Friday, May 12, 2006

Letter writers appeal to Wisconsin DNR to save problem wolf

NEWPORT — Plans by the Department of Natural Resources to kill a wolf that may be attacking dogs and livestock east of the Wisconsin Dells have been met by an e-mail campaign in which more than a hundred people — from Topeka, Kan., to the United Kingdom — have pleaded that the animal be saved.

The wolf has been causing problems for some residents in the rural areas east of Wisconsin Dells. In recent weeks the wolf is believed to have attacked a calf and a dog on a farm in the town of Newport. Adrian Wydeven, a mammalian biologist with the DNR, said neither was killed but the dog required 50 stitches.

The presence of a wolf in the area is not all that unusual. The closest wild pack is in the Black River State Forest in central Wisconsin, but lone wolves have been known to wander long distances, Wydeven said.

The DNR decided to trap and kill the animal, Wydeven said, because of the attacks and because the wolf seems habituated to humans — a potentially dangerous situationthat also leads some experts to believe the wolf is actually a hybrid.

The e-mail campaign was mounted by the co-founder of a wolf sanctuary in Colorado who offered to take the Wisconsin animal. "I am one of the first to say that if there are no other options available, indeed I think quick euthanasia is appropriate," said Frank Wendland, with the W.O.L.F. (Wolves Offered Life & Friendship) sanctuary, near Fort Collins, Colo. "But if there are other options, I think it is abhorrent not to use them."

Wydeven said it is unlikely the wolf will end up in Colorado because of liability issues. Wendland responds that he has liability coverage of $2 million for the 27 wolves and wolf-dog hybrids he keeps in enclosures on the sanctuary's 180 acres. Wendland said when he learned the wolf was to be killed he sent e-mails to supporters of the sanctuary asking them to write.

Few of the e-mails sent to the DNR are from Wisconsin. Many are from Colorado, and one was from the United Kingdom.
"It is entirely unnecessary to kill this wolf when we have a sanctuary that specializes in wolves willing to give it a home for life," wrote Barbara Yule, of Plano, Texas, and president of the North Texas Rabbit Sanctuary. "The wolf does not deserve to die and you have its life in your hands. Show some compassion and do the right thing."

The animal that has stirred so much emotion may not actually be a wild wolf. Instead, according to Wydeven, it may be a wolf-dog hybrid. He said wolf experts around the state have studied photos of the animal and have differing opinions on whether the animal is a full-blooded wolf or a hybrid.

Wydeven said the dilemma is an example of the difficult decisions faced by the agency as it works to garner support for the return of a large predator to the state's forests. To appease those who are skeptical about the wolf's return, such as farmers who fear losing cattle to predation, it is important to remove problem animals, Wydeven said.

The timber wolf is no longer on the state endangered list and has been proposed for removal from the federal list of endangered species. But the DNR received a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allows it to kill wolves that are a threat.

Signe Holtz, director of the DNR's Bureau of Endangered Resources, said it is unlikely the letter-writing campaign will cause the agency to alter its plan to trap and kill the wolf.

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