Growing numbers: Increase in wolf hunting permits, higher harvest level set for 2014
DULUTH, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Thursday announced the state’s 2014 wolf hunting and trapping season, adding 500 additional licenses over last year’s total and increasing the number of wolves that can be killed by nearly 14 percent.
The DNR said it will make 3,800 hunting and trapping licenses available for the coming season, up from 3,500 last year, and will allow up to 250 wolves to be killed, up from 220 last year.
The DNR said Thursday that a winter population survey showed the state’s wolf population is stable and can sustain a more liberal hunting and trapping harvest, although the total number of licenses is still well under the 6,000 issued in 2012.
The latest DNR estimate is that 470 wolf packs and 2,423 wolves lived in Minnesota’s wolf range this past winter, 212 more wolves than estimated on the survey conducted in early 2013.
“Estimates show a stable population with no significant change from the 2013 estimate of 2,211 wolves,” said Dan Stark, the DNR’s large carnivore specialist, in a statement announcing the wolf season. “We will continue to evaluate the wolf population annually to ensure the wolf population remains well established across northern and central Minnesota.”
The move to kill more wolves is likely to please some farmers and hunters who say too many wolves roam the northern third of the state, killing too many livestock and whitetail deer. Others say the season helps keep wolves in check while offering hunters and trappers an added trophy to pursue.
“I think the numbers look very good from the standpoint of harvest targets. I think they are paying attention to the harvest level, following that, not being too conservative or too liberal,” said Mark Johnson, director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. “The DNR also is starting to target the harvest to where the most problems are occurring and that’s a good thing.”
But the increase in permits also has angered wolf supporters who have been working to overturn the state’s recreational wolf hunt since it began in 2012, shortly after federal Endangered Species Act protections were removed.
“People need to know that no matter what they say, the DNR and the governor clearly don’t have the best interest of wolves in mind, to be having another season, with more wolves killed, so quickly after they were on the endangered species list,” said Maureen Hackett, a founder of Howling for Wolves. “The DNR has no idea what kind of mortality wolves are seeing for poaching and vehicles or other problems… so they really don’t know how many wolves are out there.”
Hackett said shooting or trapping individual wolves out of packs disrupts the pack social order and may end up causing more conflicts by dispersing the individual members.
“More than 60 percent of the wolves killed the first year were 2 years old or younger. They’re killing puppies,” Hackett added.
Last year, 3,434 hunters and trappers killed 237 wolves for a 6.9 percent success rate. In 2012, the state’s first ever wolf hunt, 6,127 hunters and trappers killed 413 wolves for a 6.7 percent success rate.
The first 2014 hunting season will run Nov. 8-23, the same as the northern deer hunting season. A second hunting season is set for Nov. 29 to Jan. 31, the same dates for the wolf trapping season. The seasons will close early if harvest quotas are reached.
Hunters and trappers can apply for 2014 wolf licenses, which are awarded in a lottery, starting Aug. 1.
To apply, applicants need to pay a $4 fee, show proof of a current or previous hunting license and choose one of three available license options. The statewide bag limit is one wolf and licenses are not zone-specific. Lottery winners will receive a wolf hunting booklet with their notification. Wolf license fees are $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.