The state Department of Natural Resources has announced details of Minnesota's first wolf hunt in decades.
The DNR said Monday that it will split the wolf-hunting season into two parts. The early wolf season -- for hunters only -- will start Nov. 3 and coincide with firearms deer season.
A late season will run from Nov. 24 to Jan. 6, during which both hunters and trappers will be allowed to take wolves.
The seasons were made possible earlier this year, after the federal government removed the wolf from the endangered species list, leaving management of the wolf population to the states.
Steve Merchant, the DNR's Wildlife Programs Manager, said the agency is taking a conservative approach.
"It's designed to help us learn about what kind of hunter and trapping success we'll have, and to gather some biological data that will help us develop a population model, so we can more effectively manage the wolf population," he said.
Merchant said the DNR has no safety concerns about the hunt. Because part of it will coincide with firearms deer season, no additional staff are necessary, he said.
Federal officials placed wolves on the federal endangered species list in 1974, after their population dropped to a few hundred. Since then, the animals have rebounded.
The state will distribute 6,000 thousand permits by lottery, but is limiting the total number of wolves killed to 400.
Hunters and trappers are pleased. Among them is Tim Ewert, who lives outside Bemidji and has hunted and trapped a variety of game over the years.
Ewart, 61, said if he obtains a wolf permit, he'll go out with his uncle, who trapped wolves before the government put them on the endangered species list in 1974. Ewert said it takes a lot of experience to bag a wolf.
"Those who do their homework, and those who actually know the habits will probably get their wolf," he said. "Those who just wait until the season starts go out and try to hunt or try to trap, probably will fail." Conservation groups have a mix of views on the new wolf season. Officials at the International Wolf Center in Ely -- whose mission is to advance the survival of wolf populations -- are not taking a position on the issue.
With an estimated 3,000 gray wolves in Minnesota, killing 400 will not affect the population, said Mary Ortiz, who recently retired as the group's executive director.
Ortiz said most Wolf Center members oppose the hunt, but she said the fact that it's even possible is a testament to the success of conservation efforts.
"That's the whole point of what we've been doing all these years," Ortiz said. "So it is actually a cause for celebration that we have this many wolves now and we can go off the list. There's a lot of wildlife that need to get on the list."
But Howard Goldman, Minnesota state director for the Humane Society of the United States, disagrees. He said there is no biological reason to allow hunters and trappers to go after wolves.
"Under the delisting, landowners can now legally shoot a wolf that's attacking their livestock or domestic pets," he said. "And that we think addresses the most critical issue with wolf management in the state. It certainly doesn't justify a hunting and trapping season."
Goldman said the state moved too quickly after gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list to establish a wolf season.
When asked whether opponents of the hunt would purse legal action to try to stop it, Goldman said the Humane Society is studying the matter and considering all its options.