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DNR assumes management of state's wolf population

Minnesota's wolves have been removed from the federal endangered species list, allowing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to manage the state's wolf population.

Wolves in Minnesota, considered part of the Great Lakes population of wolves, were delisted in March 2007, but a federal court ruling last September reinstated the wolf's status as threatened, based on technical questions about procedural aspects of the delisting rulemaking. After re-examining its legal authority, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reissued its delisting decision in March 2009 with an effective date of May 4.

"After the initial 18 months of state wolf management, Minnesota demonstrated the effectiveness of ensuring long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota and resolving conflicts between wolves and humans," said Dave Schad, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. "Wolf recovery is a great conservation success story."

Minnesota's wolf management plan is designed to protect wolves and monitor their population while giving owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. It splits the state into two management zones with more protective regulations in the northern third of Minnesota, which is considered the wolf's core range.

Minnesota's management plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure long-term wolf survival. The state's wolf population, estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, has stabilized at about 3,000 wolves. Under state law, no public hunting or trapping seasons on wolves is allowed for at least five years after delisting. Federal law also requires USFWS to monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting to ensure recovery continues.

Similar to federal regulations, the state plan allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life. Pet owners also may shoot or destroy a gray wolf posing an immediate threat on any property as long as the owner is supervising the pet.

Owners of livestock, guard animals 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. Immediate threat means the observed behavior of a gray wolf in the act of stalking, attacking or killing livestock, a guard animal or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.

In the southern two-thirds of the state (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. A detailed description of Minnesota's wolf management zones is available online.

Regardless of location, a person shooting or destroying a gray wolf must protect all evidence, report the incident to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours and surrender the wolf carcass.

Unlike federal regulations, state regulations allow harassment of wolves that come within 500 yards of people, buildings, livestock or domestic pets. Activities that discourage wolves from contacting people and domestic animals are allowed, but wolves cannot be attracted or searched out, and harassment activities cannot cause physical harm.