Wolf season ends, but not debate

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 4, 2013 - 6:50 AM

Does the easily reached quota point to resurgence or vulnerability of once protected animal?

hide

Betty Gaston, co-owner of Taxidermy Unlimited in Burnsville, held up the pelt of a recently killed 85-pound female wolf brought to the shop for processing. Opponents of the inaugural hunting season plan to sue to have gray wolves placed back on the federal endangered species list.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Dave Hughley was thrilled to trap a 120-pound male wolf last month east of Lake Mille Lacs -- one of more than 400 wolves killed during Minnesota's inaugural wolf season.

"The pelt is really nice -- thick and long-haired," said the 56-year-old trapper from Onamia. He plans to sell it to a fur buyer, netting at least $250. He hopes it's just the first of many wolves he traps in coming years.

Whether he has that chance might depend on what happens in coming months not in Minnesota's North Woods -- home to the state's estimated 3,000 gray wolves -- but in state and federal courtrooms.

That's where opponents intend to regain protection for Canis lupis, squaring off with state and federal wildlife biologists who will argue the taking of a fraction of the state's wolves doesn't hurt their overall population -- or even reduce it.

"We've demonstrated that you can have sensible wolf harvest and still have wolves, because this won't even make a dent in the population," said Tom Landwehr, Department of Natural Resources commissioner.

"This is a sustainable harvest,'' he said. "We will have wolves in the state forever."

Landwehr said he expects the state to hold another wolf season next fall -- and may even increase the number of wolves that can be killed.

But the season closure on Thursday didn't come soon enough for Howard Goldman.

"There's no biological reason to hunt wolves; since 1998, the population has been stable without hunting and trapping,'' said Goldman, Minnesota state director of the Humane Society of the United States.

The group is one of four that have notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service they intend to sue later this month seeking to reinstate the wolf to the federal Endangered Species List.

"Minnesotans care deeply about wolves and don't want the species hunted,'' Goldman said. "It's recreational killing."

Two other groups have filed a separate suit in state court.

Hunting here to stay?

Landwehr said he is confident the suits will fail and wolf hunting is here to stay. "They just don't think we should be killing wolves, and on that we fundamentally disagree," he said. "The wolf is a fur-bearer like a fox, coyote, bobcat and a bunch of others that we harvest annually."

It also appears unlikely the Legislature would enact laws killing the wolf hunt. A bill directing the DNR to hold the first hunt passed with bipartisan support last session.

"I don't expect any changes [to the wolf season] because it was such a great success," said Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, who heads the key House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee and supports the wolf season.

Dill said he was surprised hunters and trappers hit target goals so quickly.

The late-season northeast wolf zone where Dill lives closed Dec. 14 after 58 wolves were harvested, two over the quota. And the east-central zone where Hughley traps closed Dec. 13 after nine wolves were taken, one under the quota. The northwest zone closed Thursday, with 191 wolves killed, four over the target.

So far, 258 wolves have been registered for the late season, and 147 were killed in the early season. The 405 total is five over the quota, but officials said that was just a general target.

"That means either wolves are really dumb, which they're not, or there's more of them than we thought there were," Dill said.

But Dan Stark, DNR wolf specialist, said it's too early to draw any conclusions. Officials still are analyzing samples taken from wolves, including teeth, which will indicate their age, and reproductive tracts, which will tell litter size.

Trappers have better chance

Stark said he wasn't surprised hunters and trappers reached the 400-wolf target set by the DNR, and noted that trappers were more successful than hunters, as expected.

"Seventy-five percent of the wolves taken during the late season have been taken by trappers,'' Stark said.

They simply have a better chance of bagging a wolf because they can leave multiple traps out in the woods over a 24-hour period, while a hunter must encounter a wolf firsthand.

John Hart, a wildlife biologist and district supervisor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services who has been trapping wolves for years under the agency's wolf depredation program, also wasn't surprised by the results.

"Minnesota has some of the highest wolf densities in the world," he said.

In addition to the 400-plus wolves killed during the season, 272 wolves were taken in 2012 by federal and state trappers in response to livestock depredations and 16 were killed by citizens protecting livestock or pets. The total of nearly 700 wolves is about 23 percent of the estimated 3,000 wintertime population, still less than the 30 percent mortality over several years that could affect the wolf population, Stark said.

The wintertime population will nearly double next spring when wolves give birth to pups. "Only about half the pups typically survive to the first winter," Stark said. Other mortality factors, including hunting and trapping, will reduce wolf numbers.

"I don't think we'll see any decline in the wolf population at this harvest level,'' he said.

But many who oppose the wolf hunting season remain unconvinced. That 6,000 hunters and trappers hit the 400-wolf target says something different to Goldman.

"It says wolves are much easier to kill than had been speculated. Which is why they need to be protected."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 20 FINAL
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 FINAL
Denver 47
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Pittsburgh 27
Arizona 1/3/15 3:35 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 1/3/15 7:15 PM
Pittsburgh
Detroit 103 FINAL
Cleveland 80
Houston 106 FINAL
San Antonio 110
Oklahoma City 107 FINAL
Dallas 112
New York 79 FINAL
Portland 101
Toronto 116 FINAL
Denver 102
Phoenix 116 FINAL
LA Lakers 107
Toronto 4 FINAL
Florida 6
Vancouver 1 FINAL(OT)
Anaheim 2
Tulane 57 FINAL
St Johns 82
Central Conn St 48 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Iona 81 FINAL
Drexel 62
Concordia (MI) 42 FINAL
Eastern Mich 100
Harvard 46 FINAL
Arizona State 56
Longwood 64 FINAL
Ball State 69
Sacred Heart 76 FINAL
Brown 79
Colgate 64 FINAL
Columbia 69
MD-Eastern Shore 78 FINAL
Duquesne 69
UNC Greensboro 50 FINAL
East Carolina 71
Marist 64 FINAL
Elon 69
NJIT 71 FINAL
Lafayette 76
Cincinnati Christian 58 FINAL
Liberty 78
Morgan State 53 FINAL
Marquette 81
Campbell 56 FINAL
Samford 65
Bucknell 71 FINAL
Siena 73
Long Beach State 67 FINAL
Syracuse 85
Coppin State 80 FINAL
Evansville 85
UMKC 73 FINAL
Indiana State 70
Hofstra 88 FINAL
Long Island 62
Coast Guard 48 FINAL
Army 93
Thomas (GA) 48 FINAL
High Point 85
Texas Southern 58 FINAL
Kansas State 56
Rutgers 59 FINAL
Monmouth 58
NC Wesleyan 54 FINAL
NC A&T 58
South Dakota St 63 FINAL
Northern Iowa 74
Central Penn College 69 FINAL
Radford 119
Bowling Green 79 FINAL
South Florida 70
Harris-Stowe 66 FINAL
SE Missouri St 94
Robert Morris-IL 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 104
Northland College 59 FINAL
North Dakota St 83
Milwaukee 60 FINAL
South Dakota 84
Northwestern St 92 FINAL
Arkansas 100
Saint Peters 59 FINAL
Cornell 52
St Katherine 62 FINAL
Fresno State 93
Haskell 42 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Wake Forest 65 FINAL
Richmond 63
Fla Gulf Coast 57 FINAL
Xavier 71
SD Christian 45 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Judson 46 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 80
Ill-Chicago 60 FINAL
Bradley 68
Loyola-Maryland 61 FINAL
Fairfield 59
Miss Valley St 53 FINAL
Houston 80
Lehigh 58 FINAL
UMBC 55
Delaware State 56 FINAL
Temple 66
Belmont 56 FINAL
Butler 67
Howard 59 FINAL
Fordham 74
NW Christian 67 FINAL
Nevada 81
UC Davis 83 FINAL
Washington St 90
Abilene Christian 81 FINAL
Grand Canyon 83
UCLA 50 FINAL
Alabama 56
Stony Brook 62 FINAL
Washington 57
Buffalo 56 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
CS-Bakersfield 55 FINAL
California 52
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Drexel 71 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 54
Holy Cross 63 FINAL
Norfolk State 62
East Carolina 62 FINAL
South Florida 69
(10) Oregon State 63 FINAL
(8) Tennessee 74
Providence 51 FINAL
Boston College 79
Florida A&M 47 FINAL
Miami-Florida 83
Oakland 69 FINAL
Central Michigan 74
Chattanooga 59 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 49
Fairfield 59 FINAL
La Salle 73
St Francis-PA 59 FINAL
Pittsburgh 97
Milwaukee 72 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 78
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Longwood 63
New Hampshire 58 FINAL
Manhattan 54
Bucknell 68 FINAL
Binghamton 57
Northeastern 70 FINAL
Albany 67
George Mason 70 FINAL
Towson 72
Richmond 59 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Tulane 60 FINAL
Cincinnati 50
North Florida 51 FINAL
Florida 63
(14) Georgia 51 FINAL
Seton Hall 70
Tennessee St 75 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 87
American Univ 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 77
Massachusetts 78 FINAL
Boston U 57
Quinnipiac 69 FINAL
Saint Josephs 67
Lafayette 49 FINAL
Saint Peters 34
Northwestern 61 FINAL
(20) Michigan State 57
Duquesne 82 FINAL
Lehigh 75
George Washington 72 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 49
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Indiana 51
(24) Green Bay 66 FINAL
Dayton 72
Western Mich 55 FINAL
Stony Brook 59
Davidson 67 FINAL
Virginia 57
UNC Greensboro 61 FINAL
LSU 82
Denver 63 FINAL
North Texas 55
VA Commonwealth 63 FINAL
Coppin State 52
Huston-Tillotson 36 FINAL
Houston Baptist 86
Lamar 63 FINAL
Rice 97
Miss Valley St 40 FINAL
Alabama 71
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 49
Middle Tennessee 98 FINAL
Tenn Tech 76
Penn State 52 FINAL
(23) Iowa 77
Purdue 62 FINAL
Illinois 55
DePaul 99 FINAL
Illinois State 62
Sam Houston St 46 FINAL
Wichita State 70
South Dakota 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
(4) Notre Dame 82 FINAL
UCLA 67
Coll of Charleston 51 FINAL
SC State 60
Alcorn State 53 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 63
Dartmouth 76 FINAL
Niagara 70
Colgate 68 FINAL
Siena 80
Michigan 53 FINAL
Wisconsin 63
Fla Gulf Coast 73 FINAL
CS-Northridge 64
Yale 51 FINAL
(25) Arizona State 69
UC Santa Barbara 34 FINAL
(16) Stanford 90
Long Island 63 FINAL
Long Beach St 71
Jackson State 56 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Eureka 50 FINAL
Western Ill 91
Cornell 59 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 76
Temple 58 FINAL
Memphis 57
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close