Minnesota’s Wolf Hunt – Pros and Cons

Minnesota’s Wolf Hunt – Pros and Cons

The upcoming wolf hunt in Minnesota is a topic that incites strong emotions in both its supporters and opponents. It has been noticeably divisive between hunters and non-hunters. A less obvious but contentious divide that also exists is between those who live in wolf country, and those who do not. A general outline of the wolf range line can be seen in this DNR map that depicts the wolf hunting zones for the 2012 season, and this is a roughly the range of wolves in Minnesota. The rhetoric between the supporters and opponents of the hunt has become increasingly vicious as the opener approaches, as evidenced by the comment sections on articles pertaining to the wolf hunting season. Billboards, litigation, and countless news articles and reports add to the frenzy. A Brief History In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the wolf population in Minnesota was purposely reduced by humans. In fact, a bounty was awarded for killing wolves from 1849 – 1965.  When wolves were all but extirpated from the lower 48 by the time of their listing as an endangered species in 1974, the only remaining population was in the far northern portion of Minnesota and Lake Superior’s Isle Royale National Park. In the 1950’s, Minnesota’s wolf population was estimated at less than 750. Under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, the wolf population began to rebound. Wolves were protected in Minnesota under the Endangered Species Act until January 27, 2012. Minnesota’s current estimated wolf population of 3,000 is the largest in the lower 48 states. When wolves were delisted, their management transferred from federal protection to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to monitor the wolf population in Minnesota for five years following their delisting to monitor their recovery. Originally there was not going to be a hunting season for wolves during this five year period, but in 2012 the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill, which was signed by the governor, that the framework for the hunting season to take place in 2012. The reasoning behind this was basically that the wolf had already been delisted and re-listed twice over the prior 10 years, which accounted for the waiting period. This page from the Minnesota DNR gives information about the details of this year’s hunting season. About 23,500 people applied for the licenses, and 3600 were selected to be able to purchase a license. The target harvest for this season is 400.  Hunting and trapping will begin on November 3, the same day as firearm opener for deer. Pros of the Wolf Hunt and Some of its Supporters Many who support the wolf hunt argue that the population is well above the minimum threshold, which is 1600 as a statewide winter population. Supporters state that the hunting season shows the success of the Endangered Species Act. It’s also hard to deny that hunters contribute a large amounts of necessary funding for wildlife management, not only through game licenses, but also through non-profit organizations that raise money and fund projects for wildlife habitat preservation and improvement. This year alone, license and application fees should raise about $300,000 in revenue for the state. Hunters also benefit the economy, through the purchase of hunting clothes and equipment, overnight stays at hotels, employing hunting guides, and visiting restaurants and shops during hunting trips. The management plan, which includes an annual hunting season, will ensure the long-term survival of Minnesota’s wolf population. The plan balances survival of the species with concerns of residents whose domestic animals are preyed upon by wolves. It continues to protect the species, and includes plans for continual monitoring of the population. During this year’s hunt, hunters are allowed to keep the pelt of the wolf they harvest, but must turn over the carcass to the DNR. This could result in valuable information gained about wolf behavior. Biologists will record the age and sex of the animal, and where it was killed. The uteruses will be removed from females, and inspected for litter size and  placental scars. Several wolves are wearing GPS collars, and monitoring their movement during the hunting season could give useful information about how hunters impact wolf movement. The 400 wolf harvest limit is more conservative than that of other states. Wildlife biologists generally do not believe that the wolf hunt will dramatically impact overall wolf numbers. Hunters argue that wolves kill a significant harvestable game and reduce the amount available to hunters. Wolves also do not always utilize all of the meat of their prey. Some supporters contend that they kill “for sport.” A number of people that reside in wolf country have experienced losing their family’s dog to wolves. It has also been...