NEW ULM - Minnesota's gray wolves should not be hunted, according to testimony of four people Wednesday at a Department of Natural Resources hearing in New Ulm.
The hearing, which was held before an administrative law judge, is one of five such events that gives the public the chance to comment on proposed updates to the state's list of plants and animals that are at risk of disappearing from the Minnesota landscape.
The DNR is proposing to remove 15 plants and 14 animals from Minnesota's list of endangered, threatened and special-concern species, while adding 67 animals and 114 plants to the list. The list was last updated officially in 1996.
The Minnesota DNR proposes to move gray wolves from special concern to no species status.
"I don't understand how an animal can be protected for so long, then be hunted," said Michelle Kainz of Hopkins.
Rich Baker, DNR Endangered Species Coordinator, said wolves were removed from the federal endangered species list in July 2011 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
He said the DNR's decision to move gray wolves from special concern species to no status was made by himself with input from mammologists and biologists.
"We are required to consider (status) change regularly," Baker added. "When our decision was published in August 2012, we determined wolves were a recovered species. We'll reconsider the issue in the next three to five years."
Melissa Siefke of Owatonna said she came to the hearing as a concerned scientist and citizen. She said the DNR estimated there were 3,000 wolves in Minnesota in 2007-2008, but there is no real time baseline population data for 2011-2012, when the decision was made to change their species status.
"Wolves are genetically required to fear humans," Siefke said. "A healthy wolf population promotes a healthy wildlife population. Wolves support Minnesota tourism. There are 13,000 Minnesota jobs supported by wildlife. We can't afford to lose wolves."
She accused the Minnesota Legislature of rushing to a wolf hunt without a great deal of public input.
"Many wolves already die from starvation and disease. Wolf populations self regulate," Siefke said. "The random killing of wolves will defeat the balance between humans, livestock and wildlife."
She said 79 percent of recent wolf hunt survey respondents including hunters opposed shooting and trapping wolves.
"The howl of a wolf is magic," Siefke said. "The public has been kept out of wolf species decisions since 1995. State law required a five-year period between species decisions were made until the law was stripped away by Minnesota political insiders at the Legislature."
She said baseline wolf population data is important and that in 2012, one in four wolves were killed by hunting and trapping, disease and vehicle crashes.
"Keep wolves on the Special Concerns list for biological and economic reasons," Siefke said. "Trapping concerns me. It's archaic, barbaric and causes trapped pets to gnaw off their limbs."
Marie Thuron of Glencoe said she's part of a wildlife rescue pilot program with the DNR, law enforcement, and John Q. Public that helped revive the Minnesota's osprey population.
She said many hunters don't follow the wounded animals they shoot, so she tracks wounded wildlife.
"What if a child comes upon a wounded wolf and it attacks them?" Thuron said. "Humans are supposed to be the most advanced species, but we're often not very responsible. As a long-time 911 dispatcher, I still haven't learned to shut up. Sometimes it irritates people. Sometimes you see deer and other wildlife in town. We're expanding upon their habitat."
She said the climate is changing and what's happening worldwide should be studied.
Retired Minneapolis Public School teacher Melanie Weberg of Bloomington said new Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are opening in parts of Minnesota where wolves are common and that she supported their continued protection.
When asked how much of an effect hunting would have on the wolf population, Baker said he didn't have any data on the issue but suggested contacting DNR Wolf Biologist Dan Stark in the Twin Cities.
Other DNR proposed amendments to Minnesota Rules of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species include moving moose from no status to special concern, trumpeter swans and peregrine falcons from threatened to special concern and bald eagles from special concern to no status, among many other changes.
Written comments can be submitted to the Office of Administrative Hearings, 600 N. Robert St., PO Box 64620, Saint Paul, Mn 55164-0620.
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