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Bands close lands to wolf hunt

Gray wolves
Gray wolves

The Grand Portage band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa say that tribal lands on the reservations at Grand Portage, Nett Lake, and Lake Vermilion will be closed to wolf hunting during the upcoming state season.

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Friday rejected an effort to block the state’s wolf hunting season from opening along with deer season this Saturday.

The Duluth News-Tribune quotes Tribal officials as saying, “The Tribal Councils determined that hunting wolves for sport is inconsistent with a tradition of subsistence hunting and that for some members hunting wolves presented conflicts with cultural practices.”

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the 1854 Treaty Authority manages off-reservation hunting, fishing and gathering rights in the ceded territory for the Grand Portage and Bois Forte bands. They already announced they would not authorize wolf hunting for band members this fall.

The Fond du Lac Band asked the Minnesota DNR not to allow state wolf hunters to use public lands within the exterior boundary of the reservation. The DNR did not agree to that request, tribal officials said.

In its decision last Friday, the high court made no comment in denying an emergency motion by the Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves to stop the upcoming wolf hunting and trapping seasons. The seasons will be Minnesota’s first since the region’s wolves came off the endangered list last January.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals earlier had refused to issue an injunction, and any trial for the groups’ lawsuit probably will take place after the upcoming season is over.

While the request for an injunction was denied, an attorney for the two groups noted that the groups’ lawsuit will continue. Howling for Wolves and the Center for Biological Diversity claim that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources failed to provide a formal opportunity for public comments before issuing its regulations for the upcoming season.

Instead of offering a formal public comment period, the DNR offered an online survey before adopting the details of how wolves would be shot and trapped. More than 75 percent of the comments opposed killing wolves.

The DNR says has it followed all necessary steps to establish the season. In court filings, the agency contended that it received extensive public comments that resulted in substantive changes to the final rules for the wolf hunt and that it acted within its legal authority for conducting expedited rulemaking.

Minnesota’s wolf hunting season will start Nov. 3, with a late hunting and trapping season starting Nov. 24. The DNR has set a target harvest of 200 wolves for each of the two seasons for a total of 400 animals. Minnesota has an estimated 3,000 wolves.