Human‐caused wolf mortality persists for years after discontinuation of hunting
July 28, 2023
By the mid-twentieth century, wolves were nearly extinct in the lower 48 states, with a small number surviving in northern Minnesota. After wolves were placed on the endangered species list in 1973, the northern Minnesota wolf population increased and stabilized by the early 2000s. A wolf trophy hunt was introduced in 2012–2014 and then halted by a court order in December 2014. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources collected wolf radiotelemetry data for the years 2004–2019. Statistical analysis showed that wolf mortality remained close to constant from 2004 until the initiation of the hunt, and that mortality doubled with the initiation of the first hunting and trapping season in 2012, remaining at a nearly constant elevated level through 2019. Notably, average annual wolf mortality increased from 21.7% before wolf hunting seasons (10.0% by human causes and 11.7% natural causes) to 43.4% (35.8% by human causes and 7.6% natural causes). The fne-grained statistical trend implies that human-caused mortality increased sharply during the hunting seasons, while natural mortality initially dropped. After the hunt’s discontinuation, human-caused mortality remained higher than prior to the hunting seasons throughout the five years of the available after-hunt radiotelemetry data.
Author(s): Roman Teo Oliynyk