Wolves make way into Door County
Green Bay Press-Gazette - June 15, 2003 -
by Kevin Naze - Press-Gazette Correspondent
email@example.com - http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com
Outdoors: Wolves make way into Door County
Door County isn’t supposed to have wolves, but someone forgot to tell the state’s largest canine predators.
Whether they came across the ice in winter in recent years or through fragmented tracts of timber near Green Bay, one or more gray wolves may be calling the popular peninsula home.
Department of Natural Resources conservation warden Mike Neal said an individual near Baileys Harbor shot an 82-pound male gray wolf in his yard on May 28.
Neal said though the man could have been fined more than $1,000, he wasn’t written a citation.
“He thought it was a coyote,” Neal said. “We’re not supposed to have wolves here.”
Instead of trying to hide his kill, the shooter drove right over to the warden’s home.
Since Neal was traveling out of state, his wife contacted him via cell phone. Neal instructed the man to put the animal in his freezer.
Upon returning to Door County, Neal shot pictures and sent them to the state’s top wolf biologist, Adrian Wydeven.
Wydeven called it “an apparent wolf,” but since wolf-dog hybrids occasionally show up in the wild, he wants the animal checked at a federal lab in Madison.
On Friday, Neal showed a 5-minute video of what appears to be another wolf — one much darker in color — that was taken earlier this year on a wild turkey hunt near Sturgeon Bay.
In addition, Neal said he saw a wolf last year near Baileys Harbor, and said another individual saw two wolves — one with an ear tag similar in color to what the Michigan DNR uses — near Carlsville in March 2002.
“From now on, guys are going to have to be real careful,” Neal said. “It’s not the old saying, ‘Shoot first and ask questions later.’ There are no more free rides.”
Wolves commonly average 60 to 90 pounds while coyotes typically run 30 to 45 pounds.
Coyote hunting is legal year-round in Door County and much of the state. An exception is during gun deer seasons in parts of northern Wisconsin, a rule put in place to try to prevent accidental shootings of wolves.
The DNR reported 58 dead wolves in the state in 2002, and at least 14 appeared to be shot.
Intentionally shooting a wolf can bring fines of up to $25,000 on the federal level and more than $10,000 from the state, plus possible jail time and revocation of all hunting privileges.
The wolf shot in late May had some mange — a contagious skin disease marked by loss of hair — but otherwise appeared to be in good health.
Wisconsin’s population of gray wolves overcame an outbreak of mange in recent years and was estimated at between 335 and 354 animals prior to the birth of pups this spring.
The count included 94 packs in northern and central Wisconsin, and at least 12 lone wolves — the most likely animals to be undercounted, Wydeven said.
DNR regional wildlife biologist Tom Bahti of Green Bay said unconfirmed wolf sightings have been increasing in Northeastern Wisconsin in recent years.
One wolf was hit by a car in Waupaca County; another was illegally shot in Oconto County near Suring.
Natural Resources Board chairman Trygve Solberg of Minocqua has asked the DNR to report to the board later this month about ways to let people kill depredating wolves.
He joined some Wisconsin Conservation Congress and Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association leaders in echoing sentiments that wolf numbers are underreported in the state.
Wydeven said Wisconsin has begun the process of taking the wolf off the state’s threatened species list, which could take about a year. He said the federal process could take even longer.
The state reclassified wolves from endangered to threatened in October 1999, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the federal change effective April 1, 2003.
The federal change gave state biologists more flexibility to deal with problem wolves, including allowing government agents to destroy wolves that kill domestic animals.
Four cattle-killing wolves since have been trapped and euthanized in Burnett and Barron counties. Previously, problem wolves were relocated.