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Wolf Season

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In 2014 two provisions that protect wolves were included in the Game and Fish Bill that was signed into law: required quarterly reporting of wolf deaths; and a doubling of the penalty for a repeat offense of wolf poaching.

2014- End of Session

Read the final Game and Fish Bill here. Section 45 increases penalties for poaching wolves for those who have a prior conviction (by including a civil penalty in addition to existing penalties); Section 48 requires the DNR to post on its website quarterly reports detailing known wolf deaths.

2013-2014 Four bills deal with the MN wolf hunt

wolf-2SF 666/HF 1163 places a five-year moratorium on wolf hunting. It was introduced in 2013 by Senator Eaton and Representative Isaacson. This bill did not pass but an amendment to this effect was brought forth and votes were cast on the floor of the Senate during debate over the Game and Fish bill at the end of the 2014 session. MVAP position: support. See MVAP Humane Scorecard 2013-2014.

HF 3196 was introduced in 2014 by Representative Fischer and prohibits wolf trapping, baiting, and the overall taking of any wild animal with snares. This bill did not pass but an amendment to this effect was brought forth and votes were cast on the floor of the Senate during debate over the Game and Fish bill at the end of the 2014 session. MVAP position: support.  See MVAP Humane Scorecard 2013-2014.

SF 2256/HF2680, introduced by Senator Hawj and Representative Isaacson, suspends the wolf hunt in order to study outcomes of the wolf hunt on the wolf population and to implement the wolf management plan, including a wolf census, development of best management practices (including non-lethal methods) for livestock producers, and annual review by a task force representing a diverse group of stakeholders. This bill did not pass, though lobbying by advocacy organization Howling for Wolves created pressure leading to other enhanced protections for wolves passed in 2014: required quarterly reporting of wolf deaths; and a doubling of the penalty for a repeat offense of wolf poaching.

HF 2193 closes the wolf hunt on Indian reservations. This bill did not pass.

wolf-2In anticipation of the federal delisting of gray wolves, the Minnesota state legislature passed a wolf management bill in 2000 and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) completed a Wolf Management Plan in 2001. Minnesota’s original Wolf Management Plan contained a clause that authorized the DNR to consider hunting and trapping seasons no sooner than five years after wolves were removed from the federal Endangered Species List (they were removed in Dec, 2011). The requirement to wait for five years for a hunting season was removed from law in 2011.

2012-2013 Wolf Seasons

Wolf-1Governor Dayton signed the Omnibus Game and Fish Bill into law on May 3, 2012. The law authorized the Minnesota DNR to manage a wolf hunting and trapping season. The first wolf-hunting season began on Nov. 3, 2012.  Licenses were issued to take up to 400 wolves, half from hunting and half from trapping. 412 wolves were taken in 2012’s hunt. After the first season the MN DNR conducted a statewide wolf population survey and found that the population had declined by almost 25%, and could be as low as 1652 wolves, perilously close to the minimum population of 1600. In 2013, 237 wolves were killed.

Opposition to the Season

Opposition to the seasons comes from Native American tribes and animal protection and conservation organizations. All of Red Lake Indian Reservation was set aside as a wolf preserve, and lawsuits opposing the season (both at the federal and state level) were filed in 2012.

— An open wolf season is not necessary to protect people, pets, or livestock. Existing law allows both individuals and professionals to take wolves threatening humans, pets, or livestock.

— An open wolf season is not necessary to manage the state’s wolf population. Figures from the DNR show that without a recreational season, the wolf population remained stable from 1997-2007.

Historical Context

Gray-wolf-gazingFederal Delisting

On December 28, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its rule removing Minnesota’s gray wolves from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. While on the list and designated as ‘threatened’, wolves in Minnesota were managed by the federal government under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). As of Jan 27, 2012, Minnesota’s wolves are managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

State Management of Minnesota’s Wolves

wolf-5In anticipation of the federal delisting of gray wolves, the Minnesota state legislature passed a wolf management bill in 2000 and the DNR completed a Wolf Management Plan in 2001. Minnesota’s original Wolf Management Plan contained a clause that authorized the DNR to consider hunting and trapping seasons no sooner than five years after wolves were removed from the federal Endangered Species List (they were removed in Dec, 2011). The requirement to wait for five years for a hunting season was removed from law in 2011. Minnesota statutes were amended in 2011 to change the state status of wolves to a small game species and provide the ability to authorize a season without a five year waiting period. Please see below for details on the state’s management plan.

Wolf Hunt in Minnesota

Governor Dayton signed the Omnibus Game and Fish Bill into law on May 3, 2012. The new law authorizes the Minnesota DNR to manage a wolf hunting and trapping season, including setting quotas, determining number of hunting licenses, and reserving a portion of the quota for trappers. The wolf-hunting season began on Nov. 3, 2012, the first day of the state’s firearms deer season. 6,000 licenses were issued to take up to 400 wolves, half from hunting and half from trapping. The DNR took public comments on the hunting and trapping season via an online survey. The DNR received 7,351 responses to its public survey — 1,542 people supported a wolf season, 5,809 opposed it. The DNR proceeded with the season.

Minnesota Wolf Management Plan

Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves. The plan splits the state into two management zones, with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf’s core range.

wolf-6Wolf-Human Conflicts Addressed in the Plan

  • The major change with state management is the ability of individual people to directly protect their animals from wolf depredation, subject to certain restrictions. In addition, the state-certified gray wolf predator control program will be available to individuals as another option to deal with livestock depredation.
  • State regulations allow harassment of wolves that are within 500 yards of people, buildings, livestock or domestic pets to discourage wolves from contacting people and domestic animals.
  • Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life.
  • The Wolf Management Plan has provisions for taking wolves that are posing risks to livestock and domestic pets. Owners of livestock, guard animal or domestic animals may shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to their animals on property they own or lease, in accordance with local statutes. In addition, the owner of a domestic pet may shoot or destroy a gray wolf posing an immediate threat on any property, as long as the owner is supervising the pet.
  • In the southern two-thirds of Minnesota (Zone B), a person may shoot a gray wolf at any time to protect livestock, domestic animals or pets on land they own, lease or manage. The circumstance of “immediate threat” does not apply.
  • The state will also certify private “predator controllers” with expertise in hunting or trapping who can remove wolves in areas with verified loss.

Background

wolf-4The gray wolf was among the first animals to be protected as an endangered species in the United States. For centuries, wolves had been perceived as a threat to humans, to livestock, and to wild game, and because of this, they were hunted to the brink of extinction. In the 1970s, the U.S. Congress passed the Endangered Species Act to provide federal protections against species loss. The wolf was listed as endangered in all of the lower 48 states except Minnesota, where it was listed as threatened. (“Endangered” means at risk of becoming extinct; “threatened” means at risk of becoming endangered.) This made it illegal for private individuals to kill wolves in Minnesota, and it placed critical habitat in Minnesota under federal protection.

Since then, wolf populations have begun to bounce back. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there were only 750 wolves in Minnesota in 1970, whereas the most recent estimates put the Minnesota wolf population at around 3000. Because this figure exceeds the minimum population of 1600 wolves established as a measure of wolf recovery, there have been a number of efforts to remove the Minnesota wolf from the Endangered Species List.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has delisted the wolf two times before the most recent delisting in 2011. Both times, however, the decision was successfully challenged in federal court by animal protection and conservation organizations, and the Minnesota wolf was relisted. The legal issue was whether or not the language of the Endangered Species Act allows the federal government to identify a distinct population of an otherwise threatened species and simultaneously delist that population.

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