Unfortunately, the grey wolf population in Wisconsin has taken a significant population hit, and illegal hunting is partially to blame.
Just when things began to look up for the beautiful predators, they are back in trouble. According to the Daily Mail, days prior to the 2020 US presidential election, officials removed the grey wolf from the Endangered Species Act, calling their booming numbers “a milestone of success.” It was then that the population in the state declined by nearly a third.
Poaching to Blame
While nearly 218 gray wolves were killed legally by licensed hunters, another 100 died from other causes. Researchers say the means of death varied, but the majority of the wolves were killed by “cryptic poaching,” which means the hunter hides the illegal prizes.
Last year at this time, there were nearly 1,034 grey wolves in Wisconsin. Now, there are roughly between 695 to 751, which is down almost one-third.
According to screenshots on the news source’s website, the charts show the population of the grey wolf over time. From February 22 until 24, it was legal to hunt the animal. However, the public hunt ended in just a few days once hunters surpassed the quota of 119 wolves.
Why 119? Wisconsin set this quota to help ensure the population of wolves in the state. The researchers noted that the state’s Ojibwe Tribes were also granted an additional quota of 81 wolves. However, they did not hold a hunt.
Adrian Treves, an environmental studies scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the lead author on the grey wolf study. Treves said the population took a massive hit in a statement.
“Although the DNR is aiming for a stable population, we estimate the population actually dropped significantly.”
Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila, the co-author for the study, added, saying poaching is to blame.
“During these periods, we see an effect on poaching, both reported and cryptic. Those wolves disappear, and you never find them again. Additional deaths are caused simply by the policy signal, and the wolf hunt adds to that.”
Grey Wolf Populations
Researchers explain that the grey wolf population could bounce back from the deficit in one to two years if officials banned the public hunt. However, Wisconsin law requires a wolf hunt between November and February before federal protections.
Furthermore, the statement notes that past studies have shown that “when federal regulations are relaxed, “would-be poachers are inclined to kill more wolves because the relaxed policies signal that predators are less valued.”
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, whose last update on the population was in 2016, there are around 3,765 grey wolves in the Western Great Lakes States, 1,782 in the Northern Rocky Mountain areas, 20 in Washington, 113 in Arizona and New Mexico (an experimental project), and anywhere from 7,700 to 11,200 in Alaska.