Published May 09, 2009, 12:06 AM

DNR takes over Minnesota wolf population

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources once again is managing the state’s wolf population with the federal government’s decision this week to remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list. The ruling, which took effect Monday, gives owners of livestock and other domestic animals more options for dealing with problem wolves.

By: Herald Staff and Wire Reports,

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources once again is managing the state’s wolf population with the federal government’s decision this week to remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list.

The ruling, which took effect Monday, gives owners of livestock and other domestic animals more options for dealing with problem wolves.

The DNR initially resumed control of managing Minnesota wolves, which are part of the Great Lakes population, in March 2007. But a federal court ruling last September reinstated wolves as threatened.

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, after re-examining its legal authority, announced Monday it was removing wolves from the endangered list.

The population exceeds recovery goals, the service said, but even in the Great Lakes region, environmental and animal rights groups say there are not enough wolves and have notified the federal government they’ll file a lawsuit over the issue, The Associated Press reported.

It’s a tactic that’s proven successful in the past. But until the courts rule otherwise, wolf management again is in the state’s hands.

“After the initial 18 months of state wolf management, Minnesota demonstrated the effectiveness of ensuring long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota and resolving conflicts between wolves and humans,” said Dave Schad, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “Wolf recovery is a great conservation success story.”

About the plan

Minnesota’s wolf management plan is designed to protect wolves and monitor their population while giving owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. It splits the state into two management zones, with more protective regulations in the northern third of Minnesota, which is considered the wolf’s core range.

The dividing line is state Highway 310 north of Roseau, Minn., and state Highway 89 south of Roseau. The more protective regulations fall on the east side of that line.

“The major change with state management is that it allows individuals to directly protect their animals from wolf depredation, subject to certain restrictions,” said Dan Stark, DNR wolf management specialist.

“In addition, the state-certified gray wolf predator control program will be available to individuals as another option to deal with livestock depredation.”

Minnesota’s management plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure long-term wolf survival. The state’s wolf population, estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, has stabilized at about 3,000 wolves. Under state law, no public hunting or trapping seasons on wolves is allowed for at least five years after delisting.

Federal law also requires Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting to ensure recovery continues.

Protect property

Similar to federal regulations, the state plan allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life. Pet owners also may shoot or destroy a gray wolf posing an immediate threat on any property as long as the owner is supervising the pet.

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. Immediate threat means the observed behavior of a gray wolf in the act of stalking, attacking or killing livestock, a guard animal or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner

In the southern two-thirds of the state (Zone B), a person may shoot a gray wolf at any time to protect livestock, domestic animals or pets on land they own, lease or manage.

Regardless of location, a person shooting or destroying a gray wolf must protect all evidence, report the incident to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours and surrender the wolf carcass.

Unlike federal regulations, state regulations allow harassment of wolves that come within 500 yards of people, buildings, livestock or domestic pets. Activities that discourage wolves from contacting people and domestic animals are allowed, but wolves cannot be attracted or searched out, and harassment cannot cause physical harm.

To ensure a seamless transition from federal to state wolf management and to address immediate conflicts between wolves and livestock, the long-standing wolf depredation control program managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services office in Grand Rapids, Minn., will continue under a cooperative agreement with the DNR.

On the Web:

Additional details as well as the complete wolf management plan, zone maps, population survey information and frequently asked questions are available online at www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/wolves/mgmt.html.

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