(KMSP) - The issue of Minnesota’s wolf population remains polarizing.
On Wednesday, activists gathered inside the Capitol building to literally howl in protest of a Minnesota law that would allow for a wolf hunt once federal protections end.
Fox 9 decided to take a closer look at the numbers.
Minnesota has a unique history with wolves. At one time in the 1970s, the only wolves in the lower 48 states were in northern Minnesota (and Isle Royale). Since then, Minnesota’s wolf population has risen, peaking in 2003-2004 with about 3,020 wolves, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
Dan Stark, a wolf specialist at the DNR, says wolves then declined the next few years, along with the deer population. But the wolf population has been steady the last few years, around 2,300.
“The population is doing pretty well. We continue to monitor the population annually and try to figure out what’s going on from one year to the next,” Stark told Fox 9.
Stark said the DNR would never let the wolf population dip below 1,600.
Wolves received Endangered Species Act protections at the end of 2014, but used to be hunted. 413 wolves were killed by hunters and trappers in Minnesota in 2012, 238 in 2013, and 272 in 2014.
Stark told Fox 9 it’s “likely we’d implement” another hunting season if the wolves no longer were protected.
During the past couple years, wolves have killed 21 dogs in Minnesota. In the last two years, farmers have filed 202 claims for killed livestock due to wolves; the farmers received $359,415 in claims.