State officials closed two of six wolf hunting zones that were approaching their quotas Friday in anticipation of the deer hunting season and increased the number of hunters allowed in Wisconsin woods.
Kurt Thiede, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources administrator, said during the deer hunting season’s opening weekend, the DNR expects 600,000 deer hunters throughout the state.
“We anticipate that those who applied to the wolf hunt may be planning to use those permits at this time,” Thiede said. “More individuals will be hunting and it might be possible to surpass other quotas throughout the state as well.”
Thiede said the DNR divided the state into six wolf hunting zones based on wolf population and habitat. He said the DNR wants to reduce the wolf population in zones with unsatisfactory habitats, where wolves attack livestock and domestic animals.
The DNR closed two zones in the northeast part of the state after hunters killed 18 out of the 20-wolf quota in one zone and four out of the five wolves were killed in the other, according to a DNR statement.
Tim Van Deelen, a University of Wisconsin forest and wildlife ecology professor, said wolves have not played a major role in reducing the state’s deer population.
“Wolves are killing deer. The available data shows there’s probably a little going on,” Van Deleen said. “But is that a meaningful amount? I don’t think so.”
Van Deelen said wolves may play a role in making hunters feel the deer population is decreasing. He said since wolves hunt year round and chase deer rather than ambush them, deer may be more cautious.
Since deer hunters hunt for a week, Van Deelen said they may see fewer deer despite Wisconsin’s large population.
Adrian Treves, UW professor of environmental studies, said a survey he and his colleagues conducted in 2009 showed a majority of respondents perceived wolves as competitors for deer and feared them. Treves said the rate of such responses increased significantly from prior surveys.
“Competitiveness of hunting for deer generated the most support for a wolf-hunt and state-sponsored lethal management,” Treves said.
Treves said hunters are becoming less tolerant of wolves in Wisconsin and that one of the assumptions behind the wolf hunt was people would tolerate wolves more if they were a game animal.
However, Treves said his survey showed personal experience did not correlate with wolf tolerance and that opinion leaders and media coverage could be more influential in shaping people’s perceptions of wolves.
Treves said hunters opposed the use of baiting and trapping wolves 2-1 and opposed the use of dogs to hunt wolves 3-1.
In August, Dane County Judge Peter Anderson issued a temporary injunction on dog use after a group of Humane Societies sued, alleging the law did not do enough to prevent wolf and dog confrontations.
According to a Nov. 13 statement, a group of hunters filed a brief in support of the injunction, alleging a lack of rules regarding dogs could harm other hunts.
Ed Mathwig, one of the hunters, said in the statement that while he has hunted ruffed grouse with bird dogs every year for over 50 years, he will not use dogs this year.
“Never before now, have I had to worry about my bird dogs being placed in jeopardy while hunting.” Mathwig said in the statement. “However, this year, for the first time, I will not be taking my dog grouse hunting, because I will not put him at risk of injury or death posed by packs of dogs running loose in pursuit of wolves.”
United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Board Vice President Andy Panztlaff said data does not back up what the humane societies and other groups claim.
“I was a hound hunter,” Panztloff said. “I love my dogs almost as much as my kids. It’s ludicrous that I would allow my dogs to be hurt on my watch.”
As of Sunday, hunters have killed 83 wolves, according to the DNR website. The season will run through the end of February unless hunters reach the 116 wolf quota before then.