Who is Hunting for Wolves?

     Happy wolf hunters versus those who are unhappy about the wolf hunt. Most folks are in one camp or the other, there aren’t too many who are neutral on the topic of hunting for wolves. 

Wolf shot near Grand Marais among at least 32 taken on first day of Minnesota hunt

Lyle Wilson of Pine Island, Minn., became one of the first hunters in Minnesota to register a wolf on Saturday, opening day of Minnesota’s first managed wolf hunt. Wilson registered his wolf at Buck’s Hardware Hank in Grand Marais late Saturday afternoon.

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

Minnesota’s first wolf season opened concurrently with Minnesota’s firearms deer hunt across Northeastern Minnesota. By 10:45 p.m. Saturday, at least 32 wolves had been registered by hunters, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website. That included 16 in Northeastern Minnesota, 12 in northwestern Minnesota and four in east-central Minnesota.

The hunt was authorized by the Minnesota Legislature in its 2012 session, and the legislators determined the Nov. 3 opening date.

A total of 3,600 licensed wolf hunters are taking part in this early wolf hunting season. The DNR is allowing a maximum of 200 wolves to be taken in the early hunt, which continues through Nov. 18 or until the quota is reached.

A second wolf hunting season, along with a trapping season, will begin Nov. 24 and continue through Jan. 31. A total of 2,400 licenses are available for those seasons. That harvest will be capped at 200 wolves, too.

Wilson said he and his hunting partner, Mark Braaten of Pine Island, who also had a wolf license, were hunting about 25 miles northwest of Grand Marais. Wilson had a deer license, too, but he and Braaten were concentrating on wolves.

“We had baits out,” Wilson said. “We were using beaver carcasses.”

The wolf he shot was one of four he saw.

“It was right between two of our baits,” Wilson said. “He was coming from one and going to the other.”

The baits were about a half-mile apart, Wilson said.

Wilson was on his way into hunt one of the baits about 9 a.m. Saturday when he saw the wolves.

“It was fairly thick,” he said. “There was a small opening about 140 yards in front of me. I saw them coming over the hill.”

He shot at the first wolf 140 yards away and killed it with one shot. The wolf had severe mange on his hind legs, Wilson said.

“The back legs are fairly bare of hair,” he said.

He estimated the wolf weighed about 80 pounds. He plans to have the head and shoulders of the wolf mounted. He will stay in the Grand Marais area while Braaten continues to hunt for a wolf, he said.

The state of Minnesota assumed management of the gray wolf after it was removed from the federal Endangered Species List on Jan. 27. Some groups said the DNR did not offer enough opportunity for public comment on the wolf season. No public hearings about the season were held except for testimony before the Legislature. The DNR did offer an online survey about the season, and about 80 percent of respondents said they opposed a wolf season.

Two groups, Howling for Wolves and the Center for Biological Diversity, sued the DNR to stop this fall’s hunt but were unsuccessful. Howling for Wolves sponsored a protest in downtown Duluth on Saturday about the wolf hunt. The protest drew about 35 people, according to a News Tribune report.

Minnesota’s wolf population is estimated at 3,000. Wolves were last hunted and trapped in Minnesota before 1974, when the gray wolf was added to the Endangered Species List. The population in Minnesota at that time was estimated at 500.


‘We brought them back just to kill them?’: Protesters in Duluth decry state’s wolf hunt

From her cabin on a dirt road 10 miles off the Gunflint Trail, it took Stephanie Johnson 3½ hours to get to Duluth to join a rally against Minnesota’s wolf hunt.

By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune

From her cabin on a dirt road 10 miles off the Gunflint Trail, it took Stephanie Johnson 3½ hours to get to Duluth to join a rally against Minnesota’s wolf hunt.

It was worth the trip, Johnson said on Saturday, because she’s passionately opposed to the hunt that began that morning.

“There’s no reason except just pure killing for (hunting) these animals,” said Johnson, one of about 35 people gathered late Saturday morning on the plaza at Lake Avenue and Superior Street to oppose the hunt. “We just brought them back from an endangered species, just to kill them?”

Johnson, a 64-year-old artist, was holding a wolf painting she’d created on 2 feet of barn board as she joined other protesters in chanting, “Stop the wolf hunt,” and, “Trapping is torture.”

A vegetarian, Johnson said she opposes all hunting, but she especially loathes the wolf hunt. Others at the rally, which was organized by the group Howling for Wolves, said their opposition was specific to hunting and trapping wolves.

Among them was Chris Oswood, who was holding one side of a banner with one hand and the leash to his mixed-breed shelter dog with the other. Oswood, of Barnum and Minneapolis, said he doesn’t hunt but accepts other people hunting for food as a “necessary activity.”

But he’s uncompromising when it comes to the wolf hunt, saying it is done only for sport.

“I think it’s an unconscionable behavior,” Oswood said. “I think it’s something that the DNR and the governor have allowed to happen with no legitimate reason.”

The hunt is the first managed wolf hunt in state history. The gray wolf had been off limits to hunting since being placed on the federal endangered species list in 1974. The Obama administration removed the 4,000 gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan from the endangered list late last year, ceding wolf management to the states.

After the Minnesota Legislature authorized the Department of Natural Resources to act, the DNR set up two seasons. A late hunting and trapping season is to begin Nov. 24.

The DNR issued 3,600 wolf-hunting licenses by lottery, with a target harvest of 400 wolves. As of midafternoon on Saturday, seven wolves had been killed, according to the DNR website.

The protesters at Saturday’s rally argued that the DNR acted hastily to set up a wolf season, that the wolf population is stable without a hunt and that public input was ignored. They frequently cited the DNR’s online survey in which 80 percent of respondents said they opposed a wolf hunt.

That seemed to be borne out during the rally. As protesters chanted and displayed signs with slogans such as, “Real hunters don’t kill wolves,” motorists passing through the busy intersection frequently honked their horns in support. Only one person voiced a dissenting opinion during the hourlong event, a man who yelled, “Kill all the wolves,” from a car as it passed by.

The group so far has failed in its efforts to stop Minnesota’s wolf hunt through legal challenges. The Minnesota Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court earlier this fall rejected emergency motions for an injunction to stop the hunt. A lawsuit to stop the hunt continues, but any trial probably will take place after the upcoming season is over.

Although the hunt already was under way, Saturday’s protest wasn’t meaningless, said Maureen Hackett of Minnetonka, Minn., who founded Howling for Wolves. The hunt still can be ended early, she said.

“The governor could stop it,” Hackett said. “The governor could stop it tomorrow, today. There is no reason to have this hunt.”

Johnson, who has no electricity at the cabin where she has lived for about a dozen years, said she learned about Howling for Wolves earlier this year while visiting her daughter in Duluth. The issue resonates with her life in the north woods, she said. Although she knows she is in wolf territory, she and her dog have never been threatened.

“I hear the wolves, I see their footprints, I see their scat,” Johnson said. “I’ve never seen a wolf. I’ve never had a problem with a wolf.”