Sometimes when wildlife biologists want a rough idea of how many wolf pups might be living in a particular area they howl and wait and listen for a response. The tenor of any replies is a fairly good indicator of the respondents’ ages as pup voices are higher pitched and lacking in the deeper and resonant ululation evocative of mature wolves.
How disheartening to learn that the wildlife biologists who howled for answers one summery night in Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest received no replies from wolf pups.
How ominous to learn there is no scientific evidence Wisconsin’s resident packs managed to deliver and raise new families following a February 2021 killing spree that left at least 218 wolves dead after a 60 hour siege of bloodlust lust and broken hunting regulations.
This summer’s quest to understand how many breeding females and family packs might have survived last winter’s carnage was undertaken by wolf advocates and wildlife biologists working to gain an understanding of Wisconsin’s overall wolf population.
As climate and environment reporter Peter Kendal recently reported in his comprehensive Washington Post article: “A Wolf Hunt Blew Past its Kill Quota in February, Another Hunt is Coming this Fall”, such population research was meant to help guide the decisions of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources ahead of the state’s next wolf hunt.
Yes. You read that correctly: Before The Next Hunt. The State of Wisconsin has scheduled another 2021 Wolf Hunt, this one slated for this November, despite the fact that the state’s February hunt was so chaotic and mismanaged that it remains exceptionally difficult for its Natural Resources Department to calculate just how many wolves are actually left in Wisconsin.
And, not only has Wisconsin’s DNR Board scheduled a second wolf hunt in the same calendar year, but it has just been reported that the Board “cast aside” the 130-wolf hunting quota its own staff had recommended.
That initial 130-wolf figure, which DNR staff had reached after discussions with the wildlife biologists, hunters, wolf advocates and state tribe members who comprise the Wisconsin DNR’s Wolf Harvest Advisory Committee, was rejected by the Republican Majority of the DNR Board during an August 11 vote that “authorized the killing of 300 wolves … far exceeding the recommendations of its own biologists.” – Neil Vigdor, NY
“The Natural Resources Board made clear that its decision to set the wolf quota at 300 has nothing to do with science or stewardship,” Michael J. Isham, executive administrator of the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission said in a public statement GLIFWC produced in response to the DNR’s actions.
GLIFWC, which provides “natural resource management expertise, conservation enforcement and legal and policy analysis” among its multiple public services, has previously called out the state of Wisconsin for its lack of “science-based wolf stewardship.”
The Commission’s most recent statement expresses “outrage” at the DNR’s decision and its general conduct at the August 11th meeting, saying, “the state’s Board scoffed at its own researchers for recommending a 130-wolf quota, considering a kill goal as high as 504 before settling on 300 wolves.”
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources refused to comment when Cry Wild asked if its Board wanted to respond to GLIFWC’s recent public declarations.
Meanwhile, The Wolf Harvest Advisory Committee member featured in the Washington Post’s howl survey article, Adrian Wydeven, also spoke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He told that paper even the 130-wolf hunting quota is ” too high given the unknowns we have out there.”
And consider this, while Kendall’s July 2021 Wolf Population Survey article estimated: “approximately 1,136 wolves had been living in the forests of northern rural Wisconsin before last February’s hunt cut their numbers by a third, ” a previous article, “Wisconsin Hunters Kill 200 Wolves in Less than 3 Days,” stated the actual number of deaths can’t really be known because of the “ripple effect” caused by killing pregnant moms and adult wolves who had been teaching their youngsters how to hunt and thrive.
That article’s author, New York Times reporter Maria Cramer, explained that that ripple effect, i.e., the loss of unborn pups and also youngsters that likely died of starvation, made it all the more challenging for wildlife biologists to accurately count the state’s actual current wolf population. Further adding to that challenge, the Wisconsin DNR has decided not to include any wolf-howl survey data in its calculations.
When Cry Wild asked what scientific data and research the Wisconsin DNR Board had used to justify a 300-wolf quota, no less a second wolf hunt, a DNR spokesperson said, “The Department’s Director of Communications has instructed all communications officers to withhold all comment.”
Whatever information the Wisconsin DNR staff did bring to the August 11 DNR Board meeting was ultimately undercut by a Republican Majority vote that reflects the divides ripping a hole through human and wolf societies.
“The situation in Wisconsin is complicated,” acknowledged Peter David, a GLIFWC wildlife biologist and Wolf Harvest Advisory Committee member. “The problem is that we have these natural resource agencies that are driven by their responsiveness to certain traditional hunting and fishing groups.”
Yet, certainly it has been well established that, even in Wisconsin, wolves are critical to the overall health and balance of a forest’s ecology.
“I believe that in the long run we can get past this nonsense,” said David. “I used to say there was never an area with a bigger difference between the states and the tribes as with wolf stewardship; but in fact, most in the non-tribal community hold views that significantly overlap with the predominant tribal perspective. When the larger public interests are represented on the Natural Resources Board, this is going to change.”
And the most effective way to enable that change? David believes, “The best opportunity to stop these hunts is to provide support to one of the organizations suing to have the wolf re-listed as an endangered species. Many of our GLIFWC members have joined these efforts. It’s unfortunate that this seems to be the only option in the face of this terrible mismanagement of the Wisconsin wolf population.”
But don’t just look to avert another calamitous Wisconsin hunt, consider the plight of wolves, and by extension the overall health of wilderness in Montana, Idaho, Alaska and any other place in The United States where hunters are wiping out conservation gains by taking advantage of the fact that the previous White House administration removed the gray wolf’s protected species status.
Look ahead and hold the Biden administration accountable to its promise to restore the wolves’ protected status.
And finally, don’t just look and hold your position – be bold and act. Because nothing helps restore our own personal balance as a good healthy dose of action.
Contact your representatives, educate others, write actual old fashioned letters to the editor, understand that online petitions are most effective if you add a personal note. Let The Powers that Be know wolves and the wilderness have vociferous allies ready and waiting to cast our votes for biodiversity and, yes, basic fairness. Join and support the efforts of environmental organizations local, national and international.
Help turn No Reply into Reply All.
Below are just a few of the various organizations working to foster a responsible relationship with wolves and restore their endangered species status. Once you’ve taken a good look, press the button to return to the Journal’s home page.
P.O.Box 9, Odanah, WI 54861, Phone: 715-682-6619, Fax: 715-682-9294. Learn More about GLIFWC’s stewardship.
Informative Wildlife Writer’s Wolf Blog. Read: Full Ojibwas Leaders’ Response to Wisconsin DNR here.
National Office: 2101 Webster St Suite 1300, Oakland, CA 94612, USA. Phone: 415-977-5500. Fax: 510-208-3140.
Legislative Office: 50 F Street, NW, Eighth Floor, Washington D.C., 20001, USA. Phone: 202-547-1141. Fax: 202-547-6009.
Earth Justice (Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer)
- General questions: email@example.com
- Members/prospective members: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Action center questions: email@example.com
- Website problems/questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Reprint requests: email@example.com
Projects and Ways to Donate info available at website.
Northland College, 1411 ELLIS AVENUE, Ashland, WI 54806. Phone: 715-682-1699. MAP
Visitor’s Center: 7 Buck Run, South Salem, NY 10590. Mailing address: P.O. Box 421 South Salem, NY 10590. Phone: 914-763-2373.
What are you waiting for? Let’s make tracks and act.