By Nancy Christel, Wildlife Biologist & NBWA Property Manager
With the chill in the air and my already cold finger tips, there is no disputing summer is gone and fall is here. Acorns are dropping, and wolf howling surveys must be completed by the end of October. Spooner Wildlife Management Staff have done many of these surveys over the last month or more, but we have a couple priority locations to complete. Thankfully, FNBWA is willing to help.
Wolves have been very closely monitored by WDNR Endangered Resources since the population has gone from the endangered species list to a game species. Up until a year ago, the state’s wolf biologist and expert was Adrian Wydeven. He was in charge with monitoring how many wolves there were and where. I don’t personally know anyone as passionate about wolves as Adrian. His passion has always impressed me. Monitoring was done by tracking collar wolves and by conducting winter track surveys in the winter. Initially, DNR pilots tracked collared wolves every other day, but as we got more and more wolves “on air” the wolves were flown less often. They are still flown, but the frequency is much reduced. Pilots and other observers can see the wolves from the air and count how many are in each pack by having just one collared wolf. As the wolf technician assisting Adrian in the late 1990s, I mapped every location of wolves, conducted winter track surveys, dragged out dead wolves and determined how they died, assisted with collaring and even flew with the pilots a couple times. It was a great job. We still collar wolves, but not as often. In fact the last wolf I help collar, we did so without sedating it. If I would have known I was in the picture, I would have smiled more!
The Wisconsin wolf story is one of success. We went from a non-existing population to one that was allowed to grow on its own. Many believe that DNR staff reintroduced wolves back to the state, but this is not true. When wolves were listed as state and federally endangered, it became quite expensive to illegally shoot a wolf, and law enforcement was firm on issuing citations. As a result, not as many people illegal killed wolves. The other action that really helped was that WDNR Endangered Resources put a strong emphasis on education. By teaching the public about how import predators, specifically wolves, are for wildlife ecosystems to function properly. Wolf supporters stepped up to help with restoration efforts. The wolves were allowed to move in on their own from neighboring Minnesota and Michigan populations.
There seems to be a few different views about wolves in Wisconsin, or even throughout the United States. Some people believe that wolves should never be killed by a human. Some believe that the only good wolf is a dead one. Most are somewhere in between. Personally and as a biologist, I’m happy to see the wolf population is healthy enough to have a controlled, managed hunting and trapping season. This means that wolves have successfully reestablished themselves in Wisconsin. Allowing managed hunting and trapping makes sure that we do not have too many wolves and reduces human-wolf conflicts. It teaches wolves to be afraid of humans, which is important for humans and for wolves. It also gives those that do not like wolves a reason to like them because they are then able to harvest them for their beautiful pelts. In another addition I’ll have to you about the benefits of trapping for these pelts. We were fortunate to have so many wolf supporters. Without them we would not have wolves in Wisconsin. Although I have not been as directly involved with all the specifics of the wolf program in the last 15 years, I am happy to be part of the WDNR Wildlife Management crew that will continue to do all that we can to properly manage wolves for all future generations.