I haven’t spotted another gray wolf since the deer hunting experience in 2004, but according to farmers gossiping at the local cafe, coyotes and wolves have really become common, and as a trapper, and hunter, I decided to research how the population has changed in Minnesota.
I recently asked my father about the day he saw the gray wolf when we were deer hunting, and he said the wolf, based upon his memory, was big, and about as tall as a deer. He said the gray wolf’s coat was white with gray streaks, and I asked him if he had ever had a gray wolf sighting leading up to our encounter with one in 2004. My father grew up and has lived most of his life in the same area we hunt, and he said the one we saw in 2004 was the first, and only gray wolf he can remember seeing before 2004. Neither of us have had a gray wolf sighting since 2004, and we deer hunt the same land every year. When my father told me about the rarity, in his experience, with gray wolf sightings in Minnesota, I decided to research the gray wolf population in the 1950’s and found the following information, from an article published by the MN DNR in 2014: “Estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950's, Minnesota's wolf population – now estimated at 2,423 – has fully recovered from its once threatened status and is firmly established on Minnesota's landscape”(Wolf Management).
After reading this information, I learned my father was probably telling the truth about how rare it is to witness a gray wolf in Minnesota back in his youth, but the text cited above all tells me the gray wolf population is high in Minnesota, and although the population doesn’t appear to be growing, it is remaining relatively stable...according to the MN DNR. This was confirmed with the following information from the Minnesota DNR, “the wolf population has not changed over the past ten years”(Erb). In fact, according to their 2004 estimates, our current wolf population has remained relatively unchanged when comparing 2004 and 2014(Erb).
From the survey, “After accounting for the assumed 15% lone wolves in the population, we estimate the 2013-14 mid-winter wolf population at 2,423 wolves, or 3.4 wolves per 100 km2 of occupied rang”(Erb). After reading this quote, and comparing it with past data, I would theorize the gray wolf population in Minnesota, from 2004-2014, has remained relatively stable.
One other question I had concerning gray wolf conservation in Minnesota, involves the implementation of the hunting and trapping season in Minnesota. I buy a trapping license every year, and the thought of harvesting a wolf was something I have no aversion to for others, but I am not interested, or capable at this time, of even dreaming of ever harvesting a gray wolf. However, many of my experienced trapping friends were very excited about the chance to harvest a gray wolf.
In the final segment of this essay, I will be discussing a friend of mine's trapping experience, based on a personal interview I conducted as research for this post. In terms of the gray wolf hunting and trapping season in Minnesota, I found the following information:
“In 2011, the Minnesota Legislature authorized the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to implement a wolf season following the removal of wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act and classified wolves as small game in state statute. In anticipation of delisting in January of 2012, DNR first began discussing the design of a potential regulated public hunting and trapping season for wolves late in 2011. This report attempts to communicate the outcome of the first regulated wolf season by presenting information about the harvest”(Erb).
I have not registered for the lottery to gain a permit to harvest a gray wolf, and I don’t plan to, but I learned a great deal more about gray wolf hunting and trapping in Minnesota, while conducting research for this post. I will continue to learn more about this topic, and share the findings with my blog readers and students. I have found this topic to be very engaging in terms of discussion in writing classrooms.
(Check back tomorrow for the Part 5)