Controversial wolf hunting season may debut this year
In a move that some suggest is undemocratic and hasty, the legislature may legalize wolf hunting.
Yesterday, gray wolves were removed from the federal protection list, putting the animals under the control of the Minnesota DNR. And before the day was through, legislators were already developing plans to introduce a wolf hunting season later this year.
Ed Boggess, director of fish and wildlife for the DNR, told legislators that "there's been a pent-up enthusiasm, a pent-up demand to hunt wolves." But some wolf experts aren't so sure "pent-up demand" is a good reason to expose the relatively scarce animals to the tender mercies of hunters.
Shawn Perich, an outdoors writer and North Shore resident, served on a citizen roundtable in the late '90s that developed the DNR's wolf management plan. That plan called for a five-year hiatus between when the animals are returned to DNR control and the first wolf hunting season.
But last summer, in the bill that ended the government shutdown, legislators quietly inserted a provision eliminating that five-year hiatus. On his blog, Perich characterized that move as "an end run around public discourse" and writes that "the wolf will be treated as a trophy, an animal you hunt just for the experience of doing so."
Wolves only reside in a tiny sliver of northern Minnesota.
Wolves have been federally protected since 1974. Though there is now a stable population of about 3,000 wolves in Minnesota, they only reside in a sliver of their former range in the far northern portion of the state. The DNR believes that a few hundred wolves could be hunted without destabilizing the population. Wolf hunting licenses would be strictly limited to ensure that hunting doesn't destabilize the population.
Nick Coleman writes that while there might be good reasons to allow hunters to kill wolves, "there is something about the way that wolf-hunting is being cheered and hurried through the bureaucratic pipeline that is unsettling and which represents a retrograde blood lust more than sound public policy."
Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, has already introduced a bill that would require state officials to schedule wolf hunting at the same time as deer hunting season. For its part, the DNR proposes to start the wolf season after the firearms season is closed.
The Minnesota Humane Society told the Pioneer Press it is still examining the plan and considering whether to sue to have federal protections reinstated.
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