Supporters and opponents of wolf hunting packed a hearing at the State Capitol on Thursday to testify on a bill that would place a five-year moratorium on wolf hunting or trapping in Minnesota.
“The state of Minnesota rushed to a hunt,’’ said Howard Goldman, state director of the Humane Society of the United States. “There’s no biological reason to hunt them. The people of Minnesota care deeply about wolves; this is not just another game species.’’ He and other supporters of a moratorium, including the Sierra Club and Howling for Wolves, said the state failed to conduct public hearings before deciding to offer a wolf season.
But Wayne Johnson of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association said the state acted appropriately when it launched the first managed wolf season last fall.
“Wolves are a renewable resource,’’ he said. “Hunters aren’t anti-wolf; we’re pro-wolf management and want to ensure a healthy population.’’
Representatives of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, the Minnesota Trappers Association and the Minnesota Farmers Union also testified against the bill.
The bill’s chief author, Sen. Chris Eaton, has said the state rushed to hold a hunting and trapping season soon after the wolf came off the federal Endangered Species List. Her bill would allow a hunting season only after five years “if population management is deemed necessary and other means for controlling the wolf population are explored.’’
“I grew up hunting,’’ said Eaton, a Brooklyn Center DFLer. “I have nothing against hunting. My concern is for the survival of the wolf.’’
Eaton’s bill was approved on a 7-6 vote in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. But its chances of becoming law appear slim. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee, both have vowed to oppose any attempts to derail next fall’s wolf season.
Several advocacy groups, including the Humane Society, have also filed suit to restore the wolf’s endangered-species listing.
Department of Natural Resources officials testified on Thursday that the wolf population is healthy and stable and that the hunting season won’t harm the overall population, estimated to be about 3,000 animals during the winter, before wolf pups are born.
“We’re certainly committed to the long-term survival of the wolves,’’ said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “It was the most closely and intensively managed season that we’ve ever had on any species.’’
Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, who voted against the bill, said hunt opponents had ample opportunity for input last session.
“People have been led to believe it wasn’t publicly vetted; it went through the entire legislative process,’’ she said. “There were lots of hearings and opportunities for input.’’