The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday said there will be no wolf hunting and trapping season in Minnesota in 2021 as the agency continues to develop a new long-term wolf management plan.

DNR officials made the announcement during a video meeting of the agency’s wolf plan advisory committee that is helping plot the future of wolf management in the state.

Agency biologists say they won’t authorize a hunt until after a new wolf management plan is in place, which they said today likely won’t happen until early 2022, but no later than March.

"This morning we reiterated to the (committee) that there would be no decision on a wolf season prior to the completion of the wolf plan update,'' Dan Stark, the DNR's large-carnivore specialist, told the News Tribune. "We anticipate the completion of the wolf plan process in early 2022."

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Minnesota could hold a wolf hunting and trapping season this year because the animal has been taken off the federal endangered species list, as of January, with management now in the hands of state and tribal resource agencies.

Current state law says the DNR “may’’ hold a wolf hunt when federal protections are removed. Legislation to force the DNR to hold a wolf hunt, and another bill to prevent them from holding a wolf hunt, both failed to pass the 2021 Minnesota Legislature, leaving the decision up to the agency.

Many farmers and deer hunters have pushed for a wolf season, saying the big canines are killing livestock, threatening pets and people, depleting deer numbers and need to be culled.

But wolf supporters say the animals should remain protected. Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity and a member of the state’s wolf plan advisory committee, said the DNR is making the right decision.

“Minnesota’s wildlife managers have wisely prioritized first updating the management plan to reflect new science and the values of all Minnesotans,’’ she said. “That’s a welcome contrast to what happened just next door in Wisconsin, which rushed to hold a winter hunt and decimated their wolf population earlier this year.”

Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board, pressed by legal action and state lawmakers, ordered a wolf hunt in February which led to 216 wolves being killed in just 72 hours, 82% more than the state goal. Supporters said the culling was long overdue. But critics said the wolf season was too much, too soon after federal delisting. Wisconsin officials are debating another wolf hunt set for November.

In June 2020, the Minnesota DNR released a report that found 87% of Minnesota residents agree that maintaining the state’s wolf population is important. That agency last summer also formed its Wolf Advisory Committee with the goal of evaluating and updating the current 20-year-old Minnesota Wolf Management Plan. Committee members include representatives of local governments, wolf advocacy groups, environmental protection organizations, hunters and trappers and livestock operators.

The DNR estimates that there are about 2,500 wolves in Minnesota currently, by far the most of any state outside Alaska.

Nationally, the Biden administration says it is reconsidering all moves by the Trump administration regarding the Endangered Species Act. Wildlife groups also have moved to sue the federal government over the decision to delist wolves in the western Great Lakes region — Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.