Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Revised Minnesota wolf plan unveiled by DNR

St. Paul — The Minnesota DNR announced Tuesday that a revised state wolf-management plan, more than two years in the making, had been finalized.

In an agency news release, DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen commended those who contributed to the plan, a revision of one that was created about 20 years ago.

“We’re proud we brought people together to update Minnesota’s wolf plan,”
Strommen said in the release. “We had great engagement from tribes,
state and federal agencies, academia, and groups and individuals
interested in wolves.”

According to the DNR’s release, the plan includes summary information about Minnesota’s wolf population and the history of wolves in the state. It
details the diverse and changing public attitudes about wolves, the
legal status of the species, tribal perspectives on wolves, and ways to
support a healthy and resilient wolf population while minimizing
conflicts between humans and wolves. The plan also includes a framework
for how the state will approach decisions about wolf hunting or trapping
if the wolf is delisted federally.

“The DNR is continuing Minnesota’s long-standing commitment to wolf
conservation and ensuring that our wolf population remains healthy and
stable,” said Kelly Straka, DNR Wildlife Section manager.

Six goals in the plan are designed to support Minnesota’s
vision for wolves, according to the release. The goals are to “maintain a
wellconnected and resilient wolf population, collaborate with diverse
partners to collectively support wolf plan implementation, minimize and
address human-wolf conflicts, inform and engage the public about wolves
in Minnesota, conduct research to inform
wolf management, and administer the wolf program to fulfill agency
responsibilities and the needs of the public and partners.”

Dan Stark, DNR large-carnivore specialist, said in a phone interview
Tuesday that “nothing drastically changed” from the draft of the plan,
which was put forth for public comment in June. He
said department officials, following the 45-day public comment period,
sorted through some 4,000 forms of input on the plan, submitted via an
online survey and emails. Stark said during that time, a tribal review
period also was under way.

“They ranged from one-sentence statements to more detailed reviews and comments,” Stark said of the input received.

Tweaks made to the plan following review of comments clarified wolf population objectives – and management direction based on those objectives – and addressed tribal consultation regarding plan implementation, Stark said.

Currently, wolves are federally protected in Minnesota and other Upper Midwestern states – Wisconsin and Michigan – that host wolf populations. Both those states also have plan updates ongoing. Wolves are considered endangered in Wisconsin and Michigan.

In Minnesota, they’re considered a threatened species.

Management, i.e., a hunt?

Stark said the plan offers a framework and guidance on how the DNR might, in the future if the state regains management authority of the species,
incorporate a wolf hunt.

He said such a decision would be preceded by public engagement and tribal consultation.

That framework hasn’t changed since Outdoor News first
reported on the draft plan six months ago. Stark said a minimum wolf
population of 1,600 animals is required before any such hunting – or
trapping – season would be considered. Currently, the estimated wolf
population in the state is 2,700.

Harvest objectives, should a season be implemented, would be based on the
estimated population. Stark said DNR surveys have indicated a stable
population in the range of 2,700 animals in recent years.

The population level of wolves, according to Stark, “is strongly related to prey density, mainly deer.”

He added that considerations for wolf management in the form of hunting
could be considered, even if the population is estimated to be below
1,600, under certain circumstances, namely if specific areas are
experiencing increased livestock predation by wolves – or, he said, if
such management is deemed needed to reverse increasing predation on wild
ungulates (presumably moose and deer).

While federally protected, wolf monitoring and research and some types of
management continue in Minnesota. Two of the most visible: the DNR’s
annual wolf population estimate, which has been ongoing since 2012,
according to Stark. The DNR also works within a cooperative agreement
with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address wolves that kill
livestock.

The total cost to the state currently is about $500,000 to $600,000 each year, Stark said. That includes about $150,000 for the wolf survey, about
$275,000 for depredation work, and other costs, including DNR
Enforcement conservation officers who investigate depredation claims,
wolf deaths, and the illegal killing of wolves, along with time salaried
wildlife workers such as Stark spend on wolf-related work.

Hunters, he said, foot the majority of the bill for wolf-related efforts. A
50-cent fee from each deer-hunting license sold provides in the
neighborhood of $300,000 each year (that would end, eventually, if
wolves are delisted). The remaining balance comes from the DNR’s Game
and Fish Fund, which is derived from a number of sources.

Getting to the finish line

According to the DNR’s Tuesday news release, to inform the wolf plan update, “the DNR conducted a public opinion survey, consulted with technical experts and tribal staff, and convened a 20-member wolf advisory committee. Advisory committee members represented diverse perspectives including hunting and trapping, wolf advocacy and animal rights, livestock and agriculture, and other interests related to wolf conservation and
management. The DNR’s public engagement efforts for the plan update
included input meetings, forums, online questionnaires and public review
of a draft plan.”

Stark said all that input is reflected in the final version of the wolf plan.
That, he said, should increase overall support for the plan.

In a Tuesday email, Colleen Adkins, carnivore conservation director for
the Center for Biological Diversity and a member of the state’s Wolf
Plan Advisory Committee, offered her thoughts on the revised plan:

“Like so many Minnesotans, I treasure our wolves and I’m glad that the new
plan ensures their future in the state,” Adkins said. “The new plan
incorporates modern science on wolf conservation and better reflects the
wolf-friendly values of most people in Minnesota.”

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