Wolf print on Isle Royale, next to author's size 11 boot
by Aaron Klemz
Jul 26, 2012, 4:00 PM

Minnesota’s brutal wolf season (Part 1)

In one of the more shameful legislative acts of 2012, Minnesota is required to hold a wolf hunt later this year. This wolf hunt was hastily approved, but we’re still learning how inhumane, unnecessary, and unsporting it will be. Minnesotans should be outraged.

Minnesota was the last refuge of the wolf in the lower 48 states. Exterminated from the west, bounties placed on their heads and pelts, Minnesota still had around 750 wolves in the 1950’s. Eventually, the protection of the Endangered Species Act allowed wolves to recover from decades of harassment and bounty hunting to around 3,000 wolves at present in Minnesota. Despite this history, Minnesotans generally support wolves. Here’s what the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says:

Minnesotans clearly value wolves. Public opinion surveys and attitudes demonstrated during development of the state’s wolf management plan show people view the animal as ecologically important, scientifically fascinating, aesthetically attractive, recreationally appealing and significant for future generations. Only a small minority fear and dislike wolves or believe Minnesota would be a more desirable place without this apex predator.

In contrast with the bloodlust toward wolves in western states like Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, this is an enlightened attitude. However, the Republican legislature’s hasty rush toward a wolf season is a dog whistle to the minority who want the wolf dead at all costs. For instance, here are some of the worst comments from wolf hunting proponents on the DNR’s survey:

why not eliminate more wolves. seems they were sustainable @ 500 animals you just don’t need 1500 hundred of them. let alone there offspring for the summer Raise the quota.

Way too many wolfs killing oujr deer

Public is greatly misinformed. Wolf populations are 5 to 6 times higher then the DNR is reporting. Not sure why … Its very scary when the wolves are between me and my vehicle. They don’t read signs that say they can’t harm or kill humans. When they are on your TV screen they appear as the presentors want them to by showing the innocent parts. They are dangerous and over populated. WE don’t need them. Get out of your safe envirnment and see how scared you are when you meet them face to face. How will you think when your grand kid is attacked when he thinks he is going to pet a puppy and gets his hand bit off or worse

we gots too many wolves in Mn.

wolves are obvously stalking people, what will you do when wolves kill school children?

it is rediculous to charge people $30. the license should be free for anyone purchasing a deer license. i understand the DNR is hort on funds and this whole hunt is driven by money as much as it is reducing the number of wolves. thereare way more than 3000 wolves. this hunt is a joke and i encourage all deer hunters to shoot and kill ANY wolf they see on site. wolves are wrecking our northern minnesota deer hunt, killing too many livestock also. shoot shovel and shut up. we need this to control the wolves that dont belong!!!!!!!!!!!!

…The wolf is not a necassity for the ecology of Minnesota. Everything was just fine in the woods of this great state till the intorduction of wolves, now you have complaints of depredation and declining deer populations. Additionally, it is not just the deer population that is affected.

I believe the quota of 400 animals is way too low. It should be around 1,000. I think the season should begin with opening deer season and remain open until the quota is reached. The state would be better off without the timber wolf.

There are far too many wolfs here in Minnesota. I have a cabin up by Issabells and I can’t let my dog run free without worry. And the deer are all gone. Kill them all!!!

It’s pretty obvious that bloodlust for wolves isn’t confined to western states. And for the record, I could find no recorded cases of wild wolves attacking people in Minnesota, wolves were not “intorduced” to Minnesota, and there is no evidence that the deer population is being decimated by wolf predation. I’ll examine the connection between wolf and deer populations in part 2 of this series.

To be fair, there are also many thoughtful and reasonable comments to the survey, mostly about the structure of the wolf season. It is split between an early season that coincides with the firearms deer season and a late season that includes trapping. The debate in the comments between hunters opposed to trapping because it is inhumane, and trappers incensed at the idea of taking a wolf at a time when its pelt is less valuable is something I’ll look at in Part 3 of this series.

In the West, the wolf was shot on sight, poisoned, trapped, and eventually extirpated. States that have recently gained control of wolves after removal of Endangered Species Act protection have set out to slash their wolf populations.

In Montana, the goal is to reduce the wolf population from over 650 at the end of 2011 to about 150 wolves. Similar to Montana, Idaho plans to reduce their wolf population from over 700 to 15 breeding pairs (approximately 150 wolves.) Of course, during the five year period of federal oversight following delisting, Idaho will manage wolves to maintain 2005 levels. But once federal oversight is listed, Katy bar the door. Both states have adopted as their official goal to reduce wolf populations to the smallest number possible before triggering Endangered Species Act protection.

You’d think that Minnesota would adopt more humane and reasonable hunting regulations for our wolf season. But you’d be wrong.

Minnesota’s stated goal is to reduce the wolf population from the current 3,000 to 1,600. In other words, the long-term goal is to kill about half of the wolves in Minnesota. Minnesota’s proposed wolf hunting regulations are conservative in one sense. They cap the overall wolf kill for this season at 400, which is not a particularly high number. But in terms of the techniques permitted to kill wolves, Minnesota’s season is one of the most brutal. Minnesota will allow the use of bait, electronic calls, snaring, leg hold and Conibear (body-gripping) traps to take wolves. These are some of the least sporting and most inhumane hunting and trapping techniques.

These regulations are even more liberal than western states like Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming that would like to wipe wolves from the landscape. Unable to make a dent in the wolf population with a shooting-only hunting season, Montana will permit trapping wolves during the 2012 season. But they do not allow snaring, baiting, or electronic calls (currently), as Minnesota will. Idaho allowed snaring and baiting traps for the first time during the most recent season. Wyoming seeks to confine wolves to the northwest corner of the state near Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and wants to allow unlimited killing of wolves in 83% of the state. But even Wyoming would not permit trapping in the areas where they are considered trophy game animals, only hunting.

The Minnesota DNR is required by law to implement a wolf hunting season immediately and to start it during the firearms deer season. But Minnesota’s wolf hunting and trapping season will immediately move to the front of the pack when it comes to permitting inhumane and unsporting techniques for killing wolves.

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