Herald editorial board
A Minnesota sheriff from the region says gray wolves are ravaging livestock, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost revenue. At least for the time being, not much can be done about it.
Kittson County Sheriff Steve Porter recently posted a video on Facebook, outlining what he says is a worsening problem in northern Minnesota. Data collected by his department shows heavy losses by livestock producers in his county as the gray wolf population continues to increase under the protection of the federal government.
According to Porter, there have been 25 wolves trapped in Kittson County - in the extreme northwest corner of Minnesota - so far in 2017.
Also, authorities confirmed 21 cases of livestock kills this year, according to Porter, and 15 cases of livestock kills that weren't officially investigated by law agencies.
Although the state reimburses livestock producers an average of about $1,000 for each animal proven to be killed by wolves, the compensation program isn't enough to justify the losses, Porter said.
For example, Porter says in his video there have been 118 cows and calves that simply disappeared this year in Kittson County. Without remains or confirmation that the animals were killed by wolves, the producers aren't reimbursed. Yet the cows and calves disappeared in areas that have seen heavy wolf predation.
Considering the high number of supposed wolf kills that are not compensated, along with the 15 cases that weren't officially investigated and therefore cannot qualify for reimbursement, Porter says producers in Kittson County probably lost out on much more than $100,000 in potential revenue. Because wolves are federally protected, they have no recourse.
This isn't a new issue. Earlier this year, a federal court upheld the decision that keeps gray wolves on the endangered species list. It means states - the ones who really understand a regional problem like the one in Kittson County - cannot assert management control measures, such as hunting seasons.
In 2011, the federal government removed wolves in Great Lakes states from protection, and Minnesota allowed hunting for three years. In 2014, wolves again were protected, and Minnesota's wolf population grew accordingly.
A 2016-17 survey found Minnesota's wolf population includes approximately 500 packs and 2,850 wolves overall. That's a rise of about 25 percent from the previous year and considerably higher than the state's minimum goal of about 1,600.
The only way a wolf legally can be killed is in defense of a human life. Meanwhile, livestock producers continue to lose money.
As Porter says in his video, "wolves are eating our young, hard-working livestock producers out of house and home."
This is an issue that needs attention. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - and not the federal government - should be tasked with wolf management. Congress debated it last summer, but the problem remains.
Environmental concerns should help craft federal policy for endangered species, but it shouldn't come at the expense of livestock producers.
It seems to us that it's time for another wolf hunting season in Minnesota.