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Wolf hunt opens Wednesday

Wisconsin's third annual wolf hunt opens Wednesday, but the 2014-15 harvest quota is only about 60 percent of what it was last year. Zone 1, which covers northwestern Wisconsin, saw the biggest drop in its quota. Hunters and trappers may take 32 ...

Wisconsin’s third annual wolf hunt opens Wednesday, but the 2014-15 harvest quota is only about 60 percent of what it was last year.

Zone 1, which covers northwestern Wisconsin, saw the biggest drop in its quota.

Hunters and trappers may take 32 wolves in Zone 1, down from 76 last season. Zone 3 leads the state with a quota of 40, and Zone 6 is second with 35.

Department of Natural Resources carnivore specialist David MacFarland said Zones 3 and 6 are the areas of concentration for the DNR.

“Those areas have a lower quality of wolf habitat, more agriculture and a larger human population,” MacFarland said.

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Zone 1 contains the most wolves - 42 percent of the statewide total in the 2013 winter count - but the chances for wolf-human conflict remain relatively low, MacFarland said.

Statewide, Wisconsin has a quota of 150 wolves for the season. That figure is down significantly from last year’s quota of 251, which led to an 18 percent drop in the overall wolf population.

MacFarland said the population decrease was by design, but this year’s more conservative quota is intended to continue the downward trend at a less aggressive pace.

Hunters and trappers took 257 wolves during the 2013-14 season, a more than 100 percent increase from the inaugural hunt in 2012-13.

Zone 2 was the first to close last season after just eight days. Zones 1 and 5 closed a week later, and by the second week of November only one of Wisconsin’s six wolf management zones remained open.

For 2014-15, MacFarland anticipates another quick start to the hunt.

“I think there’s an increasing awareness of how quickly zones can close,” he said.

Hunters and trappers may not match last year’s frenzied pace - which saw 95 wolves killed in the first week - but MacFarland said he expects license-holders to be in the woods early again this year.

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He also said the DNR does not believe last year’s severe winter had any adverse effect on the wolf population.

“They’re really designed to withstand cold winters,” MacFarland said. “If anything, the long, harsh winter benefitted them by making prey more available.”

Foothold traps and hunting with the aid of bait and calls are legal throughout the season. Cable restraints and hunting with the aid of dogs become legal only after the Monday following the gun deer season.

Zone closures will be posted on the DNR website (dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/wolf.html) throughout the season. Hunters and trappers can also call 1-855-299-9653 for the latest updates.

Related Topics: DOUGLAS COUNTY
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