Minnesota will issue 500 more wolf licenses this year and allow hunters and trappers to kill 30 more wolves than last year's target, the Department of Natural Resources said Wednesday.
The DNR said its latest population estimate is that 470 wolf packs and 2,423 wolves lived in Minnesota's wolf range this past winter. That's 212 more wolves than estimated in winter 2013.
"Estimates show a stable population with no significant change from the 2013 estimate of 2,211 wolves," Dan Stark, the DNR's large carnivore specialist, said in the announcement. "We will continue to evaluate the wolf population annually to ensure the wolf population remains well established across northern and central Minnesota."
This will be Minnesota's third wolf hunting season since the animals came off the endangered list.
The DNR will make a total of 3,800 hunting and trapping licenses available for the upcoming season. The statewide harvest target will be 250 wolves. The bag limit remains one wolf.
The DNR will start taking license applications Aug. 1. The early wolf hunting-only season opens Nov. 8, same as the firearms deer season. It will run through Nov. 23 in in the main wolf range in northern Minnesota, and Nov. 16 elsewhere. The late hunting-and-trapping season opens Nov. 29 and runs through Jan. 31. As in past years, wildlife managers will close hunting zones when their targets are met.
Hunters and trappers killed 413 wolves in the state's inaugural season, compared with a nonbinding target of 400, and 237 last year, which was 17 above the target. Last year's target was lowered following a population estimate showing a 24 percent decline from the DNR's 2008 survey.
Opponents of wolf hunting and trapping were unsuccessful during the past two legislative sessions at enacting legislation to suspend the state's wolf seasons. They argue that hunting and trapping threatens the species' long-term survival in Minnesota and dispute the idea that allowing recreational hunting and trapping is the most effective way to stop wolves from preying on livestock.
"There is no good justification for a recreational wolf hunt in Minnesota," Howling for Wolves founder Maureen Hackett said in a statement. She said hunting and trapping are cruel and disrupt pack structures.