The public will get a chance to weigh in on the draft of a new Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wolf Management Plan at an online listening session Feb 7.
The DNR released the draft plan in November. It shifts away from maintaining a statewide wolf population goal in favor of managing animals locally within the state’s six wolf hunting zones.
Members of the public have been able to comment on the plan in writing since its release, and the comment period had already been extended once. But the virtual listening session gives people a chance to speak directly to agency leaders.
"This listening session is an additional opportunity for anyone interested to provide input on the proposed plan while the public review and comment period remains open until Feb. 28," the DNR stated.
Wisconsin's wolf population remains a controversial topic, with views of some hunters and livestock owners clashing with those who have welcomed the return of a species that was declared extirpated from the state in 1960.
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The DNR's management of the population drew national criticism after the February 2021 wolf hunt when hunters killed 218 wolves — nearly 20 percent of the state's total wolf population at the time — in less than three days.
Since the hunt, a federal judge's ruling restored endangered species protections for wolves in most areas of the country, including Wisconsin.
The DNR's draft plan has been met with support from environmental and conservation groups but criticized by some lawmakers and hunting organizations.
Those who wish to speak at the listening session must register by Feb. 6. At the session, DNR staff will give a brief overview of the plan, and the public comment period will immediately follow. Comments will be limited to two minutes each. DNR staff will not be taking questions during the event, according to the agency.
The session can be viewed online on the DNR’s YouTube channel.