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This is a gray wolf that was chasing a dog last weekend in the Huntersville State Forest in Wadena County. (Photo courtesy Minnesota DNR)

Wolf shot near Park Rapids last weekend

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A wolf shooting in the Huntersville State Forest in Wadena County has stirred up the local population at a time when Minnesota courts were grappling with a legal challenge to the state's inaugural wolf hunting/trapping season.

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Thursday the Minnesota Court of Appeals refused to stop the wolf season, so 6,000 licenses will be issued by the DNR for the firearms season starting Nov. 3.

A later hunting and trapping season begins Nov. 24. More than 23,000 applied for wolf permits and were chosen out of a lottery.

According to Conservation Officer Sam Hunter of Park Rapids, two men were grouse hunting last Saturday in Huntersville. Both had a pair of German shorthair dogs with them.

One of the men's dogs came dodging back through the woods, yelping. An adult male wolf weighing 90 pounds was on its tail.

The traumatized hunter waited until he could get a clear shot and killed the wolf, Hunter said.

She said she would only be speculating as to the reason the wolf became so aggressive, but said the hunter was within his legal right to kill the animal. People are allowed to kill wolves in self-protection or in the case of immediate harm to pets or livestock.

It's possible the hunters intruded on the wolf's territory or it saw an easy meal.

The shooting was the talk of the Huntersville Outpost, an employee said Thursday night.

According to the DNR, "the Court of Appeals ruled that the petitioners, the Center for Biological Diversity of Howling for Wolves, did not meet their burden of proving irreparable harm for an injunction to be issued."

"We are pleased with the court's decision," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr Thursday. "It resolves any uncertainty that hunters and trappers might have had about the upcoming season."

According to the DNR, the petitioner's lawsuit to challenge the way the season was established is still before the Court of Appeals and will proceed on its merits. A decision is not expected until next year.

In a news release issued Thursday after the decision, the DNR stated: "The DNR has taken a conservative approach to the state's first wolf season by establishing a total target harvest of 400 wolves and a mechanism to close seasons when target harvests are reached. Minnesota has a robust population of about 3,000 wolves, and the season will not have any significant impact on the population."

The DNR said its aim is to manage the state's wolf population in an effort to resolve conflicts between humans and the wolves, which have been a consistent thorn in farmers' sides due to fluctuating federal policy about the protected status of wolves.

It is not uncommon to see a gray wolf in the Park Rapids area, and some Enterprise readers have even sent photos taken of the animals in the vicinity.

But Hunter says close encounters like the one in Huntersville are relatively rare since wolves are notoriously people-shy. The wolf was shot about eight yards away as it closed in on the dogs and hunter, she indicated.

It was felled with birdshot ammo. The hunters reported the incident immediately and Hunter photographed the dead animal.

"Enforcement action was not necessary," her report indicates. "It was a frightening experience during a grouse hunting trip that will not soon be forgotten."

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Other Conservation Officers in the Park Rapids vicinity reported unusual sightings.

CO Paul Parthun (Lake George) "received and investigated complaints of dumped waterfowl carcasses, shooting at night, and car-killed deer," his report indicated.

He assisted the Sheriff's Department with a complaint regarding the reckless use of a firearm and worked with tribal wardens on various complaints.

"He also initiated an investigation on a wetland violation and took a unique call involving a dead bear in a tree. The bear had been mortally wounded when struck by a vehicle. It had then climbed a tree, and remained in the tree after it died," Parthun's report stated.

CO Colleen Adam (OHV Recreation Officer Park Rapids) "continued to patrol area forests and ATV trails checking waterfowl, small game hunters, and recreational riders. Recent dry, windy conditions prompted follow-up for wildfire investigations. A moose wandering beyond its normal range has piqued local interest," her report stated.

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Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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