ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s population of gray wolves is resilient and robust, wildlife managers said Thursday as they released a draft updated plan to keep it that way.
The Department of Natural Resources laid out a blueprint for the next 10 years to both strengthen conservation and minimize conflicts between people and predators. It calls for maintaining a statewide population of between 2,200 and 3,000 wolves. That’s in line with recent annual estimates of about 2,700 and around where it’s been since the late 1990s.
“Wolf conservation is a high priority for the DNR and we expect this updated plan to help ensure Minnesota’s wolf population remains healthy,” Kelly Straka, the agency’s wildlife section manager, said in a statement.
Of the estimated 6,000 gray wolves in the lower 48 states, nearly one-half are in Minnesota.
The plan does not take a position on whether Minnesota should resume wolf hunting if gray wolves are again removed from endangered species protection. Minnesota held three wolf hunting seasons, from 2012 to 2014, before a court restored federal protections.
However, the draft includes a framework for future decision-making about wolf seasons. It includes ensuring that tribal governments are consulted “with a goal of identifying and pursuing a mutually acceptable decision.” The federal government would continue to compensate farmers for livestock killed by wolves and could send in trappers to kill wolves in the area.
The DNR will hold an informational webinar July 13. Public comments will be accepted through Aug. 8. The DNR hopes to finalize the plan in the early fall.