By Brad Dokken
There’s a lot of “I seen it on the Internet” misinformation or fake news floating around out there these days, but a Facebook video post from the Kittson County Sheriff’s Office in far northwest Minnesota caught my attention Friday morning.
There’s nothing fake about it.
In the video, Kittson County Sheriff Steve Porter and Chief Deputy Matt Vig highlight the confirmed and suspected incidents in which officers from the department responded to reports of livestock either killed by wolves or missing and likely killed by wolves in the past year.
Vig contacted 40 cattle farmers around the county to compile the numbers, and the figures for 2017 paint a striking picture: 25 wolves were taken by federal trappers, and there were 21 confirmed wolf kills, 118 cattle missing but believed to be wolf kills by investigators and 15 incidents that didn’t get reported at the time because livestock producers didn’t understand the procedure for reporting.
Posted late Thursday afternoon, the video already had nearly more than 71,000 views and had been shared about 800 times by Friday afternoon.
Given Kittson County’s location in far northwest Minnesota and its proximity to northeast North Dakota, the video should be of interest to people on the west side of the Red River, as well.
Gray wolf management in the Great Lakes region, which includes Minnesota and parts of North Dakota, has bounced between state and federal control since 2012, when wolves in the region were taken off the federal Endangered Species List.
In Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources offered wolf seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2014, when hunters and trappers killed 413 wolves, 237 wolves and 272 wolves, respectively. After protest by opponents of the hunting and trapping seasons, wolves reverted to federal protection Dec. 19, 2014, when a federal judge ruled to immediately return the animals to protected status under the Endangered Species Act.
The only time Minnesotans can legally kill a wolf is in defense of human life, the DNR explains on its website.
Because of the federal judge’s ruling, livestock producers since December 2014 have been required to work through a federal trapper to handle any wolf problems that occur. As Porter explained in the video, the average payment on the 21 confirmed losses this year was $1,000 a head.
It’s time for wolf management to return to the DNR where it belongs, Porter says.
I’m not “anti-wolf,” and I love hearing and seeing them, but I believe they should be managed by the state, considering their population exceeds the recovery guidelines outlined in the Endangered Species Act.
The DNR in September said Minnesota had an estimated 2,856 wolves and 500 packs during the 2016-17 winter population survey, an increase of about 25 percent from the previous survey. For context, the state’s minimum goal is 1,600 wolves, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s minimum goal falls in the range of 1,250 to 1,400, the agency says on its website.
Given those numbers, it’s not unreasonable for livestock producers and others to have the ability to protect their livelihoods.
In the video, Vig says Kittson County ranks No. 2 in the state in terms of the number of wolves taken by federal trappers and No. 1 in total livestock losses. In one extreme case, the Kittson County authorities said a producer who lives east of Lake Bronson reported 69 wolves trapped on his farm in the past six years.
Hypothetically, if the people in northwest Minnesota and other parts of the state who live with wolves on a daily basis were to have a vote on returning management to the state, I’d wager the measure would win by a convincing margin, if not a landslide.
But that’s not the way it works when deciding who manages wolves.
I’m not dumb enough to try and change the minds of the people out there who give wolves a kind of hallowed status, but I believe Porter is correct.
The wolf issue is emotional, to be sure, but there needs to be a balance.
• On the Web:
To watch the video, go to Facebook.com and search for Kittson County Sheriff’s Office.