Letter to the Editor:

Why does Wisconsin have the second highest wolf population in the lower 48? The only state with more wolves is Minnesota.

One key issue in appropriate wolf management is managing for suitable areas where wolves should live. Wisconsin has by far the highest human population density of any state with a recovered wolf population. 

And while wolf research on how humans in higher-density areas interact with wolves is sparse, one area of agreement among wolf professionals is that wolves cause more trouble with humans in higher human density areas. Additionally, wolves suffer more mortality from human causes in human-dominated areas. 

I reviewed human population densities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan wolf range. In 23 Wisconsin counties comprising wolf range, only 13% had human densities of less than 10 people per square mile. In contrast, 36% of the Michigan Upper Peninsula’s (UP) wolf range (11 counties) had a human population density of 10 or less. For the 38 Minnesota counties with wolf presence, 38% had a human population density of less than 10 per square mile. 

The human-to-wolf ratio is also impacted by the size of states containing wolves. Wyoming is about one-third larger than Wisconsin, with one-tenth the human population, but has only around 300 wolves, including in Yellowstone National Park. Montana, with 147,000 square miles (Wisconsin has 65,500) and 20% of the human population of Wisconsin, estimates their wolf numbers at 1,000. 

Wisconsin’s most recent estimate at the lowest point in the population was 1,195. Idaho also estimates its wolf population around 1,000. Michigan’s UP contains an estimated 700. 

Human tolerance of wolves depends on a low wolf population in human-dominated landscapes. Wisconsin needs to prioritize wolf-management strategies that reduce human-wolf interactions.

The success of wolf management in Wisconsin hinges on humans in wolf areas feeling positive toward the state’s management policies. 

As a newly-formed Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wolf harvest committee begins its work and a new wolf-management plan is written, the citizens living in close proximity to wolves should be the primary human factor in managing wolves.

The question of why Wisconsin has the second highest wolf population in the United States’ lower 48 needs to be addressed for the benefit of humans and the safety and security of wolves. 

Laurie Groskopf