Love ’em or hate ’em, wolves are a hot topic among hunters and conservationsits right now. Minnesota announced it’s first wolf season will commence this year, but it already looks like they are making changes.
Wolves have been a popular topic amongst Minnesota hunters over the last several years. This year the state announced its first wolf season which allows hunters to convert those bad stories into life long memories to share around the campfire.
The DNR recently announced that the incoming season will now be extended by 25 days. “We had a significant number of people who wanted to extend the season, and there was no biological issues for not extending it,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife programs manager.
The DNR is allowing as many as 400 wolves to be taken out of the pack over the two seasons; the early one that coincides with deer season and a late season starting Nov. 24. The late season will allow trapping and it will be the season extended by 25 days. There will be 3,600 licenses available by the DNR, but the licenses will be given out in a lottery. The odds of getting a wolf are not very good, but the excitement of the rare opportunity will not keep hunters from trying.
A limited amount of the 200,000 deer hunters in the wolf range will be given wolf tags. Even if they get a tag, the hunters will still have an estimated 5 percent success rate. “I’m confident we’ll get that,” said Merchant. Deer hunters are anxious for the opportunity to get back at these problem-causing beasts.
When DNR officials released details of the new season on Thursday, they also said that hunters will have to register their kills on the same day. Previously, hunters had until the following day to register their kills. This will allow the DNR to know when to put a cap on the season, once the allowed wolf harvest reaches its max.
The state will be broken up into three zones. The DNR had intended to create two wolf hunting zones, but recently decided to split the two into three. “This allows us to work with tribal interests in allocating and managing the wolf harvest,” Merchant said. Most Native American bands oppose hunting wolves, and some plan to prohibit hunting them on tribal lands. But if bands decide to harvest some wolves, that could force the DNR to reduce non-band harvest quotas. The DNR will close zones if the quotas are reached.
Target harvests are 265 in the northwest zone, 117 in the northeast and 18 in the east-central. In addition to all the updates, the DNR will also allow baiting for wolves. Baiting wolves will be allowed due to no state law prohibiting it. But the DNR may seek some restrictions at the Legislature. Officials said they tweaked the final regulations because of public input. Over the DNR’s month-long survey, 79 percent of the respondents opposed the wolf hunting and trapping season.
But officials say that about 42 percent of the opposing respondents are not Minnesota residents. DNR officials said the survey wasn’t a scientific poll, nor was it to be used to decide whether to hold a wolf hunt, because the Legislature had already mandated that. Officials estimated the state’s wolf population at about 3,000. Wildlife biologists say killing 400 wolves will not harm the population. Wolves, like many other animals, are territorial and once there is open territory new wolves will move in.
“We don’t expect any change in the population with this level of harvest pressure,” said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist.