State’s first wolf season finalized

St. Paul — Wolf hunters and trappers will have 25 more days to target wolves this fall and winter than the DNR initially proposed.

The agency last week announced the longer season, which was just  one of several changes it made after reviewing the more than 7,300 responses to a month-long survey it received.

The DNR initially proposed closing the wolf season Jan. 6, but that was primarily because that’s the day the bobcat season closes. The season now will end Jan. 31 (or when a 400-wolf quota is reached).

There were “a significant number of people who were supportive of the wolf season that were interested in extending that season,” Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife program manager, said during a media call. “We really didn’t feel we had any biological (reason) for not extending that.”

The first season remains as the agency proposed. It will open Nov. 3, which is the same day as the firearms deer season, and last up to nine days in 200-series deer permit areas and up to 16 days in 100-series deer permit areas.

The second season, which will include hunting and trapping, will begin Nov. 24 and close as late as Jan. 31, 2013.

The quota for both seasons is a total of 400 wolves. (The early season will close if hunters kill 200 wolves; late-season hunters and trappers can take 200 wolves, plus any of the quota not taken during the early season.)

Another major change is the establishment of three wolf zones in the state – the east-central, northeast, and northwest zones. The east-central and northeast zones parallel the 1854 and 1837 treaty ceded territory boundaries. Indian bands have court-affirmed off-reservation hunting rights in those areas.

The target harvest is 265 in the northwest zone; 117 in the northeast zone; and 18 in the east-central zone. The zones will be closed to hunting and trapping if those targets are reached.

While there’s been little indication that band members will hunt wolves, the DNR created the zones in case of tribal harvest.

“It could result in the season closing sooner in a zone because there would be a smaller state harvest to be achieved before we close it,” said Ed Boggess, director of the DNR Fish and Wildlife Division.

Hunters and trappers will be able to target wolves in any zone. So if they’re in the east-central zone and the quota is reached there, but they have an unfilled tag, they could hunt in one of the other zones where the quota hasn’t been reached.

People targeting wolves will be able to use bait and electronic calls. Officials say a wolf-hunting synopsis will be available in the near future and better answer specific questions.

The registration process also has changed from the DNR’s initial proposal. Now, all wolves must be registered by 10 p.m. on the day they were killed. Hunters and trappers can go to the DNR website or call a toll-free phone number to learn whether the season is open or closed.

The agency still plans to offer a total of 6,000 licenses. Of those, 3,600 will be available during the early season. The remainder – of which at least 600 are reserved for trappers – are available during the late season.

Application materials will be available on the DNR website next month; the application deadline is Sept. 6. People can apply for only one of the licenses – early wolf hunting, late wolf hunting, or late wolf trapping.

Even if hunters and trappers take 400 wolves, DNR officials say that won’t affect the state’s wolf population.

But Mark Johnson, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association executive director, said he’d be surprised if that many wolves are taken.

“I will be happily surprised if (hunters and trappers) take more than 200 wolves,” he said.

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