St. Paul, MN----(NNCNOW.com) --- A coalition of wolf advocates has launched a statewide petition asking Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and the DNR to suspend the 2013 wolf hunting season.
This comes a little more than two months before the second annual wolf harvest season is set to begin.
A group of wolf advocates hopes to suspend the wolf hunt in Minnesota, currently set to open on November 9.
"People care deeply about wolves,” Howard Goldman of the Humane Society of the United States said. “They are highly intelligent, complex creatures, apex creatures. What is the rush to hunt?"
The group hopes to gather 50,000 signatures before the season begins and present the petition to Governor Dayton.
"The people of Minnesota want the wolf as an asset for future generations," Maureen Hackett, M.D. of Howling for Wolves said.
The effort to suspend the hunt is in collaboration with the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club North Star Chapter, The Humane Society of the United States, Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection.
Wolf hunters in the state are allowed to harvest 220 wolves this season, 180 fewer than last.
The cutback follows a survey that estimated the population at about 25 percent lower than it was 5 years ago.
"Consequently we have a lower number of permits this year,” Paul Telander, DNR Wildlife Section Chief said. “We adjust our permits based on population status.”
This year, 3,300 hunters and trappers will be given permits, down from 6,000 last year.
DNR officials say the harvest quota, based on science, will continue to ensure long term wolf survival.
"We'll have three zones like last year, a northeast, a northwest zone and a central zone," Telander said.
"Howling for Wolves" and the "Center for Biological Diversity", two of the organizations that spearheaded the petition, also challenged the wolf harvest in court.
But in May, the state Court of Appeals ruled the group had no legal standing to sue because they couldn't prove the DNR had caused injury and noted that the legislature establishes a wolf harvest.
"We have an obligation to implement state laws and regulations and conservation of a species and that can include hunting and trapping," Dan Stark, DNR Wolf Management Specialist said.
Wolf advocates say the population decline is alarming.
They say a state hunt disrupts the balance of the ecosystem and the wolves' ability to reproduce.
"We have to give this population time to recover,” Goldman said. “Why take the risk, the stakes are too high."
To sign the petition, Howling for Wolves.
The organization will be collecting signatures at the Pet Center at the MN State Fair.