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Senate committee votes to suspend wolf hunt

ST. PAUL -- A bill that would suspend Minnesota’s wolf hunt was passed by a Senate committee Tuesday afternoon.

The bill, passed by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, would put the hunt on hold “to study outcomes of the wolf hunt on the wolf population and to implement the wolf management plan.”

The committee approved the measure 8-6, but only after a parliamentary maneuver. The first vote was 6-6, which would have stopped the measure, but when Democratic Sens. Katie Sieben of Cottage Grove and Matt Schmit of Red Wing arrived at the meeting late, they cast their votes for the suspension.

The original vote was mostly along party lines, although Sen. Lyle Koenen, D-Clara City, joined Republicans in opposing the suspension.

The hunt suspension is a long ways from becoming law. A companion bill in the House has not been acted upon and there is no sign it is about to move ahead.

Minnesota has held its first managed gray wolf hunting and trapping seasons the past two years after the wolf was removed from the federal Endangered Species List. Some groups and individuals protested the hunt and filed lawsuits trying to prevent it. None of those lawsuits was successful.

The “Wolf Data Bill,” as it’s titled, also calls for an annual wolf population census and creation of an advisory wolf task force appointed by the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It would also close tribal lands to the hunting and trapping of wolves if tribal leadership requests it.

The bill was authored by Senate Environment and Energy Chairman John Marty, DFL-Roseville; Sen. Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul; and Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center.

“The wolf data bill is an alternative proposal that addresses common-sense concerns with Minnesota’s wolf population and wolf hunt,” Dr. Maureen Hackett, founder and president of Howling For Wolves, said in a statement. “It directs the Minnesota DNR to gather better information that is needed to understand our wolves with sound, scientific methods.”

The DNR opposed the bill, saying more studies like the bill demands are not needed.

"Minnesota has more data on the wolf population than almost any other hunted species in the state," the DNR's Dan Stark told senators.

Farm leaders testified that they want the hunt to continue as a way to protect livestock.

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