Wolf kill tops early season; two zones closed

Grand Rapids, Minn. — As of earlier this week, late-season wolf hunters and trappers had exceeded the output of their early-season counterparts. And the DNR had closed two of the state’s three wolf zones after harvests in those spots neared the targets.

The total kill as of the end of the day Monday was 148 wolves, compared with the 147 hunters took during the early season, which ran concurrent with the firearms deer season.

Both the Northeast and the East-Central zones have closed. Hunters and trappers took 57 wolves in the Northeast Zone, which was one above the target harvest. They took nine in the East-Central Zone, where the target harvest was 10.

The Northwest Zone remains open through January, or until hunters and trappers kill 187 animals. As of earlier this week, they has taken 82 wolves.

“If the rate holds for the Northwest Zone, it might be mid-January when we reach the target harvest,” said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist.

During the late season, trappers took each of the nine wolves killed in the East Central Zone. In the Northeast Zone, trappers took 34 and hunters took 23. And in the Northwest Zone so far, trappers have taken 66 wolves and hunters have taken 16.

While the two zones are now closed, those hunters and trappers who have unfilled tags still can target wolves in the Northwest Zone. That could increase the rate at which wolves are taken in the northwest.

“Because you can hunt or trap anywhere, some people who were hunting or trapping in the Northeast and East-Central zones may move a little bit,” Stark said. “So that could increase the rate a little bit for the northwest. But it depends on whether people are going to move around enough to do that.”

The DNR is collecting a wide variety of information from people who successfully harvest a wolf. While some of the data – the wolves’ ages, based on tooth samples – won’t be available for a few months, some is available.

Following is a snapshot of some of the results from the early season:

  • The overall rate of success was 4 percent (147 wolves for 3,600 available licenses).
  • 54 percent of the wolves killed were male; 46 percent were female.
  • 56 percent of the wolves were taken on public land; 44 percent were taken on private land.
  • Of the hunters who killed a wolf, 84 percent said it was an “opportunistic” kill; 9 percent said they were calling wolves; 7 percent said they were baiting.
  • 45 percent of the wolves were taken during the first three days of the season.
  • 14 percent of the wolves had mange, which causes the animals to lose their hair. Of wolves handled for research, or by Wildlife Services due to depredation, an average of 5 percent to 10 percent each year have mange.
    “It can be a mortality factor, especially in severe winters when it’s really cold,” Stark said. “Those wolves that lose a lot of hair don’t have a way to regulate their body temperature and die of exposure.”
  • In general most of the wolves were taken in an area that straddles the Northwest and Northeast zones – Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis counties.

Population survey

The DNR is in the midst of a wolf-population survey that goes through the winter months. That information, along with information gleaned from radio-collared animals, will be used to come up with a new population estimate.

However, officials don’t expect much change from the most recent population estimate of 3,000 animals.

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