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Landowners ready to go “full Texas” on wolves

Ely Echo - Staff Photo - Create Article

by Parker Loew

Landowners and hunters aired their frustrations about restrictions over shooting wolves to senators and representatives at the Hunters4hunters meeting Saturday in Embarrass.

At least one person said if something isn’t done soon, they will begin disregarding the law and taking matters into their own hands.

State Rep. Roger Skraba (R-Ely), State Sen. Nathaniel Wesenburg (R-Little Falls), John Eloranta, the district director for U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, Rachel Loeffler-Kemp, the regional outreach director with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, and state Sen. Rob Farnsworth (R-Hibbing) were in attendance at the meeting to answer questions and give their thoughts on the issue.

Tensions have reached a boiling point recently in northern Minnesota regarding wolf laws due to a historically poor deer harvest this year and farmers not getting reimbursed for wolf kills, which are increasing.

Currently you can only shoot a wolf if it’s attacking a person according to the Endangered Species Act.

If a wolf attacks a pet or livestock, you are out of luck.

At the meeting, Hunters4hunters pushed hard for having a wolf hunting season, but also the delisting of the wolf from the endangered species list.

If the wolf was delisted, landowners could protect their pets and livestock from wolves by shooting them.

“The Minnesota DNR is hiding behind the Endangered Species Act,” said board member of Hunters4hunters and event organizer Steve Porter. “We have repeatedly asked them to give us an official position statement stating that the DNR wants wolves to be delisted. The DNR will not give us that statement.”

Porter asked the audience if they knew a friend who had shot a wolf to protect pets or cattle.

Over half of the audience members raised their hands.

“Our federal government has painted landowners and God-fearing patriots into a corner and said, ‘You’re going to live with them until you break the law and become a federal felon and we get locked up in prison,’” said Porter.

According to Porter, in the last 20 years, Minnesota has lost around 200 cattle farmers because of the wolf problem.

“They either quit having cattle and quit farming, or they moved out of the state to continue farming,” he said.

The money set aside by legislation for farmer reimbursement from wolf predation in Minnesota is only around $100,000 for the entire year.

To put that into perspective, California sets aside $3 million per year to give farmers who lose cattle due to wolf predation, and they have around 45 wolves in their entire state.

According to the Minnesota DNR, Minnesota has 2,700 wolves.

This number hasn’t moved in over two decades, and group members of Hunters4hunters said this number is low-balled.

“We’re still at the same number that we were at in 1998. According to the DNR, the number is supposed to double every 15 years. At some point, there was research that was probably done by someone who doesn’t know how to do research, or they’re lying, or they’re getting paid,” said Porter.

Attendees at the meeting said how the DNR and their representatives have failed them, and said they weren’t being represented.

“I’ve invited Bob Meyer of the DNR to attend all our meetings. Not once have I had a DNR representative show up at a meeting,” said Porter. “They (the DNR) say it’s harsh winters and poor habitat that have led to the demise of your deer. How about the guy’s calf and the guy’s dog that got killed? Was that habitat loss as well? Was that a harsh winter that killed the dog in the front yard?”

Many landowners and hunters have had enough.

“When are we going to start acting like Texas, quit folding our hands, and start doing something?” asked one farm owner.

The senators and representatives then came to the front to talk to the audience on their stance on wolves and to answer any questions.

They all vocalized how they are adamantly for delisting the gray wolf from the endangered species list and are working hard to do so with legislation.

In the Minnesota House of Representatives, State Rep. Skraba supported giving money to the International Wolf Center for their leaky roof.

One audience member called out Skraba for being supportive of delisting the wolf, being for having a wolf hunting season, but also supporting giving money to the International Wolf Center to repair their roof.

“That’s part of our problem, buddy,” said the audience member. “People from the Twin Cities come up and say, ‘these wolves wouldn’t hurt anybody when they look at the wolves in the enclosures.’”

“I have to represent it all. I don’t look at the Wolf Center as producing wolf lovers,” said Skraba. ”The founder of the International Wolf Center, Dr. David Meech, has said, ‘I want a wolf season. We need a wolf season.’ The Wolf Center isn’t the problem.”

Many in the audience said this issue hasn’t been acted on with enough urgency, and the can just keeps getting kicked down the road.

“You guys up there, we’re done listening. Me and my boys have run 350 head of cattle. In the last 10 years, we’ve lost nine calves. I have put in a couple of times early on to get paid. Not a cent did I get paid,” said a farmer/landowner from Blackduck.

He continued, “I’ll tell you what, you guys better start listening to us. We’re done listening to you guys. We’re going to take it into our own hands, and it will be a Wild West up here if we don’t get something happening.”

The senators and representatives responded by saying they understand the frustrations landowners are facing, but legislation often takes a long time.

Some at the meeting suggested everyone stop buying hunting licenses to “put the squeeze” on the DNR, but Farnsworth disagreed with this tactic.

“So my response to ‘should we stop buying deer licenses’ is no because then they’re going to say ‘see that’s why the deer harvest is down.’” said Farnsworth. “We should encourage everybody to get a deer license and get out hunting because then you can say deer licenses are at a record high, while harvest is dropping significantly.”

Before the meeting ended, Porter said he was a little disappointed in the turnout, as the room was half full. He expected more people in Embarrass because it was at the epicenter of wolf problems in Minnesota.

“I was hoping for a bigger crowd, but I am not disappointed in the passion and knowledge in this room,” he said.

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