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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

DNR biologists can’t discount the impact of wolves

Mike Hanson
Posted 11/16/22

 In a recent article in the Timberjay, we again heard the DNR company line about bad winters and over-harvest of  “snow shelter.”  Not once did I see a mention of predation …

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DNR biologists can’t discount the impact of wolves


 In a recent article in the Timberjay, we again heard the DNR company line about bad winters and over-harvest of  “snow shelter.” 
Not once did I see a mention of predation by the gray wolf.  I have no doubt that the deer suffered the past couple winters, I’ve lived here since 1977 and I have personally seen several bad winters, often times back-to-back (1996/97 and 1997/98 as an example), that have drastically dropped the deer numbers.  The big difference between then and now is the higher wolf population.  Back in the day the herd would take three to four years to recover and it always did.  I think if you looked at historic harvest statistics compared to winter weather patterns it would be easy to see that.  The deer herd has now been hit hard by winter snow the past two winters and the wolf  population won’t allow the herd to recover like it used to.  First they kill the winter weakened deer and then in the spring target the fawn crop.  For some reason the DNR refuses to put that into the equation, apparently it’s a political stance they don’t care to take.
A conversation with any deer hunter in northeast Minnesota will bring up wolf numbers in their hunting area.  The DNR calls this “anecdotal information” and seems to discount it but even if you took all those bits of anecdotal information and divided in half there would still be a wolf problem! 
Don’t buy into the DNR company line on why the kill is low. They have taken stances before that may not be completely right and many of the reasons for that are generally politically motivated.  The original company line on cougar sightings in Minnesota was: “Someone’s pet cougar got away”.  They used that one for years before they were overwhelmed with documented sightings.  Now the line is free ranging young males, which is more believable than “someone’s pet got away” but they refuse to acknowledge there may be a breeding pair somewhere in Minnesota.  The Canadian Lynx is another example of the DNR sticking their head in the sand, the Feds proved them wrong on that one.  Moose mortality?  Their study showed that 50 percent of the moose calves were at least eaten on by you suppose they killed them too?  Politically it didn’t look good to have their study show wolf depredation was a significant factor so they just sort of ignored addressing it.  Over harvest of our “snow shelter”?  I’m not real sure what their agenda is on renaming and re-attacking this subject but being involved in the forestry business for my entire career it strikes me as odd that right now logging is on a downslide in the area.  Especially compared to the heyday of logging from about 1982 up to and shortly after Potlatch shut down.  I very seldom even see a loaded pulp truck now-a-days as compared to that time and there is only one local logging company still left in the Cook/Orr area.  Are we really over harvesting the winter cover faster than we had been? Do you suppose the budworm infestations a few years ago had anything to do with removing balsam fir from the landscape?  I can personally attest to the fact that I lost virtually every mature and semi-mature balsam to the infestation on the 200 acres we own.
I mentioned before that it seems everyone has game cameras at their hunting locations.  We do, too. In fact, we have cameras on three different properties separated by several miles.  We’ve had plenty of photos of wolves at all three sites and we have discarded the majority of them.  The adjacent attached photo I couldn’t discard because of the clarity and number of wolves.  This camera was at my brother’s deer stand over east of Susan Lake and it’s been there since around Sept. 1.
In summary, the DNR’s explanation of why we have a low deer harvest is off base and the hunting population knows it.  They are going to have egg on their face once again!


4 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Immer Treue

    That didn’t take long. Tough winters; bucks only; abysmal hunting conditions; if the trend continues, fewer hunters in the field (probably pounding the same areas that are increasingly devoid of bucks due to bucks only over past few years); and the author reinforces the DNR rationale of thermal cover during the winter with the devastation of balsam by spruce budworm on his two hundred acres - multiply this by a thousand over the entire northeast, a it’s a real problem. But the problem is wolves

    Then the moose are disappearing due to wolf predation on calves ad nauseam. No mention of brainworm, and brainworm addled, liver fluke infected (both vectored in by deer) tick infestedcows unable to protect their calves, but the problem is wolves.

    Saturday, November 19, 2022 Report this

  • kurt.dalquist

    I would first like to thank Mike for hitting the nail on the head with his assessment of the current relationship of deer and wolves in NE Minnesota. The situation is dire and there seems to be no responsibility on the part of the DNR to first recognize it and secondly to act upon it. I have hunted deer for 42 years in the western Lake Vermilion area and never has it been so bad for so long. We have had tough conditions that have knocked the deer back but they always recovered - not this time, things are different.

    Please write or contact our legislators to continue their work on this very important issue.

    Monday, November 21, 2022 Report this

  • snowshoe2

    The DNR field staff recognizes it. It is the political side and tribal groups slowing the change down. St. Paul DNR is dragging its feet not being aggressive and going back to court and finalizing a wolf plan that has taken over ten years of delays.

    Monday, November 21, 2022 Report this

  • snowshoe2

    Even further south in the Longville area deer bounced back fast until recently. Wolves became established in the late 1990s or 2000. Now the population is at its lowest since maybe the early 1960s.

    Monday, November 21, 2022 Report this