DNR explains why wolf hunt will expand this season

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is upping the number of wolf hunting and trapping licenses available this year to 3,800, an increase of 500 from last year.

Asked why, Dan Stark, a large carnivore specialist for the DNR, cites two factors -- the DNR's most recent estimate of the wolf population, which shows an increase from last year, and the success rate of hunters and trappers trying to nab a wolf.

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First, here's the year-by-year estimate of Minnesota's wolf population:

And here's a geographical depiction of the size and range wolf packs radio-collared by the DNR for the 2013-14 survey (there are roughly 470 wolf packs in the state as a whole):

Stark says the DNR uses the radio-collared packs "to get estimates of average territory size and the number of wolves in each pack."

"The other portion [of the population estimate] is we estimate the wolf range in Minnesota based on observation of wolves in the northern part of the state, or really anywhere, but mostly it's the northern and central part of the state," he continues, adding that the wolf range "roughly lies north of a line between Hinckley to Little Falls and then up to the northwestern part of the state."

Asked what stood out about this year's wolf population estimate, Stark tells us, "The one difference between this past winter and previous surveys is that pack territory size was smaller than it was the previous winter."

"Instead of averaging about 60 square miles, it was about 50 square miles," Stark continues. "That was the main piece of data that had the most influence on this year's population estimate in regards to why it's different than the previous year."

Shrinking pack territory size could've resulted from the severe winter we experienced in 2013-14, Stark says.

(For more, click to page two.)

"Deer are more stressed and prone to wolf predation in severe winters, so wolves don't need to cover as much ground to find enough food to kill," Stark continues.

And with regard to the success rates of hunters and trappers, Stark says, "In previous seasons, hunters average about a 5 percent success rate, and trappers between 20 and 30. So we try to offer enough licenses where we'll reach target harvest but also [make sure] there's an opportunity to take a wolf, even if it's pretty low."

The first Minnesota wolf season occurred during 2012-13. With the number of wolves apparently on the upswing a year later, we asked Stark if it's fair to infer that the wolf hunt won't decimate the state's once-fragile wolf population.

"The wolf reason is the most closely monitored and regulated season we have for any species in the state, and I think the last winter survey estimate helped demonstrate that we can established conservation numbers for harvesting wolves that's not going to have a long-term negative impact on the overall population," he replies. "We're trying to manage that sustainably, and continue to allow wolves to thrive here and be viable."

To read the DNR's "Minnesota Wolf Population Update 2014" for yourself, click to page three.


DNR 2014 Wolf Report

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