State concludes first wolf hunt

wolfThe state’s first ever wolf hunting and trapping season is history.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Wednesday, Jan. 2, the wolf season would close in the last open zone at the end of shooting and trapping hours the following day.

“Our plan was to close the season when the harvest was at or projected to reach 400 (wolves),” said Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist for the DNR in a statement.

Harvest numbers out of the last open zone, the northwest zone, showed that 181 wolves had been registered.

Late and early season wolf harvest numbers combined total was 395 animals.

DNR officials insist they’ve been conservative in setting the 400-wolf harvest season blink-off threshold.

Wolf hunters in the east-central zone, a rectangle east of the Mississippi River including the cities of Milaca and Hinckley, have taken nine wolves late season, according to the Department of Natural Resources website.

The DNR closed the east-central zone on Dec. 14.

In the Arrowhead or northeast zone, which includes the cities of Duluth and Virginia, hunters and trappers took 58 wolves late season and the DNR also closed this zone.

While having fewer than 750 wolves in the 1950s, it’s estimated that Minnesota had a stable wolf population of about 3,000 animals going into the hunting and trapping season.

The state’s wolf population is the largest of any state in the lower 48, according to the DNR.

Legislators are pleased with the results of the wolf season.

“I think it’s been going very, very well,” said Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, shortly before closure of the season.

Hackbarth, former environment and natural resources committee chairman, personally believed the 400-animal cutoff should have been higher.

But the DNR went with a more conservative number, and he accepted it, Hackbarth said.

Incoming House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee Chairman David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, also said the season was going well.

“I have not heard a single complaint by any hunter or trapper,” said Dill, speaking in late December.

Although withholding judgement for now, Dill senses the reason why zones have closed early is because the state’s wolf population is actually larger than currently believed.

“That’s what I suspect,” he said.

Hunters in the early wolf-hunting season, that closed on Nov. 18, took 147 wolves.

In the east-central zone, hunters registered eight wolves, with 61 wolves being registered in the northeast zone and 78 in the northwest zone.