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23,000 People from 33 States Apply for Minnesota Wolf Hunting Permits; Unrestricted Hunting Starts Soon in Wyoming

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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gray wolvesGray wolves (Canis lupus) have targets on their backs. One of the next barrages of gunfire will start soon in Minnesota, where more than 23,000 people have applied for the 6,000 permits that the state will issue for its fall hunting season, set to start November 3.

This is one of the latest salvos against wolves, which have slowly lost their protected status in the Rockies and Great Lakes regions over the past four and a half years after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared them “recovered”—a contention disputed by most conservation groups. These groups have filed their own salvo—of lawsuits—and as a result the wolves in these regions have regained and re-lost their protected status at least a half dozen times since March 2008. It’s all admittedly quite confusing, but what it boils down to is that several hundred wolves have lost their lives while political forces worked to remove their protected status once and for all, which is pretty much where they stand today.

That brings us back to Minnesota, where hunters from 33 states have filed applications for the upcoming hunt. A spokesman for the state’s Department of Nature Resources told the Associated Press that only a few hundred of the 23,477 requests were filed by Minnesotans. The licenses, to be issued by lottery on October 14, will cost $30 for Minnesota residents and $250 for out-of-state hunters.

Minnesota has set a limit of 400 wolves that can be killed this season. The state has an estimated wolf population of 3,000 animals, the highest number in the U.S. outside of Alaska, where the species has never been protected.

(The FWS has a list of state-by-state wolf population counts here.)

Minnesota’s permit feeding frenzy comes about a week after FWS announced that gray wolves in Wyoming would also lose their endangered species protection. (The announcement came on a Friday afternoon before Labor Day weekend, when few were paying attention.) Wyoming has an estimated 350 wolves within its borders, all of which will be classified as “predatory animals,” effective October 1. This designation means anyone can kill any wolf almost anywhere in the state at any time. A small amount of permitted hunting will also be allowed within the regions immediately surrounding national parks, but not the parks themselves, through the end of the year. Most of Wyoming’s wolves live within those regions.

Wyoming’s wolves will remain unprotected as long as the state maintains a population of at least 150 animals, including 15 breeding pairs. Neighboring Idaho and Montana, whose wolf populations lost their protected status a few months ago, must maintain the same counts to keep animals from going back on the endangered species list in their states.

But wait—as if on cue, here comes word of a lawsuit protesting the decision to remove Wyoming wolves from the endangered species. WildEarth Guardians and seven other conservation groups announced on September 10 that they plan to file a lawsuit against the FWS to reinstate the wolves’ protected status. The notice of intent will be followed by an actual lawsuit in 30 days, after the start of Wyoming’s hunt.

This story is far from over. Keeping track of all of the science and politics of wolf conservation would require a separate blog, so I won’t cover the rapidly changing landscape with this species very often, but the Defenders of Wildlife blog runs a weekly wolf news wrap-up, which is a great source for all things related to this species. I’m sure they will have plenty of stories to run in October.

Previously in Extinction Countdown:

Photo: Gray wolves courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—Midwest Region

John R. Platt About the Author: Twice a week, John Platt shines a light on endangered species from all over the globe, exploring not just why they are dying out but also what's being done to rescue them from oblivion. Follow on Twitter @johnrplatt.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Charlie0057 6:23 pm 09/11/2012

    What the he!! has a wolf ever done to these 23,000 a$$ho!es? Why can’t they just live and let live. All these “people” want is a trophy on their wall. If you’re going to hunt a wolf, all you get for weapons is what you were born with. That’s all the wolf has to defend itself with! Please don’t give me that old tired and worn out excuse that the wolves eat your livestock or your “hunting stock”. Remember they were there before you moved into their neighborhood. I am not a member of PETA and I love a good steak just like everybody else. Leave the wolves alone and they will leave you alone!!

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  2. 2. hersh 6:41 pm 09/11/2012

    this is ridiculous, i live in a third world country and even if people go hunting each other, there is no surprise. but WTF is wrong with you people, all you brag about is you being developed and civilized ,where are animal protecting groups?
    other animals are not our play things , they are living being and enjoy living and suffer pain. if we think even a tiny bit we wont allow ourselves such acts of cruelty and barbarism , i am seriously disappointed

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  3. 3. ssm1959 6:52 pm 09/11/2012

    I am a great proponent of having the wolves here. However before you all complain any more about how they are being handled out west, put them in your own back yards for awhile. You will sing a different tune.

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  4. 4. moss boss 6:56 pm 09/11/2012

    Good work, Wyoming, by maintaining a “population of at least 150 animals, including 15 breeding pairs”, your politicians should be commended.

    So now that they are deemed “recovered”, let’s blow ‘em all away.

    It confounds me that some people, after observing a rarity in nature, would then say “let’s go kill it”. I have coyotes in my backyard and I welcome their presence, as it reminds me of who I am. Also, they’re pretty cool to have around.

    Charlie, I agree with you entirely. Hunt for game, not for predators. I just hope that the hunters that have applied for these permits do not “falsely” promote the attitude that some others’ have: Respect hunters because they respect the environment. The hunters that are after the wolves are nothing more than assholes.

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  5. 5. tucanofulano 10:04 pm 09/11/2012

    Just how stupidly short-sighted can the wolf-killers possibly be? These animals keep populations of deer within sustainable limits such that domestic cattle have enough to eat! Just stupid.

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  6. 6. Guang 7:19 am 09/12/2012

    This is a fairly opinionated article for a science magazine. For more detail why not direct peoples attention to the web site of the US Fish and Wildlife Service or even the International Wolf Center. There are many fine scientific organisations that have been studying wolves for a long time.

    In a recent (June, 2012) article published in the journal, Biological Conservation, David Mech, the most senior and respected wolf researcher in the world decried the harm done by journalistic hack jobs such as this one. Why not use values neutral terms and discuss the wolf from a scientific perspective in Scientific American?

    Four hundred wolves culled from a population of 3,000 (those numbers are minimum numbers by the way, real populations could possibly be higher, if you’ve ever tried to count wolves you’d notice they don’t stand still) won’t even reduce the population to less than natural increase from births which should average 750.

    You mischaracterize or flat out fib about Wyoming’s hunt. No they are not classified as predators everywhere and no they can not be shot on site everywhere. I’m positive you are unfamiliar with the geography of Wyoming or you would know that the 1/8 of the state where wolves are classified as a big game animal when combined with the two huge national parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, encompass almost all the suitable habitat in the state.

    Why not write a story of the scientific purpose of using hunters to cull predators? It would go a long way towards dispelling the animosity and divisiveness surrounding wolves and it might just lead to greater knowledge. One thing for sure, emotion laden opinion pieces such as this one do nothing for wolves, or enlightening your readers.

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  7. 7. RSchmidt 12:37 pm 09/12/2012

    Can we get permits to hunt the hunters? I mean, if it is ok to “cull” the wolf population because it is large enough then certainly the human population could stand some culling starting with these low lifes who find joy in killing these amazing creatures. What kind of person can see this intelligent animal in its natural environment and think, I’ve got to kill that? The world could certainly do better with more wolves and fewer of those people

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  8. 8. Mattz 2:20 am 09/13/2012

    Please make certain you publish the number of these big brave ass****s that kill each other!! By the way,,,is there a pool I may participate in?

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