McFeely: No wolf hunt in Minnesota is correct decision

After disastrous mandated slaughter in neighboring Wisconsin, Minnesota's pragmatism welcomed

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Forum New Service columnist Mike McFeely

MOORHEAD — Wisconsin got it wrong. Minnesota got it right. What else is new?

Well, except for that winning a Super Bowl thing. Maybe someday.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources decided earlier this month that there would be no hunting season for gray wolves in 2021. The agency told a group of stakeholders that it needs more time to finalize a long-term wolf management plan.

This is excellent news for those who revere the wolf as a magnificent creature worthy of protection, which is a strong majority of Minnesotans. This is disappointing news for those who view wolves as bloodthirsty killers deserving of a bullet, a group represented by a loud minority.


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Gray wolf. Forum file photo

The minority's concerns over wolf depredation of livestock are not without merit. But there are government-backed financial remedies to those situations, which livestock owners utilize regularly.

Slaughtering wolves isn't necessary.

And that's what happened in Wisconsin this spring, after its DNR was forced by lawsuit to conduct a no-holds-barred wolf "hunt," which coincided with the creature's mating season. The "hunters" were so efficient, so ruthless, that the quota of 119 wolves was surpassed in three days and the killing was stopped.

Except it wasn't. University of Wisconsin researchers estimate that in addition to the 218 wolves officially counted as killed, poachers emboldened by the hunting season took another 100 animals -- pushing the total massacre above 300.

That's about 30% of Wisconsin's wolf population, wiped out in a matter of days. The state will hold another wolf hunt this fall. The bloodlust for wolves runs deep.

It has always been so. Once common, gray wolves were nearly extirpated from America because they were seen as a dangerous nuisance. An apex predator, they killed livestock so ranchers and the government used any means necessary to eliminate them.

In more recent decades, they were seen as a threat to white-tailed deer herds. Human hunters don't like that because they want to kill the deer themselves.


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The Endangered Species Act, as it did for so many animals, came to the rescue. The federal legislation allowed wolf numbers to rebound and populations to spread, to the point it was delisted in 2011. That enabled states, including Minnesota, to hold limited hunting seasons.
A federal judge reinstated protection for wolves in 2014, but the outgoing Trump administration — in one last act of spite toward our natural resources — ended that protection and kicked open the door to the butchery in Wisconsin.

Environmental groups and some Native American tribes, which consider the wolf sacred, oppose any hunting seasons. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has said he, too, opposes a wolf hunting season in the state.

They're right.

The Minnesota DNR says the state's wolf population is about 2,700 and it's been stable for the last several years. The animal's range in the state is pretty well defined. There will be fluctuations, there will be some conflicts with livestock, but Minnesota's wolves are manageable.

There's no need for a hunting season.

Minnesota got it right. Wisconsin got it wrong.

Let's keep it that way.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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