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MADISON, Wis. - For the first time in a quarter-century the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeing a slow down in the population growth of wolves in the state.
The recent release of this year's wolf count shows there are between 905 and 944 wolves in the state. That's about a 2 percent drop from last year. DNR large carnivore ecologist Scott Walter says it's still a little too soon to confirm what the slow down means. "Well, I'm not ready to conclude yet that the wolf population is stabilizing, this is an indication that it maybe, but this could also be just an example of annual variation in data like this," says Walter.
Walter says the decline is unusual, so out of caution, DNR will take a couple of more years to verify the results. He adds, while a majority of people appreciate the fact that wolves are back, there are some, like farmers, who may occasionally lose livestock and hunters who may occasionally lose hunting dogs, that may not be as enthusiastic.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the animals from the federal Endangered Species Act in 2011, allowing Wisconsin lawmakers to establish a wolf hunt. A federal judge later returned wolves to the endangered species list in 2014. Walter says wolves are still classified as an endangered animal, on the federal endangered species list.
"Well you know I think the underlying theme is that we still got a very healthy population of wolves in Wisconsin," says Walter. "They are distributed really throughout the northern third of the state and in our central forest.
So the wolf population as we've learned again this year continues to be very, very healthy. " The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it's collecting data that could result in a proposal to remove wolves from the endangered species list.