2001 Public Opinion Survey: Wolf Management in Wisconsin


In October 2001, we sent a mail-back questionnaire to 658 individuals belonging to four groups. Results of public opinions about Wisconsin's compensation policies for losing domestic animals to wolves is shown in Table 1. The survey response rate is shown in Table 2. Discussion of the results is in the following paragraphs.

Do people want wolves in the state?

The 535 people we surveyed (Table 2) were generally supportive of wolf recovery in Wisconsin. Only 17% wanted to eliminate the wolf population, while 33% wanted the population reduced, 37% wanted it maintained, and 13% voted for expanding the population. We found the highest level of support among northwoods residents who neither raised livestock nor hunted bears. Most of these people (71%) wanted to maintain or expand the wolf population (71%), whereas roughly 55% of livestock producers and only 27% of bear hunters supported this idea.

As we expected, people who had lost livestock, hounds or pets to wolves or other predators were less favorable toward wolf recovery than those who had experienced no loss (at right, Figure 1). However, we were surprised to learn that there was no difference in attitudes among people who were compensated versus those who were not. In other words, people who were paid for their losses were no more tolerant of wolves than people who claimed a loss but were not compensated (at right, Figure 2).

How do people feel about compensation?

Most people we surveyed thought the government should pay for domestic animals lost to wolves (91% approved of compensation for livestock; 72% approved of compensation for hunting dogs on public land). Bear hunters (94%) and livestock producers (96%) were more likely than other rural residents (88%) to favor compensation for loss of livestock, regardless of livestock management practices and regardless of whether evidence of a wolf is found. Bear hunters (89%) were more favorable than other respondents (63%) toward compensation for loss of hunting dogs on public lands. The majority of bear hunters and livestock producers thought there ought to be no cap placed on compensation payments, while the majority of other northwoods residents thought payments ought not to exceed $10,000 per complainant.

Additionally, we learned in informal conversations with complainants (both livestock producers and bear hunters), that people consider compensation payments inadequate and do not reflect the years of breeding and husbandry (and training, in the case of hunting hounds) invested in each animal. People also hated to think about the suffering of their animals killed by wolves. And finally, many respondents were discouraged by the DNR's requirement of definitive evidence of wolf attack (some complainants estimated that for every calf proven killed by a wolf, another was also killed, but with no evidence).

Public opinions about Wisconsin's compensation policies for losing domestic animals to wolves.

Click here for Table 1 "Public opinions about Wisconsin's compensations policies for losing domestic animals to wolves"

How should we deal with 'problem' wolves?

People's opinions on how to manage 'problem' wolves varied based on the type of human-wolf conflict in question. In the case of a wolf being sighted in a rural area, the majority of respondents (60%) preferred that authorities take no immediate action and monitor the situation. However in the case of a wolf killing livestock or a family pet, over half (53%) considered killing the wolf to be the best solution. Fewer individuals (41%) approved of lethal control for wolves that killed hunting hounds on public land.

A majority of bear hunters favored lethal control of wolves that killed livestock (77%), compared to 45% of livestock producers and 32% of other rural residents. Similarly, for pets killed, 77% of bear hunters, 42% of livestock producers, and 32% of other residents favored lethal control (See Table 1). People who had lost animals to wolves or other predators were more likely to favor lethal control than those who not lost an animal. But once again, compensation did not appear to influence people's attitudes.

Survey methodology and response rate

Click here for Table 2 "Response Rate: Wolf Management in Wisconsin 2001 Public Opinion Survey"





Click Figure 1 for enlargement

Figure 1- Preferred wolf population size vs. reported depredation

Click Figure 2 for enlargement

Figure 2 - Preferred wolf population size vs. reported losses

Table 1 - Public opinions about Wisconsin's compensations policies for losing domestic animals to wolves







Department of Geography at UW-Madison University of Wisconsin-Madison email the webmaster