147 wolves for early season hunters

Grand Rapids, Minn. — The state’s first-ever regulated wolf-hunting season is in the bag. And so are 147 of the canines.

That’s the number of wolves hunters shot during the early season, which ended Sunday. The DNR issued 3,600 licenses for the early season, which equates to about a 4 percent success rate.

All harvested wolves had to be registered at a DNR Wildlife office in the state. The agency’s office in Grand Rapids was among the busiest.

“The folks I’ve talked to, for the most part, they realize they have a real trophy and they are really happy about bagging a wolf,” said Perry Loegering, DNR area wildlife manager in Grand Rapids. “This is a big deal for most of these folks.”

Agency officials weren’t sure how many animals hunters would take during the early season, which ran concurrent with the firearms deer season. But many of them say hunters were at least slightly more successful than they expected.

Indeed, the DNR had to close the season in two areas to keep the kill in the range of the target harvest. The East-Central Zone was the first to close. After hunters killed eight wolves there, the agency announced it would close after three days. Hunters ultimately wound up one wolf shy of the zone’s target harvest of nine.

The Northeast Zone closed after 13 days of hunting. The target harvest in that zone, which encompasses the Arrowhead, was 58; hunters killed 61 wolves there.

And in the Northwest Zone, which stayed open for all 16 days of the season, hunters killed 78 wolves. The target harvest there was 133.

DNR officials say they aren’t concerned about not achieving the target in the East-Central Zone, or about exceeding it by three animals in the Northeast.

“Those numbers are not critical in regards to some level of population influence,” said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist. “We primarily established the zones to distribute the harvest throughout the different zones based on the population status and the potential to manage harvest in regards to tribal take, if those tribes decided they were going to harvest wolves as well.”

None of the state’s Indian bands held wolf-hunting seasons.

As expected, many early season hunters primarily were targeting deer, but shot at a wolf if one presented itself.

“But I know we have had at least three people who were baiting and were intentionally going after wolves,” Loegering said. “(Other wildlife managers in the state) heard that, too. Those hunters were actually targeting wolves more than they were just out sitting in their deer stand.”

From a management standpoint, the early season was a success, Stark said. Registration went well, and hunters seemed to do a good job of monitoring the season status to make sure the various zones were open, he said.

For one hunter in the Northeast Zone, the season closed just a little too soon. In his weekly report, Conservation Officer Troy TerMeer relayed a story about talking “with a deer hunter with a wolf tag whose opportunity to harvest a wolf did not come until after the Northeast Zone had closed. He had a pack chase a deer in front of his stand. He made the correct choice and just watched, and they were the only wolves he had seen this season.”

Late season

The late hunting and trapping season for wolves begins Saturday and runs through the end of January. It will close before that if hunters reach a statewide kill of 400 wolves (including those taken during the early season).

There are 1,607 hunting licenses and 793 trapping licenses available for the late season, which is designed for people who specifically want to target wolves.

Hunters and trappers who were unsuccessful in the wolf lottery this year had the chance Monday to purchase one of more than 300 surplus licenses available for the late season. They gobbled up those licenses in about a minute.

Stark said the agency will inform hunters and trappers of the target harvests for the state’s three zones by the end of this week. And then the season will be open for just more than two months, or until another 253 or so wolves are killed.

“I’ve thought all along we would get pretty close during the late season to the (400 wolves that can be killed this year),” he said. “But I’m not making any specific predictions.”

Joe Cannella, of Grand Rapids, is one of the hunters who’ll be aiming for a wolf during the late season. He’ll carry his license with him while he’s hunting deer via muzzleloader (that season also opens Saturday), and during a deer-hunting trip he has planned to the North Shore.

And if it’s still unfilled when he’s done deer hunting? Then he likely would set up bait stations and get serious about trying to kill a wolf.

Cannella says part of the reason he applied for a wolf license is to celebrate the success of the federal law responsible for bringing back wolf populations.

“I’ve always been an advocate for the wolf to be a managed species, but it has more to do with the fact that I believe in wildlife management and that the Endangered Species Act has a beginning and an end,” he said. “I wouldn’t call myself totally gung-ho. I’m not a regular predator hunter at all. This might be a novelty that I do once, and then I’ll hand it over to my trapping friends to really do the job.”

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