A hard winter is to blame for a 26% rise in Wisconsin's gray wolf population according to the state Department of Natural Resources and reported by the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Freezing temps and mounds of snow made it easier for the cunning wolf to track down deer and fortify their packs.
Now the estimated 630 to 680 wolves are causing some concern as they roam the farmland and snack on an occasional farm animal or house pet--losses which the state repays the landowners or pet owners for.
A one-time endangered species, the gray wolf was controversially removed from the federal list earlier this month. In Wisconsin "[t]he wolf is classified as a protected wild animal in Wisconsin and is subject to a state management plan," wrote the Sentinel.
And herein lies the controversy: various groups do not believe the wolves deserved their federal declassification and that non-lethal management techniques have been exhausted in Wisconsin. Other groups feel the wolf population is only going to grow and become more of a nuisance if a managed hunt is not implemented.
Whatever the outcome in Wisconsin, expect it to have a greater national impact as both Minnesota and Michigan also saw their wolf numbers rise this past winter. The Rocky Mountains have also seen substantial growth in gray wolf numbers.
Source: Wisconsin wolf population surges, Lee Bergquist and Paul A. Smith of the Journal Sentinel.