July 30–Minnesota wildlife officials have reduced by nearly half the number of wolves hunters and trappers will be able to kill this fall and winter.
Hunters and trappers will be able to take 220 wolves before the Department of Natural Resources shuts the season down, officials announced Monday. Last year, the quota was 400 wolves. The number of licenses available to hunters and trappers will also be reduced.
The announcement follows a population survey earlier this year that concluded the state’s wolf population likely fell after the state’s first-ever regulated hunting and trapping season.
Statistically, the annual state survey contained such a large margin of error that it couldn’t tell whether the population declined or increased, but researchers said they believed the population dropped, based on a number of factors, including a 25 percent decrease in wolves’ primary food source, white-tailed deer, in the predators’ range.
The DNR’s estimate, which was conducted before pups were born, was 2,211 wolves in Minnesota, down from 2,921 in the last survey, in 2008. During the 2012-13 hunting and trapping seasons, 413 wolves were killed.
“DNR’s population survey confirmed Minnesota’s wolf population remains firmly established on the landscape,” Dan Stark, the DNR’s large carnivore specialist, said in a news release. “We can manage seasons for a sustainable population of wolves like we do for dozens of other game species.”
As for the reduction leading into this season, Stark said: “The changes are a management response to the most recent wolf population estimate. As with other game species DNR manages, adjustments are made to regulate hunting pressure and harvest to ensure long-term population sustainability and provide hunting and trapping opportunities.”
The season remains controversial and has been the subject of multiple failed attempts to stop it in court, similar to open seasons in Wisconsin and Michigan. A lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s removal of Great Lakes wolves from the endangered species list is pending in federal court.
“There is no reason to hunt these top predators that are crucial to the health of our northwoods ecosystem,” said Dr. Maureen Hackett, founder of Howling for Wolves, a group opposed to the hunting season. “We urge all Minnesotans that value the wolf to ask Governor Dayton and their state lawmakers to intervene and stop this hunt.”
By state law, wolf hunting begins on the same day as the deer firearms opener — Minnesota’s most popular hunting day of the year. This year, that day is Saturday, Nov. 9, and hunting continues through Nov. 24. A second wolf season, which includes hunting and trapping, runs from Nov. 30 through Jan. 31. The wolf season is broken into three zones, with a different kill limit. When a kill limit is met in a zone, hunting and trapping are halted.
As a result of the lower quota, fewer wolf licenses will be available this year as well.
Starting Thursday, Aug. 1, hunters and trappers can apply for 2,000 early-season licenses and 1,300 late-season licenses. That’s down from 3,600 early-season and 2,400 late-season licenses in 2012. The deadline to apply for the hunting and trapping license lottery is Thursday, Sept. 5.
For more details, go to blogs.twincities.com/outdoors.
Dave Orrick can be reached at 651-228-5512. Follow him at twitter.com/OutdoorsNow.