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Weekly News Published - June 5, 2018 by the Central Office

 

Data collected during the 2017-18 winter tracking reveal overwinter minimum wolf count of 905-944 in Wisconsin

MADISON - Following continued monitoring efforts, data suggest that Wisconsin's wolf population may have begun to stabilize and remains above established recovery goals.

Data collected by over 100 volunteer trackers and Department of Natural Resources staff during the 2017-18 winter reveal an overwinter minimum wolf count of 905-944 wolves [PDF], a 2.2 percent decrease from the 925-956 wolves detected during the 2016-17 count [PDF]. The number of packs detected increased slightly, from 232 packs last year to 238 this past winter. Wisconsin's wolf population had been increasing consistently over the past 25 years.

Wolves in Wisconsin remain listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act and management authority is held by the federal government. Federal listing status restricts state management, including any lethal wolf management tools.

"The Endangered Species Act did its job--its protections were instrumental in allowing this species to successfully reestablish itself within our wildlife community," said Scott Walter, DNR large carnivore ecologist. "However, the population has been well above established recovery goals for two decades and there is no biological reason for wolves to remain on the endangered species list. Federal delisting would allow more flexibility in dealing with issues like wolf depredation of livestock and pets and divert important endangered species funding and resources to the conservation of species that are truly at risk."

Wolf surveys are conducted annually during winter months, when snow cover affords suitable tracking conditions. The wolf population is at its lowest point during this time of year, so survey results are considered minimum counts. The population increases each spring with the birth of pups, then declines throughout the remainder of the year due to various mortality factors.

To view a summary of wolf monitoring information and to learn more about wolves in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "wolf." To learn more about the volunteer tracking program and opportunities to participate, search keywords "wolf volunteer tracking." Classes for new volunteer wolf trackers will be held later in 2018.

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Natural Resources Board approves 2018 deer harvest quotas and season structure

MADISON - The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved the 2018 antlerless deer quotas, harvest authorization levels and deer hunting season framework at its May 23 meeting in Madison.

2018 Deer Season Structure (click image for larger size PDF) - Photo credit: DNR
2018 Deer Season Structure (click image for larger size PDF)Photo credit: DNR

The 2018 deer season framework represents the efforts of the County Deer Advisory Councils to move the deer herd in each county toward a three-year population objective of increasing, maintaining or decreasing the herd. This is the councils' fourth year developing deer management recommendations that consider both scientific herd metrics and public feedback. This year, the public submitted over 7,000 comment forms online during the April 2-12 public comment period in addition to input provided directly at council meetings.

"Department staff would like to thank the CDACs for their continued involvement and commitment to playing an important role in deer management--that said, the main influencer on quota levels, particularly in the north, were late April storms," said Kevin Wallenfang, Department of Natural Resources deer and elk ecologist. "We've seen an increase in population estimates and harvest figures for the past few years, which we expected to continue this year; however, all of the northern counties reduced antlerless quotas to take into account the impacts of the late winter."

Wallenfang says that in the farmland regions of the state, councils continue to use a variety of tagging and season options to address higher deer number. Hunters will again have the opportunity to harvest multiple deer and enjoy extended hunting opportunities.

Iron County is the only deer management unit that will be restricted to buck harvest only in 2018. The antlerless quota for the rest of Wisconsin will be 233,690 antlerless deer (compared to 276,515 in 2017).

A total of 44,000 public-access land bonus antlerless deer harvest authorizations (formerly known as deer tags) will be offered for public-access lands (compared to 31,945 in 2017), while 181,200 will be offered for private lands (compared to 168,210 in 2017). Bonus antlerless harvest authorization sales will occur as follows (sales begin each day at 10 a.m.):

In addition, Farmland (Zone 2) antlerless harvest authorizations are available through gowild.wi.gov for both public and private land with the purchase of every deer hunting license. The number of authorizations offered will depend on the county deer management unit, which must be selected at the time of issuance.

A Holiday Hunt will be held within 19 counties, offering an additional antlerless-only opportunity for firearm hunters from Dec. 24, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019. As a reminder, archery and crossbow hunters in these counties are also restricted to antlerless harvest during the time of this hunt.

New in 2018, 12 counties holding a Holiday Hunt have extended the archery and crossbow season to Jan. 31, 2019. The extended archery and crossbow season will be open to both buck and antlerless deer harvest.

To help hunters prepare for the 2018 deer season, multiple resources will be posted on the department's deer hunting web page. Hunters are encouraged to check this page frequently leading up to the season. The following documents [all PDF] are now available at dnr.wi.gov, keyword "deer":


To receive email updates and other information regarding deer hunting and season structure in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and select the email icon near the bottom of the page for "subscribe for updates for DNR topics." Follow the prompts and select "white-tailed deer" within the "hunting" list.

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Take 2-hour training to learn to identify Karner blue butterflies and their habitat

Rare butterflies in flight now; help protect and monitor their populations

MADISON - Wisconsin has more Karner blue butterflies than any other place in the world and volunteers can attend training this June to help collect information about this federally endangered butterfly and its habitat to help advance recovery efforts, state endangered species officials say.

Karner blue butterflies can be identified by the bands of orange spots on the underside edge of their wings. - Photo credit: Mickey Kienitz
Karner blue butterflies look similar to some other blue butterflies. See how to tell them apart; pictured here is a female. Photo credit: Mickey Kienitz

"Our goal is to train volunteers to be able to identify Karner Blue butterflies so they can help us collect information from the state as a whole," says Chelsea Gunther, DNR Karner blue butterfly recovery coordinator. "We've only been able to survey the largest known occupied sites over the years, so expanding our capacity to collect information on areas where we're not sure if Karners are still present will improve our data and give us a better statewide picture."

There are two training sessions available and people interested in attending are required to register by June 14.

The sign up link is listed under the "volunteer" tab on the Karner blue butterfly page of the DNR website. The first of two flights of Karner blue butterflies is underway now so volunteers will have instruction in the field as well as in the classroom. Sessions are set for:

The nickel-sized Karner blue butterfly was listed in 1992 as a federally endangered species.

Karner caterpillars eat only wild lupine, a plant found mostly in oak and pine barrens communities, and such habitats have been lost in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Coordinator Chelsea Gunther demonstrates the technique volunteers will use to monitor sites for Karner blue butterflies.    - Photo credit: Mickey Kienitz
Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Coordinator Chelsea Gunther demonstrates the technique volunteers will use to monitor sites for Karner blue butterflies. Photo credit: Mickey Kienitz

The volunteer training, which is part of DNR's monitoring program for Karners, which has been revamped this year, is one of four main efforts underway to protect and restore Karners and their habitat. The progress of these efforts has helped turn Wisconsin's Karner blue butterfly population into the world's largest and a stronghold of efforts to restore the species to its former range, according to Owen Boyle, species management section chief for DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation program.

The other ongoing Wisconsin efforts are:

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Share the land - enroll in Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program before Aug. 1

MADISON - Landowners are encouraged to share the land through the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive program. Landowners can earn extra income in exchange for opening their land on a short-term basis to low-impact recreation such as hunting, fishing and trapping and wildlife observation.

Over 175 landowners are currently providing access to 33,000 acres of habitat on 229 properties for outdoor recreators to enjoy.

Through VPA-HIP, landowners receive payments through an annual lease. Payment rates are based on the land type (agriculture land = $3/acre, grassland/wetland = $10/acre, and forestland = $15/acre). Priority will be given to parcels greater than 40 acres in size with at least 25 percent usable cover and near properties currently open to public hunting or fishing. Lands enrolled in other conservation programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement and Management Forest Law, may also sign up for VPA-HIP.

Enrolled landowners are also eligible for technical assistance and financial incentives to create and maintain wildlife habitat. Enroll before Aug. 1 to secure your place on the wait list for future funding.

To find out if your land qualifies for this program, check out the eligibility and service area map.

For a landowner perspective on this program, listen to the new Wild Wisconsin Off the Record podcast about VPA-HIP or check out this VPA-HIP video to see just a few of the habitat-rich lands enrolled in the program.

Interested landowners should call Anne Reis, VPA-HIP Coordinator, at 608-279-6483 for more information or visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "VPA".

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Contact information

For more information about news and media, contact:
James Dick
Director of Communications
608-267-2773