. J. & K. Hollingsworth / AP

Wisconsin’s wolf population dropped 19 percent from last year to this year, from a range of 658 to 687 animals in late winter compared to 809 to 834 in 2013, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced today.

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 in spring, resulting in a higher population in October when the hunting and trapping season begins.

Hunters and trappers took 257 wolves in the 2013-14 season, up from 117 taken in the state’s inaugural 2012 wolf season.

The DNR’s goal is to reduce the wolf population to 350 animals.

“The population is within the range predicted by University of Wisconsin population models used in the quota development process,” David MacFarland, DNR large carnivore specialist, said in a statement. “The increased 2013 quota resulted in a reduction in the wolf population toward the goals established in the state wolf management plan. We are collecting important data on which to base future management decisions and will continue to learn with each season.”

While the number of wolves is down from the 2013 count, the population is still nearly double the current goal of 350 wolves, and over six times the federal delisting goal of 100 wolves for Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The DNR is currently reviewing and revising its wolf management plan.

The state’s Wolf Advisory Committee will meet again in May to determine wolf quota recommendations for this fall’s hunting and trapping season. The DNR will consider those recommendations before developing final department recommendations for Natural Resources Board approval at its June meeting.

The state’s wolf management objectives are to ensure a sustainable population of wolves, quickly and effectively address conflicts, and begin to reduce the wolf population toward the established population goal.