Wisconsin landowners can now legally shoot and kill gray wolves after they were removed from the Wisconsin endangered species list and are no longer protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act last week.
Farmers whose livestock is threatened by wolves can now apply to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for permits that would allow them to kill wolves. The permits are designed for landowners who have had previous issues with wolves or people living in areas prone to wolf attacks.
The removal of the wolves from the endangered species list came after consistent growth in the state's wolf population. The state has seen a consistent 10-to-20 percent annual increase in the wolf population.
Each year wolves attack 15-25 farm animals, affecting less than one percent of livestock farms. But many farmers affected by wolf attacks plan to tackle the issue head on.
While Mary Falk, owner of Love Tree Farmstead, a farm located in the Trade Lake area in northwestern Wisconsin, uses dogs to fend off wolves, she said farmers in her area are taking advantage of the changes and shooting wolves to defend their herds.
The new DNR wolf regulations have led to speculation about the creation of a public wolf-hunting season. Despite opposition from some groups, UW-Madison Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Adrian Treves said he believes legislation will be passed in 2012.
According to his research, most Wisconsin residents endorse a wolf hunt. Treves warned that while the state needs to have some authority over the wolf population, "the successful conservation of wolves depends on people tolerating them, accepting them, and that tolerance has been declining," Treves said.
In addition to allowing landowners to kill wolves, federal agents can be dispatched to farms with wolf problems to trap and eliminate "problem wolves." According to Treves, the federal agents will account for the largest amount of wolf casualties in the upcoming year.
However, Falk also suggested killing wolves could worsen the problem.
"When you go out shooting, you kill the stupid [wolves] and then you bring the real nasty ones in," said Falk.