By Don Davis

Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- An organization opposed to wolf hunting says a drop in the animal’s population means this year’s Minnesota hunting season should be canceled.

Howling for Wolves is launching a petition drive in an effort to convince Gov. Mark Dayton and his Department of Natural Resources to kill the season scheduled to begin in November.

The organization’s founder, Maureen Hackett, said the group will enlist thousands of volunteers to collect 50,000 signatures. The petition would have no legal force, but Hackett said the signatures as well as a declining wolf population could convince the governor to reverse a decision to allow the hunting and trapping season.

“It’s just for the sport, it’s just for the pelts,” Hackett said, not for meat as hunters of other animals obtain.

Keith Blomstrom, a National Wildlife Federation member, said that hunting threatens wolves’ survival. “We need to act as stewards of our state’s wildlife and protect our wolf population for future generations.”

State officials have said changes they are making in the second wolf season are designed to protest the animal.

The wolf hunting and trapping season is planned for the fall and winter, but state DNR officials late last month announced they are allowing about half the number of wolves to be killed and will issue about half the licenses they did in last year’s initial wolf season. The state plans to issue 3,300 hunting and trapping licenses.

The DNR will close the season once 220 wolves are killed. Last year, 413 wolves were killed.

This year’s targets are divided by region, with 145 wolf kills allowed in the northwest, 65 in the northeast and 10 in an east-central area.

State wolf population is estimated at 2,211, down from 2,921 in 2008.

Researchers said it is impossible to accurately determine the exact number of wolves, but they do feel numbers are down. They say several factors contribute to the population drop; one is a 25 percent decline in white-tailed deer, wolves’ largest food source.