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Wisconsin DNR shelves new wolf management plan in wake of re-listing decision

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MADISON, Wisconsin — Wisconsin wildlife officials have indefinitely shelved their new wolf management plan in the wake of a federal ruling placing Great Lakes-area wolves back on the endangered species list.

Department of Natural Resources carnivore specialist Dave MacFarland said the agency had hoped to start a monthlong series of public hearings on the plan this week but decided to hold off. He said agency officials need time to study how U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell's decision might affect Wisconsin's population goals.

MacFarland said the DNR isn't giving up on the plan. He couldn't offer a timeline on when the DNR may bring the plan back but said the agency will have one "soon."

"We're not abandoning the effort," MacFarland said.

The agency's current wolf plan calls for 350 animals. Animal advocates have complained that the plan is outdated and the goal is too low. The revised plan offered four potential population options: hold the population at its current level of about 650 wolves; maintain the 350-animal goal; hold the population to between 300 and 650 animals; or set a 350-wolf minimum.

Agency officials had hoped to use the public's input to develop a final recommendation to take before the Natural Resources Board this April, giving them enough time to set kill limits accordingly for the state's 2015 wolf hunt.

But Howell ordered wolves in Minnesota to be reclassified as threatened and wolves in Michigan and Wisconsin to be reclassified as endangered. She criticized the states' regulatory plans as inadequate and said wolves still need federal protections because they haven't repopulated their entire historic range.

The order bans wolf hunting and trapping in all three states. Wisconsin and Michigan officials also can't kill wolves for preying on livestock or pets.

Several members of Congress, including Wisconsin Rep. Reid Ribble, a Sherwood Republican, have said they're preparing legislation to take the wolves off the endangered species list. Congress in 2011 lifted federal protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana.

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