2011 MN Senate: wolf delisting hearing lacks public testimony, 4/7/2011

Post date: Feb 20, 2014 5:12:17 AM

This is an audio recording (with photos) of the 4/7/2011 meeting of the MN Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee. In this meeting, a group of MN Senators, two representatives of the MN Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR), and two representatives of the cattle industry discussed problems with wolf depredation and opportunities for public hunting & trapping of wolves. The committee discusses and unanimously passes Sen. Ingebrigtsen's 2011 MN SF 79: a "Resolution urging Congress to delist the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act."

Speakers identified on the audio recording (in order of appearance):

* Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria).

* Mike DonCarlos, Acting Deputy Director of the MN DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife.

* Senator Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa).

* Senator Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls).

* Dan Stark, MN DNR Large Carnivore Specialist.

* Senator Tom Saxhaug (D-Grand Rapids).

* Bruce Kleven, representative of the MN State Cattlemen's Association.

* Gary Wertish, Vice President of the MN Farmers Union.

SS-Slocum's Red Flags on this meeting:

  • Every speaker at this meeting is a supporter of the bill.
  • None of the many opponents of wolf delisting are represented.
  • This imbalance seems to be fine with everyone present.
  • Sen. Gazelka seems to be building a case for public hunting & trapping of Minnesota wolves.
  • Sen. Gazelka doesn't seem to know anything about the MN Wolf Management Plan.

00:15 Ingebrigtsen introduces his bill SF79 "Resolution urging Congress to delist the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act." He refers to a news release from U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar in support of delisting.

01:38 DonCarlos: the MN DNR supports the resolution, and has itself petitioned the USFWS to delist the gray wolf in Minnesota. There have been several delistings, lawsuits, and relistings over the years. A number of agencies are asking for a resolution.

03:06 Gazelka: how would we go about making a wolf-management plan? How long would it take? [He doesn't seem to know that the Plan was completed ten years earlier.]

03:33 DonCarlos: the MN DNR began planning for gray wolf delisting in 1996. Twelve public hearings were held around the state. The MN Wolf Management Roundtable made its recommendations in 1998. In 2000, the MN Legislature called for the MN DNR and MN Dept. of Agriculture to finalize the MN Wolf Management Plan based on the Roundtable recommendations and legislative guidelines. The MN Wolf Management Plan was completed in 2001.

05:09 Gazelka: is there any reason you would be opposed to moving that up from five years to, say, next year or something like that? [Beginning with the 2012-2013 hunting & trapping season?]

05:21 DonCarlos: in one sense, it wouldn't be too soon, since delisting has been expected by the end of the year for the past 11 years. Some caution would be advised, because the USFWS has emergency-relisting authority for the five years following delisting [so if the numbers dropped too far, the gray wolf could be relisted]...

06:18 DonCarlos: ...on the other hand, Minnesotans are divided on the issue of a public hunt. A public-input process would be needed before opening public seasons. Given that, the MN DNR is confident that it could responsibly manage the public taking of wolves, and we're ready to do so...

06:51 DonCarlos: ...certainly, the Legislature could institute a hunt; but whether it would be wise or not, I'm not sure at this point in time.

07:12 Stark: here to answer technical questions on wolf biology, population status, distribution, etc.

07:30 Dahms: what is the current population?

07:36 Stark: in the 2007-2008 survey, the population estimate was 2,900 wolves (plus or minus 600).

08:05 Ingebrigtsen: how would the wolf population be expected to rise in coming years if it wasn't controlled by [public] hunting and trapping?

08:26 Stark: there hasn't been a significant change in the last ten years; there's been very little change in wolf numbers or distribution. The population is stable at around 3,000 wolves. It's expected to fluctuate somewhat with deer numbers, but remain stable.

09:02 Saxhaug: what if we have a major winter deer kill? [Caused by cold temperatures and food shortages.] How would that affect the wolf population?

09:20 Stark: last time that happened, in the mid 1990s, the deer population was severely impacted. About that time, the wolf population peaked but then restabilized. The expected response of wolves to a shortage of deer is for the young wolves to leave their packs and disperse to new areas. But the areas of the state that are occupied by wolves now aren't expected to change, and wolf numbers aren't expected to change.

10:28 Ingebrigtsen: what about problems with domestic animals (livestock)?

10:42 Stark: beginning with the wolf recovery in the 1970s, depredation on livestock and pets generally increased with the number of wolves. Depredation peaked in the late 1990s but then stabilized. It probably fluctuates depending on the availability of natural prey (deer). As deer numbers dip, there might be a slight increase in depredations as the wolves look for alternative prey. The last couple of years, we've seen a slight rise in depredation, but not as high as it was in the late 1990s following those severe winters [in which deer populations declined].

11:49 Gazelka: are wolves becoming more aggressive to livestock and pets? I hear stories in the Brainerd area that the wolves don't seem as afraid as maybe they were a decade ago. Do you see any scientific data for that?

12:20 Stark: in the last couple of years, there seems to have been an increase in the reports of depredation on domestic pets, but it might just be that more incidents are being reported now.

13:19 Kleven: the MN State Cattlemen's Association supports the resolution (and the MN Farm Bureau does as well).

13:43 Wertish: the MN Farmers Union supports the resolution. Farmers in northern MN want the ability to defend their animals against wolf attacks. They worry about Federal funding cuts and the ability of the MN depredation compensation account to cover all of their depredation losses. They feel that the state's response time, and the workability of the state program, will be an improvement. It's been tough to deal with the bureaucracy.

15:55 Gazelka: what happens if a calf is taken and can't be found?

16:08 Kleven: it's investigated like a crime scene by the MN DNR and, as of last year, County Sheriffs (because they're on call 24 hours). If there's enough evidence to prove the claim, the farmer is compensated--even if the remains can't be found.

16:56 Ingebrigtsen moves that the bill, as amended, be passed and referred to the Rules committee. The wolf-delisting resolution passes unanimously on a voice vote. He proudly notes for the record that it was stated in this meeting (yet again) that "the Sheriffs do work 24 hours."

17:49 the end.

MN Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria)

MN Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria)