Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wolf supporters rally in Duluth to stop hunting, trapping

September 08, 2012

Opponents of Minnesota’s upcoming wolf trapping and hunting season rallied in downtown Duluth on Friday afternoon hoping to spur a public outcry that might keep wolves off limits for at least one more year.

By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Opponents of Minnesota’s upcoming wolf trapping and hunting season rallied in downtown Duluth on Friday afternoon hoping to spur a public outcry that might keep wolves off limits for at least one more year.

But it appears the efforts of Howling for Wolves and other groups may be too little, too late, with the state’s first wolf season in a half-century set to start in just 57 days.
Some 23,477 hunters and trappers have applied for 6,000 permits and the chance to kill one of up to 400 wolves later this year.

About 35 people gathered in Lake Place Park holding signs and howling on occasion, including members of the Sandy Lake Band of Ojibwe.

“Governor Dayton has the authority to stop the hunt. That is the ultimate goal,” Deb Balzer, one of the group’s leaders, told the News Tribune.

Dr. Maureen Hackett, a member of the Howling group, said the state is catering to a small minority of hunters while most Minnesotans want to continue protections for the animal.

“Minnesotans want to be able to hear that howl in the woods. They know there’s no reason to have this hunt,” Hackett said. “We want people to know the killing is going to begin soon but that we can still make a difference.”

Howling for Wolves and other wolf advocates also have paid for billboards along major highways, including Interstate 35 in Duluth, that depict bloodied wolves caught in traps, asking the public to call and oppose the upcoming seasons to “stop the DNR torture.”

The group also has aired television ads in some markets.

Chris Niskanen, communications director for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said his agency was inundated by comments on the wolf hunt at the DNR exhibit at the recent Minnesota State Fair, likely in part spurred by the Howling campaign.

“We had a lot of people tell us they weren’t happy with the hunt and say we shouldn’t be doing it. But we had about an equal number of people thank us for hanging tough and not bowing to the pressure and keeping the season on,” he said. “With more than 23,000 applications (for a hunting or trapping permit) there’s clearly a lot of interest in a wolf hunt in Minnesota. We know there are strong feelings on both sides.”

Howling for Wolves also has filed a formal document, called a petition for rulemaking, to the DNR, asking the agency to rescind the administrative rule establishing the hunt and to call the season off. The DNR is legally obliged to respond to the petition by Oct. 8, but is certain to refuse the request.
That could open the possibility of a lawsuit to stop the hunting and trapping seasons. But it’s unclear what, if any, legal standing such a suit would be based on. Hackett said she wouldn’t comment on the potential for litigation.

Supporters of a wolf hunt note there is no biological reason not to shoot and trap a percentage of the wolf population. They also note high numbers of wolf attacks on livestock and pets in Minnesota, with more than 200 on average targeted by government trappers each year near where livestock have been killed.

But wolf supporters counter that killing wolves hundreds of miles away from where livestock have been killed will do nothing to solve farmers’ problems and that the hunt is aimed more at sport than solving conflict.

Wolves are back on the game list of animal species after nearly 40 years of federal protections. By the 1970s, the big carnivores were wiped out of every state except Minnesota in the continental U.S. Even here, there were only about 500, with nearly all confined to the wilds of the Superior National Forest.

Under federal protections their numbers grew, with an estimated 3,000 wolves now across the northern half of Minnesota and hundreds more in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Wolves also are thriving in a half-dozen western states.

With their numbers healthy in those states, the federal government in recent years has moved wolves off the endangered species list and allowed states to hunt and trap them once again. Every state has done so, with the first Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan seasons set for this autumn and winter.
Minnesota lawmakers, with relatively little opposition, this year ordered the DNR to hold the season, including holding it during the firearms deer hunting season when more hunters are afield.

“One of their criticisms has been there hasn’t been enough public input, but there were ample public hearings during the legislative process,” Niskanen said. “That’s what the Legislature is for.”

One wolf advocacy group has had some success in Wisconsin, where a judge has ordered a temporary injunction against the state’s plan to allow dogs during the wolf hunting season. The groups argued that allowing dogs to chase and battle with wolves is a violation of the state’s animal cruelty laws that ban dog fights.

source