With nearly two months of wolf hunting now in the books in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, it's interesting to take a closer look at the number of wolves killed in both states, compared to their target harvests and total population.
Wisconsin hunters killed 105 wolves as of December 10th, very near the state's total quota of 116 wolves. That's out of a total estimated wolf population in the state of about 850. Which means hunters, in just over a month and a half, have killed about 12 percent of Wisconsin's wolves.
Wolves roam in the wilderness on Thursday, February 11, 2010 near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. (MPR Photo/Derek Montgomery)
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Minnesota hunters have killed more than twice as many wolves as their neighbors, 243 as of December 10th, well over halfway to the state's quota of 400 wolves. But that's out of a total estimated population of around 3,000, meaning Minnesota hunters have killed about 8 percent of the state's wolves.
As MPR's Stephanie Hemphill reported shortly after Minnesota's wolf hunt began, the numbers reflect different approaches to management of the iconic predator. "Minnesota has not set a goal for a maximum wolf population, while Wisconsin has. It wants to reduce the number of wolves to 350 and keep it there," Stephanie writes.
Of course others besides hunters have killed wolves in both states over the past year. This year in Minnesota, state and federal trappers have killed at least 214 wolves that preyed on livestock. And ranchers and pet owners have killed at least 15 wolves that threatened their animals, something they could not have legally done when the wolf was listed as a federal endangered species.
We'll know a lot more about Minnesota's wolf population after the DNR completes its first wolf survey in five years this winter. Many people have speculated that the higher than expected success rate of wolf hunters suggests that the state's wolf population is higher than the estimated 3,000.
In any case, both Minnesota and Wisconsin wildlife managers are likely to tweak their hunting seasons after they assess the numbers from this year's hunt.
Minnesota's late season runs through the end of January; Wisconsin's through the end of February, if it doesn't reach its quota first.