Minnesota Hunters Beware - Wolves Still Protected

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Hunters in the field for this weekend's firearms deer opener are reminded that it remains illegal to shoot gray wolves, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Federal officials removed the gray wolf - commonly referred to as the timber wolf - from the endangered species list earlier this year, and the DNR assumed management authority. While no longer endangered, State law classifies the gray wolf as a protected wild animal.

In the early 1970s, the extreme northeastern portion of Minnesota boasted the only population of gray wolves in the lower 48 states. Through the protections of the federal Endangered Species Act as well as successful federal and state recovery programs, the winter population of gray wolves has increased to about 3,000. The species now ranges throughout the forested portion of northern and central Minnesota.

"The recovery of wolves in Minnesota and the Great Lakes region is a conservation success story," said Dan Stark, DNR wolf management specialist.

Shooting a wolf is illegal except in defense of human life and, under certain circumstances, to protect livestock or pets. Illegally shooting a wolf is a gross misdemeanor with fines up to $3,000 and up to one year in county jail. People convicted also must pay $2,000 in restitution.

"The management goal for wolves in Minnesota is to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf while resolving conflicts between wolves and humans," Stark said. "With more people in the woods, the potential for conflict increases - particularly for any wolves that have been habituated to humans."