Wisconsin Wolf Numbers Do Not Add UpBy Scott Stankowski - February 1, 2013
A wolf’s average lifespan is 4 years, although they can live up to 13 years in the wild. Wolf pack size varies, but according to all modern research that I have found, the general population in any area doubles during the spring birthing season and reaches a seasonal low in the winter time. A female will average 5 pups per birth. According to DNR sources, prior to the 2012 season, Wisconsin had 880 wolves in 213 packs.
Doing some simple math, 213 multiplied by 5 equals 1065. Add that to 880 and you have more than double. That is if the 213 pack number is accurate, which it probably is on the low side. I wanted to know what average mortality issues were. In an undisturbed pack on Isle Royale, wolf biologist Rolf Peterson reported a 24% mortality rate. A similar study was done in Minnesota, but included things like poaching, car kills and depredation cases. That study conducted by Todd Fuller in 1989 suggested a 29% mortality rate.
Now I am no math scholar, but even I can figure out some problems in the Wisconsin estimates. Let’s go back to 2005 when the population was estimated to be around 435. Double that for new births and you get 870, subtract 30% to be more than honest and you get an estimated 2006 population of 609 wolves. Following this mathematical trend, since there were no notable outbreaks of disease, lack of food for wolves or harsh winters, (in other words they had it made) and you get 853 for 2007, 1,194 for 2008, 1,672 for 2009, 2,340 in 2010, 3,276 in 2011 and finally 4,586 this past year. I cannot say that these numbers are accurate, but at least I am being honest with you and showing you the math that came up with these numbers. Of course it is interpreted from other states as I could not find anything related to Wisconsin, as that is all a big secret.
When the 2012-2013 season was over, the DNR was surprised. How so? Prior to this season, they figured that of the 892 licensed hunters that there would be a 10% success ratio, which would have been roughly 90 wolves. The season ended two months early with a 13% success rate. We must have really great first time hunters in the state. Either that or the wolf numbers are close to as high as I figure. I wonder what the success rate would have been had the season gone to full term.
I also remember when the poaching of wolves made front page news. Now you have to search to find that answer or wait for an editorial by someone else who actually believes that the reported number of wolves shot was spot on. I for one did not just fall off the turnip truck and believe the number of poached wolves to be higher. The DNR is too undermanned with all the cuts to be able to put the boots on the ground and monitor it more closely.
It will be interesting to see what the estimated number of wolves will be this next year as we do know of 117 that were legally killed by hunters in addition to the 124 killed through reported poaching, car kills, landowners and wildlife agents. Those 241 wolves would make up 27% of the population. If we strictly go by math, we should be at 1,300 wolves at the beginning of the season next year based off the DNR’s numbers from this prior season.
I think it is about time the sportsmen of the state are given the truth in numbers. If not then we need to do the math ourselves and demand to be heard