One of the winning photos from Pine Grove Zoo’s 2019 photography contest, taken by Pat Arnold.  

Minnesotans can have their say in how the Department of Natural Resources moves forward with its wolf management plan.

The Minnesota DNR began work on revising its wolf management plan in November 2019. The public input period was slated to be closed on Nov. 1, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Oct. 29 that it was delisting the gray wolf from its federal endangered and threatened species list. The decision put all management and protection on state and tribal wildlife entities. It also prompted the DNR to leave public input open until Friday.

There are an estimated 2,700 gray wolves in Minnesota, according to the DNR. That number is up from only about 350 in the 1960s, when they were first listed under the Endangered Species Act. Morrison County is in the southwest portion of the species’ range within the state.

“In our July 2019 comments on the USFWS’s then-proposed delisting, we concluded ‘all evidence indicates that the gray wolf population in Minnesota has recovered’ and federal protection under the Endangered Species Act is no longer warranted in the state,” read a statement from the Minnesota DNR regarding the decision to delist gray wolves. “We simultaneously recognized, however, that the situation in Minnesota is not representative of the wolf’s status elsewhere and noted that ‘a blanket delisting across the United States may not be warranted.’”

The Minnesota DNR has used its current wolf management model, which includes help from federal and tribal partners, since 2001.

That program’s success is among the top reasons the USFW opted to return management to state and tribal entities.

“After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt during the Oct. 29 announcement. “Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law.”

Delisting gray wolves from the protected species list does not necessarily mean hunting and trapping seasons will be established. It is currently illegal to kill or trap gray wolves in Minnesota for any reason other than to protect human life.

Whether or not that changes will be a part of the updated wolf management plan, which is expected to be announced in spring 2021.

“We want people to understand that wolf management is about far more than whether hunting and trapping wolves is or is not permitted in Minnesota,” read the DNR’s statement. “Our commitment to a healthy and sustainable wolf population in Minnesota is unwavering.”

Anyone who would like to give input on future wolf management decisions or learn more about gray wolves in Minnesota can do so by visiting www.dnr.state.mn.us/wolves/wolf-plan.

“The DNR is committed to ensuring the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota and minimizing and resolving conflicts between wolves and humans,” reads the DNR’s wolf management page.

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