Authorities pursuing an injured wolf through Duluth last weekend were trying to save the animal but couldn't use a nonlethal method like a tranquilizer gun to stop the animal.
That's according to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Don Murray, who was among the officials responding to reports of a wild wolf running through the city on Saturday with its mouth wired shut by a broken snare trap.
Duluth police eventually shot and killed the animal near Marshall High School. Murray called the shooting the very last resort to deal with the wolf.
As a game warden, he said he regularly carries a catchpole and blanket for capturing animals, but that tranquilizer guns aren't a practical alternative. He said the drugs involved are highly regulated, require extensive training and aren't practical to carry and store in the field.
He also said that authorities had to keep public safety as their top priority. Murray said that firing a tranquilizer dart that did not hit an animal posed a serious risk, especially in the snowy landscape the wolf was running through. He said a wayward dart could easily be lost: "And if someone finds that dart and ends up poking themselves, they could actually die from that."
The drugs also don't take effect immediately, and the wolf was running through Saturday afternoon traffic and could continue to pose a risk of causing a crash, even after it had been successfully darted.
"It's not as easy as folks think, that we can just tranquilize an animal and that's equipment that we have," Murray said, noting that the wolf's constant movement compounded the difficulty of take the animal alive. "We did try to get nonlethal options ... we were calling all over. But it was a fluid situation and we were doing our very best to capture the animal with the tools we had at hand."
The Minnesota-based advocacy group Howling for Wolves on Wednesday called on the Legislature to eliminate "recreational snaring" of all wildlife, warning that the traps can kill and maim dogs, moose, songbirds and other creatures that can be caught unintentionally.