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DNR to take over gray wolf management in Carlton County

With the gray wolf population in Minnesota removed from the federal endangered species list on Monday, certain new rules and regulations will apply. On Monday, the Department of Natural Resources took over gray wolf management through a plan desi...

With the gray wolf population in Minnesota removed from the federal endangered species list on Monday, certain new rules and regulations will apply.

On Monday, the Department of Natural Resources took over gray wolf management through a plan designed to protect wolves and monitor their population. Owners of livestock and domestic pets will have more protection from wolf depredation.

The state wolf plan splits the state into two management zones with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf's core habitat. That zone includes Carlton County, although local DNR conservation officer Scott Staples only receives between 10-20 complaint calls about wolves annually.

"These complaints range from wolves that were hit and killed by cars, to wolves that are killing cattle or other domestic animals, to wolves caught in traps, to people just seeing wolves or wolf tracks who are worried that they are around," Staples said. "Even though the complaints are about wolves, sometimes they actually turn out to be coyotes or even dogs."

Gray wolves, also known as timber wolves, are larger than coyotes, weighing between 60-120 pounds while coyotes weigh between 25-35 pounds.

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The management plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota. The state's wolf population, estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, has grown to its current estimate of 3,020.

There will be no public hunting or trapping seasons for wolves for at least five years. The endangered species act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting to ensure that recovery continues.

The DNR will also designate conservation officers in the wolf range, including Staples, to ensure enforcement of provisions of the wolf plan. Illegal taking of a wolf is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $3,000 and one year in jail. Restitution is $2,000 per wolf.

Federal rules removing the Great Lakes population of gray wolves from the endangered species list took effect in Wisconsin and Michigan as well. Minnesota, however, has far more wolves than those states. Current wolf population estimates between 335-354 gray wolves in Wisconsin and 321 gray wolves in Michigan.

"In Minnesota, we've been planning for the return of the wolf to state management for more than a decade, and we're well prepared to assume full management responsibility," said Dave Schad, DNR fish and wildlife director.

Similar to federal regulations, the state plan allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life. Any wolves taken must be reported to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours, and the person who took the wolf must protect all evidence.

Unlike federal regulations, state regulations allow harassment of wolves that are within 500 yards of people, buildings, livestock or domestic pets, to discourage wolves from contacting people and domestic animals. Wolves cannot be attracted or searched out for purposes of harassment, and cannot be physically harmed.

In addition to the continuing federal wolf depredation programs, the state wolf plan has new provisions for taking wolves that are posing risks to livestock and domestic pets. 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.

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"Immediate threat" means the observed behavior of a wolf in the act of stalking, attacking, or killing livestock, a guard animal, or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner. Additionally, the owner of a domestic pet may shoot or destroy a wolf posing an immediate threat on any property, as long as the owner is supervising the pet.

In all cases, a person shooting or destroying a wolf under these provisions must protect all evidence, and report the taking to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours. The wolf carcass will be surrendered to the conservation officer.

"The major change with state management is the empowerment of individual people to directly protect their animals from wolf depredation, subject to certain restrictions," Mike DonCarlos, DNR wildlife research and policy manager, said.

To fully implement the state wolf management plan, DNR will hire a wolf specialist to coordinate all wolf management activities and public information and education.

The complete wolf management plan, zone maps and population survey information is available online at www.dnr.state.mn.us .

Pine Journal Editor Lisa Baumann can be contacted at: lbaumann@pinejournal.com .

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