ST. PAUL, Minn. — Federal trappers are struggling to keep up with Minnesota’s growing wolf population, according to a Minnesota Public Radio report.
Only U.S. Department of Agriculture trappers can kill problem wolves – those that attack cattle and the like – because of a 2014 federal ruling that put them on the endangered species list.
Trappers had to stop working for a few weeks starting Oct. 13 because of a lack of funds, said John Hart, a USDA regional wildlife specialist. The department receives about $220,000 annually to trap about 200 wolves. Minnesota U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken were able to secure additional funds from the USDA for the trap-and-kill program. The team is now funded through the end of the year.
Cattle rancher Chuck Becker said wolves have attacked dozens of his cattle over the last 20 years.
“They start feeding on cattle, because it’s easy for them …” Becker said.
A Minnesota DNR survey found the state’s wolf population has increased about 25 percent since last year. There are about 500 packs and more than 2,800 wolves in the northern part of the state. The state’s minimum goal was to reach 1,600 wolves.
The wolf population may have recovered enough to be removed from the endangered species list, said DNR large carnivore specialist Dan Stark. Stark said he wasn’t calling for reopening the wolf hunt, but said ranchers should get more freedom to handle wolf problems.
“We should recognize that this has been a success, and we should move on to a more long-term conservation strategy,” Stark said.