GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - The possibility of a Minnesota wolf hunt this year is stirring up controversy that's been hitting the airwaves recently.
Farm and hunting groups support the proposed November hunt but animal rights groups and others say it could just cause bigger problems.
A group calledHowling for Wolves, is running an anti-hunt ad campaign. Some members of the state's Ojibwe tribes are also speaking up.
Robert Shimek, a tribal activist and member of the Red Lake tribe, said, "We've got many tribes who are opposing wolf hunting and trapping regionally."
Wolves were de-listed from the Endangered Species Act in January.
In the late 1990's, theDepartment of Natural Resourcesheld a Wolf Management Roundtable, which included participants on all sides of the issue. Itdecided that when the grey wolf was removed from the Endangered Species List, there would be a five year moratorium on hunting.
But the legislature has now decided wolves may be hunted this year, just months after being de-listed, to help control a population that at its lowest was three to six hundred and is now at about 3,000.
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said, "There are people that are very passionate on the other side that suffer the loss of cattle, sheep or pets to wolf depredation."
Shimek wants the five year moratorium on hunting back. He says in the American Indian creation story, the wolf is a brother so wolves and humans are spiritually bound.
He said, "It's our feeling that if we do everything we can to take care of the wolves, and the wolf does well, we will do well."
He said through history when the wolf has not done well, neither have American Indians.
Lawmakers have a bill that could create a wolf hunting season this November.
Landwehr said, "Even with the hunting and trapping season we will have a great population of wolves in this state."
He said a wolf hunt would take 400 wolves which he said is not much more than the 200 problematic wolves that were already being killed every year by the feds.
Still, Shimek fears the bill is more about hunting as a sport.
He said he is not against controlling problem wolves. He said, "We've always dealt with that, it doesn't matter if its wolves or other animals or other people."
Shimek's concern is that wolves have highly social family units, so he said, "One of my greatest concerns is if we start taking out the alpha male and alpha female from these packs, essentially what we're doing is leaving pack management up to a bunch of juveniles."
He thinks that could actually make wolves more problematic.
The wolf hunt bill was tabled this week due to a separate issue, possible increases in hunting and fishing license fees. But if lawmakers do create a wolf hunt, the DNR will then work on the details.
Landwehr said the DNR will welcome input from concerned members of Minnesota's tribes.
He said, "It's our job as the DNR to sort of balance that situation."
But Shimek and Howling for Wolves want the five year moratorium back so that wolves can be closely monitored and all sides can come together to decide what steps to take next.