Federal trappers lack funding to deal with Minn. wolves

Federal trappers are struggling to keep up with Minnesota's growing wolf population.

Only U.S. Department of Agriculture trappers can kill wolves because of a 2014 federal ruling that put them on the endangered species list, Minnesota Public Radio reported .

Trappers had to stop working for a few weeks starting on Oct. 13 because of a lack of funds, said John Hart, a USDA regional wildlife specialist. The department receives about $220,000 annually to trap about 200 wolves.

Minnesota U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken where able to secure additional funds from the USDA for the trap-and-kill program. The team is now funded through the end of the year.

Cattle rancher Chuck Becker said wolves have attacked dozens of his cattle over the last 20 years.

"They start feeding on cattle, because it's easy for them and they taste good," Becker said.

A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources survey found the state's wolf population has increased about 25 percent since last year. There are about 500 packs and more than 2,800 wolves in the northern part of the state. The state's minimum goal was to reach 1,600 wolves.

The wolf population may have recovered enough to be removed from the endangered species list, said DNR large carnivore specialist Dan Stark.

While the state shouldn't reopen the wolf hunt, ranchers should get more freedom to handle wolf problems, Stark said.

"We should recognize that this has been a success, and we should move on to a more long-term conservation strategy," Stark said.