Series

Nearly everything about wolves is controversial. Wisconsin is one of about a dozen states with a gray wolf population. After being hunted to the brink of extinction in most states, the state granted the species legal protections in the 1950s, followed by federal listing in the 1970s. Since then, wolf numbers have not only recovered, but they've seen a relative boom in population. These predators play a big role in their ecosystem by feeding on deer and other prey, but their hunts also cross paths with livestock, causing grievances among ranchers and farmers. A hunting season was briefly opened in the early 2010s, and there is plenty of other proposed legislation surrounding their management. Wolves also claim strong support among advocates for continued protection. Whatever policies are in place, this charismatic species drives public passion and scientific interest.More
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WisContext presents excerpts from books published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press to provide a deeper look at how the history of the state has influenced its contemporary landscape. These selections focus on events and experiences that illustrate historical changes in Wisconsin related to demographics, health, the economy and the environment — issues that have left an imprint on the state and continue to resonate in the 21st century.More
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Chickens
An unprecedented avian influenza epidemic struck the poultry industry in the U.S. over the spring and early summer of 2015. It was concentrated in several Midwestern states, with Wisconsin seeing infections in several counties that are home to major turkey and chicken operations. Both federal and state government agencies worked in tandem with poultry farmers to halt and prevent further spread of the disease, resulting in the destruction of more than 1.9 million birds in the state. The epidemic was a serious agricultural challenge for the nation, driving up egg prices and spurring officials and poultry producers to strengthen biosecurity measures intended to limit the spread and impact of animal diseases.More
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Bats are both familiar and exotic, and inspire intense emotions among people who encounter them. Beyond their cultural status, though, many types of bats play an important economic role in agriculture and tourism by feeding on copious numbers of insects. Wisconsin lies within the range of at least eight bat species, with half migrating south in winter while the remainder hibernate in caves, mines and structures. Hibernating species face an unparalleled threat from an invasive fungus that causes a disease called white-nose syndrome. But Wisconsin is also a center of scientific efforts to save these species. Legions of volunteers collect crucial data about the number and health of the state's bats, and scientists are working to develop a vaccine against the deadly fungus.More
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The pursuit of knowledge about Wisconsin's flora and fauna is not just the province of professional researchers. Public participation in science has woven itself into Wisconsin's history of naturalism and conservation, an important complement to work in the state's research universities and regulatory agencies. People around the state have volunteered their time to help with everything from monitoring invasive insect pests to observing Wisconsin's bat and bird populations. People who participate in civic or citizen science have the opportunity to develop a closer connection with the natural world, and a chance to develop greater understanding of and consensus around environmental issues. Wisconsinites who aren't scientists in their daily lives also can and do undertake all sorts of projects to help address environmental challenges, from building rain gardens to fostering habitat for monarch butterflies.More
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