Volunteers learn to track, count wolves
A group of Wisconsin legislators sent out a memo this week asking for co-sponsors of a bill that would restrict state law enforcement from enforcing state or federal laws related to wolf management. This includes killing a wolf, which is currently protected under the Endangered Species Act.
While lawmakers are working on legislation, volunteers across the state are getting trained to track wolves this winter.
"The commitment we hope to get from volunteers is three surveys of a tracking block, which is basically three days of tracking over the winter,” said Nathan Libal, who is teaching a tracking class with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
From December until March, volunteers will scour assigned plots of land and look at tracks to count the number of wolves in the area.
"The wolf population is a lot larger than it used to be and covers a larger portion of the state, so if you looked at 20 or 30 years ago, the state had enough staff basically to monitor that program on our own,” Libal said.
The number of wolves is why Wisconsin legislators, at the state and federal level, are concerned.
"No one wants to see an endangered species go extinct, but we're at the point where science will tell you this is no longer an endangered species, the gray wolf is certainly at that point now,” said Senator Ron Johnson.
Senator Tammy Baldwin is also pushing for the gray wolf to be de-listed from the Endangered Species List in Wisconsin.
"This is probably going to have to be handled on the federal level, because it's federal courts that have intervened and gone against basic science on here,” Johnson said.
In the meantime, Libal will continue to train people to track wolves.
"The more people know, the more they understand the management strategies the state uses, and just a little bit more about the ecology of where they live,” Libal said.
to learn more about the Wisconsin Volunteer Carnivore Tracking Program.