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Lafayette County to consider state wolf reduction
The Department of Natural Resources estimated that about 800 wolves were active in Wisconsin in 2011.
DARLINGTON - The Lafayette County Land Conservation Committee submitted a resolution Tuesday to reduce Wisconsin's wolf population to 80 or less.

The resolution, which will be reviewed by the Lafayette County Board at its next meeting March 15, cites concerns by such groups as the Wisconsin's Cattleman's Association and the Wisconsin Beef Producers Association about attacks by predators against livestock.

According to the resolution, "the high predator population, in particular wolves, has resulted in the reduction of the deer population where wolves are plentiful, reduced hunting opportunities, curtailed livestock and pleasure horse activities, and are a danger to pets and people."

The resolution also requested that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources not relocate any wolves that have caused problems to any other area in the state.

Terry Loeffelholz, head of the Land Conservation Committee, said the board agreed that 80 or less is the ideal over-winter population for the state's gray wolves.

The Department of Natural Resources set the statewide target wolf population at 350 in its Wolf Management Plan in 1999 and again in 2007.

The department is currently in the process of updating the Wolf Management Plan.

However, Loeffelholz said, the resolution will be moot if the wolves are not removed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species list.

"They really should be removed, because the Department of Natural Resources can't control them," Loeffelholz said.

The resolution cites 81 incidents involving wolves attacking livestock or pets, as well as six incidents endangering people throughout the state in 2013. The Department of National Resources reported that 22 dogs were killed by wolves in the first nine months of 2015.

Much of the data cited in the resolution was provided by Tomahawk resident Laurie Groskopf, a member of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association who has been involved in wolf control since the 1990s. Groskopf is currently working to get similar resolutions passed in every county in Wisconsin, Loeffelholz said.

"This is about people's livelihoods," Groskopf said. "It's not that anyone says we need zero wolves, but we need to decide where they can live."

Groskopf's data cited a 2009 attitude study by the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Groskopf claimed the survey found that 66.5 percent of respondents favored a wolf population of 350 or fewer.

But Adrian Treves, an associate professor at the Nelson Institute and one of the authors of survey, said Groskopf made misleading statements regarding his research.

Treves said the survey found that a state wolf population below 81 was opposed by 79 percent of respondents. Furthermore, he argued that the survey was not intended to be representative of the entire state's attitudes but only the attitudes of residents who lived within the range of wolf populations.

Treves added that a 2014 survey by the Department of Natural Resources revealed more comprehensive attitude data but was not cited in Groskopf's report. This survey revealed that the majority of Wisconsin residents, even those living within wolf ranges, have positive attitudes toward wolves and do not support a substantial reduction in their population.

Treves is the founder of the Nelson Institute's Carnivore Coexistence Lab, which works to create "a balance between human needs and carnivore conservation worldwide."

The gray wolf was removed from the state endangered species list in 2004 and from the federal list in 2012. However, the animal was returned to the federal list on December 2014.

The Department of Natural Resources estimated that about 800 wolves were active in Wisconsin in 2011.

According to the resolution, 33 county boards throughout Wisconsin have passed similar resolutions supporting a wolf goal of 350 or fewer. The boards of Iowa and Washburn counties supported goals of 100 or fewer and 50 or fewer, respectively.

Mike Doyle, county clerk of Green County, said there are currently no plans for wolf control resolutions within Green County.