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Posted: Dec 15 2006, 04:27 PM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 10-July 06
By Robert Imrie, Associated Press
WAUSAU, Wis. — Nine wolves were killed during this fall's deer hunt in Wisconsin, almost double the number of previous seasons and a likely reflection of growing frustration among people who don't like the animals, the state's wolf management coordinator said Wednesday.
"I suspect some were intentional. I don't believe that all nine were accidental," said Adrian Wydeven of the Department of Natural Resources.
He also said it's very likely other wolves were shot and killed but the carcasses haven't been found. Four of the wolves found had radio collars, and hunters discovered the other five.
"Alarming is not the term for it," Wydeven said. "But it is of concern that we are seeing increased illegal killing occurring."
Decades of bounty hunting wiped out wolves in Wisconsin by the 1950s. But they have migrated back from Minnesota since they were put on the federal endangered species list in the 1970s, and more than 500 now live in northern and central Wisconsin.
Some critics believe the DNR's count of 500 wolves is too low and say the animals are causing problems that have eroded public support for their protection.
Last year, wolves killed or injured livestock on 25 farms — triple the number from four years ago. The same number of farms reported livestock losses this year, plus 25 dogs — mostly hounds used to hunt bears, bobcats or coyotes — have been killed, Wydeven said.
Eric Koens, a Rusk County cattleman and wolf critic, said Wednesday he expected deer hunters to kill more than nine wolves.
"As the wolf population and complaints continue to increase, there is obviously less tolerance for wolves," Koens said. "There's growing discontent, and people are taking the problem into their own hands. People are becoming very frustrated, especially folks that are living with them."
The wolves killed during the deer hunt were found dead on private and public land in eight different counties — Adams, Ashland, Bayfield, Chippewa, Douglas, Oconto, Oneida and Price, Wydeven said. The deaths, which included four females, won't cause a major decline in the wolf population, he said.
Wisconsin wildlife agencies killed 29 problem wolves last year under a special federal permit, and another 18 were killed this year before a federal judge in Washington, D.C., barred the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from issuing a second permit in response to a lawsuit over the federal Endangered Species Act.
The state hopes to resume killing problem wolves once the animal is removed from the federal endangered species list, a process that is under way and could be completed as early as next year, Wydeven said.
Three groups, including the Timber Wolf Alliance of Ashland, offered a $4,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of anyone involved in killing a wolf during the deer hunt.
But Pam Troxell, coordinator of the Timber Wolf Alliance, questioned how effective that effort would be.
"We have done rewards before and most of the time it does not work," she said. "I am not sure what the reasons are."
Catching poachers is important, Troxell said, and even one wolf killed illegally is too many.
A hunter in Douglas County, where two wolves were killed, claimed he accidentally shot one and turned himself in, Wydeven said.
"He saw a deer and an animal following the deer, which he first thought was another deer. When he shot the second animal, it turned out to be a wolf following the deer," Wydeven said. "In those circumstances, if you are looking for just a big, four-legged brown animal, it is possible you could make a mistake."
The maximum state fine for intentionally killing a wolf is $5,000, and federal convictions carry fines up to $100,000, Wydeven said. The Douglas County hunter was ticketed, but the fine was $300 because he reported the incident.
Dave Withers of Iron River, who's on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, said he was not surprised the number of illegally killed wolves was up, given the government's inability to deal with the problems adequately.
"There is a large number of people out there who are unhappy with the wolves in general and the wolf program particularly," Withers said.