A federal program to remove problem wolves from Minnesota farms has resumed operation after the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state came up with the necessary funds.
Federal trappers began responding to depredation complaints this week. They can trap and kill wolves they believe have killed or attacked livestock.
Midwestern livestock owners had been in a bind since December, when a judge reinstated wolves to the federal endangered-species list. That meant farmers no longer could kill problem wolves themselves, and ended a state program that had paid federal trappers to deal with depredation complaints.
“They can’t defend their own animals on their own property, nor is there a public program to assist them,’’ John Hart, who heads the wolf-trapping program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, said last month.
But on Thursday, Hart said the federal agency had come up with $110,000 for the trapping program, and the state of Minnesota had promised another $110,000.
Hart said his agency had received only one call since Tuesday, when the program restarted, he said, but he added that he expects many more this spring. Calves, generally born in March and April, are easy prey for wolves.
Farmers can call state conservation officers or Wildlife Services for help.
Conservation officers have continued to investigate depredation complaints, even though they couldn’t remove problem wolves.
“This is welcome news for farmers and ranchers who currently don’t have a way to address wolves threatening their livestock,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and an expert on federal farm programs.
Hart’s agency has about a dozen seasonal trappers, and they usually start working April 1 to remove problem wolves from farms. Last year, they removed and killed 172 wolves. State-registered trappers took 39 wolves under a separate program, and hunters and trappers killed another 272 under the state’s short-lived wolf season. That hunting-trapping season no longer can be held because of the court ruling.
The federal program to help livestock owners has been around since the 1970s, even when wolves were listed under the Endangered Species Act. But federal budget cuts ended its funding in 2011.
However, in 2012, wolves were removed from the endangered-species list and Minnesota assumed management.
State payments abruptly ended on Dec. 19, when U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., placed the wolf back on the endangered-species list.
“State policy has been that we won’t pay for wolf control for a federally protected species,” Dan Stark, DNR wolf specialist, said last month. And state law prevents the state from continuing its own limited wolf-control program as long as wolves are on the endangered-species list.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has filed notice that it might appeal Howell’s ruling, and bills have been introduced in the U.S. House to remove wolves from the endangered-species list in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.