Wolf hunt: More than 110 taken so far

Wolf after kill
A wolf hustles away from a freshly killed carcass with a leg section.
Steve Foss for MPR, file

Hunters have killed more than 110 wolves since the start of the state's first managed wolf hunting season 10 days ago.

The agency's website shows more than 50 wolves have been killed in the northwest, more than 50 in the northeast, and fewer than 10 were killed in the east central part of the state.

The kill number is higher than DNR wolf experts predicted. One DNR wolf expert predicted about 70 wolves would be killed during the early season that runs concurrently with the deer hunt.

Steve Merchant, acting chief of wildlife for the DNR, said the agency didn't have a lot to go on when predicting how many wolves hunters would kill.

"The big unknown for us was going to be what differences it makes when we have the number of deer hunters out in the woods that we do here in Minnesota, and how much that would stir up the wolves, so to speak," Merchant said. "It appears as though that may be what's driving the higher success rate, if I had to speculate."

Some hunters speculate more wolves have been killed because there are more than previously thought. Merchant said a higher wolf population is possible.

"We do have a couple of other indices that indicate that perhaps wolf numbers have increased a little bit," Merchant said. "Our winter track count and our scent post surveys show a slight upward trend, but we're going to reserve judgment until we do our survey this winter and then we'll find out for sure."

The most recent wolf population estimate shows there are about 3,000 wolves in the state. The new wolf count estimate will be completed next spring.

Hunters can take a maximum of 200 wolves during this early season, which ends Sunday. A second season for hunters and trappers begins Nov. 24 and runs through the end of January. Hunters can kill up to 200 wolves in that season as well.

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