COULD MINNESOTA BAN GRAY WOLF MANAGEMENT?
(Photo: Derek Bakken)
The Great Lakes region is no stranger to the debate on wolf hunting. For decades, legislators have gone back and forth on what to do, if anything, about the potential threats posed by an unchecked wolf population.
The latest move on this issue comes in Minnesota, where State Senator Chris Eaton (DML-Brooklyn Center), the Senate Majority Whip, has introduced Senate Bill 2969. This potential legislation would prohibit the establishment of a hunting season for gray wolves by removing a stipulation in the current law that states that the gray wolf must be removed from the federal endangered species list before it can be hunted.
Essentially, this would mean that gray wolf hunting would be banned regardless of its federal protection status. Science would no longer play a role in the determination of gray wolf removal.
This bill is controversial because in most states, hunting seasons are determined by Departments of Natural Resources and wildlife biologists, as is the case in Minnesota. By completely prohibiting gray wolf removal, these populations would go unchecked and potentially spell trouble for local communities.
Sportsmen’s Alliance is one of several groups advocating that wildlife decisions such as this should only be determined by scientific experts, not politicians. According to them, Great Lakes wolves are responsible for harm to livestock, pets, and other wildlife.
There have been few reported attacks by gray wolves on humans in the region, but some believe that the danger is always present, especially when an animal feels threatened or is injured or sick. The Endangered Species Act does allow a human to kill any animal, regardless of federal protection status, is that person feels that his or her safety is threatened.
Sportsmen’s Alliance reports that this wolf population has far exceeded numbers set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) which would normally trigger a delisting from the endangered species list. Anti-hunting groups have strongly opposed this, going so far as to file a lawsuit which resulted in the species being relisted, despite what the science suggested.
This ruling affected not only Minnesota, but other Great Lakes states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. They await the efforts of the U.S. Congress to overturn the federal judge’s ruling and have the gray wolf once again removed from the endangered species list, but until then no action can be taken on establishing hunting seasons. Meanwhile, gray wolves are prevalent in the Great Lakes region, especially in Minnesota, where the USFWS reports that in 2014-2015 there were as many as 2,221 and growing.
Senate Bill 2969 is currently under review in the Minnesota Senate Committee on Environment and Energy.