(Gary Kramer / U.S. Fish and Wildlife)
At least 40 hunting dogs were confirmed killed by wolves at the end of bear season Tuesday, exceeding a previous record of 23, the DNR said.
DNR carnivore specialist Dave MacFarland said it would take a scientific study to determine what caused the increased dog deaths.
"Everybody can agree that we hope we don't see a repeat of what we saw this year," MacFarland said.
Some hunters blame the end of the state's wolf hunt for the burgeoning number of wolves. Others say bear hunters could protect their dogs by avoiding areas where wolves are known to roam, the State Journal reported.
The wolf population grew in Wisconsin after it was given protected status. It was removed from the endangered list in 2012 and three wolf hunts were held. Opponents argued the wolf population was in danger of collapsing again and a judge put the animal back on the endangered list in 2014.
The estimated winter population of wolves grew 16 percent to about 900 this year. Claims for financial compensation from livestock and dog owners have also been on the rise. The state pays owners of hunting dogs killed by wolves $2,500.