Wolf Management Plan
Overview Of Process
From 2021 to 2023, the Wisconsin DNR updated our state's wolf management plan, and the final version of the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan 2023 is available to view. Since the DNR manages wolves according to this plan and following state and federal laws, the DNR took this revision process very seriously and remained committed to a transparent, deliberative and inclusive management plan update process that recognizes the diversity of interest areas regarding wolf management.
During the plan update process, the DNR collected extensive public input through a wolf management plan committee, an online questionnaire and a 111-day opportunity to review and comment on a draft of the management plan. Throughout the process, the DNR also worked closely with our tribal partners and other natural resource professionals involved in wolf management in Wisconsin.
After all the public comments were considered and edits made to the draft plan, the draft plan went to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) on Oct. 25, 2023, for approval. The NRB approved the plan with minor amendments. A recording of the October 2023 NRB Meeting is available on the DNR's YouTube channel.
The department is grateful for all who participated in the plan's development, shared feedback and followed along throughout this 2.5-year process.
DRAFT PLAN APPROVED BY THE BOARD: The Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan 2023 was approved by the Natural Resources Board on Oct. 25, 2023. The supporting information provided to the board and public for this meeting included a background memo, a summary of the public comments and the draft plan itself.
TRIBAL CONSULTATIONS: The DNR invited and participated in further government-to-government consultations with tribal nations in Wisconsin.
- DNR SHARED REVISED DRAFT PLAN WITH THE PUBLIC: The DNR shared a revised draft of the plan on Aug. 1, 2023.
- ALL COMMENTS WERE MADE AVAILABLE: The public can review the complete list of comments received during the public comment period.
- DNR HOSTED A LISTENING SESSION: During the public comment and review period, the DNR hosted a virtual listening session on Tuesday, Feb. 7. A recording of this listening session is available on the DNR's YouTube channel.
- THE PUBLIC REVIEW PERIOD ENDED FEB. 28: After 111 days and around 3500 comments received, the public review and comment period officially ended on Feb. 28.
- SCIENTIFIC PUBLIC OPINIONS SURVEY COMPLETE: The scientific survey of public opinions on wolves was completed, and the results were incorporated into the draft plan.
- DNR SHARED DRAFT PLAN WITH THE PUBLIC, REQUESTS PUBLIC REVIEW: The DNR shared the draft plan on Nov. 10 and began a public review and comment period.
Spring and Summer 2022
- TRIBAL CONSULTATIONS: The DNR invited and participated in government-to-government consultations with tribal nations in Wisconsin.
- SCIENTIFIC PUBLIC OPINIONS SURVEY: The DNR conducted an updated scientific assessment of Wisconsin residents' opinions about and attitudes toward wolves and wolf management.
- DNR CONTINUED UPDATING THE PLAN: The DNR continued to draft the updated plan.
- WMPC INPUT REPORT PUBLISHED: The DNR Wolf Management Plan Committee's input report was published on the DNR website.
- DNR CONTINUED UPDATING THE PLAN: The DNR continued to update the plan based on the best available science, public input and WMPC report, all following current state and federal law.
- DNR PROVIDED A PLAN UPDATE TO NRB: DNR provided an update on progress at the January 2022 Natural Resources Board meeting.
- DNR BEGAN DRAFTING AN UPDATED PLAN: The DNR began drafting natural history, human dimensions and historical chapters for inclusion in the revised management plan.
July - October 2021
- WMPC MEETINGS: The WMPC convened a series of four meetings to discuss wolves and wolf management and provide input on the revised wolf management plan.
April - May 2021
- PUBLIC INPUT PERIOD OPENED FROM APR. 15 TO MAY 15: The public was invited to comment and provide input on the future of wolf management in Wisconsin.
February - March 2021
- INVITED TRIBAL PARTNERS: The DNR invited tribal participation and membership in the new Wolf Management Plan Committee (WMPC).
- WMPC APPLICATION OPENED: The application period opened for stakeholder organizations to apply for a seat on the committee.
The legal status of wolves in Wisconsin has varied greatly over the years, and this has had direct effects on the state's management authority with respect to wolves. Depending on if wolves are included on the federal or state endangered species list and whether they are classified as endangered or threatened status, all directly affect which management options are available in the state.
The two most profound implications are the availability of lethal control (such as landowner removal permits or agency removal efforts) as an abatement option in response to wolf-related conflict and whether a public wolf harvest season can occur in Wisconsin. Because these two items are critical components of a responsive approach to management and necessary to fully realize the goals of this plan, it is crucial that any actions outlined in the plan demonstrate the state's long-term commitment to sustainably and responsibly managing the wolf population once delisted.
The legal statuses and their implications on wolf conflict and harvest are summarized in the following table:
This plan recognizes the value and biologically recovered status of gray wolves in Wisconsin. Accordingly, the plan supports long-term, collaborative and science-based wolf management in Wisconsin to allow full realization of the goal, objectives, strategies and products identified in the plan and within the scope of the law. This management plan describes the principles intended to guide the department's management of wolves when wolves are not listed on the federal and/or state list of endangered and threatened species. During times when wolves in Wisconsin are listed on the federal and/or state list of endangered and threatened species or there is a change in the listed status of wolves, the department will evaluate whether and to what extent the various components of this plan may be applied to ensure consistency with the listed status, the department's authority and applicable laws.
Wolf Management Plan Committee
Members were named for the Wolf Management Plan Committee (WMPC) following an application and invitation process in Spring 2021. The WMPC's purpose was to provide input to the DNR during the development of an updated wolf management plan, ultimately resulting in a wolf management plan with broad public and scientific support.
The WMPC was an inclusive and diverse committee comprised of individuals representing hunting/trapping organizations, wolf advocacy/education organizations and agricultural/ranching organizations. In addition to these stakeholder seats, there was representation by other government agencies, tribes and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress.
WMPC Meeting #1 - Jul. 22, 2021
On Jul. 22, 2021, the Wolf Management Plan Committee met virtually for the first time. You can review the meeting materials below or watch a recording of the meeting.
- WMPC Agenda
- Review of Public Input
- Wolf Program Overview Slides
- WMPC Meeting #1 Slides
- WMPC Meeting #1 Notes
WMPC Meeting #2 - Aug. 19, 2021
On Aug. 19, 2021, the Wolf Management Plan Committee met virtually for the second time. You can review the meeting materials below or watch the recording of the meeting.
WMPC Meeting #3 - Sept. 23, 2021
On Sept. 23, 2021, the Wolf Management Plan Committee met virtually for the third time. You can review the meeting materials below or watch the meeting recording.
WMPC Meeting #4 - Oct. 21, 2021
On Oct. 21, 2021, the Wolf Management Plan Committee met virtually for the fourth time. You can review the meeting materials below or watch the meeting recording.
Other Forms of Public Input
Scientific Assessments of Public Opinions Towards Wolves
The DNR conducted a scientific survey of Wisconsinites' attitudes toward wolves and wolf management in 2014. You can read the full 2014 survey report.
In 2022, the DNR conducted another scientific assessment, measuring current public opinions about wolves and changes in opinions and attitudes since the 2014 survey. The results were used to help inform the development of the updated draft plan. The 2022 public opinion survey is available for all to view.
Public Comment Period
The DNR held a 111-day public comment period (from Nov. 10, 2022, until Feb. 28, 2023), when the public could share their feedback on the plan. A total of ~3,500 comments were received during this time across various formats (online comment tool, emails, letters and verbal comments).
Additionally, the DNR hosted a listening session during the comment period for the public to share their comments verbally. This session was held on Feb. 7, 2023. A recording of this listening session is available on the DNR's YouTube channel.
After the comment period closed, staff reviewed every comment and considered changes to the plan. A summary of the comments and a compilation of the comments themselves was later published for anyone interested in looking through them.
The DNR developed an online public input questionnaire to collect all interested individuals' input on wolf management from Apr. 15 to May 15, 2021. A short memo of the public opinion survey [PDF] is available and includes a summary and analysis of the data collected. These results were presented during the Jul. 22 meeting of the Wolf Management Plan Committee.
To give the public more opportunities to learn about the plan and, talk with staff directly, and ask questions, the DNR hosted two open houses. These open houses were held at Northwood Technical College in Ashland, Wisconsin, on Oct. 2, 2023, and at UW-Stevens Point – Marshfield on Oct. 3, 2023.