Poaching and a February hunt that far exceeded kill quotas were largely responsible for the drop-off, University of Wisconsin scientists said.
Agency biologists have long argued that the predator has recovered from persecution that nearly wiped it out by the mid-20th century.
But environmental and animal-rights groups contend the move was premature because wolves have not returned to most of their historical range.
They say the deaths reduced the statewide wolf total to between 695 and 751, down from at least 1,034 in spring 2020.
That upends the Wisconsin DNR’s objective of keeping the population stable even with hunting, the paper says.
Treves said his conclusions were justified by a variety of wolf population and social science data.
State wildlife managers were capable of designing science-based hunts that keep wolf populations healthy if politicians and judges let them, he said. »