REGIONAL—Gray wolf registrations are down significantly over the same period last year— but that’s more a reflection of the lower number of permits issued to hunters in 2013 compared to last season, than anything else.
“The trends are pretty consistent with last year,” said Dan Stark, wolf hunt coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.
Last year, the DNR issued 6,000 licenses, but trimmed that number to 3,300 this year, reflecting the overall decrease in the hunt quota for 2013.
In 2012, the first year of the Minnesota wolf hunt, the DNR allowed for the taking of 400 wolves total, split between an early and a late season. The DNR reduced the total quota for this year to 220, after the results of last winter’s wolf survey indicated a significant decline in the wolf population.
Last year, hunters took 147 wolves during the early season, which coincides with the annual firearms deer season in Minnesota. This year, hunters tallied 88 wolves (about 80 percent of the target harvest) during the early season, including 32 in the northeast zone, 56 in the northwest zone, and none in the east-central zone.
So far during the late season, which opened to both hunters and trappers on Nov. 30, a total of 33 wolves have been taken in the northwest zone while 19 have been registered in the northeast. The northeast zone includes all of Lake and Cook counties and roughly the southeastern two-thirds of St. Louis County.
Under the quota, hunters can take 56 more wolves in the northwest zone and 14 more in the northeast, as of Wednesday. Hunters and trappers can take ten wolves in the east-central zone, but none have registered any wolves to date in that zone. The late wolf season continues until Jan. 31, or until the quota is reached, at which point the hunt is suspended.
So far, hunters have brought a total of 12 wolves to the Tower DNR office for registration. Area wildlife manager Tom Rusch said the wolves appear to be in better condition than last year, when nearly half of the wolves registered were suffering from mange. “Only one has shown any mange this year, so far,” said Rusch. “We’ve seen some beautiful pelts.”