Minnesota is making more licenses available for its third year of wolf hunting than it did last year — but still far fewer than in the inaugural season — and it's increasing the number of wolves that can be taken.
The Department of Natural Resources said Thursday that for the 2014 wolf hunt, the goal for managing the animal's population "is to ensure the long-term survival of wolves in Minnesota while addressing conflicts between wolves and humans."
A total of 3,800 hunting and trapping licenses will be available, 500 more than last year's seasons. The statewide target take of wolves is 250, 30 more than last year.
Wolves have proved to be a difficult target for hunters and trappers, with a success rate of just under 7 percent.
The latest population survey results estimate that 2,423 wolves lived in Minnesota's wolf range this past winter, 212 more than estimated a year earlier.
"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. "We will continue to evaluate the wolf population annually to ensure the wolf population remains well established across northern and central Minnesota."
A hunt full of controversy
The recent approval of wolf hunting in Minnesota came after the species was removed from the federal endangered species list. The killing of wolves has been met with some protest and challenges in court, none of which have succeeded.
Within hours of the DNR's latest wolf hunt announcement, the advocacy group Howling for Wolves founder and President Maureen Hackett released a statement that read in part: "There is no good justification for a recreational wolf hunt in Minnesota. Most Minnesotans don't want a wolf hunt, and the hunt itself on these recently endangered animals creates chaos for their packs, which in turn creates unpredictable effects for wolves, farmers, and livestock."
Hunters and trappers can start applying on Aug. 1 for 2,300 early-season and 1,500 late-season licenses. Licenses are awarded by lottery.
The bag limit for wolf hunters is one per season.
Early season timed with deer
The early season begins Nov. 8, the same time as the firearms deer season opens. The DNR announced Wednesday that it was tightening whitetail hunting regulations this fall in an effort to bolster that animal's population after recent harsh winters. In northeast Minnesota, only bucks can be targeted.
Wolves likely fared well this past winter, at the expense of deer. The deep snow in the north and prolonged cold made deer more vulnerable to wolves.
In 2013, a total of 3,434 licensed hunters and trappers killed 237 wolves, a 6.9 percent success rate.
In the previous season, 6,123 licensed hunters and trappers killed 413 wolves, a 6.7 percent success rate.
The DNR had reduced the number of licenses it issued in 2013 after a survey showed the wolf population had declined since the last survey in 2008.
Late-season wolf hunting opens Nov. 29. For further information on the wolf hunts, including fees and deadlines, go to www.mndnr.gov/wolves.