Editorial: Minn. managing wolves wellPublished 8:37am Monday, July 22, 2013
Emotions aside, the state’s latest wolf count released last week adds yet more scientific evidence to the case that Minnesota is doing a solid job in managing this remarkable animal, including allowing limited hunting of it.
Granted, that may seem hard to believe when the wintertime count showed a 24 percent decline from the last survey done in 2008. But there are many factors to consider, especially amid emotional and legal debates stemming from the 2012-13 wolf-hunting season, Minnesota’s first in at least a half century.
For starters, yes, the state Department of Natural Resources now estimates the wolf population to be 2,211, down about 710 from the DNR’s last count done in 2008. However, consider these factors:
• The survey was conducted after the hunt, in which about 400 wolves were harvested. Plus, during 2012-13, more wolves had to be removed because of livestock depredation. In other words, after a year of new and increased harvesting pressure from humans, the state’s wolf count of 2,211 still remained well above 1,200 to 1,400 wolves, the range federal officials have said is needed for long-term survival. (And a level the state has exceeded for more than a decade.)
• The state’s deer population was down about 20 percent last year, and deer are the primary food source for wolves.
• The survey was completed before pups were born this year. Researchers estimate about 2,600 pups were likely born in the spring. While it’s impossible to know exact survival rates, traditionally between 40 percent and 60 percent of wolf pups make it to age 1. Based on that, it’s reasonable to believe the 2,200 count should easily exceed 3,000 within a year.
• The count showed more than 430 packs living across more areas of the state than found in 2008, which means wolves are expanding their range — a key measuring stick in the debate about whether wolves should be federally protected or managed by states.
Earlier this spring, state lawmakers were considering suspending wolf hunts for five years — in part to comply with previous legislation and also to accommodate opponents of hunting. This board noted then that the driving force in determining a hunting season should be science, specifically this population count.
Those results are in, and they unequivocally show the state is doing a good job of managing wolves to guarantee their long-term stability. In addition, another wolf count is scheduled for next winter after the next hunting season.
As with this count, residents should look forward to those results as the next chance to learn more about successfully returning wolves to sustainable levels in Minnesota.
— St. Cloud Times, July 14