MN: Gray wolf control back on track

Lethal measures are again an option… for

Hinckley, Minn. – For the time being, at least, wolves that prey
upon livestock in the state will be subject to trapping and
killing, a practice performed by USDA Wildlife Services personnel
in the state. Early last month, federal officials said that by
mid-July, funding no longer would be available for wolf control.
Turns out, the practice was just discontinued for a few days.

Around the middle of July, Bret Grundmeier, a state DNR
conservation officer in Pine County, received a call about calves
being killed by wolves east of Hinckley. Trappers from Wildlife
Services arrived to try to capture the wolf responsible for the
predation, Grundmeier said. They’d trapped for two days when they
returned and pulled the traps. Three days later, he said, they
returned and reset them.

That was a good thing, according to Grundmeier, who said farmers
losing livestock to wolf predation don’t react well to news that
the offending parties can’t be removed. It didn’t help that COs in
northern Minnesota didn’t know why trapping had ceased.

So, why the three-day reprieve from lethal control of federally
protected wolves in Minnesota?

Federal officials in Washington say there may have been internal
confusion, and that wolf control will be performed by Wildlife
Services personnel at least until the end of the federal
government’s fiscal year, Sept. 30.

“There was a misunderstanding regarding how and when the work
could be done,” said Carol Bannerman, a public affairs specialist
for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife
Services. “When it was clarified, we could continue providing
protection from wolf depredation and assistance with current

The activity will continue through the end of the fiscal year,
she said, unless staff doing that work receive other assignments,
or leave the agency. The federal “earmark” that funded wolf control
was removed in March, Bannerman said.

In other words, as long as the people who currently trap and
dispatch problem wolves are available until Oct. 1, the work will

After that, who will control depredating wolves is an unknown.
Currently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the final stages
of delisting the species in the Midwest, which could take place
this year, leaving states to manage their respective populations.
In that case, Minnesota might contract Wildlife Services workers to
continue to trap and kill problem wolves. On the other hand,
delisting could go the way it has several times in the past –
derailed by a lawsuit.

Grundmeier said he fields eight to 12 calls regarding wolf
depredation each year. Most of those are from cattle farmers. He
also receives wolf complaints from people concerned about the
safety of their pets – people who’ve seen wolves, which they say
aren’t as “shy” around humans as they once appeared, he said.

Another conservation officer, Stacey Sharp, patrols most of
Beltrami County and parts of Hubbard and Clearwater counties.
Complaints he receives often come from a sheep farmer.

Sharp also receives some complaints about wolves attacking
cattle in the area. And he gets calls from deer hunters who see
them from their stands in the fall.

To date, Wildlife Services in Minnesota has taken 117 complaints
about wolf depredation, and has verified 62 of those complaints as
wolf damage, according to Bannerman. The agency has killed 106
wolves in the state this year.

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