WTIP file photo

Rules change for wolf management in Cook County and BWCA region once again

Minnesota wolves, including those roaming Cook County and in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness region, lost some of their protection from humans this week.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted wolves from Endangered Species Act protections Jan. 4.

Minnesota has the largest wolf population in the lower 48 states and is home to an estimated 2,700 wolves across nearly 40,000 square miles of northern and central Minnesota. Through the efforts of federal, state and tribal partners, the wolf population is well established in all parts of its suitable range, according to information sent to WTIP from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Our wolf population is a reflection of all the management efforts of federal, state and tribal partners, and includes a strong monitoring program here in Minnesota that enables us to make sound decisions,” said Dave Olfelt, the DNR’s fish and wildlife division director.

Olfelt said changes in the wolf’s legal status have occurred multiple times since 2007, but the future of Minnesota’s wolf population is secure and the DNR commitment to active and effective wolf management will continue.

“Because of the success of wolf conservation in Minnesota and the fact that wolves and humans share the same landscape, there is also the potential for conflict,” Olfelt said. “Management balances a robust wolf population with effective tools for addressing conflicts with livestock and pets.”

Starting this week, Minnesota will recognize two management zones. Zone A, the northeastern part of the state, has more protections for wolves, while Zone B, which represents the southern two-thirds of the state, has more flexibility for people to manage wolves to protect livestock and pets, according to the DNR.

In the core range, which includes Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties, state law allows owners of livestock, guard animals, or domestic animals to shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to their animals, on property they own or lease, in accordance with local statutes. “Immediate threat” means the owner observed a wolf in the act of stalking, attacking, or killing livestock, a guard animal, or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.

In all cases, a person shooting or destroying a wolf under these provisions must protect all evidence, and report the taking to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours. The wolf carcass must be surrendered to the conservation officer.

Though it remains a strong possibility, Minnesota has not enacted or given specifics regarding a wolf hunting or trapping season for 2021 and beyond.

Trump administration officials in October 2020 stripped Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in most of the U.S., ending longstanding federal safeguards and putting states and tribes in charge of overseeing the predators.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz, who opposes recreational wolf hunting, called the decision disappointing at the time.

Gray wolves have recovered from near extinction in parts of the country but remain absent from much of their historical range.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.