Minnesota Wolves Score Win as House Votes to Ban Hunting
The Minnesota House of Representatives voted this week to ban the recreational hunting and trapping of wolves in the state, should the animal be removed from federal endangered species protection. This proposal was not initially included in the omnibus environment bill, but DFL Rep. Peter Fischer of Maplewood introduced the ban as an amendment during floor debate on Monday.
The last time wolves were hunted in Minnesota, from 2012-2014, after they were removed from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region, more than 900 were killed. “Most of them were killed for fun, display of their pelts, or for bragging rights,” Fischer contended.
Several GOP lawmakers expressed indignation over the proposal. They said a decision whether to allow wolf hunting should be left up to state wildlife officials. Republicans argued wolves are eating deer prized by hunters, killing cattle and other livestock raised by farmers and ranchers, threatening pets, and, even, they suggested, people.
However, the Minnesota DNR stresses that wolves are not dangerous to people. There has only been one documented instance of a wolf attacking a person in Minnesota. Ten years ago, a 75-pound wolf injured a teenage boy who was camping on the shores of Lake Winnibigoshish. State officials later determined the wolf had abnormalities in its jaw that would have made it difficult to capture and kill prey.
According to a survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), almost half of the people in the state oppose wolf hunting, while 41% of people support a season. However, the DNR does not support the House provision to ban a potential wolf hunt, given the strength of the recently updated wolf management plan.
The DNR considers wolves to be a threatened species in Minnesota, and the current regulations only allow for their killing in defense of human life. Trappers are allowed to capture and kill wolves that threaten livestock or pets. Last year, 142 wolves were killed in the state by trappers, with ten being killed illegally. However, many people believe that wolves should be removed from endangered species protection, as the animal is now stable and thriving.
The DNR released a new wolf management plan last year, calling for maintaining a healthy statewide wolf population of between 2,200 and 3,000 wolves. The plan sets a framework for future decision-making, including consultation with tribal governments and making science-based decisions, about whether to hold a hunting season while ensuring that the wolf population in the state remains viable. However, it does not take a position on a possible state wolf hunt if gray wolves are again removed from endangered species protection.
The House vote to ban the recreational hunting and trapping of wolves is seen as a step forward by wolf advocates who have seen how unstable Federal protections can be at times.
In conclusion, the Minnesota House of Representatives has taken a bold step by voting to ban the recreational hunting and trapping of wolves in the state, in a move that has ruffled feathers among lawmakers. While some Republicans argue that wolf hunting should be left up to state wildlife officials, the ban has been championed by DFL Rep. Peter Fischer of Maplewood, who has spoken out against the senseless killing of wolves for sport, pelts, or bragging rights. The ban is also supported by many Minnesotans, with almost half of the state’s residents opposing wolf hunting, according to a survey conducted by the Minnesota DNR.
Despite opposition from some quarters, the House vote to ban the recreational hunting and trapping of wolves is a significant victory for wolf advocates, who have long fought to protect the animal from being hunted and trapped. It is a reminder that the fate of these majestic creatures is not solely in the hands of state officials but also rests with the people who care about them. As Minnesota continues to grapple with the complex issue of wolf management, the ban sends a strong message that the state is committed to preserving the wolf population and ensuring their continued survival.
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