DNR plans lower targets for upcoming hunting season as Minn. wolf population falls to 2,211

  • Article by: STEVE KARNOWSKI , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 9, 2013 - 6:30 PM
hide

FILE - In this July 16, 2004, file photo is a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. A group of humane societies Frida appealed a Dane County, Wis., judge's ruling that wolf hunters can use dogs

Photo: Dawn Villella, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota's midwinter wolf population has fallen by about 710 animals over the past five years to around 2,211, wildlife managers announced Tuesday, attributing the decline to fewer deer for wolves to prey upon and the resumption of sport hunting and trapping of wolves last fall.

Officials with the Department of Natural Resources stressed that wolves are resilient and the decline is no reason to fear for the species' survival in Minnesota. They pointed out that the new estimate remains well above the state's minimum goal of at least 1,600 wolves, and higher than the federal government's recovery goal range of 1,251 to 1,400. Researchers also estimate the state has 438 packs with an average litter size of six.

"We still have a robust wolf population here in Minnesota, and we can managed a regulated hunting and trapping season without having a long-term negative influence on the overall population," Dan Stark, the DNR's large carnivore specialist, told reporters on a conference call.

But Stark said the maximum harvest quota will likely be proportionately lower than last fall and winter, when hunters and trappers killed 413 wolves during the state's first wolf season since the animals came off the endangered list in the region. He said the DNR will likely announce the actual target and other details about the season later this month.

Wolf hunting opponents said they were surprised and dismayed by the size of the decline from the 2008 estimate of 2,921, and called on the DNR to cancel the upcoming season. They said they found the decline in the average pack size from 4.9 in 2008 to 4.3 this winter particularly alarming, saying the loss of breeding wolves reduces pups' chances of surviving because there are fewer adults in the packs to raise them.

"This is one big huge guessing game that is taking unnecessary risks with an animal that we spent tax dollars bringing back, and now we're going to spend tax dollars making sure we don't kill too many. It's totally nuts," said Maureen Hackett, founder of Howling for Wolves.

Howard Goldman, the state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said the decline "came out of the blue. Everything I've heard thus far and everything the department has published indicated the population was stable and perhaps increasing slightly."

"This survey shows there's no need to hunt Minnesota's wolves," said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The population is on the decline and Minnesota's wolves really are too important to the ecosystem to be killed off for sport."

The DNR conducts comprehensive wolf population surveys every five winters, when the animals are at the natural low point of their population cycle and the snow cover and lack of leaves on the trees makes it easier to count them. So the new estimate reflects deaths from the hunting and trapping season, natural mortality and the nearly 300 wolves killed for predator control last year, but not the 2,600 pups the DNR estimates were born this spring.

The survey also found that Minnesota's wolf range, which generally overlaps the state's forested regions, has stayed about the same over the past five years, expanding slightly in some areas along its southern and western boundaries.

DNR research biologist John Erb said the figure of 2,211 wolves is just the agency's best estimate, and the margin of error is roughly plus or minus 500, which means Minnesota's wolf population could be anywhere between 1,652 and 2,641. The agency's critics said the low end of that range is too close to the state's target minimum of 1,600.

Since deer are wolves' main source of food, the 25 percent decline in the deer population in the state's forested areas over the past five years was likely the greatest factor behind the lower wolf numbers, the DNR officials said. The agency deliberately took the deer population down in many areas as part of its long-term management plan, and now seeks to hold those populations steady or let them rise in some areas, said Paul Telander, the DNR's wildlife section chief.

  • 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

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
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