Minnesota’s first regulated wolf hunting and trapping season will be conducted this fall and winter. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is seeking public comment on details of the proposed season.
Consistent with state law, the state’s first regulated wolf season will start with the beginning of firearms deer hunting on Saturday, Nov. 3.
The DNR is proposing to split the season into two parts: an early wolf hunting season coinciding with firearms deer hunting; and a late wolf hunting and trapping season after the firearms deer season for those with a specific interest in wolf hunting and trapping.
A total of 6,000 licenses will be offered, with 3,600 available in the early season and 2,400 in the late season. Late season licenses will be further split between hunting and trapping, with a minimum of 600 reserved for trappers. The target harvest quota will be 400 wolves for both seasons combined, and will initially be allocated equally between the early and the late seasons.
The early hunting only season will be open only in the northern portions of Minnesota where rifles are allowed for deer hunting. It will start on Saturday, Nov. 3, the opening day of firearms deer hunting. It will close either at the end of the respective firearms seasons in the two northern deer zones (Nov. 18 in Zone 1 or Nov. 11 in Zone 2), or when a registered target harvest quota of 200 is reached, whichever comes sooner.
The late hunting and trapping season will begin Saturday, Nov. 24. It will close Jan. 6, 2013, or when a registered total target harvest quota of 400 in both seasons combined is reached, whichever comes sooner. The late season will be open statewide.
“The DNR is taking a very conservative approach to this first season,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations program manager.
Total proposed licenses and target harvest quotas are consistent with DNR testimony during the Legislative session, Merchant said. While Minnesota’s wolf population of approximately 3,000 animals likely could sustain a much higher harvest rate, this first season is designed to provide information on wolf hunting and trapping interest and success rates that will help inform the design and implementation of future seasons, Merchant said. The proposed season is consistent with the goal of the state’s wolf management plan to assure the long term survival of the wolf and address conflicts between wolves and humans.
The DNR is also continuing to consult with tribal governments and tribal resource agency staff on the proposed state wolf season.
Wolves were returned to state management in January 2012 when they were delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act. Prior to their complete protection under federal law in 1974, wolves were unprotected under state law and DNR had no wolf management authority. This proposal marks the first regulated harvest season for wolves in state history.
Wolf numbers and their distribution have remained relatively stable for the past 10 years and have been well above the federal wolf recovery population goal since the late 1990s.
Merchant said wildlife experts took into account wolf damage control mortality when setting the harvest number. Typically, about 80 farms have verified wolf depredation complaints each year. Over the past several years, an average of 170 wolves have been captured or killed each year by federal trappers in response to verified livestock depredation. About 70 wolves have been trapped and killed so far this spring following verified livestock damage complaints, primarily on calves.
Wolf hunting licenses will be $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents. Nonresidents will be limited to 5 percent of total hunting licenses. Wolf trapping licenses will be $30 (limited to residents only). A lottery will be held to select license recipients. Proof of a current or previous hunting license will be required to apply for a wolf license. The application fee will be $4.
The DNR is required by law to take public comment prior to implementing a wolf season. While decisions about whether to have a wolf season and when to start it have already been made through the lawmaking process, the DNR is seeking public comments on remaining details, many of which are outlined in this announcement. The complete proposal is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/wolves . Given how soon the season must be put in place, the DNR will only take comments through an online survey, also at www.mndnr.gov/wolves  through June 20.
Specific details of the wolf season proposal include: