Wolf population stable, more hunting licenses available this year

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A stable wolf population prompted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to loosen wolf hunting restrictions.

The DNR said in a news release Thursday its latest population survey shows that 470 wolf packs and 2,423 wolves lived in Minnesota's wolf range this past winter, which is 212 more wolves than estimated on a survey conducted in the winter of 2013. Because of that, more wolf licenses will be issued, and hunters and trappers will be allowed to kill more wolves compared to last season.

“Estimates show a stable population with no significant change from the 2013 estimate of 2,211 wolves,” Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist, said in the release. “We will continue to evaluate the wolf population annually to ensure the wolf population remains well established across northern and central Minnesota.”

Because of the stable population, the DNR is making 3,800 licenses available this year, which is 500 more than last year. This year's statewide harvest of wolves is 250, which is 30 more wolves than 2013, the release says.

It was estimated there were fewer than 750 wolves in Minnesota in the 1950s, but Minnesota's wolf population has since recovered (see map at left). By managing the wolf population, the DNR says it hopes to ensure longterm survival of wolves in the state, and address conflicts between wolves and humans.

This will be Minnesota's third wolf hunting season since the animals came off the endangered list. Opponents of wolf hunting and trapping have been unsuccessful in recent years in trying to enact legislation that would suspend the state's wolf hunting seasons.

Starting Aug. 1, hunters and trappers can apply for 2,300 early-season and 1,500 late-season licenses. The deadline to apply for the license lottery is Sept. 4.

The 2014 early wolf season begins Nov. 8, and goes through mid-November, the specific end date depending on the area of the state. Late-season hunting goes from Nov. 29 through the end of January, or until the target harvest is met in each zone. The late season for trapping runs from Nov. 29 through Jan. 31, or when the target harvest is met in each zone.

The DNR took a conservative approach when announcing its deer hunting regulations earlier this week. In 95 percent of Minnesota, hunters will be allowed to take only one deer. In some places only bucks, not does, may be killed.

The Duluth News Tribune reports this is the first year since 1997 a widespread bucks-only regulation is in place.

Deer hunting licenses go on sale Aug. 1.

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