A grouse hunter walking a trail on state land near Aurora on Sunday shot a young wolf that had snapped at his yellow Labrador retriever, said Don Bozovsky, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The hunter, who Bozovsky said wished not to be identified, was a young man. The hunter was walking a trail on state land at about 3:25 p.m. when the dog encountered the wolf on the trail, Bozovsky said. Fearing that the wolf would attack the dog, the hunter shot the wolf twice with a 12-gauge shotgun at a distance of about 8 feet, Bozovsky said.
After killing the wolf, the hunter called 911 to report his actions, and Bozovsky, a conservation officer stationed at Hibbing, went to the scene to investigate. The hunter was not charged for shooting the wolf because under Minnesota law, it is legal for a person to shoot a wolf if it poses an immediate threat to a person’s domestic animal, Bozovsky said.
At least one other Minnesota small-game hunter has killed a wolf under similar circumstances. A grouse hunter shot a wolf that had attacked his hunting dog in 2012 near Park Rapids, according to the Park Rapids Enterprise.
According to Bozovsky, here is what happened on Sunday:
“The hunter thought the dog was getting birdy on the scent of a grouse,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “The hunter rounded a corner and saw that the dog was approaching the wolf in the middle of the trail… It ended up getting very close to the wolf. The wolf snapped at the dog.”
Although the wolf, which Bozovsky estimated to be a 30-pound pup, didn’t bite the dog, the hunter feared that it would. The hunter moved to a position where he could shoot the wolf.
The wolf was “very bony,” Bozovsky said.
“It wasn’t eating very well, probably reflective of the deer population in the area,” he said.
Bozovsky estimated the dog’s weight at 75 pounds.
Bozovsky said he is keeping the wolf carcass in a freezer as evidence. He said the hunter acted in an appropriate way.
“It (the wolf) doesn’t have to kill the dog (to justify shooting it),” he said. “It just has to be an immediate threat. If it was running away, then it wouldn’t be posing an immediate threat.”
Wolf-dog encounters can escalate quickly, he said.
“Things evolve and happen fast,” Bozovsky said. “I give credit to the guy. He did what he was allowed to do. He preserved the evidence and reported it. He didn’t cover anything up.”