Wolf hunting and trapping season in Minnesota is still open, despite a Department of Natural Resources web site that indicated the season might be over.
Matt Steffen of the Twin Cities was among trappers who pulled up the DNR site New Year's Day morning, as required, before heading into the northern Minnesota woods to check his snare.
Instead of indicating how many wolves remained in the DNR's "harvest target'' in the state's Northwest wolf hunting and trapping zone, the site listed "null'' under the "harvest'' category for each of three zones including the Northeast and East-Central.
Thinking the harvest quota of 400 for the year had been reached, he was prepared to head home.
But DNR wolf specialist Dan Stark of Grand Rapids said the special web site the agency established to track the wolf harvest experienced a problem Tuesday morning.
"We've been trying to fix it since about 8 this morning,'' Stark said.
The harvest target for the Northwest Zone is 187 wolves, and as of New Year's Eve, Stark said, 165 had been registered.
"That leaves 22,'' he said.
Trappers and hunters have been registering about eight wolves a day in recent weeks, Stark said, with trappers accounting for the majority of the animals.
At that rate, the season is expected to remain open for at least a few days.
The quota, or harvest target, for the current wolf season, in which trapping and hunting are both allowed, is 253.
Only hunting was allowed in a first season that ran concurrent with firearms deer hunting.
Night hunting for wildlife is in the news in places other than Wisconsin, where the Department of Natural Resources and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) are tussling over after-hours hunting of wolves and deer.
According to Wisconsin DNR rules, wolf hunting is allowed in Wisconsin beginning today with the aid of a light "at the point of kill.''
Disagreeing with that allowance, GLIFWC last week voted to allow Chippewa tribes to hunt deer at night using a light "at the point of kill'' in the northern part of Wisconsin.
The DNR argues the Chippewa lack authority to hunt deer at night, arguing that its — the DNR's — night wolf ruling is in line with allowances it grants night coyote hunters in Wisconsin.
In North Carolina, meanwhile, coyote hunting at night with an artificial light is suspended in five counties pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, including the Southern Environmental Law Center, whose suit was filed on behalf of the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Welfare Institute, according to the Outdoor Wire.
"While we accept the judge's decision, it is important to note that this is a decision on a preliminary injunction only. It is not a decision on the lawsuit," said Wildlife Commission Executive Director Gordon Myers. "We remain confident of our position and its merits."
According to the Outdoor Wire report:
The Wildlife Commission passed temporary rules in July allowing the taking of coyotes and feral swine by hunting on private lands at night with a light. Night hunting is one means of controlling localized populations of coyotes and feral swine, both of which are non-native to North Carolina, destructive to the landscape, and potential disease carriers. Coyotes also pose predatory threats to pets and livestock.
The preliminary injunction issued by the Superior Court only applies to hunting coyotes at night in Washington, Beaufort, Tyrrell, Hyde and Dare counties The order does not prevent taking of wildlife, including coyotes and red wolves, while in the act of depredation. It does not affect hunting feral swine at night with the aid of a light.
The preliminary injunction will remain in effect pending the final ruling by the Superior Court on this issue.
Wisconsin firearms deer hunters had a busy opening weekend: 134,772 whitetails were registered on the first weekend of the nine-day season.
The Wisconsin DNR reports the statewide harvest is up more than 19 percent from 2011, with registrations rising in all regions. Buck registrations rose 24 percent.
It's possible that deer that typically would hang in Wisconsin camps for a few days were brought to towns and registered because of the warm weekend weather, perhaps accounting for the harvest increase, officials said.
Notwithstanding the higher harvest this opening weekend than last, some hunters in northern counties are reporting low deer sightings.
The DNR said in a press release Monday that almost 26,000 new hunters bought licenses to deer hunt for the first time, or for the first time in 10 years, this year. Females represented 32 percent of resident First Time Gun Deer licenses.
“I find this statistic particularly exciting. If we get the women involved in hunting, we get the family involved. It is so important to be getting youth out there in the tree stand. We will all be looking to them to keep our wonderful hunting heritage alive,” said Wisconsin DNR secretary Cathy Stepp. “But I also want to recognize that 66 first-time licenses were sold to hunters 80 and older. The involvement of so many generations in the deer hunt truly illustrates how deep the deer hunting tradition runs in Wisconsin.”
The DNR noted these facts about Wisconsin hunters in its press release:
• 614,435 Total Deer Gun Hunter, up 2 percent from last year
• Resident deer licenses (568,831) are up 1.5 percent
• Nonresident deer licenses (32,554) up 2 percent
• 10/11 year old Mentored Gun Deer licenses (13,050) are up 10 percent
• 60 percent of gun deer licenses were sold in the month of November
• Females represent 9.5 percent of total gun hunters
• 78,604 (or 13 percent) were youth (under age of 18)
• 61,276 (or 10 percent) were senior citizens (65 years of age and older)
• Hunters come to Wisconsin from all 50 states and several foreign countries
• 25,703 First Time Buyer Licenses were sold
• 13,511 resident gun deer
• 8,976 resident junior gun deer
• 3,216 nonresident gun deer
• 9,001, or 35 percent of First Time Buyers were youth (17 years of age and under)
Wisconsin will close two of its wolf trapping and hunting zones at the end of the day Friday, a day before the state's nine-day deer season begins.
A statewide total of 77 Wisconsin wolves have been killed since the start of wolf hunting and trapping in that state Oct. 15.
Wolf Harvest Zones 2 and 4 are the first zones in the state to be closed.
The Wisconsin DNR expects the state's wolf harvest to pick up during deer season.
“The harvest trend in Zone 2 has been steady while harvest in Zone 4, which is one wolf from quota, has been sporadic. We’ve watched trends and feel our best decision to make sure we don’t exceed quotas is to start the closure process today just prior to reaching quota, anticipating increased harvest rates with the opening of the nine-day deer hunt this weekend,” said Kurt Thiede, DNR Lands Division Administrator. “This is Wisconsin’s inaugural season. We are learning much about hunter and trapper success rates that will help us draft permanent rules that continue to move the wolf population down toward levels in line with biological and social carrying capacity.
“We will be considering harvest trends as we approach quotas in other zones as well. Our ultimate goal is to reduce the wolf population by 116 animals, distributed across the landscape,” said Thiede.
According to the Wisconsin DNR:
The state wolf harvest quota for Zone 2 was set at 20 and closure was initiated when 18 wolves were reported taken. The quota for Zone 4 was set at 5 and the closure process was initiated when 4 were harvested.
Wolf hunting and trapping will continue in Zones 1, 3, 5 and 6, but hunters and trappers are urged to watch harvest progress in Zones 1 and 5.
The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Commission on Thursday voted to raise non-resident hunting fees, according to the Argus Leader newspaper of Sioux Falls.
The license-cost hikes will bring in another $1.1 million in 2013, the newspaper said.
Small game, or pheasant, licenses will rise $10 to $120 ($124 with agent fee). The license, as now, will be good for two five-day hunting periods.
Non-resident waterfowl licenses will rise by the same amount, also to $120, for a 10-day period.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat have been, or will be, lost in South Dakota, as grasslands, wetlands and other wild lands there are converted to row crops such as corn and soybeans.
Pheasant hunting in South Dakota this fall generally has been fair, with many opening day hunters reporting one bird to slightly more than that taken per day, on average.
In areas where habitat has been conserved, results have been much better. Curt Korzan, owner of Grand Slam Pheasant Hunts near Kimball, S.D., for instance, reports hunting on his operation, spreading over thousands of acres cultivated for pheasants, has been excellent.