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DNR outlines details of upcoming wolf seasons

Minnesota's inaugural wolf season -- the first regulated take in the state's history -- will begin Nov. 3, the Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday. The opener coincides with the state's firearms deer season.

There'll actually be two seasons -- an early hunting season and a late season beginning Nov. 24 that will include trapping.

DNR officials outlined details of the two seasons Thursday in a conference call with reporters.

According to Steve Merchant, wildlife program manager for the DNR in St. Paul, the agency split the state into three management zones to better regulate the number of wolves killed. There's a statewide quota of 400 wolves, he said -- 265 wolves in the northwest zone, 117 in the northeast and 18 in the east-central zone.

"People will still be able to hunt wherever they want to, but we can close those zones when our target harvest is achieved," Merchant said.

6,000 licenses

Limited to hunting, the early season will last up to nine days in western parts of the open hunting areas -- which correspond with the state's northern deer hunting zones -- and 16 days farther east.

The late season, which includes trapping, will begin Nov. 24 statewide and close Jan. 31, 2013. The DNR initially had proposed closing the season Jan. 6, Merchant said, but extended the season based on comments it received from pro-hunting and trapping respondents during a public input period.

"We really didn't feel we had any biological issues for not extending" the second season, he said.

The DNR is offering a total of 6,000 licenses -- 3,600 for the early season and 2,400 for the late season, when at least 600 trapping licenses also will be available. The DNR will conduct a lottery to select license recipients, and no one can draw more than one license.

Cautious start

The season became possible after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in January removed wolves from federal protection in Minnesota, Wisconsin and parts of Michigan. Minnesota's wolf population stands at about 3,000 animals, more than twice the number called for under federal recovery guidelines.

Ed Boggess, director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, said the DNR opted to take a conservative approach to the inaugural season, both in terms of quota and number of licenses available. The DNR has never managed a season, he said, and before wolves were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1974, they were unprotected under state law.

The bag limit will be one wolf, and people with a hunting license can take a wolf by firearms or archery, while trapping licenses will be limited to traps or snares. Purchase of both hunting and trapping licenses will not be allowed.

Hunting licenses will cost $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents, while trapping licenses will cost $30. The DNR is limiting nonresidents to 5 percent of total hunting licenses, and only Minnesota residents will be allowed to trap.

Baiting will be allowed, officials said, but deer hunters who draw a wolf license for the early season will not be allowed to shoot a deer over bait. Rodmen Smith, assistant director of the DNR's Division of Enforcement, said wolf hunters and trappers most likely would use some kind of meat-based bait rather than corn, which often is used for baiting deer, a practice that is illegal in Minnesota.

Anyone killing a wolf must register the animal by 10 p.m. of the day it's taken, either online, at any Electronic Licensing System outlet, or through a toll-free number that will be set up before the season begins, DNR officials said.

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Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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