The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proposing an inaugural gray wolf hunting and trapping season this fall that calls for a conservative harvest quota of 400 animals.
Wolf research indicates Minnesota’s wolf population could sustain a higher quota, but DNR officials say they are taking a measured approach to the state’s first season.
The proposal sets a quota of 6,000 licenses that will be allocated through a lottery system. Only one license will be allowed per hunter or trapper. Hunting would be allowed with firearms, archery equipment and muzzleloaders. Calls and bait would be allowed with restrictions.
The season is proposed for the end of November and would be closed once the quota is met. Hunters would be required to register animals on the same day they are harvested and data would be collected from carcasses. Other states with harvest seasons for wolves and other big game animals similarly monitor seasons and close them when quotas are met.
DNR will outline its proposals to the Legislature on Thursday, Jan. 26 before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee.
While the legislatively approved wolf management plan authorizes hunting and trapping seasons, the agency is seeking additional authorization from the state Legislature this session to offer a wolf license and implement other management strategies. Legislators will have to pass a bill by the end of the session and the governor will have to sign it in order for a season to be held.
The DNR will also take public comments prior to finalizing and implementing a wolf season.
The initial season will allow wolf biologists to collect information on hunter and trapper interest and harvest success and will provide biological information on harvested wolves to help inform future wolf population management and monitoring. The state has an estimated population of 3,000 gray wolves and past surveys indicate the population is stable.
Wolves are prolific, survival of young is generally high and populations can offset effects of mortality caused by hunting and trapping seasons, DNR officials say.
The DNR intends to manage wolves as a prized and high-value fur species by setting the season when pelts are most prime, limiting the take through a lottery and requiring animals be registered.
DNR plans to adjust the framework of future wolf seasons based on information collected during the inaugural season. This adaptive management approach will result in progressive changes as the DNR learns how to best manage a wolf season in Minnesota. The wolf harvest quota does consider other causes of mortality such as removal due to livestock and domestic animal depredation and threats and vehicle collisions.
The agency will also be undertaking a new wolf population survey starting next winter.
Minnesota’s population of Great Lakes gray wolves transitions from federal protection to state management on Friday, Jan. 27. That is when the DNR implements its state management plan, which is designed to ensure their long-term survival of wolves in the state.
The agency has three lead conservation officers designated to ensure enforcement of the state’s wolf laws by conservation officers throughout the wolf range. The agency also has a wolf research biologist and management specialist.
Information on changes to regulations on taking wolves to protect domestic animals can be found online at mndnr.gov/wolves.