A northwest Minnesota legislator who had the opportunity to trap a gray wolf during the three years the state offered a season said the ongoing wolf debate highlights the split between urban and rural Minnesota.
Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said he doesn’t hide the fact he trapped the wolf, the pelt of which hangs in his St. Paul office.
“I certainly don’t make it a secret,” said Fabian, chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. “I’ve mentioned it in committee before, I’ve mentioned it on the House floor.”
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offered tightly regulated wolf hunting and trapping seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2014 until a federal judge siding with protectionist groups again returned the species to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, where it remains.
Hunters and trappers in Minnesota killed 413 wolves in 2012, 238 wolves in 2013 and 272 in 2014 for an average success rate of 6.8 percent.
“We talk a lot about the lines that are drawn between urban-suburban and rural Minnesota, and this is one of them,” Fabian said. “The vast majority of people that live in northern Minnesota, I believe, are strong supporters of managing the wolf populations because there’s an awful lot of deer hunters up here, there’s a lot of pet owners up here and people who would like to see moose here again and whatnot.
“And if we’re going to manage the other species, we should be managing the wolf species, too.”
Fabian, who drew a tag in 2012, said he had help from an experienced trapper, who also had a license, in trapping the wolf he took in Beltrami Island State Forest.
Beginning in early December, they watched the traps for 16 days before catching the first wolf, Fabian said. Four days later, the same trap produced Fabian’s wolf.
“It was pretty cool -- I mean like really cool,” he said.
While wolves no longer can be hunted or trapped in Minnesota, trapping in general remains a controversial practice in protectionist circles. In February, Howling for Wolves, the Twin Cities-based wolf advocacy group, sent out a news release calling for a ban on snaring in Minnesota after a gray wolf in Duluth had to be shot after getting caught in a snare.
“Most people don’t know that hidden all over our woods are snares that trap dogs and wild animals alike, holding them in misery until their death,” Maureen Hackett, founder and president of Howling for Wolves, said in a statement. “Our woods are just not safe. These barbaric and unselective wire nooses catch and maim whoever walks by. Banning snaring would be a step to reduce assaults on wildlife and pets. It’s time Minnesota joins the 20-plus states that have already banned the practice of recreational snaring.”
Bills to prohibit snaring have been introduced by Twin Cities metro-area legislators in both the House and Senate, but Fabian said he vigorously opposes additional restrictions on trapping.
“I don’t like the idea there are pets that are caught in traps of many kinds -- that’s sad, and I get that,” Fabian said. “If the idea that a wolf is caught, quite frankly, in the district I represent and the way I feel, that’s just one less we have to worry about eating our cattle or our sheep or livestock of any kind.
“Or our pets,” he added.