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Budget Proposal May Cut Problem Wolf Depredation Program
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 04/15/2011

A federal program that compensates farmers when their livestock is killed or attacked by wolves maybe on the chopping block under the current budget proposal being considered by Congress. The latest spending package reportedly has no funds available for the USDA's Wildlife Services program, which is what provides resources for local and state natural resources personnel to investigate wolf complaints or kill problem wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

But state DNR officials say another portion of the budget does include a resolution to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list--which is what currently makes it illegal for anyone to kill the animals, except for extraordinary circumstances such as a threat to human life. It is not know yet if Wisconsin would be included in the list of states affected by the resolution.

The debate over what to do with wolves has been going on for many years. Just last fall, former Wisconsin DNR Secretary Matt Frank said scientific evidence now supports delisting the animals because their growing population was leading to problems with wolves killing livestock and hunting dogs.

In April 2009, the federal government removed the wolves from the Endangered Species Act list in certain states, including Wisconsin. But two months later, animal rights groups reached a court-ordered settlement with the agency that restored those protections. The Bush Administration also attempted to delist them in 2007 and had similar backlashes.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin's gray wolf population was around 700 wolves last winter and that number is expected to rise another 10 percent in the next population summary.

The latest figures from the Wisconsin DNR indicate that wolf attacks caused problems on 47 farms last year, up from 28 farms in 2009, and from the previous record 32 farms in 2008. Douglas County led the list with 12 livestock attacks. Specifically, the agency notes that wolves killed 47 calves, 16 adult cows, six sheep and six farmed deer on Wisconsin farms in 2010. The estimated damage was about $114,000.

They also killed a record 14 pet dogs and another 20 bear hunting hounds in Minnesota during the same year.

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