DNR cuts 2013 wolf hunt quota

Grand Rapids, Minn. — The DNR has cut by 45 percent the number of wolves that state hunters may harvest this year, a move that comes on the heels of a survey that shows the estimated population of wolves in the state has fallen by 25 percent since 2008.

This year’s target harvest for both hunting and trapping will be 220 wolves, which is 180 fewer than last year’s target of 400. The DNR also sliced the number of licenses it will make available – from 6,000 last year to 3,300 this year.

“We’re just allowing for the taking of wolves through hunting and trapping in a way that we think is sustainable and not going to have a major influence on overall wolf numbers,” said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist.

DNR officials maintain the allowable harvest during the upcoming season, which will mark the second time the agency has managed a wolf hunt, falls in line with the conservative strategy they’ve set forth for managing wolf hunting and trapping.

But some expressed surprise by how deeply the agency cut into the numbers of licenses it would offer, and the number of wolves that could be taken.

“I was shocked at the low number,” said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. “That said, I had a similar thought at the same time: at least we have a wolf season.”

Hunters and trappers can begin applying for licenses Aug. 1. The application deadline is Sept. 5.

Like last year, there will be three zones and seasons:

  • An early hunting season, which will open along with the firearms deer season Nov. 9. In the 100 series of deer permit areas, it will run through Nov. 24. It will run through Nov. 17 in 200 series permit areas, and will be a two-day season in the East-Central Zone, concluding Nov. 10.
  • A late hunting season, which will run from Nov. 30 through Jan. 31, 2014, or when the target harvest is met – whichever occurs first. If the target harvest in the East-Central Zone – 10 – occurs during the first season, the zone will not open during the late season.
  • A late trapping season runs from Nov. 30 through Jan. 31, 2014, or when the target harvest is met – whichever occurs first.

There are 2,000 licenses available for the early season and 1,300 for the late hunting and trapping seasons. At least 325 licenses will be available to trappers.

The target harvest is highest in the Northwest Zone – 145; 73 of those may be taken during the early season. The target harvest in the Northeast Zone is 65, of which 33 can be taken during the early season. The target is 10 in the East-Central Zone.

Last year, the target in the Northwest was 265; it was 133 in the Northeast and 18 in the East-Central. Hunters and trappers killed a total of 413 wolves.

“The changes are a management response to the most recent wolf population estimate,” Stark said. “As with other game species the DNR manages, adjustments are made to regulate hunting pressure and harvest to ensure long-term population sustainability and provide hunting and trapping opportunities.”

Those who oppose the wolf hunt point to the 25-percent decline in the estimated population as a reason for the state to cancel the season.

“Most Minnesotans don’t want wolves to be hunted and trapped for pleasure, and they strongly oppose the cruel methods allowed,” Dr. Maureen Hackett, founder of Howling for Wolves, said in a news release. “There is no reason to hunt these top predators that are crucial to the health of our northwoods ecosystem. We urge all Minnesotans that value the wolf to ask (Gov.) Dayton and their state lawmakers to intervene and stop this hunt.”

Population objectives

The hunting and trapping season isn’t about bringing the wolf population to – or keeping it at – a certain level, Stark said. The state currently doesn’t have a population objective, other than maintaining a minimum population of 1,600 wolves.

In 2008, the estimated wolf population in the state was 2,921 wolves. A survey during the winter of 2013 indicated there were 2,211 wolves in the state. That survey occurred after the hunting season, and also after hundreds of depredating wolves had been killed. The most recent estimate also does not include the birth of as many as 2,600 wolf pups born this spring.

DNR officials say the survey results are proof that wolves are firmly established in the state, and that the population can handle some harvest.

“For now, we are continuing to be conservative,” Stark said. “We’re going to evaluate these things from year to year. When we have some more long-term information to consider, (we can) make adjustments to it.”

The statewide bag limit is one wolf. Licenses are $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents. Those who are drawn for an early season license must purchase it by Nov. 1. Surplus licenses will go on sale Nov. 6 at noon. The deadline to purchase licenses for the late season is Nov. 22. Surplus licenses will be available at noon on Nov. 27.

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