MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin wildlife officials say the state's wolf population is still well over goal.
The Department of Natural Resources said in a statement Tuesday that preliminary results from the 2014 late-winter count indicates at least 658 to 687 wolves roaming the state.
That's down about 19 percent from the 2013 count of a minimum of 809 to 834 wolves. But it's still nearly double the DNR's current population goal of 350 wolves and more than six times the federal delisting goal of 100 wolves for Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The count is typically conducted during the time of year when the population is at its lowest point. The population can nearly double when pups are born in the spring.
MADISON, Wis. (DNR NEWS RELEASE) -- The preliminary 2014 Wisconsin late-winter wolf count indicates there are a minimum of 658 to 687 wolves distributed across the state, according to Department of Natural Resources officials. The preliminary numbers equate to a 19 percent decline in the late winter population compared to last year, as predicted by scientific models considered by the Wolf Advisory Committee and Natural Resources Board prior to establishing 2013 quotas.
"The population is within the range predicted by University of Wisconsin population models used in the quota development process" said David MacFarland, DNR large carnivore specialist.
"The increased 2013 quota resulted in a reduction in the wolf population toward the goals established in the state wolf management plan. We are collecting important data on which to base future management decisions and will continue to learn with each season."
The count is conducted at a time when the wolf population is at its lowest point in the annual cycle. The population nearly doubles when pups are born in spring, resulting in a higher population in October when the hunting and trapping season begins.
This year's count compares to the 2013 count of a minimum of 809 to 834 wolves, which was similar to the late winter population count prior to the state's inaugural 2012 wolf hunt. Wolf counts have been conducted by DNR and cooperators in Wisconsin since winter 1979-1980 when 25 wolves were counted in the state.
"Wisconsin's monitoring protocols are considered the most reliable method for monitoring wolf populations." said MacFarland. "They include a combination of radio-telemetry, pilot observations, and winter track counts conducted by staff and trained volunteers across the state's wolf range."
While the number of wolves is down from the 2013 count, the population is still nearly double the current goal of 350 wolves, and over six times the federal delisting goal of 100 wolves for Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The DNR is currently reviewing and revising its wolf management plan.
On April 29, the Wolf Advisory Committee will meet for a preliminary discussion of population data and 2014 wolf quotas. The committee will meet again in May to finalize wolf quota recommendations. Department leadership will consider their recommendations before developing final department recommendations for Natural Resources Board approval at its June meeting.
The state's wolf management objectives are to ensure a sustainable wolf population; quickly and effectively address conflicts; begin to reduce the wolf population toward the established population goal; and learn for future wolf management adaptation.