I worked for 20 years as a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer living in Northome. The territory I covered experienced some of the highest predation rates of livestock by wolves of any area in the state, from Bemidji up to International Falls and back down to Grand Rapids.
I didn't apply for a wolf-hunting permit this fall because I do my deer hunting in southern Minnesota now, near my home. But I can tell you a lot about wolves.
In 1980, when I moved to Northome, the warden who worked there before me had a file cabinet full of bounty slips. This was from the time not many years before when people were paid to kill wolves. Now, under my watch, killing a wolf was a felony. Understandably, there were a lot of hard feelings about this among people, livestock producers particularly.
I spent a lot of my time trying to verify whether a wolf killed a cow, calf or sheep, or whether it was a coyote or maybe even a bear that did the killing. When someone lost an animal, I was called to figure it out. Oftentimes it wasn't easy, and sometimes I even measured the teeth marks. If there were no wolf tracks in the area, or scat, or if I couldn't prove it otherwise that a wolf did it, I'd deny the claim. A lot of times, the farmers would be irate. It was a tough spot for a warden to be in.
I can tell you this: The adage that a wolf only kills the old animal or the sick or wounded is total bull. I had them kill 12 sheep in one night.
Wolves need some kind of control. I came to realize that after being up there 20 years. The federal trappers I worked with came to realize it as well. There are just too many people and too many livestock producers living in wolf country.
That's why I support the hunt, for some kind of control. Also the public sentiment up there has to be taken into account. I went to some public wolf-management meetings over the years in the north in which I was there to provide security, nothing more. Those meetings were hot.
I do respect wolves. They're really smart. I think they're easier to trap than a coyote. But that's not saying a lot, because a coyote is one difficult animal to trap.
But to hunt a wolf?
Good luck with that. It won't take long before they know they're being hunted again. When that happens, they'll be out of sight. As a result, I think the balance of things will be better.
Also, maybe the old way of dealing with wolves might change among some people. You know, shoot, shovel and shut up.