By Sam Cook, Forum Communications
DULUTH - Hunters took 147 wolves during Minnesota’s early wolf season, which ended Sunday.
That total was 53 less than the maximum quota of 200 for the early season, although hunters in the Northeast Zone actually exceeded their quota by three wolves. The hunt in the Northeast Zone was closed at the end of the day Thursday as the harvest approached the quota set by the Department of Natural Resources.
Hunters were required to register their wolves by 10 p.m. each day, and remaining hunters were required to check each day before hunting to make sure the quota had not been taken in their zone. In the Northeast Zone, with a quota of 58 wolves, hunters took a total of 61. Two of those wolves were registered Friday, after the season was closed, said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist at Grand Rapids. It isn’t known yet when those wolves were taken. DNR enforcement officers are investigating, he said.
“The season closed Thursday, and no wolves should have been taken Friday,” Stark said.
Overall, the season went smoothly, Stark said.
“There was nothing major that came up,” Stark said. “There’s nothing that we see that should have been changed.”
Eight wolves were taken in the East-Central Zone, where the quota was nine. That season was closed Nov. 5. In the Northwest Zone, where the quota was 133, hunters took 78 wolves.
The unused quota of 53 from the early season will be added to the quota of 200 for a late hunting and trapping season. That season opens Saturday and will continue until Jan. 31 or until the quota is reached.
Nearly all of the carry-over quota will be added in the Northwest Zone, Stark said.
In the late season, a total of 2,400 licenses will be available, 1,607 to hunters and 793 to trappers. The licenses were distributed to hunters and trappers in the same proportion as those who applied for the licenses, Stark said. A total of 11,379 hunters and trappers applied for late-season licenses.
In the late season, as in the early hunting season, hunters and trappers must register their wolves by telephone or online by 10 p.m. each day. Trappers in the late hunt may use leg-hold traps and snares, with specific regulations about where baits may be placed.
“I think most guys are talking snaring them,” said trapper Allen Edberg of Fredenberg Township. “It’s easier, and the cost of snares is less compared to what they’d have to pay for new traps.”
Because wolf trapping hasn’t been legal in Minnesota, most trappers don’t have traps big enough to use on wolves.
“It would be quite an investment,” Edberg said.
Snares are loops of wire that tighten around the neck of a wolf.
Edberg, who has a wolf-trapping license, thinks trappers will do well in the late wolf season.
“It should be pretty good,” he said. “And I was really surprised how many they shot (during the early hunting season), to be honest with you. That may be on account of the numbers (of wolves).”
Edberg said most trappers he has talked to, if successful, plan to have their wolf hides tanned or have the animals mounted, rather than selling the fur.
Depredation trapping up
In addition to the wolf hunting and trapping seasons, wolves causing depredation on livestock in Minnesota also are being taken by professional trappers with Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and by state-certified wolf controllers. So far this year, 271 wolves have been taken by federal and state trappers or by individuals protecting their livestock or pets, Stark said. That’s up significantly from the past three years, when about 200 wolves were taken each year in depredation cases, Stark said.
Minnesota’s wolf season has been controversial, and two groups sued the DNR unsuccessfully to stop the hunt.
“I pretty regularly hear from people who are opposed to the season and would like to stop it,” Stark said. “I tell them the decision to hunt and trap wolves was made, and the DNR has authority to do that and is managing it wisely, and is doing it in a way that isn’t going to jeopardize the wolf population in Minnesota.”
DNR officials estimate that 3,000 wolves roam the state. State officials say the maximum target harvest of 400 is well within safe harvest limits. Most studies in Canada and Alaska indicate that up to one-third of a wolf population could be taken during a year without affecting the sustainability of that population, according to wolf research biologist L. David Mech of the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Minnesota.
In Wisconsin, wolf hunters and trappers had taken a total of 89 wolves through Sunday. The Wisconsin season opened Oct. 15 and continues through Feb. 28 or until the statewide quota of 116 is reached. American Indians in Wisconsin may take another 85 wolves under treaty provisions.