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Sam Cook, Forum Communications Co., Published May 21 2012

400 wolves could be hunted under Minn. plan

DULUTH, Minn. – Minnesota will see two wolf seasons this fall, not just one.

In its first hunt since assuming wolf management from the federal government, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has proposed an early wolf hunting season that would coincide with the state’s firearms deer season, opening Nov. 3.

A late wolf hunting and trapping season would open Nov. 24. It would close Jan. 6, 2013, or whenever a total harvest of 400 wolves in both seasons combined is reached, if it comes sooner.

The first season would be open only in the areas of the state open to rifle deer hunting, which are the northern and central zones. The late season will be open statewide.

Preparations for the state’s first formal wolf season have proceeded with little public opposition, although some residents testified in the Legislature against a wolf hunt. In contrast, removing the wolf from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act was fraught with controversy. So-called “delisting” was first proposed for wolves in the western Great Lakes region in 1998 but has been in and out of court ever since.

So far, no groups have offered a legal challenge to Minnesota’s proposed wolf season.

“In the past, we have challenged delisting of wolves, but we have no plans to do that this time. In the same vein, we have no plans to challenge the hunting season,” said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

A total of 6,000 licenses would 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.

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 (limited to residents only).

The DNR is seeking public comments on the plan through its website at www.mndnr.gov/wolves.

No American Indian bands or tribes in Minnesota have announced wolf hunting seasons. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will not hold a season, said Mike Schrage, wildlife biologist at the Fond du Lac band.

“A lot of band members feel a strong spiritual and/or cultural connection to wolves,” Schrage said. “Part of that spiritual and cultural connection is that wolves are part of the Ojibwe creation story.”

The 1854 Treaty Authority, representing the Bois Forte and Grand Portage bands, also will not hold a wolf season this fall, said Sonny Myers, executive director of the authority.

The state has an estimated 3,000 wolves, according to the DNR. 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 1990s.

Sam Cook writes for the Duluth News Tribune