Gray Wolves, also referred to as Timber Wolves, are the largest wild members of the canine family. It is estimated that approximately 3,000-5,000 Wolves inhabited Wisconsin before the 1830s when Europeans settled in the state. By the mid-1950s, the once abundant Wolf population was hunted and trapped almost to extinction. Wolves were placed under state protection in 1957, and under federal protection in 1974. Over time, the Wolf population made a slow but sure comeback, and by 2012, it was estimated that there were a little over 800 Wolves roaming the northern third of the state. It was then that, despite much controversy, the Gray Wolf was taken off the endangered species list and Wolf hunting began.
In December of 2014, Wolves were put back on the endangered species list, making it illegal to hunt Wolves in Wisconsin as well as Minnesota, Michigan, and Wyoming. There still exists a great deal of controversy between avid Wolf hunters and those who wish to maintain and grow Wisconsin’s Wolf population.
Common Myths About Wolves
1. Wolves make great pets when trained:
A Wolf in captivity does not act like a wild Wolf – calm and centered. In captivity, he becomes neurotic, compulsive, and forlorn. It is in a Wolf’s DNA to be wild, whereas domestic dogs have had their wild traits eliminated over time. Dogs are compatible with our modern culture because we have bred them to retain their domestic characteristics. Wolves are adorable when they are pups. But, the only way for a Wolf to live in a civilized Human world is to break her spirit. Most who are forced to be pets also end up abandoned when their well meaning, but misinformed Humans, can no longer handle or care for them when they get older. Read Tamarack’s story about his experience living with Wolves to learn more about why Wolves aren’t meant to be pets.
2. Wolves pose a serious threat to humans and their pets:
Like most wild animals, Wolves have an innate fear of humans, and therefore prefer to keep their distance. Anyone who has ever tracked or hunted Wolves knows how difficult it can be to find or get close enough to even see them. For this reason, human presence is the best deterrent for livestock and pet depredation, and is a key strategy for proactive intervention.
3. Wolves will destroy the ranching business by killing livestock:
Wolves account for less than 1% of livestock depredation. More livestock are lost to Coyotes and stray dogs than Wolves. Even more are killed by bad weather and disease or birthing problems. Nonlethal interventions such as guard dogs, fencing, and changing husbandry practices are quite effective in preventing livestock issues between Wolves and humans.
4. Wolves are not endangered and should not have protection:
It was only 50 years ago that the Wolf was on the verge of extinction. Since that time, the Wolf population has slowly swung back towards recovery. However, in 2011, Wolves were taken off the endangered species list, and hunting resumed. As a result, their numbers began to decline steadily. Wolf hunting in Wisconsin began in 2012 when there were little over 800 Wolves in the region. In 2012, hunters killed 243 Wolves, and 257 Wolves were killed in 2013. Allowing hunting this early in the recovery process has again put the Wolf population in danger of extinction.