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As others see it: Focus on data with wolves

Legislation to temporarily suspend wolf hunting, trapping and snaring in Minnesota is a rational response to legitimate concerns about the management of the state’s wolf population. It’s an emotional issue that is more multifaceted than the oft-drawn line between preservationists and hunters.

The debate should focus on data, not emotion. Proposed legislation, which has cleared one committee of the Legislature, does not close the door to a wolf hunt (recreational hunting is permitted now) but rather calls for more and better information about the status of the animals. However, that eminently reasonable purpose is being resisted by advocates of the hunt in the Legislature and elsewhere, and by the lead state agency charged with managing the wolf population. And that fact is a huge part of the problem.

The Department of Natural Resources insists it has sufficient data to apply good management practices to wolves that allow a hunt and maintain a viable population. Wolf advocates say – and they have some evidence to back it up – that data are far from complete and actually skewed because of the faulty way in which wolf mortality is reported and recorded.

Without going into the deep weeds regarding the science of data collection, the fact that the quality and comprehensiveness of data are questioned ought to be enough to reassess. If the DNR is sincere about developing a sound management approach to wolves, the agency should be eager to have the best possible information – and that means good data on which all interested parties can agree. That’s far from the situation now.

Wolf advocates have ammunition to charge that the DNR is not interested in good science because wolf hunters and their allies pay fees into the agency’s budget; wolf advocates do not. Furthermore, at least one survey found that upward of 75 percent of respondents to a DNR survey opposed wolf hunting and trapping.

Companion bills in the House and Senate seek merely to hold off on the hunt until the wolf data base is more complete. That’s a sensible approach.