The first shot has been fired in what is expected to be a lively debate at the Minnesota Legislature over a wolf hunting season in Minnesota.
A bill has been introduced calling for a wolf season to coincide with the firearms deer season — a move Department of Natural Resources officials oppose. DNR leaders have said they want a separate wolf season that would begin in late November after the firearms deer season.
But Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, author of the bill, said it makes sense to have the wolf season when deer hunters are afield.
“At least give hunters a chance to take them,” Dill said. “A wolf isn’t easy to hunt. Most [wolves] will be taken by happenstance.”
Under his bill, the DNR would determine the number of wolves to be taken or how many licenses would be issued. Dill introduced the bill after consulting with the Iron Range delegation. “It represents what the constituents of northeast Minnesota want,” he said. “They want a season as soon as possible.”
The bill sets the price of a wolf license at $38 for residents and $195 for nonresidents. A wolf trapping license would be $50 for residents and $100 for nonresidents, though Dill said he already has heard from trappers who oppose allowing nonresident trappers.
Dill said the wolf population in the north “has exploded” in recent years and that wolves are attacking livestock and pets. “I can’t tell you the multitude of calls I’ve received in the last decade,” he said. Dill said his Lab was attacked by a wolf in his yard two or three years ago.
His bill (HF1856) is a starting point, he said. It get its first hearing Thursday in the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committee.
State control Friday
Minnesota officially regains management of the wolf starting Friday, but it’s likely few citizens will notice the change.
“Wolves are still a protected animal,” said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist. “There is no open season. Provisions for taking them are limited to protecting livestock and pets — or in defense of human life.”
The biggest difference is that now individuals will be able to directly protect their animals from wolf depredation. In Zone A, the primary wolf zone, owners of livestock, guard animal or domestic animals may shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to their animals on property they own or lease.
“Immediate threat” means seeing a wolf stalking, attacking or killing livestock, a guard animal or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner. Also, the owner of a domestic pet may shoot a wolf posing an immediate threat on any property, as long as the owner is supervising the pet.
In the southern two-thirds of the state (Zone B), a person may shoot a wolf at any time to protect livestock, domestic animals or pets on land they own, lease or manage. The “immediate threat” rule doesn’t apply.
The DNR says anyone killing a wolf must protect all evidence and report the taking to a conservation officer within 48 hours, and the wolf carcass must be surrendered.
Substituting Legacy dollars?
State lawmakers have ignored the intent of voters and begun to substitute Legacy Amendment dollars for traditional sources of conservation funding, Conservation Minnesota says.
“Legislators and the governor need to hear from people that this is unacceptable,” said Paul Austin, executive director of the group.
The analysis of spending last year shows that the state cut general fund dollars to the five primary conservation agencies by 16 percent last year, including 15 percent from the DNR and 40 percent from the state Pollution Control Agency.
“There are areas that used to be funded by general fund dollars that have been cut and replaced with Legacy Amendment dollars, which goes against the idea voters had when they approved the amendment,” Austin said.
“If this pattern continues, we could end up with less being spent on conservation than before the amendment passed,” he said. “Common sense tells us voters wanted more money spent on these areas.”
The report is at startribune.com/a960.
Did you know?
• A logger turned over a newborn bear cub he found in the woods to conservation officer Dustie Heaton. The location of the sow was unknown. Heaton said the cub was the size of a 12-ounce can of pop and had an umbilical cord still attached. It was taken to the Garrison Animal Hospital.
• The DNR’s big game program leader is one of the agency’s most highly visible jobs, because that person is responsible for deer and the deer season — of prime interest to 500,000 deer hunters. Lou Cornicelli had the job for the past nine years but was promoted to wildlife research manager last year. Officials interviewed replacement candidates last week and are expected to offer the job to one of them.
• The appointment of Tom Landwehr as DNR commissioner is expected to be formally confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday when the 2012 sesion opens.
• Capt. Phil Meier, a 34-year DNR veteran, has been promoted to major and named the division of enforcement’s operations manager. He succeeds Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, who was recently promoted to assistant director of DNR enforcement.
• A watercolor painting of two tom turkeys by David Chapman of Minnetonka will be featured on Minnesota’s 2013 Wild Turkey Stamp. Chapman also won the turkey stamp contest in 2002 and 2006.