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Well, I added up the numbers, and it appears as though in 2012 700-plus wolves were taken by hunting, trapping, and through the state/federal problem wolf removal program in Minnesota. Over 400 wolves were taken during the hunting and trapping seasons.
By all standards, that’s a heck of a first-ever harvest of an animal delisted from the Endangered Species List that very same year.
The overall count doesn’t include the number of wolves poached or the number of wolves hit by vehicles, abducted by aliens, or driven mad by mange or Lyme disease.
Biology says that healthy wolves can survive that kind of legal harvest in the long run, that wolves are pretty prolific breeders even though mortality rates for young of the year are pretty high. Biology and the Minnesota Wolf Management Program say we won’t kill them off, in other words, by hunting and trapping and removing the problem wolves in such numbers.
In a perfect world that sounds so reasonable.
We don’t live in a perfect world.
Seven hundred wolves removed in a single year is a heck of a chunk of the overall population. Those of us who enjoy the wolf’s presence, which happens to be a large majority of those who commented on the hunting/trapping season proposals (shown also by polling of statewide residents), have noticed the impact of the harvest. I’m not quite sure how it works when a public agency asks for comments, receives comments, and then ignores the comments of the near 80 percent of people arguing against a hunt.
Blame the legislature for that one.
Initially there was to be a five-year waiting period after delisting before opening a hunting/trapping season. That notion was tossed out by legislative action in 2011, effectively eliminating any public discussion about how we will manage the species in a changing world, a world where climate change has had an impact since the wolf plan was originally developed in the late 1990s and approved in 2001.
A hunt was going to go on no matter that far more people enjoy wolves by not shooting or trapping them.
I’m still looking for more local data that might indicate wolves taken in my radius of operations, areas in the highlands of Lake Superior, since I’ve noticed a dramatic decrease in wolf sightings and sign.
Oh, I did happen to see three wolves just before Christmas working on a deer carcass, ravens in the trees above. One of the wolves had very little fur on its flanks, bloody from scratching itself silly and with but a whip of a tail. Another wolf was on the carcass, and all I could see was a fairly bald-looking face. The third wolf was standing off to the side, aloof, its coat looking a tad better but also with nothing but a whip for a tail. I’m assuming mange had a grip on them and I figured at least a couple of them wouldn’t survive the next cold snap, they were so scrawny.
All three appeared moth-eaten, threadbare, ill. They paid little attention to me as I approached.
Given the boom in the tick population, I’m assuming they had suffered from those pests as well.
The wolves were only a couple of miles from my house, so I figured those were my wolves, the ones that I’ve come across before, the ones that used to have dens up along the river, ones I haven’t heard from lately.
Climate change is real. The ticks and weird bugs are moving in. Some wolves in the southern part of their range, near Pine City and Sandstone, have likely encountered opossums, of all things. Opossum in Minnesota? Who would have believed such a thing just a few scant years ago? Crows are staying the winter now in the Lake Superior country and points north. Crows. As I mentioned in a previous column, the ravens must be overjoyed to have to share the spare winter country with more scavengers.
Climate change will affect the wolf, and we’re working off an 80-page management plan that was developed before we began to finally figure out that the only hoax is NOT believing what’s happening in the natural world around us. Winter has been warning those of us in the higher latitudes for years. It will have an effect on the wolf, and we’re planning on removing large numbers of them every year.
No biologist actually figured Minnesota would meet its harvest quota before the hunting and trapping seasons ended. Estimates of the harvest were based on Western states and have proven wildly inaccurate for predicting Minnesota success rates.
We’ve got to revisit the issue before another hunt is allowed. I don’t want my wolves to be managed for “a minimum population of 1,600 animals,” as stated in the outdated management plan. I want my grandkids to hear the howls and see the tracks and catch a glimpse of this symbol of wild country. We can’t manage a species for the enjoyment of a few hunters and trappers who remove far more than their share of enjoyment from others.