Minnesota wolf hunters having success again
James Kelley was deer hunting last Sunday morning near Wrenshall, where he grew up, but he was ready to shoot a wolf if he had the chance. Kelley, from New Richland, Minn., was one of 2,300 wolf hunters who had drawn licenses for Minnesota's wolf...
James Kelley was deer hunting last Sunday morning near Wrenshall, where he grew up, but he was ready to shoot a wolf if he had the chance. Kelley, from New Richland, Minn., was one of 2,300 wolf hunters who had drawn licenses for Minnesota’s wolf hunt this fall, which opened last weekend with the firearms deer season.
Just before 8 a.m., Kelley saw a wolf come trotting in front of him.
“He jumped a grouse about a minute or two before,” said Kelley, 43, “and he came running right down the deer trail.”
Kelley shot the wolf at about 45 yards, he said.
On Wednesday, as required, Kelley presented the carcass and hide from his wolf to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife officials at Cloquet. Wildlife officials took a muscle sample from the wolf, about a 65-pound male, for DNA testing and a tooth to age the animal. Had it been a female, officials would have taken part of the reproductive tract to determine whether the animal was pregnant and how many pups it had in its last litter.
The information is used by the DNR to continue monitoring Minnesota’s wolf population, which is estimated at 2,423 animals. The agency says the wolf population is stable.
On Thursday, after hunters had taken 35 wolves in the Northeast wolf zone from a target harvest of 37, the DNR announced the zone would close at the end of shooting hours Friday.
In the Northwest zone, hunters had taken 50 wolves from a target harvest of 83 as of Friday. The early wolf hunting season will continue in that zone through today in Series 200 deer permit areas and through Nov. 23 in Series 100 deer permit areas.
Seasons in any zone are closed when the target harvest is reached or is expected to be reached within 24 hours.
Minnesota’s wolf hunt is continuing somewhat quietly in its third year, although it still is being protested.
The group Howling for Wolves held a rally against the wolf hunt at the state Capitol in St. Paul and in Duluth on Nov. 8, and this past week launched a radio
campaign aimed at getting the hunt shut down.
“We’re saying this hunt is not wolf management,” said Dr. Maureen Hackett of Minnetonka, Minn., president and founder of Howling for Wolves. “Eighty percent of Minnesotans value the wolf and think it should be protected for future generations.”
The group contends that killing wolves breaks up the packs and creates unstable packs.
DNR wildlife officials say the hunt is not aimed at reducing wolf numbers in the state. It’s a season consistent with those for other game species that the DNR has the authority to implement and manage, said Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist with the DNR at Grand Rapids.
“Our approach is to allow a sustainable hunting and trapping season and continue to have a viable wolf population in Minnesota,” Stark said. “It’s still the most closely managed and monitored season we have for any species we hunt or trap. We’ll keep monitoring it to make sure we don’t have any long-term negative impacts on the population.”
The overall target harvest for the early wolf hunt and a later hunting and trapping season this fall is 250 wolves.
While the DNR says the hunt is not for management purposes, Kelley gets a wolf license every year for one reason.
“To get rid of ’em for the deer population,” Kelley said.
His dad, Bill Kelley of Wrenshall, accompanied him to check in his wolf on Wednesday.
“I don’t think the DNR realizes how many wolves there are,” Bill Kelley said.
About 8,000 hunters applied for the 2,300 available licenses for the early wolf hunt this fall, Stark said. Of the 2,300 successful applicants, 500 chose not to purchase the licenses, but all were claimed in an over-the-counter call-in program just before the season.
In the late hunting and trapping season, set to start Nov. 29, about 7,000 people applied for the 1,500 licenses available, Stark said.
In Minnesota’s first wolf hunt in the fall of 2012, more than 23,000 hunters applied for licenses.
Wolf population estimates were made by the DNR in 2008, 2012-13 and this past winter. Results indicated the wolf population had dropped about 25 percent between the 2008 and 2012-2013 estimates, Stark said.
“The deer population was down about 25 percent, and we saw a similar change in the wolf population,” he said.
The 2013-14 population estimate was about 200 higher than the previous year’s estimate, but the change was statistically insignificant, Stark said.