Wisconsin’s wolf population now is estimated at 815 to 880, a 4 percent increase over the past year, the state's Department of Natural Resources announced Tuesday.
The state’s late-winter population goal is 350 wolves.
The annual winter wolf count relies on aerial tracking of radio-collared wolves, and snow track surveys by Wisconsin's DNR and volunteer trackers. Also included are wolf sightings by members of the public and other agencies, including observations from trail cameras.
The DNR has conducted these counts since the winter of 1979-1980, when there were 25 wolves in the state.
A total of 213 wolf packs consisting of at least two adult wolves were detected during the winter count. Biologists found 51 packs distributed across central Wisconsin and 162 packs in northern Wisconsin. The largest pack in the state was Fort McCoy Pack in Monroe County with 10 wolves.
At least 63 packs had five or more wolves in them.
Wolves in Wisconsin were removed from the federal endangered species list on January 27, and management authority was returned to the states and tribes for gray wolves living in the Western Great Lakes area. Since 2004, Wisconsin listed the gray wolf as a protected wild animal, and on April 2 it was designated a game species.
State officials are developing rules for a wolf hunting and trapping season starting Oct. 15.
The DNR said that with federal delisting and new status as a game species, controls will be applied to the wolf population to reduce conflicts, and reduce the population to more socially accepted levels, while maintaining a sustainable and healthy wolf population.
In 2010, the Wisconsin DNR initiated a Web notification of all wolf attacks on dogs for hunters and others concerned about wolf depredations. People can have their email address added to the notification list by searching for "wolf" on the DNR website and then clicking on the link for "dog depredations."
Wisconsin's wolf population estimate is based on data gathered by agency biologists and technicians, and more than 150 volunteers. DNR has conducted annual wolf surveys since winter 1979-1980, and volunteers have been involved in the surveys since 1995.
"Volunteer trackers have become a critical portion of our surveys that have allowed us to obtain reliable estimates of the state wolf population in winter," Adrian Wydeven, DNR mammalian ecologist who coordinates the wolf survey, said in a news release. "We hope to continue attracting citizens in helping to determine the annual population of wolves in the state."