Thousands comment on DNR wolf proposal

St. Paul — The DNR earlier this week was on pace to collect about 7,000 comments regarding the wolf hunting and trapping seasons set for this fall.

As of Tuesday morning, with one day left in the month-long comment period, the DNR had collected 6,719 comments, all of them electronically.

“We knew we would have a lot,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife population and regulation program manager for the DNR. “I didn’t have a great sense of what that exactly meant. I’m not surprised that we’ve gotten a lot. It’s probably the most responded-to survey, if you will.”

The survey was designed to collect input on the DNR’s wolf-season proposal.

The agency envisions a two-part season that would begin with the firearms deer opener. (Legislation mandated it.) The season would last for 16 days in Zone 1 and for nine days in the rifle area of Zone 2. It would close earlier if hunters met the early season’s 200-wolf quota.

A second season, designed more specifically for people specifically targeting wolves, would open Nov. 24, which is the same day the bobcat season opens. It would be open to hunters and trappers and close when a 400-wolf quota (including any taken during the early season) is reached, or Jan. 6, 2013.

The DNR plans to offer 6,000 wolf licenses. At least 600 would be available to trappers, while 3,600 would be availably to early season hunters and 1,800 would be available to hunters during the late season.

Merchant said there were campaigns on both sides of the wolf issue that urged people to take the survey.

Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said he’s concerned that some of the comments may have come from people with no tie to Minnesota. Still, he believes the DNR likely will continue on its original path.

“My hope is they make it a more liberal season than they had planned,” Johnson said.

For one thing, he’d like to see the late season go until the end of February – if hunters hadn’t reached the 400-wolf quota by then.

“I think people are going to find the wolf is a darn hard critter to hunt or trap,” Johnson said. “Very few people are going to get their wolf. I don’t think we’ll get our quota and, in fact, I’ll be surprised if we get to half of it.”

Once the comment period ends, DNR officials will summarize the comments and use them to help finalize the season. Merchant wants to have the details of the season, and the rule written, by early next month. And the plan is for the wolf-license application period to begin Aug. 1.

“We have a lot of work to do between now and then, but that’s still what our goal is,” he said.

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