Published January 14, 2010, 09:24 AM

More wolf kills discovered

Federal agents are investigating a rash of illegal wolf killings across northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where at least 16 wolves have been shot in recent months.

Federal agents are investigating a rash of illegal wolf killings across northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where at least 16 wolves have been shot in recent months.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on Tuesday asked for the public’s help in finding what probably are multiple suspects in 16 wolf killings across the three states in November and December including one near Two Harbors.

Two wolves were killed in Minnesota, eight in Wisconsin and six in Michigan.

While it’s not unusual to see a spike in wolves shot during fall hunting seasons, the number of wolves found in recent months is unusual. Most of the wolves found had radio transmitters. But officials noted that only a small percentage of wolves carry radio collars.

“We know when a collared wolf dies,” said Tom Tidwell, federal wildlife agent. “We have no doubt that wolves without collars are getting killed, too.”

Though wolf numbers have rebounded over the last 30 years beyond most people’s expectations, the animals remain under protection of the federal Endangered Species Act. It’s a violation of federal law to kill the animals unless they are threatening to harm a person.

“Wolf-human encounters are increasing every year, and outdoor enthusiasts need to approach these encounters responsibly,” said Greg Jackson, special agent-in-charge for the Midwest Region. “The law applies to everyone, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with the level of protection currently afforded to wolves.”

In Wisconsin, eight wolves were killed in late fall in Burnett, Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Adams, Monroe and Jackson counties and on two Indian reservations. Four of the wolves were radio-collared by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Two wolves were killed in northern Minnesota in early November. One wolf was shot northwest of Grand Rapids in the Ball Club area; the second was killed northwest of Two Harbors. The wolf killed near Two Harbors had been fitted with a radio tracking collar.

Six incidents of wolves being killed were reported in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in December. All of the wolves were discovered after their radio collars began emitting a mortality signal.

Federal officials noted they are working to remove federal protections for wolves and hand management of the animal back to state and tribal wildlife agencies. But, because of court action, the animal remains under federal control for the foreseeable future until federal officials rework the entire de-listing process.

Even when the states resume management of wolves, it will be illegal under state laws to indiscriminately shoot wolves in most areas of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan unless they are threatening livestock, pets or people.

Minnesota has about 3,200 wolves with 500 each in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, according to survey estimates by state wildlife agencies.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is offering up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people responsible for killing wolves.

Tip Line

Wolf kills

- In Wisconsin, call Special Agent Steve Stoinski at (920) 866-1750 or the Wisconsin TIP line at (800) 847-9367. In Michigan, call Resident Agent-in-Charge Tom Tidwell at (734) 995-0387 or call the Michigan Department of Natural Resources RAP line at (800) 292-7800. In Minnesota, call Special Agent Ron Kramer at (218) 720-5357 or the Minnesota DNR’s TIP line at (800) 652-9093.

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