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This July 16, 2004, file photo shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. More than 4,000 gray wolves in the upper Great Lakes region are back on the federal endangered species list _ at least temporarily.

DNR announces wolf season details

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource (DNR) has finalized rules for Minnesota's first regulated wolf hunting and trapping season this fall and winter. There are several changes to what the DNR originally proposed in May as a result of input received since the proposal was announced.

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"We changed the closing date for the late season from Jan. 6, 2013, to Jan. 31," said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife program manager. "We also tightened the wolf harvest registration requirement so we can more quickly close a zone based on harvest results."

Another notable change is that the wolf range will be divided into three zones for the purposes of harvest targets, registration and season closure. The northeast zone and the east-central zone closely parallel the 1854 and 1837 treaty ceded territory boundaries. These zones will allow the state to allocate and manage wolf harvest in consultation with Indian bands that have court-affirmed off-reservation hunting rights. The northwest zone will be the other area open to wolf hunting. Only that portion of Minnesota where rifles are legal for deer hunting will be open for taking wolves. When harvest targets are reached in any zone, that zone will be closed and hunters will be able to continue to hunt in any other open zone.

The state's first regulated wolf hunt will begin Saturday, Nov. 3. The target harvest is 400. The early wolf season will last up to nine days in the 200-series deer permit areas and up to 16 days in the 100-series deer permit areas. The late season, which also allows trapping for those with a wolf trapping license, will begin Nov. 24 statewide. Target harvests are 265 in the northwest zone, 117 in the northeast zone and 18 in the east-central zone.

The state's inaugural wolf season will be conducted under a conservative approach that is consistent with the goal of ensuring the long-term survival of wolves, and addressing wolf and human conflicts. The state's wolf population is estimated at 3,000. This year's wolf season follows the transition of wolves from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act to state management this past January. The 2012 Legislature also passed and Gov. Dayton signed a bill providing additional direction and authorities for conducting a wolf season.

Merchant said the public comment period that ended June 20 was helpful, providing additional insights that helped determine the final decisions. The DNR received 7,351 online survey responses. The survey was designed to solicit input on specific management options for the hunting and trapping season.

"Of those who approved of the season, 82 percent of survey respondents said they supported the DNR's proposed season structure and implementation of a limited fall hunt," said Merchant. "That suggested our proposal was generally in line with hunter and trapper expectations."

Other survey results included strong backing (75 percent) from those who supported wolf hunting for having both early and late wolf hunts. The DNR also asked hunters and trappers for their preference on notification and closure for ending the hunt when the target harvest quota is reached. Respondents overwhelmingly preferred that notification of closure be published by early morning, and that hunters and trappers be allowed to finish out the day's hunt. The season will close at the end of the first full day for which closure notification is posted and sent to license holders.

Details of the season

Consistent with state law, the state's first regulated wolf season will start with the beginning of firearms deer hunting on Saturday, Nov. 3.

The season will be split into two parts: an early wolf hunting season coinciding with firearms deer hunting; and a late wolf hunting and trapping season after the firearms deer season for those with a specific interest in wolf hunting and trapping.

A total of 6,000 licenses will be offered, with 3,600 available in the early season and 2,400 in the late season. Late season licenses will be further split between hunting and trapping, with a minimum of 600 reserved for trappers. The target harvest will be 400 wolves for both seasons combined, and will initially be allocated equally between the early and the late seasons.

The early hunting only season will be open only in the northern portions of Minnesota where rifles are allowed for deer hunting. It will start on Saturday, Nov. 3, the opening day of firearms deer hunting. It will close either at the end of the respective firearms seasons in the two northern deer zones (Nov. 18 in Series 100 deer permit areas or Nov. 11 in Series 200 deer permit areas), or when a registered target harvest by zone is reached.

The late hunting and trapping season will begin Saturday, Nov. 24. It will close Jan. 31, 2013, or when a registered total target harvest by zone or total harvest of 400 in both seasons combined is reached, whichever comes sooner. The late season will be open only where rifles are allowed for deer hunting. The use of bait and electronic calls will be allowed.

Wolf hunting licenses will be $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents. Nonresidents will be limited to 5 percent of total hunting licenses. Wolf trapping licenses will be $30 (limited to residents only). A lottery will be held to select license recipients. Proof of a current or previous hunting license will be required to apply for a wolf license. The application fee will be $4. A wolf season regulation booklet is being developed.

Season structure

The early wolf hunting season (legal firearms or archery) will be concurrent with the deer season and open only in that portion of the state where rifles can be used to hunt deer.

The early season dates are Nov. 3-18 in 100 Series deer permit areas (northeastern and east-central Minnesota) and Nov. 3-11 in the rifle zone portion of 200 Series deer permit areas (central and northwestern Minnesota). The early season will close before those dates if the target harvest by wolf zone is reached sooner.

No trapping will be allowed in the early season.

The late hunting and trapping season will open Nov. 24 statewide. It will close Jan. 31 or when the total target harvest by wolf zone is reached, whichever is sooner.

Licensed wolf hunters will be responsible for checking each day to assure that the season is still open.

Landowners and tribal authorities may close land under their control to wolf harvest at their discretion.

The bag limit is one wolf per licensee.

Licensing

A person cannot purchase both a wolf hunting and a wolf trapping license. A person with a hunting license may take a wolf only by firearms or archery; a person with a trapping license may take a wolf only by trap or snare.

3,600 licenses will be available for the early season and are only valid for the early season.

2,400 licenses will be available for the late season (at least 600 trapping) and are only valid for the late season.

The number of hunting licenses offered to nonresidents will be capped at 5 percent for both the early and late seasons.

Licenses must be purchased prior to the opening day of the respective seasons.

Application process

Application materials will be available online in mid-August with a $4 application fee.

A person must have proof of a current or previous hunting license to apply.

Trappers born after Dec. 31, 1989, need a trapper education certificate or proof of a previous trapping license to purchase a wolf trapping license.

The application deadline will be Sept. 6; online winner notification will be no later than Oct. 14.

Licenses will be available for purchase no later than Oct. 15.

Groups of up to four individuals many apply as a single group and may assist another licensed wolf hunter, but may not shoot or tag for each other.

Applicants can apply for only one of three license types: early wolf hunting, late wolf hunting, or late wolf trapping.

Registration

All animals must be registered by 10 p.m. of the day of harvest (can be done electronically at ELS agent, online or by phone).

Harvest registration information/reporting will be available online and via a toll-free phone number.

Harvest registration must identify the zone in which the wolf was taken.

Carcasses must be presented for collection of biological data.

Season closure and notification

The season for each wolf zone will close at the end of legal shooting hours on the day for which hunters and trappers are notified that the closure will occur.

Notification will be available via a toll-free phone number and DNR web site indicating whether the season is open or closed in each wolf zone.

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