Research by state endangered resources staff played an important role in wolf recovery in Wisconsin and 2012’s first state-managed modern day hunt.
Wolves’ return to Wisconsin
Nearly extinct: Before Wisconsin was settled in the 1830s, wolves lived throughout the state and population was estimated at 3,000-5,000 animals. By 1960, after years of bounty hunting, wolves were nearly extinct in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the United States.
The road to recovery: In 1974, wolves became federally protected under the Endangered Species Act [exit DNR]. With protection, Minnesota’s remaining wolf population increased and several wolves migrated into northern Wisconsin.
The wolf population grew rapidly in the 1990s and DNR completed a state management plan, setting population goals for delisting wolves. Those goals were reached and in 2004, DNR removed the wolf from the state endangered species.
From recovery to management: After years of delisting attempts and subsequent court challenges, wolves were officially federally delisted on Jan. 27, 2012, with a population of over 850 in the state.
On Oct. 15, 2012, with wolf populations far exceeding delisting goals and an all-time modern high number of livestock, hunting dogs and pets killed by wolves, Wisconsin’s first state-managed modern day wolf hunt started.
Test your ID skills
We’re sure you can tell the difference between a deer and wolf, but can you tell the difference between a wolf and coyote? It’s not as easy. Test your knowledge!
The sound of success
The sound of a howling gray wolf is becoming more common in Wisconsin. Protections provided under state and federal endangered species laws and efforts to research and monitor the wolves’ growing populations have paid off.
Wolves have returned to the wild in Wisconsin and 11 other states. They are an important part of the landscape and food web, and their successful recovery has led to the first state-managed wolf hunt in Wisconsin’s modern conservation history.
What this conservation milestone means for you
For the first time in many hunters’ lives, deer and wolves are again an important part of Wisconsin’s landscape and food web. Some of you have the opportunity to hunt both wolves and deer if your name was drawn to receive a wolf permit and you purchased your license. And, new this year as well, hunters who have the proper license can harvest a coyote during the gun deer season any where in the state if they are properly licensed.
Help us look for wolves!
Carnivores are often secretive and occupy very large home ranges, making it difficult to monitor them by direct observation. However, we can still estimate their abundance and distribution by observing the number and location of their tracks.