A group of DFL and Republican lawmakers are proposing to ban wolf hunting in the state for five years.
The bill introduced Thursday also says the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources can implement a hunting season after five years only if a hunting season is deemed necessary for controlling the wolf population.
Minnesota held its first-ever managed wolf hunt last year after the animal was removed from federal protection. But opponents of the hunt have argued the state should have waited longer before allowing people to hunt wolves. More than 400 wolves were killed during the season.
"Rushing to a recreational wolf hunt immediately following their delisting from federal protections is not in the best interest of our state and it does not reflect our state's values," Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, said in a news release. Eaton is sponsoring the legislation along with DFL Sens. Terri Bonoff and Sandy Pappas, and Republican Sens. David Hann and David Senjem.
The group Howling for Wolves had pushed for a ban, saying there's no evidence that the Minnesota wolf population needs to be controlled by a hunting season.
The DNR has argued that the state's wolf population is healthy enough to sustain a hunting season.
"We value wolves, and our commitment is for the long-term, sustainability of wolf populations in the state while also resolving conflicts between wolves and humans," DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said.
He disputed the notion that Minnesota's wolf season was rushed, saying both the House and Senate approved legislation authorizing the hunting season in 2011 eight years after the state had expected the gray wolf to come off the federal endangered species list. Years of legal disputes over delisting the wolves gave state officials and lawmakers plenty of time to confirm the state has a healthy wolf population, he said.
Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he doesn't have a position on the bill yet and will study it through the Legislature's committee process. But he said his constituents in northern Minnesota support wolf hunting.
"Most people where I live would say that the wolf is a game species," he said. "And game species, no different from other predators or deer or grouse or birds are populations that need to be managed."