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Minnesota’s timberwolves were once as rare as a win by the 2011 Minnesota Timberwolves. However, they, like the Minnesota pro basketball team, have made a comeback in the Gopher state.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimate the four-legged timberwolf population to be at or near 3,200.

In 2012, persons interested in stalking and bagging a timberwolf will have the opportunity. A proposed season would coincide with the start of the state’s rifle deer hunting season. DNR officials are suggesting as many as 6,000 permits to harvest one of the marauding canines could be available to hunters.

In addition to hunting, trappers will also be issued permits to trap the elusive creature in the state.

The bill establishing a hunting season was authored by our own Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, who stated that the wolf season would open “no later than the first day of the 2012 firearms deer hunting season.”

When the four-legged predator was put on the endangered species list in 1974, opponents, mostly farmers living the the wolf’s primary range in Minnesota, said wolves would devastate their herds. A compensation plan was worked out for farmers who sustained losses due to wolf kills.

The gray wolf populations in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have recovered from near extinction. As a result the wolf was be removed from the endangered species list, an MSNBC report stated in December of 2011. “Citing a ‘robust, self-sustaining wolf population’ in those states (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan), the (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a proposal first made last May.”

Of course the timberwolf hunting season has its critics. Even the popular U.S. senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar received criticism when she stated to a “leading hunting lobby group” that she led the effort to get the wolf off the federal endangered species list and under state control.

A comment in the Star Tribune suggests that hunting the wolf is a mistake. The readers quoted from “A Sand County Almanac” published in 1949 by Aldo Leopold: “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”

Whether one lines up with Leopold or with the proponents of the 2012 Minnesota timberwolf hunting season, everyone should bear in mind that the wolf is not scampering around neighborhoods like its primary food source, the whitetailed deer. He is a solitary animal. He hunts to survive. He would rather remain in the deepest cedar swamp of northern Minnesota than venture into a population center.

One thing is certain: man was instrumental in preserving this magnificant animal from extinction, and if necessary, man will have the intelligence to curb the hunting of the wolf if needed in the future.

—Keith Hansen