Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ruling hurts control of wolf

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) — A federal judge’s recent ruling that barred wildlife officials from killing problem wolves in Wisconsin has saved the lives of at least five wolves preying on livestock in northern Wisconsin, the state’s coordinator of the wolf management program said Tuesday.

Since the judge’s decision Aug. 9, wolves killed sheep and calves on four farms in Douglas and Bayfield counties, said Adrian Wydeven of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Until the ruling, wolves causing problems for the farms would have been trapped and euthanized with a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The permit allowed for the killing of 43 such wolves this year. Up to 10 wolves might have been trapped and killed by now, Wydeven said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his office in Park Falls.

That practice was halted after U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C., sided with animal welfare and environmental groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, in a lawsuit that argued the killing violated the federal Endangered Species Act.

‘‘It has made things a lot more difficult for us,’’ Wydeven said. ‘‘A lot of farmers are concerned and disappointed and fearful that wolf attacks are not going to be slowed down.’’ Eighteen wolves were killed with the permit before the judge issued her ruling, he said.

Eric Koens, a director of the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association and a critic of the number of wolves in northern Wisconsin, hinted people may be killing wolves illegally to save their animals. ‘‘Landowners will attempt to resolve the problems themselves, that’s pretty much understood, at least by those of us in the livestock business,’’ Koens said. ‘‘People are going to have less tolerance toward wolves if these problem (wolves) are not controlled.’’

Wolves were wiped out in Wisconsin in the 1950s after decades of bounty hunting. Since the animal was granted protection as an endangered species in the 1970s, wolves migrated back from Minnesota, and about 500 live mostly in northern and central Wisconsin.

Earlier this year, the DNR announced that wolves killed or injured livestock on 25 farms last year — triple the number from four years ago — diminishing public support for wolves in the state. Last year, 29 problem wolves were killed under the special permit.

Wydeven said Tuesday that the trapping of problem wolves planned to resume with a new strategy. A $300 shock collar will be put on the wolves before they are released. When the wolf comes within about 200 yards of a triggering device in a pasture or field, a collar would shock it.

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