Opponents of Minnesota's wolf hunt are pointing to some new, lower numbers as more evidence the killing of wolves needs to stop – but the Minnesota Department of Natural Resoruces says numbers aren't lower because of hunting, and instead blame it on weather, The Associated Press says.
DNR large carnivore specialist Dan Stark told House environment officials that the number of wolves killed because they were preying on livestock or pets fell from 295 in 2012 to 127 in 2013 – a decline he attributed to the mild winter of 2011-12 and not hunting.
According to the AP, wolf attacks on livestock tend to increase in mild winter conditions because it makes it harder for wolves to hunt deer.
The DNR says 413 wolves were taken by hunters and trappers in the state's first season in 2012 and 237 in the 2013 season, which closed Dec. 28. Plans for a third season will be announced later this year.
The AP says anti-wolf hunt advocates packed Tuesday night's hearing.
Humane Society of the United States Minnesota Director Howard Goldman slammed the wolf hunt, saying it's only done for "trophies and sport"; while Maureen Hackett, the founder of advocacy group Howling for Wolves suggested the DNR should focus on nonlethal control methods to manage the population.
Wolf hunt opponents also called into question the counting methods the DNR uses to estimate the wolf population. Critics say the DNR's margin for error places the number of the wolves "dangerously close" to the 1,600 minimum set by the agency's management plan.
Howling for Wolves presented Gov. Mark Dayton a petition with 50,000 signatures in November in an effort stop to the state's second wolf hunt, KARE 11 reported.
The quota for the second wolf hunting season in Minnesota was 220, down from 413 the year before, WCCO said.