Grand Rapids, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The Minnesota DNR has released its comprehensive population survey of wolves....the first survey in five years.
The population has declined by 710 animals but it's still above state and federal thresholds.
Doctor David Mech is an expert on wolves, and has tracked them by air.
Mech believes that the DNR has done a great job of keeping tabs on the wolf population since the 90's.
"The number of wolves had to be at least 1,250 before the wolf could be de-listed, well we reached that number in about 1978 and then just continued to increase since then," said Mech.
However, since the last comprehensive population survey five years ago the total number of wolves in the area has declined.
The latest survey results estimate 438 wolf packs and 2,211 wolves.
That number is down seven hundred wolves from the last survey in 2008.
Dan Stark, a large carnivore specialist says that the major influence affecting wolf populations today is prey density.
"There is no longer this kind of intent to eliminate wolves from the landscape, it's to try to manage and maintain wolves for the long term and continue to see wolves thrive here in Minnesota," said Stark.
Since the animals were removed from the endangered species list, wolf management has become a state responsibility.
Recent survey results show that wolf pack numbers have declined, but the biggest victory for DNR specialists is that the wolf population has become more consistent.
The Minnesota DNR says in order to manage the population they intend on having another conservative wolf hunting season this fall and winter.
"We have an obligation to implement state laws and regulations and conservation of a species and that can include hunting and trapping," said Stark.
Maureen Hackett, Founder of Howling With Wolves remains in opposition to wolf hunting.
Hackett says, when a pack size decreases the wolves cannot hunt as efficiently, which puts the entire pack at risk.
Survey data was collected mid-winter before pups were born.
The DNR estimates the number of wolves could be as high as 2,600, factoring in litters born this spring.