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Kristin Schrank: Wolf hunt will harm Wisconsin's environment

Kristin Schrank: Wolf hunt will harm Wisconsin's environment

Dear Editor: On Feb. 22, Wisconsin began a hastily planned wolf hunt, setting a quota of 119 wolves. The state made 2,380 wolf hunting permits available and the final kill count was 216 wolves, almost twice what was originally planned. This accounts for a staggering 20% of the state’s wolf population.

Wolves are already a vulnerable species, only recently having been delisted from the Endangered Species Act. While the pre-European settler wolf population was estimated at 3,000 to 5,000 wolves, the population had shrunk to a mere 50 wolves by 1950. Through protections provided by the Endangered Species Act, this population has "recovered" to approximately 1,000 wolves. While a hunt under these circumstances is concerning enough, February is peak breeding season for Wisconsin wolves. Nearly half the individuals killed during the 2021 hunt were female, meaning some may have been pregnant. Wolf packs are tightly knit family units, made up of a single breeding pair and their offspring from recent years. The loss of one individual can greatly harm the remainder of the group, impacting their ability to hunt and feed vulnerable pups.

Reductions in wolf numbers have implications for other species, too. Wisconsin’s wolves prey primarily on weak, sick and old deer, meaning they are integral for controlling deer numbers and preventing the spread of disease. Without wolves, ecosystems are vulnerable to ungulate overpopulation, disease spread, and biodiversity loss. Despite all of these concerns, the hunt proceeded. This wolf hunt was devastatingly cruel, and its effects are likely to be far reaching for all wildlife living in Wisconsin.

Kristin Schrank

Milwaukee

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