Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wisconsin's Wolf Population on the Rise

Gray wolf

The state of Wisconsin is famous for being the dairy capital in the U.S. Its tradition in dairy farming and cheese-making dates back to the last half of the nineteenth century when farmers looked for ways to make more profitable and sustainable use of land. This, combined with the state's geography and research in dairy, helped Wisconsin earn its reputation as "America's Dairyland." At the same time, there was also reestablishment of its forests during the early twentieth century. This meant that wildlife was able to flourish at a slow and steady pace. And one of the animals to make a successful comeback was the wolf. Wisconsin's wolf population was initially estimated to be 24 animals in 1980, but gradually increased to 248 over a twenty-year period. Since 1993, Wisconsin's wolves have increased not just in number of individuals but also packs. According to state biologists, the population is now estimated to be around 825 animals in over 200 packs. That includes at least 207 packs, with 32 in central Wisconsin and 175 in the northern part of the state. During the latest assessment, several packs of ten or more were recorded including one consisting of twelve animals in Douglas County. This estimate, which was conducted in winter, came the day after the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service announced plan to remove the animals off the Endangered Species List in Wisconsin and the neighboring states of Michigan and Minnesota. Adrian Wydeven, a wolf ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, stated that the animals have shown a substantial increase in both population and range over the last ten years. He further added that wolves are capable of exploiting habitats which were not thought to be suitable for them.

Although I'm satisfied to see the growing numbers in Wisconsin's wolf population, I'm also disturbed at how much damage in livestock predation they have caused over the years. Records have shown that 47 farms have experienced livestock predation from these animals in 2010, compared to 28 in 2009. There were even fourteen cases of attacks on pet dogs near residencies. Thankfully, there was no report of a wolf attacking a person. Instead, they have shown dangerous tendencies. This has led to the animals being shot on sight, concerning human safety. In 2010, the U.S Department of Agriculture and state officials shot and sixteen wolves. Of the 72 documented cases of wolf mortality in Wisconsin, 26 were due to vehicle collision and fourteen from illegal shooting. I feel that the people of Wisconsin should use more harmless tactics regarding safety from wolves. A good advice for dog owners would be to never let their dogs out at dawn or dusk when the animals are most active. And in the case of farmers, the best bet would be to employ livestock guardian dogs to minimize chances of livestock predation. There should also be a high vigilance for any potential wolf poachers. These wild beasts are crucial in keeping Wisconsin's ecosystems in balance. Furthermore, whenever a wolf shows aggression towards a person, the first priority would be to have it relocated somewhere faraway from human habitation. But I personally feel the best idea would be to relocate some numbers of Wisconsin's wolves to Michigan's Isle Royale National Park, which has recently experienced a shortage in females. By bringing wolves back to Isle Royale, it would be a major success to the national park's wolf population and at the same time a relief to Wisconsin's residents.

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