Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wisconsin DNR: State wolf population estimated at 450 to 520

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - The latest count shows Wisconsin's gray wolf population may have grown to as many as 520 wolves, exceeding the goal set by state game managers, the Department of Natural Resources said Wednesday.

Adrian Wydeven, DNR coordinator of the wolf program, said winter surveys put the population between 450 to 520 wolves, up slightly from a year ago.

At 520 wolves, the population would be more than 100 over the DNR's management goal for the species.

Wydeven has said Wisconsin's habitat can support more wolves but the public's tolerance probably wouldn't allow it.

The wolf was native to Wisconsin but the species was wiped out by the late 1950s after decades of bounty hunting. Since the animal was granted protection as an endangered species during the mid 1970s, wolves migrated into the state from Minnesota and their numbers have been growing ever since.

Minnesota has the largest wolf population in the lower 48 states at around 2,400.

According to Wydeven, the DNR received a federal permit allowing it to kill 43 wolves this year if they are causing problems for livestock and domestic animals. The permit allows both lethal and non-lethal trapping of problem wolves to address landowner concerns.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun the process of removing the wolf from the federal endangered species list in Wisconsin. Once that is done, the state would have complete say in the management of the animals, Wydeven said.

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