Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Anger, frustration at wolf control meeting


More than 50 farmers, loggers, rural residents, lawmakers and their representatives met in the basement hall at Gamper's, Moose Lake, to voice their frustration but also searching for answers to the fallout following the relisting of the gray wolf as an endangered species.

They learned this was precipitated by a court ruling from a Washington, D.C., federal judge from a petition by The Humane Society of the United States with ties to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Mark Thell and Frank Turnock, strong voices on area Soil and Water issues, explained the federal judicial action eliminated, for the moment, the wolf protection and control program in Minnesota, the largest wolf population in the lower 48. It is now against the law to shoot or kill a gray wolf to protect your property and, some voiced the concern, even your life.

Thell started off the meeting by saying, "The goal of this gathering and others is to find some semblance of order to a state and federal wolf management plan."

Minnesota has had a program to trap problem wolves for many years. Lately, to manage wolf numbers, a wolf hunting and trapping season harvested about 275 animals, half from hunting and half from trapping. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has an annual wolf count and last winter they reported about 3,000 wolves in Minnesota. A number of the meeting participants contradicted the number, saying there are a lot more.

Jerome Tomczak, local Split Rock farmer, related, "Before the wolf was eliminated in the early 1900s when my father, Steve, was a child, parents and children had to carry guns for protection on the way walking to school. My father told me many times that the wolf will never go extinct — he is too smart."

Emails had come in to the organizers of the meeting. These emails talked of continuing the quest for biodiversity and to protect the wolves. They said there were other ways to keep cattle safe. The use of Great Pyrenees dogs or guard donkeys were suggested. Lisa McCorison of Kerrick wrote, "I once dreamed of forming a donkey rescue program and give the donkeys to farmers that have dairy, beef and sheep herds."

Shana Wright of Wrenshall wrote, "I cannot express how disappointed I am that the wolves are again on the endangered species list ... Wolves are a danger to our families, livestock, pets and livelihood. A pack of 16 wolves attacked me and the horse I was riding, injuring the horse ... It almost cost me my life."

It was announced the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association had recently done a study of cattle losses. They found that only one out of six losses had been covered by the state livestock compensation fund.

Dan Stark, Large Carnivore Program Leader for the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife, stated, "The program has not compensated or even verified all the losses farmers have suffered. Verification is a difficult issue. If an animal just disappears, the game warden cannot tell if a wolf kill occurred. It appears only two out of five animal deaths are considered wolf kills due to the site evidence."

Troy Salzer of Carlton County Ag Extension explained, "When a cattleman has a loss of a calf I certify that the animal was worth $1,500 because that is what it would have been worth if it would have lived until fall for a trip to the sale barn. There is not enough money to reimburse wolf kills with the present state budget account — $100,000 from the feds and $50,000 from the state Legislature."

Thom Petersom, lobbyist for the Minnesota Farmers Union, offered some thoughts, "A legal appeal will take years. The Humane Society of the United States is already back-pedaling on the judge's decision due to the wave of negative comment coming their way. We need a two pronged approach: 1) Delist and manage the wolf population in Minnesota; 2) Push for a realistic compensation of farm losses."

Thell drove home the point, "Without compensation we are put into a position where protection of the wolf population is destroying our livelihood and it just won't work."

"When the federal government moves to protect the wolf they should be responsible for compensating the farmers," Rep. Mike Sundin observed. "The legislators and aides who came here today have heard the message loud and clear. Minnesota should manage the wolves and farmers should be paid for their losses."


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