Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Less than three weeks before Minnesota’s first-ever wolf hunt, there is a last-ditch effort to protect the animals from hunters and trappers.
Two of the biggest wildlife groups in the nation – The Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals – announced Monday they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and try to get gray wolves back on the endangered species list.
When it comes to hunting gray wolves for the first time in Minnesota, predictions on how the population will be impacted could not be more different. The DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen says about 400 wolves will be taken.
“It will have no significant impact on the wolf population,” Niskanen said.
But the Humane Society of the United States spokesman Howard Goldman believes that number will more than double.
“The numbers will be closer to a thousand, and that’s over a third of the population,” Goldman said.
The Humane Society of the United States is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service because Minnesota was supposed to wait five years after delisting the wolves before authorizing a hunt.
“This is a precious resource. We are very fortunate to have wolves in this state,” he said.
He is encouraged that the population has come back, but says it is not enough. And the goal is to keep the wolves out of hunters’ crosshairs and put them back on the endangered list.
“To simply have a hunt when there is no biological reason to do that. Just for sport and recreational killing – we think that is completely inappropriate,” he said.
But Niskanen said he’s confident in the wolf management plan, and believes the wolves are now fair game.
“We have a very robust population of 3,000 wolves. It’s stable,” Niskanen said.
The DNR is facing a lawsuit of its own from a group called “Howling for Wolves,” which is behind an anti-hunt billboard campaign. Niskanen said the DNR will stop the hunt once 400 wolves are killed. He calls that a conservative number and believes the wolf population will still flourish.
“We have very carefully put this hunting and trapping season together with the best science available. The top wolf experts in the country are involved. This hunting and trapping season will have no impact,” he said.
The Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals filed their 60-day notice to sue today.
Even if they win, the hunt will have already happened. That’s why two local groups are asking the state supreme court to stop the hunt.