Hollywood actress and "Minnesota daughter" Jessica Lange is urging Gov. Mark Dayton to suspend the next wolf hunting season in Minnesota.
Lange cites the sharp drop in the state's wolf population following the first of the newly reinstituted hunts last year and adds that hunters do this for no more than sport, fun or trophies.
"Nearly all Minnesotans believe the wolf is an asset that should be protected for future generations," wrote Lange, who grew up in Cloquet, lived for a time in Stillwater and now counts a place in the woods near where she was raised as one of her homes.
In the letter released Wednesday by the Twin Cities-based advocacy group Howling for Wolves, Lange said the state's reauthorization to resume the hunting of wolves was rushed by the Legislature and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) "to cater to particular groups, who for years had been clamoring for the chance to kill wolves."
Dayton responded in a written statement, pointing out that he does not have the power to halt the hunt.
"Since Ms. Lange no longer lives in Minnesota, it is understandable that she is not familiar with all of the considerations in the Legislature's decision to establish a wolf hunting season in Minnesota," the statement began. "That decision was written into law; thus only the Legislature can change its terms."
Maureen Hackett, founder and president of Howling for Wolves, said that Lange "contacted us and asked what she could do … to be of help to the wolf."
Hackett said having Lange's support for her group's effort to halt the hunt is beneficial because "she's a Minnesota daughter, so to speak … and lives in wolf country."
The number of wolves that hunters can kill in Minnesota this fall will be slashed nearly in half, from 413 a year ago to 220. Also, only 3,300 hunters and trappers will be given permits this year to kill wolves, down from 6,000. The early season runs from Nov. 9 to Nov. 24.
The licensing reductions follow a survey last winter that estimated the state's wolf population at 2,211 — a 24 percent decline from 2008, but a figure that didn't include this year's surviving pups.
In that first season since wolf hunting resumed in Minnesota, Lange contended that more than half of the wolves killed were less than 2 years old and almost a third were less than a year old.
"They were not problem wolves," her letter said. "They were not in conflicts with people, livestock, or domestic animals. They were just wolves living wild and free in our North Woods."
The state's recent announcement of a nearly 25 percent drop in Minnesota's wolf population "should compel action," she said. "We haven't had this few wolves in our state since 1988."
Lange, whose Minnesota property is within one of the wolf hunting zones, also went after the "cruel methods" used to hunt and trap wolves, referring to "metal leg-hold traps that crush limbs, wire choke snares that cause painful brain bleeding, and bait like food and the calls of wolf pups in distress that lure adult protectors to their death."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482