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Wisconsin at a glance
Gray wolves once existed throughout Wisconsin; however, killing began shortly after European settlement. Wolves were removed primarily by shooting or trapping between 1865 and 1957. Within a few years after their protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1974, wolves immigrated from Minnesota and established territories in Wisconsin. According to federal recovery criteria, wolves in Wisconsin have been biologically recovered for several years. They were delisted from the endangered species list in January 2012 and were state managed until December 2014, at which time they were placed back on the endangered species list.
Wolves were again delisted in January 2021 and are now managed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. A wolf hunt was held in February 2021. More information about that wolf hunt can be found by following this link.
Attitudes by the general public are fairly positive toward wolves, but wolves continue to be controversial. About one-quarter to one-half of wolf mortality in recent years there was due to illegal killing by humans. Main prey for wolves in Wisconsin are deer, beaver, and in central areas, turkey. Wolves occupy the northern portion and a small central portion of the state (known as the state’s central forest).
Wolves were hunted in Wisconsin in 2012, 2013 and 2014. When they were relisted on the Endangered Species Act, the hunting seasons closed. Additional information.
Common Name: gray wolf
Latin Name: Canis lupus
Potential species designation under debate by the scientific community
Common Name: eastern wolf, timber wolf
Latin Name: Canis lycaon
Location: C. lupus and the potential C. lycaon are indistinguishable from each other physically, behaviorally and ecologically. The only way to tell the difference between them is a genetic test and comparison. Both inhabit the northern half of Wisconsin.
Current Wolf Population, Trend, Status
Number of wolves: 914-978 in 2019, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (as detailed in this report).
Population trend: Increasing
Legal status: Endangered, federally protected. (as of December 19, 2014)
- Wolf Recolonization in Wisconsin
- Mech, L. David. 1993. Eastern Timber Wolf — A Howling Success for the Endangered Species Act. International Wolf Center and United States Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Endangered Species Flier. 1:1-2.
Recovery and Management
- Wolf Conservation and Management in Wisconsin (WDNR)
- Wolf hunting and trapping in Wisconsin
- US Fish and Wildlife: Gray wolf recovery in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan
- Article: Controversial Wolf Hunt for Wisconsin
- 2011 Wisconsin Act 169 (wolf harvest bill)
- Video: Wisconsin State Legislature hearing regarding Assembly Bill 502: Public Wolf Hunt (5 hours)
- USFWS Gray Wolf Monitoring
- Annual wolf damage payment summary
- Article: DNR database for payments to owners of dogs killed by wolves (from 2014)
- Wolves and Hunting Dogs in Wisconsin
- Article: Wisconsin tradition – hunting bears with dogs – comes under attack by wolf advocates
- A Guide for Reducing Conflict Between Wolves and Hunting Dogs
- Wisconsin lawmaker proposes ending payments for hunting dogs killed by wolves (from February 2018)
- 2019 wolf depredation report
- 2018 wolf depredation report
- 2017 wolf depredation report
- 2016 wolf depredation report
- 2015 wolf depredation report
- 2014 wolf depredation report
- 2013 wolf depredation report
- Gray wolf depredation mapping application
- Mech, L. David, Fritts, S. H. and Wagner D. 1995. Minnesota Wolf Dispersal to Wisconsin and Michigan. American Midland Naturalist. 133:368-370.
- Thieking, Arla, Segar, M. Goyal, Mech, L. David et al. 1991. Seroprevalence of Lyme Disease in Gray Wolves from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 28(2):177-182.
- Richard P. Thiel, Samuel Merrill, and L. David Mech. 1998. Tolerance by Denning Wolves, Canis lupus,to Human Disturbance. Can. Field-Nat. 112(2):340-342. (en Espanol – Tolerancia de los lobos, Canis lupus, en temporada de preparacion de la madriguera a las alteraciones provocadas por el hombre. Translation by Marcos Randulfe.) Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed to view this file. Download it free.