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MN outlines 2-part wolf season, seeks public comment

From Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

-- Public comment is currently being sought for Minnesota's first regulated wolf hunting and trapping season to be conducted this fall and winter.

Consistent with state law, the state's first regulated wolf season will start with the beginning of firearms deer hunting Nov. 3.

The DNR proposes splitting the season into two parts: an early wolf hunting season coinciding with firearms deer hunting, and a late wolf hunting and trapping season after the firearms deer season for those with a specific interest in wolf hunting and trapping.

Given how soon the season must be put in place, the DNR will only take comments through June 20 online at www.mndnr.gov/wolves.

A total of 6,000 licenses will be offered, with 3,600 available in the early season and 2,400 in the late season. Late season licenses will be further split between hunting and trapping, with a minimum of 600 reserved for trappers. The target harvest quota will be 400 wolves for both seasons combined, and will initially be allocated equally between the early and the late seasons.

The early hunting only season will be open only in the northern portions of Minnesota where rifles are allowed for deer hunting. It will start Nov. 3, the opening day of firearms deer hunting. It will close either at the end of the respective firearms seasons in the two northern deer zones—Nov. 18 in Zone 1 or Nov. 11 in Zone 2—or when a registered target harvest quota of 200 is reached.

The late hunting and trapping season begins Nov. 24 and closes Jan. 6 or when a registered total target harvest quota of 400 in both seasons combined is reached. The late season will be open statewide.

"The DNR is taking a very conservative approach to this first season," said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations program manager.

While Minnesota's wolf population of approximately 3,000 animals likely could sustain a much higher harvest rate, this first season is designed to provide information on wolf hunting and trapping interest and success rates that will help inform the design and implementation of future seasons, Merchant said.

The proposed season is consistent with the goal of the state's wolf management plan to assure the long term survival of the wolf and address conflicts between wolves and humans.

The DNR continues to consult with tribal governments and tribal resource agency staff on the proposed state wolf season.

Wolves were returned to state management in January 2012 when they were delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act. Prior to their complete protection under federal law in 1974, wolves were unprotected under state law and DNR had no wolf management authority. This proposal marks the first regulated harvest season for wolves in state history.

Wolf numbers and their distribution have remained relatively stable for the past 10 years and have been well above the federal wolf recovery population goal since the late 1990s.

Merchant said wildlife experts took into account wolf damage control mortality when setting the harvest number. Typically, about 80 farms have verified wolf depredation complaints each year.

Over the past several years, an average of 170 wolves have been captured or killed each year by federal trappers in response to verified livestock depredation. About 70 wolves have been trapped and killed so far this spring following verified livestock damage complaints, primarily on calves.

Wolf hunting licenses will be $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents. Nonresidents will be limited to 5 percent of total hunting licenses. Wolf trapping licenses will be $30 and limited to residents only. A lottery will be held to select license recipients. Proof of a current or previous hunting license will be required to apply for a wolf license. The application fee will be $4.

Law requires the DNR to take public comment prior to implementing a wolf season. While decisions about whether to have a wolf season and when to start it have already been made through the lawmaking process, the DNR seeks public comment on remaining details. The complete proposal is available online at www.mndnr.gov/wolves.

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