Wolf hunters, trappers near quota

Grand Rapids, Minn. — With two zones already closed to wolf hunting and trapping, the Northwest Zone was moving ever-closer to closure, too, as of late last week.

By Friday morning, hunters and trappers in the Northwest Zone had registered 135 animals. The harvest target is 187 wolves.

In the Northeast Zone, they killed 58 animals during the late season, which is two more than the target harvest. And in the East-Central Zone, they killed nine, which is one below the target.

The Northwest Zone could remain open through January, though it’s unlikely that will occur, based on the rate at which hunters and trappers there have harvested wolves so far.

Combined with the 147 wolves taken during the early season, if hunters and trappers hit the target in the Northwest Zone exactly, the total number of wolves killed during this first season will wind up at 401.

“In my personal opinion, I thought we would need most of the entire season to get there, if we even got there,” said Jeff Lightfoot, DNR regional wildlife manager in Grand Rapids. “That we might get there by early January is a surprise to me.”

He believes the success hunters and trappers have experienced is a result of the high level of interest in the season, as well as the amount of time that those with licenses are putting in.

“Plus, I think it says a little bit about what our wolf population is like,” Lightfoot said. “This is sort of a testimonial to the fact that there are good numbers across a wide swath of the northern third of the state.”

And there’s something to be said for the fact this is the state’s first-ever regulated wolf hunting and trapping season.

“People that spend time in the north woods here, especially over the past five or 10 years or so, have commented regularly about the lack of fear our individual animals have shown, and about how they have grown more bold and less cautious as time has gone by,” Lightfoot said.

Court challenges

Two groups – the Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves – filed suit just before the wolf season began, seeking to delay it.

They argued that the DNR didn’t follow the proper procedures for collecting public input before the season began. The DNR, of course, disagreed.

The group asked both the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court to stop the hunting and trapping season until the case could be decided. Both courts refused.

But neither court ruled on the case itself, so it’s likely the wolf season will be a subject of court proceedings early this year.

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