Minnesota has a trophy gray wolf population: Let's manage it that way
Minnesota wolf population survey
We discovered this week that Minnesota’s gray wolf population has dropped 24 percent since 2008. A combination of sport hunting, depredation control, disease, and lower prey numbers has contributed to the decline from 2,921 in 2008 to 2,211 today. (Got time? You can read the complete wolf report here.) As any deer hunter in northern Minnesota knows, there have been fewer antlerless deer tags in recent years because there are fewer deer in the region these days – for two-legged and four-legged predators alike. Hunting aside, less food means fewer individuals within a predator population.
That fact also likely has contributed to wolves expanding their range slightly farther south and west in Minnesota. As prey populations decline, wolves will spread out more in search of food. With whitetail numbers on the cusp of a rebound, thanks to conservative seasons in 2011 and 2012 (and now 2013), wolves should have more venison available in the next year or so.
The DNR estimates that about 2,600 wolf pups were born this year. Nature abhors a vacuum, so I wonder if pup survival rates increase when the overall wolf population has declined. If so, that would suggest the state’s wolf numbers likely will be near the same total as in 2012, when Minnesota hunters headed afield for the state’s first modern wolf hunt.
But I’m no biologist, and given the decline in population, the DNR says it will decrease permits for the 2013-14 hunt. Good idea. We’ve killed a lot of wolves in the past year – more than 700 between sport hunters and via depredation control. The state needs to show the feds it can manage wolves over the long term, and frankly, it should show other states the responsible way to accomplish that task. Given the clear decline in wolf numbers from 2008, the population of wolves wasn’t expanding in number when Minnesota implemented a hunt, so the DNR would be hard-pressed to justify an increase in wolf tags for the 2013-14 season.
Bottom line, the Minnesota DNR should ignore extremists on both sides of the wolf debate, and stay the course with responsible and conservative wolf hunting. For the foreseeable future, there clearly will remain demand for wolf tags, so maintain a wolf population that will at least partially satisfy that demand. No other state in Lower 48 has a manageable wolf population like Minnesota’s, and the state should continue managing it like any other important, renewable asset.
Desperately seeking Outdoor Leaders Award nominations
Reminder that we’re still soliciting final nominations for our second annual Outdoor Leaders Award. Last year, for the inaugural award, Outdoor News selected the Christina-Ina-Anka Lake Association for its work in restoring the duck habitat of Lake Christina. Unlike our Person of the Year Award, which recognizes the conservation efforts of an individual, the Outdoor Leaders Award highlights outstanding work done by local outdoor organizations, clubs, and chapters in Minnesota.
We’ll announce the winner at Game Fair in August, and the group will be awarded a $500 grant, recognition article in Outdoor News, and a plaque. We have an online nomination form here. We’ll select the 2013 award winner by the end of the month, so please send your nominations as soon as possible.
From the guys at Conservation Hawks…
A well-casted fly is poetry in motion. Check out this great new fishing video from the folks at Conservation Hawks. Todd Tanner and Kit Fischer flat-out mesmerize this wanna-be fly-fisherman with their casting skills, but they gamely share their challenges on the water, too. I’m apparently not alone in snagging my flies on willows and other vegetation.
I’ve written before about Conservation Hawks, a nonprofit devoted to bringing attention to climate change and its ramifications for the hook-and-bullet sports. It’s a great organization that deserves support from the nation’s hunting and fishing community. Check out Conservation Hawks’ website at here.