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Published January 30, 2012, 09:32 AM

New wolf plan in place

The executive director of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association is pleased that protection of the state’s gray wolf population has shifted from the federal government to the state Department of Natural Resources.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

The executive director of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association is pleased that protection of the state’s gray wolf population has shifted from the federal government to the state Department of Natural Resources.

He also says too little money has been allocated to pay professional trappers who help to control problem wolves.

“Wolves are smart,” says Joe Martin, the association’s executive director. Minnesota ranchers “hardly ever” see wolves, but too often find dead calves killed by wolves. Professional trappers have the skill and knowledge to deal with the problem wolves, he says.

However, the state’s new Wolf Management Plan brings some big advantages, including giving ranchers in northeastern Minnesota the right to shoot or destroy wolves that pose “an immediate threat” to their animals, he says.

A little background:

On Jan. 27, gray wolves were “delisted,” or removed from the federal Threatened and Endangered Species List. Minnesota now has nearly 3,000 wolves and the state’s wolf population no longer needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website.

In the past, when gray wolves were protected by the Endangered Species Act, only authorized trappers could trap or kill wolves, even ones preying on livestock.

Know your zone

Under Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan, the state has been split into two zones.

In Zone A, the chunk of northeastern Minnesota that’s considered the wolves’ core range, there are greater restrictions on what ranchers and others can do to protect their animals from wolves.

In Zone A, owners of livestock may shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to animals on property they own or lease. Immediate threat means that a wolf is stalking, attacking or killing livestock, according to the DNR website.

In Zone B, the need for an immediate threat doesn’t apply. People may shoot a gray wolf at any time to protect livestock on land they own, lease or manage.

In both zones, a person who kills a wolf must notify the DNR within 48 hours.

Ranchers and others should know which zone they’re in, says the DNR’s Lt. Pat Znajda in Thief River Falls, Minn.

He’s one of three DNR conservation officers in the wolf range designated to lead enforcement of the Wolf Management Act, according to the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association.

The other two DNR officers are Dave Olsen in Grand Rapids, Minn., and Greg Payton, in Virginia, Minn.

Znajda asks any rancher with wolf depredation problems to contact the DNR.

He describes the Wolf Management Plan as “a work in progress,” noting that some details haven’t been worked out yet.

More funding sought

In the past, the program paying professional trappers to control problem wolves cost about $500,000 annually, according to the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association.

However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cut about $400,000 from the program. The remaining $100,000, coupled with about $100,000 in state funds dedicated to wolf control, leaves only about $200,000 for wolf trapping, the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association says.

At least $300,000 more is needed for the wolf control program to provide its historic level of service, the association says.

Martin urges Minnesota ranchers to contact their federal, state and local elected officials and encourage them to increase funding.

Five years of monitoring

Alaska leads the nation with an estimated 7.700 to 11,200 gray wolves. Minnesota, with its estimated population of roughly 3,000 wolves, ranks second.

Minnesota’s population of gray wolves has been increasing since 1975, when there were about 1,000 to 1,200 of the animals in the state.

Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan calls for a minimum population of 1,600 gray wolves. As required by the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting, according to the DNR.

More information on gray wolves in the western United States can be found at www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/.

More information on Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan can be found at www.mndnr.gov/wolves.

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