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Group wants Minn. wolf hunt canceled

By Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- An organization opposed to wolf hunting launched a petition drive Wednesday in hopes of killing this year's season.

Pointing to a state report showing a 700 wolf population decline in five years, Howling for Wolves founder Maureen Hackett called the situation "alarming."

"We need to act as stewards of our state's wildlife and protect our wolf population for future generations," added Keith Blomstrom, a National Wildlife Federation member.

Wolves are important to the ecological system, Blomstrom said, including killing weak animals, which leaves the strongest to survive in species like deer.

Howard Goldman of the Humane Society Minnesota chapter said that it is not clear how killing wolves affects family packs. "What is the rush to hunt?"

The petition is an effort to convince Gov. Mark Dayton and his Department of Natural Resources to cancel the season scheduled to begin in November.

The petition would have no legal force, but Hackett said the signatures as well as a declining wolf population could convince the governor to reverse a decision to allow the hunting and trapping season.

A count last winter showed 2,211 wolves in the state, but with a margin of error of 500 in the survey, there could be as few as 1,600 or as many as 2,700. The state's goal is to maintain at least 1,600 wolves.

"The science indicates there is a pretty wide safety margin," DNR wolf expert Dan Stark said.

The Grand Rapids-based Stark said since wolf counts have not been made annually, there is no way to know precise population changes.

State officials are making changes in the second wolf season.

The wolf hunting and trapping season is planned for the fall and winter, and state DNR officials last month announced they are allowing about half the number of wolves to be killed and will issue about half the licenses they did in last year's initial wolf season.

The state plans to issue 3,300 hunting and trapping licenses. The DNR will close the season once 220 wolves are killed. Last year, 413 wolves were killed.

This year's targets are divided by region, with 145 wolf kills allowed in the northwest, 65 in the northeast and 10 in an east-central area.

Stark said the DNR will evaluate wolf populations after each hunting season to make changes.

"Our intent was to implement a conservative wolf season," he said, after which, plenty of wolves will remain.

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