MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Public donations to Wisconsin's wildlife protection and management program have hit a 10-year-low.
The Department of Natural Resources' Endangered Resources Bureau gets 25 percent of its funding to monitor endangered wildlife from such donations. A big part of that is sales of special license plates featuring wolves, which have brought in nearly $9 million since 1995.
People also donate by checking a box on their state income tax forms. That source has also dropped. The $285,223 collected last year was a 12-year low, down from $673,267 a decade ago, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Bureau director Erin Crain said it's unclear why overall donations are declining. The bureau is preparing a public education plan to better explain the importance of its work.
"I don't know that we always do such a great job in telling our story," she said. "We have a compelling message that doesn't always get translated that well."
The bureau says of about 1,800 native plants species and 657 native vertebrate species identified in Wisconsin, many are at risk and more than 230 are officially listed as threatened or endangered.
More than 12,000 vehicle owners pay $25 each year for plates with a wolf image.
The wolf plate brought in $335,370 during 2011-12, still a bestseller but nearly half what it brought 12 years ago.
Wolves are no longer endangered animals in Wisconsin after the federal government gave them an OK for licensed hunting last year. DNR officials said that may partially account for the drop in donations. Crain said the drop might also be due to introduction of other specialized plates, such as badger plates.
Since much of the bureau's work is dependent on donations, it takes pains to remind people that the donations can be "customized," she said.
"You can say 'I want this to go to cricket frogs,' and we guarantee it will," she said.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Single-digit temperatures and light snow are greeting Green Bay Packers fans at Lambeau Field.
A celebration at the nation's first school forest is sending Laona students back to their roots.
Several fire departments battling a shed fire in Abrams.
An armed robbery suspect sustained life-threatening injuries after being shot in Fond du Lac County.
First responders helped ring in the holidays at the 45th annual Howard-Suamico Christmas Parade.
Christmas is just two and half weeks away, and kids and families are getting into the holiday spirit.