The state Department of Natural Resources is proposing a quota that could see hunters kill between 142 and 233 wolves out of a statewide population of about 1,000 in a fall hunting season that will come just months after the animal was removed from the federal endangered species list.
"I'm personally very comfortable that there is nothing we are proposing that will harm our wolf population in any sustainable sense," said Tom Hauge, director of the agency's Bureau of Wildlife Management, in announcing much anticipated details of the controversial hunt Wednesday.
The agency is required to set up the hunt because of legislation passed earlier this year by the state Legislature. That bill put some details in place that cannot be changed, even by DNR professionals. The season, for example, has to be five months long, beginning Oct. 15. Hunters must be allowed to shoot and trap wolves. They must be allowed to hunt at night with lights and also be able to use dogs. And they must be allowed to bait wolves.
Left to the DNR wildlife managers are details such as how many wolves will be killed and a plan to shut down the hunt when quotas are reached. Hauge said the agency tried to be very conservative in setting quotas by using last year's population numbers and by setting a success rate of 20 percent for the hunt, meaning that the agency anticipates 20 percent of hunters who buy a license will kill a wolf. Success rates in western states with wolf hunts are in the single digits, Hauge said.
At that success rate, Hauge said, and assuming the final quota statewide is between 142 and 233 wolves, the agency could issue a total of as many as 1,165 wolf hunting licenses. Licenses will cost $100 for residents and $500 for non-residents, plus a $10 application fee.
The DNR's plan calls for three wolf hunting zones with different quotas in each. The three zones include a primary core area where the fewest number of wolves would be killed, a secondary management area on the fringe of the forested regions where a moderate number of animals would be killed, and so-called "unsuitable" areas in the northeastern and northwestern part of the state as well as southern Wisconsin where the largest numbers of wolves would be killed.
"I don't know that we're talking about eliminating wolves in those areas," Hauge said, "but we don't want to favor them either."