ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Minnesota will offer 6,000 hunters and trappers a chance at taking 400 wolves when the state holds its first regulated wolf hunting and trapping season this fall, the Department of Natural Resources announced Monday.
The season will start Nov. 3 when the firearms deer season opens. The DNR has proposed splitting the season into two parts: an early wolf hunting-only season coinciding with the deer season, and a late wolf hunting-and-trapping season after the deer season.
“This is a very conservative first step,” Steve Merchant, the DNR’s wildlife programs manager, told reporters on a conference call. “We really see the wolf as no different than any other fur-bearing animal that we might have like a fish or otter.”
Minnesota has around 3,000 wolves, and researchers say the population should easily withstand the taking of 400. But Merchant said setting the quota at 400 for now will allow wildlife managers to better gauge hunter and trapper interest and success rates, and allow them to collect data that will help manage the wolf population more effectively in the future.
Licenses will be allocated through a lottery. The DNR plans to offer 3,600 for the early season and 2,400 for the late season. A minimum of 600 late-season licenses will be reserved for trappers. The 400 target will be split between the early and late seasons. If hunters fail to take 200 wolves in the early season, the remainder would be added to the quota for the late season.
The application fee will be $4. Licenses will cost $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents. Only one wolf can be taken per license.
All wolves must be registered by the day after they are taken. The seasons will close once the quotas are reached.
The DNR will take public comments only through an online survey, which will run through June 20. Merchant said the tight time frame between when Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Legislature’s main game and fish bill and the anticipated Aug. 1 start of the application period left no time for hearings. He said the regulations likely will be finalized shortly after the comment period closes.
Minnesota did not regulate wolf hunting before the animals were put on the federal endangered species list in 1974. The wolf population in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan came off the list in January.
“The hunt is not designed to manage the population,” said Merchant. “With the season we’ve designed this year, we’re not intending to change that population up or down.
Details of the hunt come with controversy. The group, Howling for Wolves, has run Public Service Announcements against the wolf hunt.
“Wolves keep forests and streams healthy,” said that P.S.A. that ran on TV. Allowing hunting of the animals will change that, according to the group’s founder, Dr. Maureen Hackett.
She said there is no biological basis for the hunt. She believes the state shouldn’t be allowing hunting on the same year the wolf’s coming off the Endangered Species List.
“The problem with the hunt is that we lose a lot of hard work that we put into saving this species,” Hackett said.
For now, the state expects the hunt will happen annually after this first year, but specifics of how it will work in the future might be adjusted.
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