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MN: DNR hustles to finalize wolf-hunt details

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Now that Minnesota’s wolf-hunting season is a sure thing, state wildlife officials are under pressure to finalize how to handle issues such as licensing and registration.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Game and Fish bill Thursday, solidifying that wolf-hunting season begins Nov. 3, which is also the first day of the state’s firearms deer season. That gives the state Department of Natural Resources just under six months to figure out logistical details.

“The big issue, quite frankly, is timing,” said DNR spokesman Dennis Simon. “We need to sequence things in the right order and they need to happen fairly quickly.”

The new law gives the DNR authority to set a harvest quota, structure the season, conduct a lottery to select hunters and reserve a portion of the annual quota for trappers, according to a Duluth News Tribune report (http://bit.ly/JneQqj ).

The agency has already tentative plans about certain details, such as setting a first-year quota of 400 animals. Other details, such as how to distribute hunting and trapping licenses, are still being discussed.

Wolf management returned to the state in January after federal officials removed wolves in the Midwest from the Endangered Species List. DNR officials say they plan to take a conservative approach in the first year and allow the program to evolve.

In its proposal to the Legislature, the DNR said it planned to issue 6,000 licenses to take up to 400 wolves. There are an estimated 3,000 wolves in the state now.

The state would also have to implement a system to ensure that the quota isn’t exceeded. Most likely, hunters and trappers who take animals will have to register them on the same day, and they’ll have to monitor a hotline or website to check the status of the season and harvest, Stark said.

Hunting licenses are expected to cost $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents. Trapping licenses, which are only available to residents, will cost $30. The trapping season will probably run from Nov. 24 through Jan. 5, said Dan Stark, the DNR’s large carnivore specialist in Grand Rapids.

The DNR is considering separate lotteries to select hunters and trappers so each group has a reasonable chance at receiving licenses, Stark said. The public will be given a chance to comment online, he said.

Even after the preliminary administrative details are worked out, there’ll be lingering uncertainty, as no one knows how interested the public will be in wolf hunting, Simon said. It also remains to be seen how effective hunters and trappers will be in taking wolves, he said.

“We’ve always thought of this inaugural year as experimental,” Simon said. “We’ll gather information. We’ll see what works, what doesn’t work. Then we’ll make adjustments and modify in future seasons.”

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Information from: Duluth News Tribune, http://www.duluthsuperior.com

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