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Minnesota sees fewer applicants for wolf hunting licenses

A gray wolf moves through forested country in winter. Credit: MacNeil Lyons, National Park Service

The allure of shooting or trapping a wolf in Minnesota may be declining.

Applications for Minnesota’s wolf hunting and trapping licenses dropped by almost half this year, said Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Last year, the inaugural year of Minnesota’s formal wolf hunt, about 23,500 hunters and trappers applied for licenses, Stark said. This year, that number dropped to about 13,000.

Stark said several factors might have contributed to that.

“There are fewer licenses available this year,” he said. “And last year was the first season ever. There was some novelty there. And probably, there’s the realization that there’s a low success rate for wolf hunters and trappers.”

Last year’s success rate was 7 percent for those who hunted wolves during the firearms deer season, 4 percent for late-season hunters and 30 percent for trappers, Stark said.

Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, agreed.

“It’s not the inaugural year,” he said. “It didn’t get the hype this year it did last year. And with the lower license and harvest numbers, that drives down the chances for success.”

A total of 3,300 licenses were available this year, down from 6,000 last year. The overall target harvest this fall is 220 wolves, down from the target harvest of 400 last year. The DNR lowered the target harvest in response to the latest wolf population estimate of 2,211 wolves, down about 25 percent from the most recent previous estimate in 2008.

Last year, hunters and trappers took a total of 413 wolves during the state’s first wolf season.

This year’s successful wolf-hunt applicants were notified this past week, Stark said. They were selected in a random drawing. There is no preference system in place for hunters who apply for a wolf license but do not get one.

“There’s no authority for that,” Stark said. “That’s something the Legislature authorizes.”

The Legislature didn’t include that in the framework it established for Minnesota’s wolf season last year.

A total of 553 hunters or trappers who applied for and received a wolf license last year also applied and received a license this year, Stark said.

Minnesota’s early-season wolf hunt is Nov. 9-24 in Series 100 deer permit areas (Nov. 9-17 in Series 200 areas). The late-season hunting and trapping season is Nov. 30 to Jan. 31. Seasons will close earlier if target harvest quotas are reached.

Successful applicants must purchase their licenses by Nov. 1 for the early wolf hunting season and by Nov. 22 for the late-season hunt. Unpurchased licenses will go on sale to applicants Nov. 6 for the early season and Nov. 27 for the late season.

A Minnesota wolf license costs $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.

Minnesota’s wolf season remains controversial, with some groups continuing to call for the DNR to discontinue the season.

The group Howling for Wolves launched a petition drive in August to gather signatures of people opposed to wolf hunting and trapping in Minnesota; as of Friday, the group reported online that it had gathered more than 28,000 signatures — nearly 18,000 of those from Minnesota residents.

Wisconsin’s wolf season

Wisconsin’s 2013 wolf hunting and trapping season opens Oct. 15 and continues until Feb. 28 or until the quota of 251 wolves is reached. A total of 2,510 licenses are available to hunters and trappers selected in a lottery.

Wisconsin’s wolf season structure does include a preference system so that hunters and trappers who apply for but do not receive a license have a better chance of being selected in future years.

Last year, Wisconsin hunters and trappers took 117 wolves in the state’s first wolf season following the gray wolf’s removal from the federal Endangered Species List.

The state has about 800 wolves, and the population estimate hasn’t changed from last year. The harvest quota was increased this fall with the intent of gradually reducing the state’s wolf numbers, said Fred Strand, Wisconsin DNR wildlife biologist at Brule.

“We certainly anticipate, with the number of permits available, that there will be more people participating and there will be more opportunity for conflict among users (wolf hunters and trappers),” Strand said.

The cost of a Wisconsin wolf license was cut in half this year to $49 for residents and $251 for nonresidents.

Sam Cook | Forum News Service

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