Just months after Wisconsin hunters killed nearly twice as many wolves as the state allowed, wiping out a third of the entire population, the state proposes the killing of 130 more wolves this fall.
Hunters killed 218 wolves in February, 82% more than the quota the state set after wolves were removed from the endangered species list by the Trump administration. The wolves were killed during breeding season (wolves mate for life) by hunters allowed to use dogs, traps and snowmobiles.
State Department of Natural Resources officials believe culling an additional 130 wolves is a “conservative” approach. The department’s board will consider the recommendation next week.
The Center for Biological Diversity called the February hunt a “reckless slaughter.”
Adrian Wydeven, a retired state wolf biologist and a member of the conservation group Wisconsin’s Green Fire, said the 130 number is “too high, given the unknowns” of the impact from February’s hunt. Neither Michigan nor Minnesota, which also have wolf populations, will allow hunts this year.
University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers warned in a new study that Wisconsin’s plans for another hunt “raise questions about sustainability.”
A third of the state’s wolves were killed during February’s hunt and in poaching that followed, according to the researchers. That leaves the Wisconsin’s total wolf population at 695 to 751.
The population decline appears to contradict the state Department of Natural Resources’ “explicit objectives of no change in the wolf population,” the study noted.
The state’s stated goal is maintaining a stable population of wolves, a top predator that helps sustain ecosystem health, study co-author and Madison environmental studies professor Adrian Treves told The National Geographic.
Treves called plans for a November hunt unwise, particularly since officials have no clear understanding of the impact of the February killings. Hunters often seek out the largest animals, for example, which are frequently pack leaders whose loss could leave entire groups to starve to death. The killing of fertile females would further reduce the population.
In addition, the study warned that February’s killing of more wolves than allowed “raises serious questions about the adequacy of regulatory mechanisms to prevent wolves becoming endangered again.”
“We caution that science may play little role in wolf politics where the animal has become a symbol for political rhetoric and a symbol of cultural divisions,” the study added.
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