By Andrew Persson
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In January of 2012 the wolf was removed from the Endangered Species Act in Minnesota and management responsibility was placed on the Department of Natural Resources. In November of that year a hunting season was opened in the northern half of the state with a great deal of both support and opposition.
The wolf population in Minnesota is estimated to be around 2200 right now, which is nearly 1500 more than what that number was just 60 years ago. Some are still skeptical about the population being stable enough to hunt however. “I think people don’t want history to repeat itself. Back in the earlier 1900’s we basically hunted them to extinction,” said Mark Duret, a third year student at BSU who will be wolf hunting this fall.
The area where wolf hunting will be taking place is divided into three zones, the northwest, northeast, and east-central zones. In those zones there are different season dates that hunters must abide by. The northwest and northeast zones will have an early season from November 9 to November 24, while the east-central zone will have an early season on November 9 and 10. All three zones will have a late season spanning from November 30 to January 31.
Regulations are strict on wolf hunters, yet many people are still quite upset with the fact that these animals are being harvested from the wild, and Duret can understand why.
“People relate them too much to domesticated dogs, I think there is a very stark difference between a wolf and a domesticated dog though,” said Duret, “Wolves are more primal, it all goes back to the human element. They are not used to humans living with them, especially as they get back to more stable numbers.”
One of the larger groups affected by wolf hunting is Minnesota deer hunters. The wolf season has brought both relief and frustration to the largest group of hunters in the state. Often, the wolf is linked to lower deer populations and in that regard the taking of wolves is often supported by deer hunters. However, it also puts more hunters in the woods during firearm deer season, which not only creates a larger safety hazard, but also can hinder deer hunting success.
The main reason that Mark Duret applied for his wolf license this fall was because of the deer management aspect. “As the years went on we heard more howling, we saw more tracks, and we just noticed that the wolf numbers were going up. Since we have never had any issues with malnutrition and we haven’t done anything major agriculturally on our land we didn’t suspect anything about deer food being an issue, and so we just correlated the low deer population to the wolf numbers going up,” said Duret.
The constant debate of this hunting season has no signs of slowing down in the near future, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will definitely be taking a look back at the past two wolf seasons come January and decide on what the next step for management is with one of the state’s top predators.