May 05, 2012
Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Minnesotans will be able to hunt and trap wolves legally for the first time in 38 years this fall.
wolf hunting season will begin on Nov. 3, the first day of Minnesota’s
firearms deer season. The season became official when Gov. Mark Dayton
signed the Legislature’s Game and Fish bill on Thursday.
Department of Natural Resources will have to hustle put the framework
and mechanics of the season together in just a few months.
big issue, quite frankly, is timing,” said Dennis Simon, chief of the
DNR’s section of wildlife. “We need to sequence things in the right
order and they need to happen fairly quickly.”
returned to the state in January after wolves in the Midwest were
removed from the federal Endangered Species List. DNR officials say they
plan to take a conservative approach to this first wolf season, with a
quota of 400 animals. An estimated 3,000 wolves live in the state now.
wolf hunting season will always start on the first day of the state’s
firearms deer hunt, according to language in the Game and Fish bill. The
DNR has the authority to set a harvest quota, structure the season,
conduct a lottery to select hunters and reserve a portion of the annual
quota for trappers.
The DNR has said in its proposal to the
Legislature that it planned to issue 6,000 licenses to take up to 400
wolves. Hunting licenses will cost $30 for residents and $250 for
nonresidents. Trapping licenses, available to residents only, will cost
$30. The trapping season probably would begin Nov. 24 and continue
through Jan. 5, said Dan Stark, the DNR’s large carnivore specialist in
Separate lotteries to select hunters and trappers
probably will be held so that each group has a reasonable chance at the
licenses, Stark said. Seasons also could be split, with one running
during deer season and another for hunters and trappers following deer
season, Stark said. Each season might have a maximum harvest of 200
All of those details will have to be worked out in coming
weeks, he said, and an online public comment period also will be held.
In addition, DNR officials want to coordinate with American Indians in
Minnesota to see what their plans are, if any, for hunting wolves, Simon
The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association understands the
DNR’s conservative approach to its first wolf season, said the group’s
executive director, Mark Johnson.
“The harvest, for now, if it has
to be 400 to get it started, that’s OK,” Johnson said. “Eventually,
we’d like to see it, going along with the biology, where up to 30
percent of the population could be harvested. We’d like to see
over-the-counter licenses that cost $10 or $15 and see higher
(individual) bag limits.”
To keep the harvest from exceeding the
quota during a wolf season or seasons, hunters and trappers would have
to register their animals the same day they are taken. Hunters and
trappers would be required to monitor a telephone hot line or online
site to check the status of the season and harvest, Stark said.
said this first year will be something of an experiment. Nobody knows
what the public’s interest in wolf hunting will be, nor how effective
hunters and trappers will be in taking wolves, he said.
always thought of this inaugural year as experimental,” Simon said.
“We’ll gather information. We’ll see what works, what doesn’t work. Then
we’ll make adjustments and modify in future seasons.”
Depredation claims up
Depredation claims of wolves attacking livestock or pets were up in April compared to recent years, Stark said. “As of the end of April, about 50 wolves have been trapped and killed,” Stark said.
In all of last year, a total of 203 wolves were trapped and killed across the state, he said. Depredation
complaints are handled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife
Services crews or private trappers hired by the state, Stark said. “Drier,
milder winters are correlated to higher depredation rates the following
summer,” Stark said. “Deer are healthy and in better shape to avoid
wolf depredation. That has been documented.”