DNR chief says controversial first hunting and trapping season "went very, very well."
Minnesota's inaugural wolf hunting and trapping season will end Thursday because the 400-wolf target quota has nearly been met, the Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday.
Hunters had registered a total of 395 wolves as of Wednesday.
"The season went very, very well,'' said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. "We learned a lot.''
But he acknowledged the first-ever managed wolf season was controversial. "Obviously, there are still people who don't like it,'' he said.
One lawsuit has been filed and three groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reinstate the wolf to the Endangered Species List. Barring legal action, however, the agency intends to offer a similar wolf hunting and trapping season in 2013, Landwehr said.
The late wolf season had closed in the northeast and east-central zones, but has been open in the northwest zone. The wolf kill there has increased daily, and stood at 181 Wednesday afternoon -- leaving the overall total just five shy of the 400-wolf quota.
So officials decided to close the season.
Announcing the closure on Wednesday gives hunters and trappers one more day to pursue wolves. The season for wolf hunters closes a half-hour after sunset Thursday; wolf trappers have until 10 p.m. Thursday.
Successful hunters and trappers must bring their wolves to the DNR for inspection and tagging. The last day for that is Friday, by 5 p.m., officials said. To set up an appointment, hunters and trappers can contact a DNR wildlife office.
Meanwhile, a computer glitch on Tuesday prevented an automatic running tally of the wolf kill from being displayed on the DNR's website. The problem arose on Tuesday and hadn't been fixed as of Wednesday afternoon. Hunters and trappers are required to check the site daily to see if the season is still open. The website did notify people that the season was ending Thursday.
The late season began Nov. 24, and so far hunters and trappers have killed 248 wolves. Hunters in the early season killed 147. The late season was set to end Jan. 31, unless the 400-wolf quota was reached.
DNR officials have been collecting samples from harvested wolves and have been surveying successful hunters and trappers. Much information has yet to be analyzed.
The DNR issued 3,600 permits for the early wolf-hunting season, which coincided with the firearms deer season, and 2,400 permits for a late season that was open to both trappers and hunters.
More than 23,000 people applied for a permit, including hunters from around the nation.