DNR announces intent to hold state’s first modern wolf hunt

Looks like we’re going to have a Minnesota wolf hunt beginning
in late 2012. The DNR won’t commit to a quota or a number of
licenses, but officials say they want to start conservatively and
learn how to manage a hunt - and presumably the kill - for future
seasons.

The agency announced preliminary details for the hunt at a news
conference, which coincided with the annual DNR Roundtable at the
Crown Plaza Hotel in St. Paul on Friday.

The season likely would begin in late November and run through
January – when the pelts are in prime, furbearing condition. As the
DNR currently envisions the season, it would not run concurrently
with the state firearms deer season.

Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist, said the agency
considers it important for wolves to achieve a prized, trophy game
animal status with its own season, similar to moose, and not be
incidental to other hunting seasons.

Wolves officially will return to state management on Jan. 27,
after roughly 35 years of federal protection.

Tom Landwehr, commissioner of the Minnesota DNR, said the agency
is taking a “deliberate and science-based” approach to implementing
initial wolf hunting and trapping seasons.

Last July, the Minnesota Legislature eliminated a five-year
waiting period from the state wolf plan for a season on the animals
following delisting from federal protection.

In conjunction with the Legislature during the next several
months, DNR biologists will begin to identify wolf management
harvest units and develop other criteria specific to a Minnesota
season. The Legislature ultimately will approve a plan, though
there also will be a public comment period this winter and
spring.

“Without a history of regulated wolf seasons, we don’t know what
kind of hunter and trapper interest and success rate to expect,”
Stark said. For these reasons, he said, it is necessary to be
conservative during initial seasons.

Stark said the DNR proposal would manage through a lottery and
require animals be registered. No word on what methods might be
legal (baiting?) and the DNR expects that to be hashed out in
coming weeks and months.

“Minnesota is different than other areas where wolf hunting is
offered, in part, because we have much higher hunter densities and
a more compressed big-game hunting season,” Stark said in a
DNR news release.

“Our proposal is a separate season that takes into account when
pelts are prime and have their highest value,” Stark said. “This
approach will provide hunters and trappers the opportunity to
specifically target wolves while minimizing conflicts with other
hunting seasons.”

Minnesota has an estimated 3,000 wolves. Wolf numbers and their
distribution have remained stable for the past 10 years, the
DNR says. DNR Fish and Wildlife Division Director Ed Boggess said
at the news conference that the DNR presented its wolf hunting
proposal to lawmakers during a legislative hearing on Thursday. The
agency will be seeking additional authorization from the
Legislature this session to offer a wolf license and implement
management strategies. It will also take public comment prior to
finalizing and implementing a wolf season.

I have loads of opinions on this topic and no doubt will offer
them repeatedly throughout 2012. Bottom line, I’m glad DNR is
tackling a wolf season, but also glad they’re advocating a
conservative approach. This is good news for Minnesota citizens,
and – believe it or not - Minnesota wolves. The Endangered Species
Act did its job; now it’s time for Minnesotans to prove they can be
good stewards of this natural resource.

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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