Minnesota opens its 2nd wolf season on Saturday

Published 1:51 pm Saturday, November 9, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota opened its wolf hunting season Saturday with a sharply lower harvest goal than last year when the animals were first taken off the endangered list.

The Department of Natural Resources has set the target at 220 wolves, down from 400 last season when hunters and trappers killed 413. The DNR lowered the goal in response to a new population estimate of 2,211 wolves in Minnesota as of last winter, down about 25 percent from the last comprehensive survey in 2008. The DNR attributes the decline mostly to fewer deer for wolves to prey upon in northern Minnesota, and less to hunting. The agency’s goal is keeping at least 1,600 wolves in the state.

Wolf license applications dropped by almost half this year to about 13,000. DNR officials and hunters have said they suspect it’s because only 3,300 licenses were available, the novelty of the chance to shoot a wolf has worn off for some, and the success rate was low last year.

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“I think it was just that the first year was such a big hype for everyone,” said Allen Edberg, who lives north of Duluth. He trapped a wolf last season and has an early-season hunting license this year. “I think a lot of them found out that hunting a wolf is not as easy as they thought it would be.”

The early-season wolf hunt ends Nov. 17 or 24 depending on the area. The late hunting and trapping season is Nov. 30 to Jan. 31. Seasons close earlier if targets are reached.

Last year’s success rate was about 5 percent for firearms hunters and 29 percent for trappers, according to a DNR report in July. The total kill was 147 during the early hunting season, 67 in the late hunting season and 199 for trappers.

Howling for Wolves has kept up its efforts to stop the hunt. The group has scheduled a rally for Saturday in Ely, in the heart of wolf country, with plans to bus in supporters from the Twin Cities. As of Friday, the group had collected over 51,000 signatures on its online petition to suspend the hunt.

“People really care about this,” the group’s founder, Maureen Hackett, said Friday. She also said the resumption of hunting and trapping has not increased tolerance for wolves, as some predicted, but is generating more anti-wolf rhetoric than ever before.

“It puts these animals that have been persecuted back in the crosshairs of hate,” she said.