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DNR begins trapping wolves in Jackson County, Wisconsin

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The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will begin trapping gray wolves in Jackson County this week in an effort to minimize danger to dogs and people.

The DNR decided to implement the trapping, which is expected to last two weeks, because of attacks on hunting dogs and pets over the past nine months, most of which have been concentrated in the eastern portion of Jackson County in the town of Bear Bluff.

“(With) this particular pack, there have also been a lot of incidents where they’ve come very close to people and don’t show normal fear of people,” said Adrian Wydeven, mammal ecologist with the DNR.

“Wolves are territorial animals — they defend their territory against other members of their species and sometimes … they treat dogs as wolves entering their territories.”

There were three wolf-related attack incidents against dogs in January — two in which dogs that were used on cranberry farms to ward off deer were injured and another in which a Husky-breed dog was killed. Another dog was injured by wolves on July 23.

On Aug. 15, a pet beagle was killed near a home, and on Sept. 18, a dog used for bird hunting was injured.

“That’s very unusual because that was the first time we’ve ever recorded an attack of a wolf on a bird dog in a bird-hunting situation,” Wydeven said.

The wolves the DNR is attempting to trap come from the Bear Bluff pack, which has been in the area since mid-1994 or earlier, Wydeven said. The Bear Bluff pack is one of 12 packs that cross into Jackson County, and there have been attacks in the past but none as serious as the most recent incidents, he said.

“For the most part, there have been a couple of attacks, but not as serious as these last ones,” he said.

“It seems to have escalated in the last year when they’ve become more aggressive toward the dogs.”

Gray wolves are classified as an endangered species by the federal government and considered a protected wild animal by the state of Wisconsin. The DNR can trap the wolves, however, because of the emerging threat to humans, Wydeven said.

“People have seen them close up, but there hasn’t been an actual attack,” he said.

“But at the same time, when they’ve shown there’s a lack of fear of people, that shows concern for us, and we don’t want to wait for that next step to occur.”

DNR officials now will begin to place traps within approximately a mile of where the attacks occurred. The foothold traps are designed to catch the animals by their feet, allowing the DNR to take euthanization measures after trapping.

According to the DNR’s website, the “caution area” includes Cranberry Road to the east, Highway 54 to the north, Lone Pine Lane and Goodyear Road on the west and the Jackson and Monroe County line and Highway HH on the south.

Traps likely are not able to catch human feet, but hunters are encouraged to exercise caution with their dogs because they could become trapped in the mechanisms, Wydeven said.

“It may be (that) all we need (is) to remove one or two animals and that may cause them to change their behavior. If not, we may have to remove additional animals,” Wydeven said.

“This is an unusual option — wolves don’t typically display this level of habituation toward people.”

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