By Dave Orrick
A “pent-up demand” to hunt wolves is driving plans for a fall hunt for the animal, several officials who support the plan said Thursday.
As of today, gray wolves are no longer federally endangered – or federally protected – in western Great Lakes states, and Minnesota is wasting no time moving ahead with a hunting season.
“There’s been a pent-up enthusiasm, a pent-up demand to hunt wolves,” Ed Boggess, director of fish and wildlife for the Department of Natural Resources, told a panel of state lawmakers Thursday.
The phrase was echoed by lawmakers representing both the northwoods, where wolf populations are the highest in the state, and those hailing from rural northwestern agricultural areas, where farmers have previously had to call in the government to deal with instances of a wolf killing livestock.
The same words also were used by hunters and trappers who testified before lawmakers in the House and Senate.
“If we get a permit, we’ll get a wolf,” said a confident Wayne Thom, referring to himself and fellow veteran trapper Russ Sikkila. The two men can recall trapping wolves for government bounty before 1974, when wolves were added to the Endangered Species Act list and hunting and trapping were banned. “And yes, I’ll be applying for a permit,” Thom said.
The DNR has proposed issuing 6,000 permits via a lottery, with no more than 400 wolves being killed. The total statewide population is estimated to be around 3,000.
In the House committee on Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance, no lawmaker spoke out against the plan. State Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, supports a move pushed by deer hunters to allow the season to start while the popular deer firearms season is under way. The DNR proposes to start the wolf season after the firearms season is closed.
Howard Goldman, Minnesota Senior State Director of the Humane Society of the United States, said his organization is still examining the plan and considering whether to sue to have federal protections reinstated.