Dead moose, puppies not enough: House bans recreational wolf hunt

Gray wolf
In this July 16, 2004 file photo, a gray wolf is shown at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. (AP file 2004)

The discussion on the House floor Tuesday afternoon got a little gory, but in the end, members narrowly voted to prohibit recreational wolf hunting in the state.

"They eat moose, they eat cattle, they eat sheep, they eat dogs, they eat cats, they'll even eat little people if the situation presents itself," Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said as he opposed the wolf-hunting ban.

Drazkowski and other members offered graphic descriptions of online images showing dismembered pets, moose and other animals, but it wasn't enough to sway the DFL-controlled chamber to vote "no" on the ban. The final tally was 66-65.

Rep. Peter Fischer, DFL-Maplewood, introduced the measure as an amendment to a larger environmental financing bill, which also passed Tuesday. Fischer said wolves are a culturally significant animal for Minnesota's Native American tribes, and that they should not be subject to a recreational hunt. He also questioned whether a hunt would prevent problems for farmers who have lost livestock to wolves, but said farmers would maintain the right to protect their livestock.

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"This does not do anything to prevent anything that needs to be done to address the conflicts that do occur in the agriculture area," Fischer said. "This bill would still allow trapping of the wolves, it would also allow hunting of selected wolves that were causing issues within agriculture communities."

Rep. Nathan Nelson, R-Hinckley, said he lost 12 calves on his farm last year, likely to wolves, and said it's a big problem for farmers and ranchers in his area.

"I can't prove every one of them because I have zero sign of them. Two of them we found their carcasses," he said. "The population does need to be controlled and managed."

The debate comes after federal wildlife officials announced in March a plan to remove federal endangered-species protections for wolves, saying the population has recovered. Wolves have been on and off the federal endangered species list for years, amid court battles.

Minnesota has held three wolf hunts in recent years, the last in 2014.

The GOP-controlled Senate does not include a provision on wolf hunting in its environmental budget bill, so wolf hunting is one of many subjects that could come up during conference committee negotiations in the final weeks of the session.