Minnesotans asked to provide input on wolf management

Gray wolf. (Photo by dalliedee via Flickr)

Multiple opportunities are coming up soon for people in Minnesota to share their thoughts about how the state manages its gray wolf population. The Department of Natural Resources is in the middle of updating its wolf plan, and will open a public comment period next week, as well as kick off a series of online public hearings.

Over the past year, as the agency has worked to collect input and update the state’s 20-year-old wolf management plan, it has convened a stakeholder group, conducted a public opinion survey, and requested input from experts.

The upcoming public hearings and comment period will be a key phase of the effort.

“We look forward to having a dialogue about wolves in Minnesota,” said Dan Stark, DNR wolf management specialist. “What people think about where and how many wolves we have, conflicts regarding livestock depredation, the interrelationship of wolf and prey species, and future wolf management options are all important topics.”

The public comment period opens on Sept. 29 and will close Nov 1. Comments will be accepted through the DNR website. Three different open houses taking place over the next few weeks will focus on different part of the wolf range in Minnesota.

  • Northwest region – Sept. 29 (register)
  • Central and southern region, including the Twin Cities metro area – Oct. 6 (register)
  • Northeast region – Oct. 8 (register)

During the meetings, the DNR will provide information, answer questions, and accept public input. Required registration for the virtual open houses is now open.

There will be a final comment period when the draft wolf management plan is ready, which the DNR says could be later this year.

There are currently about 2,700 wolves believed to live in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s wolves are currently protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, meaning they can only be killed by citizens to protect human life, or by authorized government agents to prevent livestock depredation.

The DNR’s recent opinion survey found that nearly nine out of 10 Minnesotans believe it’s important to maintain the state’s wolf population. About 50 percent of respondents to the survey said they oppose a hunting season, with 40 percent in support. Nearly six in 10 oppose trapping.

When wolves were briefly removed from the list between 2011 and 2014, Minnesota opened two hunting and trapping seasons, with 413 killed in 2012, and 238 harvested in 2013. A federal judge restored them to the Endangered Species List in 2014 and legal battles continue.

Proponents of delisting wolves say they have made a remarkable recovery since nearly being wiped out in the lower 48. Northeast Minnesota was the last place they are believed to have survived after centuries of hunting and trapping. Wolf advocates say the animals only occupy a fraction of their historic territory.

“There are very strong positive attitudes towards wolves from Minnesotans, and almost all agree wolves are important,” said Joseph Wolf, a board member of wolf advocacy group Howling for Wolves said. “It’s important to consider the attitudes of all Minnesotans, not just a small subset of ranchers, when making statewide wildlife management decisions.”

Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced it would work to remove wolves from the Endangered Species List again. A hearing in Hibbing in June 2019, the only one held in the entire United States, drew a crowd of approximately 300 people.

At the end of August, USFWS director told the Associated Press that the Trump administration is trying to take wolves off the Endangered Species List by the end of this year.

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