Near Extinction To Thriving: Efforts To Delist Wolves

By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

AITKIN COUNTY, Minn. — Nothing symbolizes Minnesota’s vast wilderness more than a roaming pack of timber wolves. And thanks to the foresight of conservationists, wolves that were near extinction 40 years ago, are flourishing today.

But that’s why the state and many farmers say it’s high time to drop federal protections.

In the heart of Minnesota’s wilderness comes a sound so lonesome and haunting, you’ll hear it for a lifetime.

“Canis lupus” — simply known as the gray or timber wolf. It’s the top dog in the forest food chain.

“We’ve got a lot of people on either side that feel very passionately about the timber wolf,” said T.J. Miller of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

He says in 1970, Minnesota was the only state outside Alaska with any timber wolves. Aerial surveys counted just 236. In 1973, came the Endangered Species Act.

Now, after nearly 40 years of federal protection, their howl is heard beyond the wilderness. Wolves have expanded from the Arrowhead into central Minnesota to an estimated 3,000.

“We stopped killing them. The Endangered Species Act protected the timber wolf and that’s all the wolf needed,” said Miller.

“But along with recovery, grows problems. There are more wolf complaints than ever, as wolves encroach on agricultural lands where they’ll prey on livestock, pets and, in some cases, threaten people.

“They’re very bold, they’re not even afraid of us anymore,” said cattleman John Chute.

Chute and his cattlemen neighbors are eager to get wolves off the protected list and back under state control. They’re simply tired of losing livestock as wolves move into farm country.

It’s the basis of Dale Lueck’s lawsuit.

“It seems that the only way to get anything done is to go to court and take your chances and try to get the court to compel them to do what the law says — and it’s simply delist them when they’re recovered,” said Lueck.

That would give the DNR better control over problem packs. And, eventually, open wolves to public hunting and trapping.

“All of the suitable habitat is now saturated with wolves and as wolves start moving out of that suitable habitat the depredation numbers have increased,” said Miller.

There were record numbers last year when wolves killed 106 livestock and poultry, and 23 dogs. Only bones and fur remain from a St. Bernard killed near Ely.

“Down the road they need to be treated just like bear, deer, elk, moose,” said Lueck.

While environmental groups may again try to block delisting in court, Nancy Gibson of the International Wolf Center says simply — it’s time.

“We should be celebrating. We have taken an animal that is just a magnet for controversy. We have taken it from very low numbers back to numbers that have really recovered. We should be patting ourselves on the back,” said Gibson.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to propose rules next month to turn over timber wolf management to the state. If approved, Minnesota would still protect wolves from general hunting and trapping for five years.

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  • Brett

    Obviuosly the St.Bernard did not belong to the Gibson woman.I wonder how she would feel if a child was killed by the Wolves

  • khadijah

    All of this was brought on by ignorant Billy-Bob mentalities that like to run around shooting anything with legs, bear, dear, rabbits , anything so they can have the bragging rights to say they killed something. The funny thing is we are not supposed to kill for fun or sport. Because we have hunted and brought down the numbers of the natural prey of the wolves, they are forced to hunt what is available, ie; livestock and dogs. Now a bunch of ignorant gun happy yahoos want to hunt them and bring their numbers down again. Haven’t we learned anything? There is no sport in camouflaging yourselves and hiding so you can sneak up on defenseless unarmed animals and shoot them. Only a coward will hide and sneak up on any creature.

    • Come on

      Wow. khadijah, thank you for spouting off your ignorance. Let’s assume you are the typical ignorant vegan who thinks animals are sacred beings that deserve social security rights and universal healthcare.

      Please, do not leave the interstate loop and stay inside. Most other hunters will continue to hunt for sport and eat the meat.

    • Randy C

      Wow, talk about an uninformed blow hard. Do you realize that sportsman spend more money than the State or Federal Govt on protecting and managing our Natural resources? The Rock Mountain Elk Foundation itself has protected over a million acres of land that would have been developed into more subdivisions for people who drive 4-wheel drive vehicles but have never left the pavement in the entire life.
      Next time, do a little research before spouting your liberal agenda.

    • Theresa

      I am sorry you place such little value on human life, and our family (i.e. pets) for that matter. What would it take for you to change your mind, a little girl playing in her backyard getting attacked by wolves??? The fact that they were able to take down a St. Bernard shows they are dangerous to everyone. I am guessing you don’t beleive we should be going after cougars attacking runners in metropolitan areas either.

  • James

    Has 21st. century man failed to progress past the point where the only alternative to “endangered protection” is the raw, shocking brutality of trapping & shooting? see the photo my daughter captured of a wolf with a missing foot in “Itasca State Park” a rare photo, for sure…in my book of poetry…”hiking in the universe” selected poems by James Marshall Goff (guiltless self promotion)

  • UpNorth

    We are not supposed to kill for sport? Well, we had better shut down the fishing and hunting seasons then. Hunters are cowards? Hunters and fisherman have done more to help game populations than anyone else. Just stay in the Cities and drive around in your VW eating carrots, and don’t venture North. IDIOT.

  • Pat

    “Hunters and fisherman [sic] have done more to help game populations than anyone else.” ?? Oh, really — the game was quarried for the hunters by organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and those who planted feed lots such as in Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area to attract deer for the Fall hunt, and the lakes are stocked for the fishermen every year. Easy “prey” for the great hunters and fishermen out there! What’s fair or sportsman-like about that?

    • UpNorth

      Ripping Ducks Unlimited? Are you kidding me? They have saved and restored many acres of habitat from destruction. This has helped countless species whether game or non-game. They have done more to help animals than any of the groups of which you sound like a member of (PETA, etc.) Get a clue!!

    • Randy C

      Wow, another moron who doesnt understand anything outside of his 612 area code. Go vote for new stadiums and light rail as those are your only outdoor adventures you will ever see.

    • Theresa

      Obvously you have never hunted or fished in your life. Just because they are there doesn’t mean you will get one! You have to be in the right place, at the right time, and even then over 90% of the time you don’t come away with anything. I have higher respect for those whom speak from actual experience, not just political talking points.

  • Moose

    While many do hunt for the sake of sport, there are still a great majority of Minnesotans that plain hunt/fish to help feed their families through the long winter months. It was never more evident to me then when I moved north 7 years ago. Also is funny to listen to a vast majority of metropolitan citizens asking for tigher gun laws or cracking down on gang violence to protect themselves, yet out state people are ostersized for asking to protect their personal property and beings from wild animals. Life is about balance people, plain and simple, give and take. It’s not always one’s way or the highway so when your done thinking in your box, go sit in someone else’s for awhile.

  • Killing Our Mother

    Are 3000 wolves too many for our remaining small dwindling northern forests to contain? This is just sad in many ways!

    Seriously, I doubt if the hunters and farmers are thinking about their children’s future; in addition, because of resent advents, I wonder if big corporations are behind this?

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