Hunters, trappers close to northeast wolf kill target
Grand Rapids, Minn. — Wolf hunters and trappers had killed 97 animals as of Dec. 10, and were nearing the target harvest in the northeastern part of the state.
Of those wolves, hunters had taken 30 and trappers had taken 67. That ratio didn’t surprise Dan Stark, the DNR’s large carnivore specialist.
“Trappers are going to have more traps out there, and they’re out there 24/7,” he said. “With hunting, you’re limited to where you are during daylight hours. … And getting wolves to come to you.”
In the northwest zone, where the target harvest is 187 wolves, hunters and trappers had killed 48. They had taken four of the 10 targeted animals in the east-central zone. And in the northeast zone, where the target harvest is 56, hunters and trappers had taken 45 of them.
The season will end Jan. 31, 2013, or whenever hunters and trappers reach the target harvest in the zones. Stark figured the DNR might close the season in the northeast zone as soon as this weekend, if the current harvest trend holds.
Jeff Lightfoot, DNR regional wildlife manager in Grand Rapids, believes hunters and trappers nearing the target in the northeast “is an indication that people are taking it seriously and learning how to hunt and trap wolves before they go out.”
Secondly, it shows “that we have a healthy wolf population that’s allowing them to hit these targets quickly,” Lightfoot said.
Until last weekend, conditions had been good for trappers using foothold traps. But trappers using those types of traps will find the going harder now, thanks to frozen ground and snow, Lightfoot said.
It’s unclear how many trappers are using leghold traps, and how many are using snares. But when trappers bring in their wolf carcasses for inspection, they will have to indicate the type of trap they used.
Overall, Lightfoot is satisfied with the way the season – both the early and the late portions – has gone.
“While there obviously have been some anti-wolf things written and in the media, I think overall – at least in the north here – the public has been pretty accepting of this,” he said. “And hunters and trappers have been responsible and concerned and aware of people’s feelings about wolves. You don’t see cars running down the road with wolves strapped to the roof.”
If hunters thought last year’s muzzleloader deer season was a good one, they were probably satisfied with this year’s version, too. That’s because muzzleloader hunters killed 7,251 deer during this year’s season, which ended last Sunday. They killed 7,287 last year.
This year’s buck harvest – about 3,100 – was 39 percent more than the 2,200 bucks hunters killed last year. The antlerless deer harvest during the muzzleloader season was down 18 percent, said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager.
“All in all, we’re not looking at tremendous harvest rates because of the (reduction in) antlerless permits, but it looks to me like a pretty good muzzleloader hunt,” he said.