Minnesota legislators passed a ban on hunting wolves by a single vote in advance of potential federal hunting deregulations.
Currently federal law largely prohibits wolf hunting because wolves are on the federal endangered species list. However, President Trump has signaled that he would remove wolves from the list if the time comes.
While environmentalists are opposed to wolf hunting, conservationists and biologists from the state’s wildlife department believe the population is stable and could be hunted or trapped in limited quantities.
“Minnesotans clearly value wolves,” said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Public opinion surveys and attitudes demonstrated during development of the state’s wolf management plan show people view the animal as ecologically important, scientifically fascinating, aesthetically attractive, recreationally appealing and significant for future generations.”
Minnesota is one of the few states to maintain a permanent wolf population with over 2,650 wolves in 465 wolf packs. For this reason wolf hunting was allowed from 2012 to 2014 until a federal judge ruled that the state’s hunting regulations were inadequate. L
The department also says there is a case for delisting wolves. “Minnesota’s gray wolf range has expanded from a 12,000 square mile area in the 1950s to over 27,000 square miles,” said the department. “Minnesota’s gray wolf population has remained stable over the last 10 years, with most areas of suitable habitat in the state now occupied. These data suggest that the population has fully recovered and special concern status is no longer necessary.”
While the new wolf hunting law cleared the state’s House of Representatives, it still needs to be signed into law. Additionally, the ban is an amendment to a larger environmental package subject to some back-and-forth between the House and state Senate.
Other states with their own wolf populations have or are considering adding local wolf hunting regulations in anticipation of the possibility of removing wolves from the endangered species list.
It’s not just the President who wants to de-list wolves, but many lawmakers as well. Late last year the House of Representatives made an effort to remove wolves from the endangered species list.
As far as Minnesota is concerned, the governor, Gov. Tim Walz, who is a hunter, hasn’t taken a position in public. According to the Duluth News-Tribune, he wants to make sure the decision to hunt or not hunt wolves remains “thoughtful.”