NORTHEAST WISCONSIN - What are your thoughts on a hunting season in Wisconsin - for wolves? A move Wednesday by the federal government could make it a reality.
Soon, the gray wolf will no longer be considered a federal endangered species in the western Great Lakes region. That covers Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
And that's quite a turnaround from when the wolves were considered extinct and numbered 14 in 1985. Now that number is more than 800 - 4,000 in the three states.
Now, responsibility for managing the animals will be turned over to state wildlife agencies, like Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources.
"The federal goverment's goal for us originally in putting them on the Endangered Species list was to get our population up to 100," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.
Wisconsin's wolf population is now estimated at nearly 800. That's more than double the state's management goal.
"There's been such a swing the other way that the wolves have become such a menace and a real threat to livestock depredation in the North Woods, family pets and of course we're always concerned about human risk as well," Stepp said.
The rule goes into effect at the end of next month.
Department of Natural Resources officials say at that point, the agency will be able to control problem wolves, with trapping and hunting permits for landowners.
The United States Humane Society strongly opposes the federal government's decision calling it a disappointment and a mistake.
"This was a species that was on the brink of extinction and it's taken almost 40 years for the numbers to recover and our point is, we've got to be very, very careful on how we manage this species," said Howard Goldman, Minnesota state director for the HSUS.
The move could open the door to hunting for wolves. That's a possibility some hunters who blame the predator for decimating the deer herd find appealing. But other hunters say they're not on board.
"If the chance came up, if it was a draw or whatever you had to do, I would be interested in it," said John Baumgart of Green Bay.
"They're a beautiful animal, and at this point I don't consider them a nuisance or a problem, and we have a pretty good wolf population up by our place," said Jackie Miller of Bowler.
The DNR says no season has been set, and adds it would take legislative action plus the governor's approval for one to happen.
Officials say the gray wolf population will be monitored for at least five years to make sure it remains at sustainable levels.
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