|Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Minnesota's wolf hunt
In late October, the hunting and trapping of wolves is underway in Wisconsin; and Minnesota hunters will start shooting wolves on Nov. 3, after the state Supreme Court rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the wolf hunt under rules established by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Two groups, Howling for Wolves and the Center for Biodiversity, argued that the DNR did not allow a sufficient period for public comment last summer, after issuing its "Adopted Expedited Emergency Game and Fish Rules: 2012 Wolf Season." The Minnesota Court of Appeals will hold a hearing at a future date on the lawsuit's underlying argument; but state courts decided that the wolf hunt did not pose the threat of "irreparable damage" to Minnesota's wolf population.
The Wisconsin DNR reported that 25 wolves have been killed during that state's hunting and trapping season, which started in mid-October, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. "It's encouraging for outdoor enthusiasts," DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp commented, regarding the first 10 days of the wolf hunt in Wisconsin.
On Oct. 15, the same day that the Minnesota Supreme Court allowed the wolf hunt to proceed, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Fund for Animals filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the Endangered Species Act. The groups are asking that the gray wolf come under federal protected status again in the Western Great Lakes states. It was the delisting of the gray wolf in late January that allowed the states to implement hunting and trapping seasons.
Howard Goldman, Minnesota director of the Humane Society of the United States, is concerned that hunting and trapping seasons in Minnesota (which will allow a late trapping season) and Wisconsin could be devastating to the wolf population.
"We've got to be careful," warned Goldman. "What are we doing? They just came off the Endangered Species list in January," and then the Minnesota DNR "rushed through" a hunting season.
"In Minnesota, they don't have a current [wolf] population census - it's five years old," he added. "The last one was taken in 2007. And the population has been stable, everyone seems to agree, since 1998, without any hunting or trapping."
The wolf population of 3,000 is the largest in the lower 48 states, and the DNR has set the wolf "harvest" at 400 animals. Goldman points out that another 266 wolves have been killed this year under depredation control measures; and he figures that another 300 wolves might have been illegally killed by their human antagonists in northern Minnesota, who operate on the basis of "shoot, shovel and shut up."
These figures total about one-third of the state's estimated wolf population. "Many scientists believe that a kill of more than 30 percent is the tipping point, where wolf numbers might decline significantly," Goldman recently wrote on the Minnesota Public Radio website. "Let's not go down that path again."
In Wisconsin, the situation is more perilous for the wolf population, according to representatives of GLIFWC, Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, which represents 11 Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan on their reserved hunting, fishing and gathering rights under the 1837, 1842 and 1854 Treaties with the U.S. government.
Wisconsin hunters have killed 39 wolves, as of Oct. 30, according to Peter David, GLIFWC's wildlife biologist, who referred to the current tally on the DNR's website. The Wisconsin wolf population is put at 850.
Sue Erickson, GLIFWC's director of public information, confirmed what Goldman told me about the Wisconsin DNR setting aside 85 wolves for the tribes. "The tribes did not ask for any wolves," she commented, regarding the DNR's decision. "Tribes are not going to be taking any of those - tribes are opposing this wolf hunt."
And the Wisconsin tribes "also have objected on a principle of their traditional relationship to the wolf. His name is 'maa'ingan' in Ojibwe; and he's perceived as more the brother and teacher," Erickson said.
She related that traditional Ojibwe teachings say that the destinies of the wolf and the people are bound together. "So, whatever will happen to the wolves will happen to the Anishinabe."
David said that Wisconsin is well on the way to reaching the limit of 116 wolves for the "sport hunt." He pointed out that Wisconsin's new "lethal depredation control" regime has led to the additional killing of 75 wolves in 2012. And the Dairy State has a "much more liberalized approach" to the killing of wolves, which initially would have involved the use of dogs to hunt wolves. The HSUS lawsuit put a stop to that for the time being.
Compared to Minnesota, the Wisconsin wolf hunt is "much more marked in its impact" on the population, David concluded.