A group of respected scientists recently alerted the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) that the state of Wisconsin is inaccurately reporting the impacts of aggressive hunting and trapping seasons, poaching, and other factors leading to wolf mortality, leaving the FWS unable to accurately detect what could be a substantial decline in wolves in the Western Great Lakes.
In a pair of letters to FWS Director Dan Ashe and the Acting Regional Director, the scientists laid out the results of their research showing that the state of Wisconsin could be radically undercounting wolf deaths. Their findings show that contrary to the state’s reported 28 percent, wolf mortality could be as high as 55 percent. They reported that among radio-collared wolves in 2012, for every 4 wolves legally hunted, another 7 were illegally killed, 8 were killed by the government or vehicles, and 2 died of natural causes.
Following that, the state declared another wolf-hunting season and legally hunted another 257 wolves in October 2013 and 150 wolves in October 2014. At the close of last season, the state reported a staggering 19 percent decline in the population.
Wisconsin’s wolf population cannot handle more of the same. These scientists warn that the according to their findings, the population could be on the verge of collapse.
The scientists alerted Director Ashe and his staff in September. They received a written reply advising them to pursue the matter with Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources. as “the Service no longer serves as a regulating entity to protect the wolf…”
The Endangered Species Act is clear about what is expected of the Service. It says:
“The Secretary shall implement a system in cooperation with the States to monitor effectively for not less than five years the status of all species which have recovered to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this Act are no longer necessary.”
If what the scientists have found is accurate–and to date their findings have not been challenged–the Service has a responsibility to immediately protect Wisconsin’s wolves. The Act does not give Director Ashe and his staff the option to defer their work to the states when convenient.
Right now, the state’s hunting and trapping season is by its count 8 animals short of their annual quota just one month into a 4 month season. If the analysis of the state’s data is correct, they could be well beyond that already-aggressive limit, pushing these just-recovered wolves back to the brink.
The Endangered Species Act grants the FWS authority to temporarily relist species when serious concerns have been raised about the state’s management plan. The FWS must now act on that authority and relist wolves while it assembles an independent peer review board to analyze the state’s wolf plan.
You can take action by asking FWS Director Ashe to immediately relist Wisconsin’s wolves.