DNR revisits timber wolf status
Could become protected, not threatened
By Anita Weier
The Capitol Times
The death of a wolf near Spring Green late last month
is just the latest bit of news to put the state's growing
wolf population in the spotlight.
The very success of bringing back the timber wolf is
now sparking discussion of changing the rules governing
Timber wolves, also known as gray wolves, are listed
as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service and the state Department of Natural Resources.
The state, though, is considering changing the status
to protected, which offers more options for handling nuisance
animals, said Bill Ishmael, a DNR wildlife biologist based
at Spring Green.
Biologists estimated that the Wisconsin wolf population
totaled about 335 before spring 2003 pup production.
About 77 wolf packs are scattered across the northern
third of the state and about 15 packs are located in the
densely forested areas of central Wisconsin. The known
wolf packs closest to Spring Green are in northern Monroe
and Juneau counties, about 75 miles away, officials said.
A pack usually includes a breeding pair and their pups,
yearlings and older offspring, and sometimes one or two
unrelated adults. Wisconsin packs range from two to 12
wolves in winter.
The wolf killed near Spring Green was looking for new
territory, Ishmael said.
The male wolf killed by a car on Sept. 26 weighed almost
90 pounds, and was killed about three miles north of Spring
Green, near the intersection of Highway 23 and Sauk County
WC, said Ishmael.
The wolf's age was uncertain until a laboratory analysis
is complete, Ishmael said in an interview. The wolf was
hit at about 6 a.m. and the death was reported in a phone
call to a DNR conservation warden shortly after.
"Dispersing wolves can cover long distances in a
relatively short period of time. We've had dispersing
wolves from Wisconsin and other Great Lake states populations
come as far south as Dane and Jefferson counties in recent
years," Ishmael said.
"Unfortunately, when they travel into the more populated
areas of southern Wisconsin, their changes of getting
hit by a vehicle increase."
It's rare to find a wolf this far south in Wisconsin,
he added. But during the past three years, wolves from
the Great Lakes states have been found in Indiana, Illinois
A Wisconsin wolf born in Jackson County in 2002 was found
dead in June in east central Indiana, having apparently
traveled around Lake Michigan and the Chicago-Gary, Ind.,
metropolitan area, Adrian Wydeven, a DNR wolf specialist
based in Park Falls, said at the time. A Michigan wolf
that had been living along the Wisconsin-Michigan border
in 2000 was shot in north central Missouri in the fall
"We get about a half dozen calls a year about wolf
sightings in Sauk, Iowa and Richmond counties," Ishmael
said. "But some of those may be coyotes or dogs.
We had not verified a report until now. There is unlikely
a resident population."
He also said that wolves are solitary animals that usually
do not come in contact with people, though they may endanger
livestock. "It's not the big bad wolf," Ishmael
The wolf that died near Spring Green was not one of several
wolves that researchers have radio-collared, so it will
be difficult to find out where it originated, he added.
Wolves seeking new territory are typically one- or two-year-olds
searching for a mate and a territory, Wydeven said in
a written statement Wednesday.
"Both male and female wolves make these dispersal
moves," Wydeven said. "The occurrence of lone
wolves in southern Wisconsin indicates . . . that much
of the suitable habitat in central and northern Wisconsin
is filling up."