County puts heat on DNR to reconsider gray wolf status

Public pressure to reconsider the protected status of the gray wolf has only intensified over the winter. Standing-room-only crowds filled local meeting halls across northern Minnesota in support of the advocacy group Hunter for Hunters’ campaign to persuade the state and federal governments to remove the wolf from the Endangered Species List, given the predators’ burgeoning population.

There’s also mounting pressure on local elected officials to make a move. As a result, the Bemidji Pioneer says commissioners of one county on the front lines of the controversy have taken their constituents’ concerns directly to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The Hubbard County Board is asking the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to “follow the wolf management plan and consider additional public engagement and wolf management action to address depredation and other public concerns.”

The county also requests that “the DNR coordinate with other states in the Great Lakes Recovery region to appeal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine that the gray wolf has been restored to a significant portion of its historic range and that states have sufficient plans in place to prevent future threats to the gray wolf’s existence.”

The board’s unanimous passage of the resolution followed the appearance a few weeks earlier of several constituents, who gave compelling first-hand accounts of the impact of wolves in their area.

[Jason} Kilanowski said he can’t walk his dog on his property because of wolves.

“I’ve had deer killed within 30 yards of the house from wolves. There’s tracks all over the place.”

Kilanowski said he’s talked to grouse hunters, deer hunters and others who have “massive issues” with wolves.

…[Allen] Lysdahl was a forester in Hubbard County for 25 years.

“I’ve watched the wolf population grow and grow exponentially. I’ve also seen the deer population decrease at the same rate. This is an issue that’s bigger than Hubbard County,” he said.

Lysdahl hunts bobcats in Hubbard County, adding he’s lost two dogs to wolves. He knows other dog owners who have had “big vet bills” due to injuries.

Commissioners also heard from livestock owners who maintain they suffer persistent losses due to wolves in search of prey. The resolution ultimately approved included a call for federal wildlife authorities to work on reaching a solution.

County commissioner Ted Van Kempen favored the Hunters For Hunters’ resolution.

“I like the idea of the county itself coming forward. Now it shows we also, as a county, made this decision,” he said.

County commissioner David De La Hunt said, “None of us profess to be experts in the Endangered Species Act, but we want to have a message in the resolution to ask the federal government and others that have authority to please review this.”

The federal courts have blocked the efforts of Minnesota and other states to manage the gray wolf population time and again in past years. But even if the predator was suddenly delisted, it’s clear the DNR would not allow a hunting season under Gov. Tim Walz.