As many as people are willing to live with. I expect we are approaching that number and the forces
that seek to keep the wolf on the endangered species list are the one's putting the wolf's long-term prospects into the most danger.
When the wolf is less a sound heard up north and more a threat to the family pet or next year's heifers, people will begin to turn against wolves. When people turn against wolves, they won't wait for government approval to act. That is why compensating farmers and animal owners for wolf losses are so important.
But those are country kid problems. It is hard to get city kids to hear, let alone understand or acknowledge the perspective of those who actually have to live with wolves. I've talked about that before.
But if it reaches a point where the government pay out is insufficient, the advice is age old. I've heard it since I was lad. If wildlife threatens your livelihood, if it threatens your child, if it is just too big a pain in the ass: there are always the three S's.
By the time you drive a person to commit a felony, I doubt you'll be able to turn them back into supporters for conserving the species.
According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture losses to wolves are moving south. We have no winter snow to slow down deer, making them easier prey. There are fewer deer the last few years. It is no wonder lone wolves and packs are spreading out seeking prey.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has received wolf attack claims from farmers who have lost livestock in new southern locations in the state.
"The most unique one recently was in Wabasha County—that's south of the cities of course. That is very usual to see a claim that far south," Geir Friisoe, director at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said.
The Minnesota Legislature authorized the Department of Agriculture to reimburse livestock owners for loses caused by wolf attacks.
"Historically it’s the north-central part of the state we have more of our claims," Friisoe said.
In fiscal year 2016 (since July), there have been 72 claims to the state, totaling $142,074 by property owners who lost livestock during that time according to Department of Agriculture data provided to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
The department said 16 wolf claims, $42,487 from fiscal year 2015, were recently paid.State data shows, since 1993, the total number of wolf claims in Minnesota has averaged $78,398.35 per year.
I will probably never hunt a wolf. I lack the patience and the drive. I do enjoy hearing them on a clear winter night. I hope to hear that sound from my front deck for the rest of my life.
To get there we need to bring back a limited number of tags to keep the numbers low. It might even be worthwhile to consider a southern limit for wolf expansion, a line below which there is a year-round open season on wolves.