MOORHEAD, Minn. — Minnesota, thankfully, doesn't take many cues from Wisconsin. We certainly should not take one when it comes to the gray wolf slaughter our next-door neighbor recently perpetrated.
And, yes, I said slaughter. Not hunt. Because what happened in Wisconsin in February was lustful blood sport, and nothing resembling a fair and ethical hunt.
After the outgoing Trump administration removed the wolf from the endangered species list in January and an out-of-state hunting group sued to force Wisconsin to hold a February hunt, "hunters" killed 216 wolves over three days using any method possible. Hounds, particularly, were an effective way to track and kill wolves.
That was well more than the 119-wolf quota set before the hunt. The killers were so efficient, so ruthless, that the Wisconsin DNR couldn't call off the butchery quickly enough to keep the bloodshed nearer the quota.
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Experts say more than 20% of Wisconsin's wolf population was wiped out in the hunt. As an added horror, it came during the creature's mating season so the long-term effects on wolves won't be known for years.
Wolves, of course, have long been the target of man, who believe the animals are a threat to livestock, game animals, pets and even people. This country nearly scrubbed wolves from the landscape before laws like the Endangered Species Act saved them a half-century ago.
Now that the animals are reestablished in several regions of the country, the call to reduce their numbers grows. Hence, the Trump administration opening the doors to wanton killing by removing federal protection. Hence, the slaughter in Wisconsin.
Minnesota's DNR is reconsidering its wolf management plan — the state's population has climbed to about 2,700, mostly in the northern third of the state — but has yet to decide whether it will allow a wolf hunt later this year. There were two bills introduced into the state legislature this session, one that forces the DNR to hold a hunt in November and one that would ban the state from allowing wolf hunts.
The decision for Minnesota should be easy: No wolf hunts.
It's unlikely that a wolf hunt in Minnesota would reach the level of massacre that occurred in Wisconsin because the use of hounds is not allowed in this state.
But it's poor public policy to base environmental decisions on a loud minority, and that's what livestock owners and deer hunters are. There's no question some ranchers have problems with wolves, but the state has a program to reimburse them for livestock depredation. A Minnesota Public Radio report said Minnesota Department of Agriculture pays out an average of $135,000 on about 110 wolf depredation claims each year.
The majority of Minnesotans rightly view the wolf as a remarkable apex predator worthy of protection, one with which we can co-exist. Some Native American tribes consider the wolf sacred. The animals are a critical part of the state's ecosystem.
Gov. Tim Walz has made the proper decision of opposing a resumption of recreational wolf hunting.
He's right, just like the majority of Minnesotans. We don't need a wolf slaughter in Minnesota. They deserve protection, not a bullet.
Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 451-5655