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.

yawning wolf photo for minnesota wolf hunt

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 argued that opponents of the hunt want to re-list the wolf to promote an anti-hunting agenda.

Notable supporters of the wolf hunting season include the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and the Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association.

Cons of the Wolf Hunt and Some of its Opponents

Ranchers are already allowed to shoot wolves that threaten livestock or pets anytime during the year, and opponents argue that the number of wolves killed for depredation weren’t taken into account. In 2011, federal and state trappers killed 215 wolves due to legitimate complaints, and more than that have already been killed this year. As of October 24, 2012, 15 wolves have been killed directly by people during the year that posed a threat to livestock or pets, 12 of them by ranchers. Additionally, ranchers have been given more flexibility in killing wolves since their delisting. With this flexibility comes increased killing, so opponents of the hunt believe that the effects of this should be monitored prior to implementing the hunting season.

Dogs could be caught in the snares that are intended for wolves, and placed by hunters in the woods on both public and private land. Although the DNR recommends that hunters avoid placing traps in areas that are heavily used for recreation, these areas are likely easy to access and may end up with traps on them.

Howling for Wolves, an organization that opposes the hunt, contends that most wolves die from starvation, thus controlling their own population. They argue that due to this, a hunt could create a domino effect, resulting in a greater amount of wolf deaths. The reasoning behind this is that if stronger animals in the pack are killed, the weaker ones will go after easier prey such as livestock. Wolves going after livestock can be killed at any time.

Many opponents believe that the DNR moved too quickly to establish a hunting season in an effort to pacify hunters and legislators. They also argue that the wolf hunt will do little to address the complaints of ranchers because most livestock are taken during the summer months, when wolf populations are at their highest and hunting would not be taking place. The wolf hunt, some contend, will simply be a recreational trophy hunting opportunity. 

The wolf is an important part of Native American culture, and some Minnesota Native Americans oppose the hunt for this reason.

The Humane Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Fund for Animals, and Howling for Wolves are noted opponents of the 2012 wolf hunt.

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  1. Mark Tikkanen
    Jan 10, 2014

    I hate wolves, kill them all

    • Bob Wilkins
      May 6, 2014


    • Dylan Buck
      May 6, 2014

      Though I agree with the hunt, Mark you should not say things like that, as it gives hunters like myself a bad rep.

    • Trey
      Oct 10, 2014

      I think what they should do is have the wolves repopulate so that the wolves numbers can reach the 20,000 point. I think this because then the hunters will be happy that they can hunt and the non hunters happy knowing the wolves won’t go extinct


    • Fred
      Mar 20, 2015

      I agree Mark, those things took my daughter while she was visiting her grandmother in the woods.

  2. nd
    Mar 5, 2015

    I kill wolves anytime, anywhere. i don’t care for them. i would blow every single wolf up if i could. WOLF KILLA!!!!!

  3. Fred
    Mar 20, 2015

    Wolves can suck my peter. those furry little bastards took my daughter while she was visiting her grandmother in the woods. I can never forgive them.

  4. Shut up
    May 26, 2015

    Stop. read the cons, they are still animals. A lot of people hate wolfs but they can also help us at times .

    • Erin
      May 26, 2015

      You go person help those wolfs

    • Erin
      May 26, 2015

      You go person, help those wolfs

  5. Audz
    Feb 29, 2016

    Wolves should not be killed. They are a very important part of the northern history and our habitat. So, they can be a bit of trouble, but that doesn’t mean kill them all. They hunt for survival, and everything has a right to live. They have caused some tragedy in families by killing pets, livestock, or possible family members (That action is rare) but that doesn’t mean end them all. Let them survive

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