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Wolf hunt protest comes to Bemidji

BEMIDJI -- Shining as brightly as Lupus in the southern sky, a twinkling wolf joined Paul and Babe on a dark northern winter night Friday in Bemidji.

"An overwhelming majority of the public is not aware of the facts surrounding how the wolf became reclassified as a small game animal," said Barry Babcock, a member of the Northwoods Wolf Alliance's Bemidji chapter. "The public had no say in this."

A lighted living artwork display spelled out the words "Stop the Wolf Hunt" east of the Bemidji Avenue and Third Street intersection. A howling wolf logo led the pack. Anishinaabeg artist Ken Andrews of Red Cliff, Wis., designed the approximately 3-feet by 30-feet piece.

The Northwoods Wolf Alliance is a coalition of Anishinaabeg and their allies who oppose recreational killing of wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. The group issued a release expressing concerns with statements attributed to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton that imply he is not "familiar with opposition to the wolf hunt in northern Minnesota." The wolf hunting law passed in 2012.

The alliance is urging Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to implement a Wolf Management Roundtable plan, which would regulate and continually evaluate hunting of wolves, as policy in Minnesota.

Reyna Crow, Northwoods Wolf Alliance founder, said the DNR identified stakeholders, including farmers and hunters, when making the decision to delist wolves from the endangered species list and allow them to be hunted for sport. "Wolf advocates were greatly outnumbered," Crow said.

The Northwoods Wolf Alliance and #MNOgichidaagLightBrigade, a part of the Overpass Light Brigade, which has created displays throughout Wisconsin, have worked together in the states on "Stop the Wolf Hunt" demonstrations.

"Our group has over 1,000 supporters who are appalled at the recreational killing of an iconic animal just off the endangered species list; (an animal) which is so crucial to a healthy ecosystem and of so much cultural importance to the original people here," Crow said.

Minnesota's northwest wolf hunting zone includes land around the Red Lake, White Earth, Leech Lake and Nett Lake American Indian reservations. The northeast zone includes land around the Fond Du Lac and Boise Forte reservations and land adjacent to Grand Portage. The Mille Lacs reservation is in the east-central zone.

Crow said the organization consists of a range of people from vegans to hunters, all of whom don't oppose hunting for sustenance.

"I have no problem with farmers. I eat," Crow said. "I think it's time we cohabitate with wildlife."

The crew of about a dozen supporters held their shining signs aloft in front of Paul and Babe in support of their brother wolf before one exclaimed, "Let's take it to the street!"

Peaceful protesters received honks from passersby as the temperatures dropped Friday night. Crow said the goal is to make a statement, but to do it safely and legally. Her first protest was a wolf walk in Duluth in 1998.

John Chattin, Bemidji city manager, said the protesters are within their right as long as they are not impeding the right of way.

Northwoods Wolf Alliance has exhibited "Stop the Wolf Hunt" light brigades in Hinckley, the Twin Cities and in Duluth on the Fifth Avenue West overpass and in the Bentleyville Christmas display at Bayfront Park. Plans are in place for a demonstration in Grand Rapids.

Concluding the hunt

Minnesota's northwestern zone wolf season was ended by the DNR on Friday. A total of 100 wolves were collected in the northwest zone, exceeding the target by 11.

Minnesota's northeast region closed the season on Dec. 18 with 37 wolves harvested exceeding a target of 33. The east central zone wolf hunting season remains open with five wolves taken of 10 targeted.

Zones that are not closed early due to premature target capture are open until Jan. 31. A total of 142 wolves were included in the DNR's wolf hunting and trapping late-season status.

After a wolf is killed it must be registered and brought into a DNR wildlife inspection site as soon as possible. A wolf is not to be field dressed like a deer since a wildlife manager will be collecting biological samples from its abdominal cavity. Both the skinned animal's pelt and carcass must be presented during inspection.

The DNR advises skinning the wolf as soon as possible after inspection for pelt preservation. Inspection tags must remain affixed to the pelt until it is tanned or mounted, according to the DNR. Hunters and trappers are responsible for disposal of the wolf carcass which can be done in an appropriate trash container, at a local landfill or on private land if permitted by the landowner.


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