Tom Hackbarth, Dan Fabian and David Dill, St. Paul, column: DNR's implementation of wolf season falls short
By Tom Hackbarth, Dan Fabian and David Dill ST. PAUL -- A new law to establish a wolf hunting and trapping season is being implemented by the Department of Natural Resources, but the agency's proposed plan doesn't meet the needs of managing wolve...
By Tom Hackbarth, Dan Fabian and David Dill
ST. PAUL -- A new law to establish a wolf hunting and trapping season is being implemented by the Department of Natural Resources, but the agency's proposed plan doesn't meet the needs of managing wolves, doesn't meet the public's expectations and especially doesn't meet the 2012 Legislature's intent.
Wolves have been trapped for depredation purposes throughout the years, even while on the endangered-species list. They also were hunted and trapped without a managed season until being listed as endangered in 1974.
The species has rebounded well and now has been delisted from federal protection. Minnesota currently has more than 3,000 wolves, the largest population in the lower 48 states.
With greater numbers comes increased depredation. Wolves are a menace to farm animals in northern Minnesota, one of the main reasons we need to control the wolf population in our state.
In this year's Game and Fish Bill, the Legislature authorized the DNR to handle the implementation of hunting and trapping wolves. The DNR proposes a hunting-only season during the firearms deer season, Nov. 3-18. Then a late season will take place Nov. 24 through Jan. 6, mixing firearms and trapping.
A lottery will take place providing 6,000 tags, but hunters would be forced to choose between seasons; they could not hunt both.
We believe hunters should be able to take part in both seasons, not have to choose.
Also, this schedule ignores a crucial fact: The Legislature's intent was to let wolves be taken through the end of February to include a greater portion of prime wolf season and help us reach a wolf quota. But the way it is set up now, the season will end Jan. 6, regardless of how many wolves are taken.
It's doubtful many wolves will be taken during the firearms deer hunting season, leaving a narrow late-season window to manage the population.
If the goal is to take 400 wolves a season to manage the population and reach the quota this first season, then let's take 400 wolves. Instead, the DNR has constructed a proposal which we doubt will achieve the desired results.
It makes us wonder what the objective is if the DNR is making it so hard to reach a wolf quota.
The DNR says owners of livestock, guard animals or domestic animals may shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to their animals, on property they own or lease in accordance with local statutes. Our concern is this open-ended provision leaves too much to interpretation and, without proof positive, residents unwittingly could break the law.
These issues and others could be addressed if the DNR were to conduct additional public discussions. Unfortunately, citizen input has been limited. The only public forum was in Roseau, Minn., the night after the DNR released its proposed plan.
In contrast, Wisconsin is conducting four public meetings this month as it addresses the same issue.
We encourage the DNR to host additional public meetings. At the very least, we highly recommend that residents take part in the 2012 Wolf Season Public Comment survey available through June 20 at www.dnr.state.mn.us .
In addition to answering questions, there is a place to enter comments.
Please, Herald readers, let your voices be heard on this issue.
There still is time to fix some of the glitches in the DNR's proposal and support the true intent of this new law. It's up to the public to help make it happen.
In the Minnesota House, Hackbarth, a Republican, represents Cedar; Fabian, a Republican, represents Roseau; and Dill, a Democrat, represents Crane Lake.