About 80 percent of the more than 7,000 people responding to an online survey by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) opposed a wolf hunting and trapping season.
But the results won't stop this fall's planned wolf season.
The question of whether to have a season was resolved by the Legislature, said Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife chief. "It was a public input process, it wasn't a poll. ... The Legislature and governor directed us to have a wolf season. So we will have a season.''
The DNR's survey, which was not limited to Minnesota residents, closed Wednesday after accepting public comments for a month. The agency received 7,351 responses -- 1,542 people supported a wolf season, 5,809 opposed it.
"Frankly, I'm not a bit surprised,'' said Howard Goldman, senior Minnesota director of the Humane Society of the United States, which opposes the wolf hunting-trapping season.
Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, which supports the wolf season, said the survey is flawed and doesn't reflect public opinion in northern Minnesota.
"I took the survey, and it didn't ask where you live,'' said Johnson. "It's totally unscientific. What's the use of it when it's not limited to Minnesotans? I'd say zip.''
Simon said it's uncertain whether the DNR will be able to determine how many comments came from outside Minnesota. "It was wide open -- anyone could go on the site and take it,'' he said.
Goldman said his group did not encourage out-of-state anti-hunting groups to take the DNR's online survey. "I thought it should reflect the opinions of Minnesotans,'' he said.
Nancy Gibson, co-founder of the International Wolf Center in Ely, said the results clearly indicate the public is still divided on the question of a wolf hunt, even if the survey was hijacked by anti-hunting groups. "It's a surprise to me," she said of the number who responded, and the overwhelming anti-hunting sentiment they expressed.
Both Johnson and Goldman had wanted the DNR to hold public meetings around the state, which the DNR decided not to do, citing time constraints.
Simon said the agency had hoped to get public reaction to the specific wolf hunting proposals. The agency will analyze those comments and release details of the survey next week.
The DNR also plans to finalize the wolf hunting rules next week, Simon said, so that the regulations can be included in the DNR's hunting and trapping season regulation handbook.
The proposal was 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 would permit trapping and hunting. DNR officials have suggested the season would close if a 400-wolf quota is reached. Simon wouldn't say whether the final rules will deviate from those proposals.
Staff writer Josephine Marcotty contributed to this report. Doug Smith • 612-673-7667