MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Would-be wolf hunters are lining up for a shot at an elusive prey this fall, when Minnesota plans to open its first season since the gray wolf came off the endangered species list.
The state received 23,477 applications for the 6,000 permits that it will issue through a lottery system. Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris Niskanen said all but a few hundred applicants are from Minnesota, but people from 33 states filed paperwork.
“Clearly there was a lot of interest in the wolf season,” Niskanen said.
The season was set in motion after gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan came off the endangered list in January. Wisconsin also has approved a hunt, though litigation may delay it.
Minnesota has set two seasons, with an early season beginning Nov. 3 to coincide with the deer firearms season. A later season is designed to allow trappers to take wolves with their thicker winter pelts.
The state has set a limit of 400 wolves, and hunting will be cut off if the number is reached. Niskanen said licenses will be awarded by Oct. 14. Residents pay $30 for a license; non-residents pay $250.
About 35 opponents of Minnesota’s planned wolf trapping and hunting season rallied Friday in Duluth, holding signs and sometimes howling, calling for Gov. Mark Dayton to stop the hunt. American Indians were among the demonstrators.
Maureen Hackett, a member of the group Howling for Wolves, contends the state is catering to a small minority of hunters while most Minnesotans want to continue protections for the wolf.
“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.”
Niskanen 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 for Wolves campaign. The group and other wolf advocates have paid for billboards along major highways that depict bloodied wolves caught in traps, asking the public to call and oppose the upcoming seasons to “stop the DNR torture.”
“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,” Niskanen told the Duluth News Tribune.
Minnesota has the largest wolf population among the lower 48 states, with an estimated 3,000. The state has paid a gradually increasing number of claims on livestock killed by wolves in the past several years.
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