14
Search AOL Mail
AOL Mail
Video
Video
AOL Favorites
Favorites
Menu

Wolf population on the rise in Illinois

Wolf Hunt

CHICAGO (AP) - The wolf was believed to be a lone male expelled by a pack in Wisconsin. The hunter who shot him in northwestern Illinois, allegedly keeping his skull as a trophy, was the first person in the state ever prosecuted for shooting a wolf under federal endangered species laws.

The incident, resolved in 2013 when the hunter pleaded guilty and paid a $2,500 fine, comes amid evidence of a modest but perceptible uptick in the number of wolves roaming across the Wisconsin border into heavily populated and widely farmed Illinois.

Illinois' own once-thriving wolves were hunted to extinction by the 1860s. But since the first confirmed sighting in the state in 150 years, in 2002, wolf sightings have gone from rare to regular - with at least five in the last three years.

"We used to joke with our counterparts in Wisconsin that, 'Yeah, one day your wolves will be coming to Illinois,'" said Joe Kath, the endangered species manager at Illinois' Department of Natural Resources. "Well, we've reached that day."

That has state wildlife officials contemplating another day - still way off - when there are so many wolves in Illinois they'll have to ask residents to decide if they want to encourage the growth of a wolf population or strictly limit it, possibly through hunting or trapping.

"It's too early to ask the question, but it's not too early to prepare for a time when the question might have to be asked," said Kath. That preparation, he said, has already begun, including by drafting plans on how to manage wolf packs should they become established.

The North American wolves, known as gray or timber wolves, have proven resilient.

Their numbers in the lower 48 states fell to a few dozen by 1970 but dramatically rebounded with federal protections and wildly successful reintroduction programs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Wolves weren't threatened by extinction in Alaska, which by far has the most - 7,000 to 11,000 wolves - of any U.S. state. Minnesota is second, with 2,200 wolves.

In Wisconsin, which shares a 150-mile border with Illinois, wolf numbers went from few to none in the 1970s to more than 800 today.

The core of Wisconsin's wolf population is in its forested north. But Kath noted that the wolves have on their own moved south, and one pack is near Beloit, Wis., only miles from Illinois. Also, lone wolves can leave their packs and roam more than 500 miles away in search of potential mates.

Several shootings of wolves have occurred in JoDaviess County, which hugs the Wisconsin border in the northwestern Illinois.

That was where Earl Sirchia, of Elgin, killed the wolf that drew the scrutiny of federal prosecutors. He was accused of taking the wolf's skull, and prosecutors said investigators had a photo he'd taken of himself with the dead wolf.

Sirchia faced a maximum one-year prison sentence but instead pleaded guilty. No one answered calls from The Associated Press to a phone number listed for Sirchia. His Bartlett-based attorney, Robert J. Krupp, hung up when the case was mentioned.

In another case from 2011 in the same county, Jason T. Bourrette and his friend Perry Vesely, both of Hanover, were hunting on Crazy Hallow Road when they saw what they thought was a coyote - which are legally hunted year around - tossing a mole up and down in its jaws, according to police reports.

After Bourrette shot and killed it, Vesely cursed and said, "Ya know, this could be a wolf,'" he later told an investigator. In the interview, he added about wolves: "I'm sure sooner or later we're going to have a pile of them down here, I'm afraid." Differences between wolves and coyotes can be difficult to spot, especially at a distance. But wolves are typically twice as large as coyotes, weighing as much as 115 pounds, and have larger muzzles and shorter, more rounded ears.

Bourrette and Vesely were charged under state conservation law, but the charges were later dismissed.

Earlier in 2013, the U.S. government declared victory in a four-decade campaign to rescue the gray wolf and lifted the federal protection in the Great Lakes area, including far-northern Illinois. But killing wolves anywhere in Illinois is still prohibited.

Enough wolves are now roaming into Illinois that hunters need to remain cautious, and Kath said it was possible that wolves could eventually, years from now, become commonplace in the state.

There are plenty of white-tail deer, Midwestern wolves' favorite food, in Illinois. But only 14 percent of Illinois land is suitable habitat for wolves, which prefer forests, according to a 2013 study by Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The northwest, west-central Illinois and the southern tip of the state were deemed most suitable.

And then there is the wolf's by most accounts undeserved reputation as bloodthirsty - see "Little Red Riding Hood" - that points to the main factor in wolves' future prospects in Illinois: humans.

"It's really not that they can't survive in Illinois. They could," said Kath. "The question is, will the general public allow them to survive?"

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
onemissourian January 02 2014 at 1:10 PM

I LIKE THE ONE LINE IN THIS ARTICLE THAT SAYS " HUNTER SHOULD REMAIN CAUTIOUS" !
ANYTIME YOU HAVE A GUN IN YOUR HANDS YOU SHOULD BE CAUTIOUS ! I LIVE IN A AREA THAT IS WOODS FOR HUNDREDS OF MILES. THE CITY DEVELOPERS DECIDED TO MAKE A 6000 ACRES GATED COMMUNITY. NOW THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT AFTER THEY MOVED IN . THEY DON'T LIKE THE DEER AND OTHER WILD LIFE . THEY HAVE ERADICATED ALL BEAVERS AND WOULD JUST AS BRUTAL ON DEER IF THEY HAVE THIER WAY .I KIND OF LIKE IT THE DEER TEND TO COME OUT IN THE RUT AND WE HAVE VARY GOOD HUNTING . OH, BY THE WAY THEY DON'T ALLOW HUNTING IN THIS GATED COMMUNITY JUST WEST OF ST. LOUIS .ALSO THEY WANT THE CONSERVATION DEPARTMENT TO MOVE THESE DEER, LOL , GOOD LUCK WITH THAT ONE,LOL!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
dahermit onemissourian January 02 2014 at 1:58 PM

All caps leave the impression of the lack of education, excessive exclaimation points leave the impression of the lack of control of one's emotions (hysterical). I am sure that there is a community college in your area that offers English Comp. one and two.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
lowtechknowtech dahermit January 02 2014 at 2:45 PM

Are you saying you're one of the few Americans with an actual education? Any more, that's not easy to find in a land where 'kids' are now allowed to stay on their parents' insurance plan until age 26. Makes me think, HOW long does it take for Americans to 'grow up'? No wonder I'm worried about this country.

Flag +1 rate up
lneslusan January 02 2014 at 6:51 AM

They are in Ct too. I saw a pack while riding my horse. These wolves NOT coyotes. Of course the Fish and game tell me otherwise.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
Biggy lneslusan January 02 2014 at 7:12 AM

You are right.
I saw a large gray one while deer hunting in the Niantic area a few years ago.
First thought someone was raising huskies by the wolf calls but the one my partner and I saw was no coyote! It was BIG.
There was lotsa wolf poop mixed with deer hair too all around our area..
Neither of us saw any deer that year and that was a first.
And we did hear plenty of stories about missing dogs and cats.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
jkruse60 January 02 2014 at 2:41 PM

IF HUNTERS LIKE TO KILL GO TO IRAC AN IRAN AN ANYWHERE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
TERRORIST ARE FAR MORE DANGEROUS THAN WOLFS.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Bobby January 02 2014 at 6:39 AM

A Wolf was recently shot in Missouri, The State has an ample supply of Deer for food. In fact, far too many, killing the Deer by the thousands during hunting seasons and we're losing the battle. The Deer are multiplying faster than we can reduce them. In some suburban areas near our cities there are more Deer than Cats and Dogs.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
sparrca January 02 2014 at 6:38 AM

Wolfs have fairly good senses, and will stay a good distance from man, for they know what mankind is to the world.
If it was not for a rifle, you could not even get close to kill them.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
Biggy sparrca January 02 2014 at 7:17 AM

A rolled up newspaper works well also.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
John January 02 2014 at 3:15 PM

White Tail deer have devastated new trees planted in this region. Deer consume trees by eating them at the brows line. I like deer but I believe a few wolf packs in Missouri would be a benefit to this area. There is a continuous fight between those who want to reduce the deer population by various means including trapping and relocating them, in which case most do not survive. Chemically neutering is another option that is expensive and somewhat effective. A simpler natural solution would be to import a few wolf packs into this area.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
mark John January 02 2014 at 4:26 PM

i like the way u think john, here in ohio the population of coyotes are high and there is nothing we can do but try to get rid of them. if there were wolves here the coyots pop. will drop and i won;t be so scared of walking my dogs at night. i almost got attacked by a pack of dirty coyots. I noticed that coyots are not afraid of nothing here bc they are the top of the food chain (other than people). i had 4 of my farm cats killed bc of the coyots.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
kelly.schueman mark January 02 2014 at 10:43 PM

Learn about coyotes. We need to coexist with these amazing little dogs as well. Coyotes are probably the most abused animal on the planet. A man in Wisconsin, who used to hunt them, ended up raising a pup. The man and his coyote Wiley, now travel the country teaching people how to live alongside these beautiful animals.

Flag 0 rate up
amyl3000 January 02 2014 at 6:25 AM

I would rather have wolves than moles in my yard anyday.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
fefarnham January 02 2014 at 4:02 PM

I love wolves

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
kelly.schueman fefarnham January 02 2014 at 10:28 PM

Me too. They are playful , smart, family loving, shy , mysterious loves!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
pimp January 02 2014 at 4:16 PM

Im pretty sure i saw one along the desplains river in the lake county area. i was on a bike trail that runs along the river when it crossed my path. It stopped looked at me and went on its way. My friends say it was a coyote, but this thing was as large as full grown German shepard. I quit taking the trail

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
kelly.schueman pimp January 02 2014 at 10:27 PM

If it was a wolf, he was not a threat to you. Talk to wildlife biologists. I would be thrilled to see them, and would want to go back. I would be worried that they would get used to people however. Yellowstone's wolves have not harmed anyone, but they have learned to trust our very cruel species, Yellowstone is being surrounded by wolf killers who are destroying our loved wolves, and this sanctuary. you will nto find a more horrible human than a wolf killer.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jgli789056 January 02 2014 at 6:46 AM

can you eat a wolf i think not
but you can eat what the wolf eats

Flag Reply +2 rate up
aol~~ 1209600

Voting...

More From Our Partners