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Lawmaker says Minnesota not doing enough to manage wolves

ST. PAUL – Opinions remain sharply divided about whether Minnesota should allow wolf hunts, and Tuesday night a state lawmaker also questioned whether state officials are doing a good job of managing wolves.

Rep. Jason Isaacson, D-Shoreview, said the state Department of Natural Resources needs to do more to track wolves.

“I struggle with the idea that we are doing all we can,” said Isaacson, an opponent of allowing wolves to be hunted.

He lectured DNR officials testifying to the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, saying he has obtained a department email that said: “We owe it to our primary clients, who we have identified as the hunters and trappers.”

However, Isaacson said, the DNR direction is wrong. “Your primary concern should be the people of Minnesota.”

On the other hand, Republicans praised the DNR.

Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, thanked the DNR for allowing a smaller percentage of wolf hunters than in Wisconsin.

“We are dealing with two very iconic species of animals,” McNamara said, the gray wolf and moose.

Keeping the number of hunters down should help more moose survive, he added.

DNR officials said that moose often are victims of wolves, part of the reason moose numbers are falling while wolf numbers increase.

Moose food sources are dwindling in northern Minnesota, DNR officials said. That is the prime wolf area.

Cook veterinarian John Fisher said the moose population “is near collapse” in Minnesota, while in most places in the world the species is doing fine. He quoted a Canadian study showing that reducing wolf numbers slightly can help moose.

The meeting, for information with no action being taken, heard that an estimated 2,000 wolves live in Minnesota today, down from 2,900 in 2009. Just 750 were counted in the 1950s.

In 2012, 413 wolves were killed by hunters, and 237 were killed last year.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.