Critics included deer hunters, but researchers said the plan won't affect the overall population.
Details of Minnesota's first wolf hunting and trapping season released on Monday didn't please everyone.
Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said limiting the season that opens Nov. 3 to 6,000 licenses and 400 wolves is too conservative.
"I think deer hunters will be disappointed,'' Johnson said.
Howard Goldman, senior Minnesota director of the Humane Society of the United States, said hunters shouldn't be pursuing wolves.
"We don't see any biological reason to hunt and trap wolves at all,'' Goldman said.
But Dave Mech, the renowned wolf researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Paul, said the plan is well-designed, won't hurt the wolf population and should ultimately benefit both wolves and residents.
The Department of Natural Resources intends to split the season into two parts, an early hunting-only season beginning Nov. 3 to coincide with the firearms deer season and a late one Nov. 24 to Jan. 6 that will permit trapping and hunting.
The season will be closed if the 400-wolf quota is reached. Both DNR and wolf researchers say that even if it is reached, it won't affect the state's wolf population, now estimated at 3,000.
"That isn't going to hurt the population,'' Mech said. And it may reduce human-wolf conflicts by making the animals more wary of humans, he said.
State officials agree killing 400 wolves won't hurt the wolf population. "If you wanted to lower it, you'd have to take a lot more than 400,'' said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations program manager.
Officials also said the number of hunters applying for a license likely will far exceed supply. "I expect more than 100,000 deer hunters will apply for the 3,600 [early-season] wolf licenses,'' Johnson said.
Merchant said licenses, which will cost $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents, will be issued by a lottery system. There will be a $4 application fee.
The DNR will take public comments on its plan through June 20, but only on the agency's website (www.mndnr.gov/wolves). There won't be any public meetings on the plan.
"We were hoping there would be public hearings,'' Goldman said. "We believe there is widespread opposition to the hunt.''
Merchant said the Legislature directed the hunt to coincide with the deer season, which forces the agency to move quickly and solicit comments online. The comments will be considered and the season rules made final soon afterward, he said.
Hunters will be able to use bait to try to attract wolves, but they won't be allowed to hunt at night. Because the season will be closed if the quota is reached, hunters will have to check daily to ensure the season is still open. The bag limit will be one wolf.
Doug Smith • 612-673-7667
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