Applications for wolf hunting and trapping licenses have dropped by almost half this year compared with last year when Minnesota held its first wolf hunt since the animals were removed from the endangered list.
About 23,500 hunters and trappers applied for licenses last year but the number dropped to about 13,000 this year, Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told the Duluth News Tribune for a report published Monday.
Stark said several factors might have contributed.
"There are fewer licenses available this year," he said. "And last year was the first season ever. There was some novelty there. And probably, there's the realization that there's a low success rate for wolf hunters and trappers."
Last year's success rate was 7 percent for those who hunted wolves during the firearms deer season, 4 percent for late-season hunters and 30 percent for trappers, Stark said.
Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, agreed with Stark's assessment.
"It's not the inaugural year," he said. "It didn't get the hype this year it did last year. And with the lower license and harvest numbers, that drives down the chances for success."
A total of 3,300 licenses were available this year, down from 6,000 last year. The target harvest is 220 wolves, down from 400 last year when 413 were killed.
The DNR lowered this season's target in response to the latest wolf population estimate of 2,211 wolves, down about 25 percent from 2008.
Minnesota's early-season wolf hunt begins Nov. 9 and runs concurrently with the firearms deer season, ending Nov. 17 or 24 depending on the area. The late-season hunting and trapping season is Nov. 30 to Jan. 31. Seasons will close earlier if the targets are reached.
Successful applicants must purchase their licenses by Nov. 1 for the early season and by Nov. 22 for the late season hunt.
Wolf hunting opponents continue to call for the DNR to cancel the season. Howling for Wolves says it has gathered more than 29,000 signatures — including more than 18,000 from Minnesota residents — for its online petition.