This plan was developed using information collected during gray wolf (Canis lupus) population surveys, literature reviews, and public surveys. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) wolf management information, as well as information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin, and Michigan, was reviewed and incorporated when pertinent.
A main goal of this plan is to outline management options that help ensure long-term survival of wolves on Red Lake lands and protect them from adverse effects that could lead to population declines. The wolf represents a “minor” Clan of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and the importance of wolves in Chippewa culture is highlighted in legends and oral history. Tribal Spiritual leaders and elders speak of the parallel fates of wolves and native people. Many believe that if wolves prosper, the people of Red Lake will prosper, and if wolf populations suffer, so will the Red Lake Nation.
Thus, management of wolves on Red Lake lands shall be driven by the great respect that the Red Lake Band of Chippewa have for this important tribal resource. Red Lake lands shall remain a sanctuary for wolves, with management scenarios designed to promote and preserve them. Support from tribal members will be a key component to survival of wolves at Red Lake.
Wolves at Red Lake
Wolves have always inhabited remote portions of Red Lake Lands, even during periods of exploitation and persecution throughout Minnesota and the United States. Red Lake’s unique legal status and direct government to government relationship with the federal government allows independent management of all tribal resources. Because Red Lake recognizes that its land holdings are a part of a larger ecological landscape, comprised of federal, state, and private land holdings, tribal management activities are often designed to complement regional efforts.
Due to abundant prey and improved public perception, wolf numbers in the state may be higher today than they have ever been. Increased human-wolf conflicts may occur as wolves continue to move into agricultural areas and incidents of livestock and pet depredations increase. Addressing human-wolf interactions has been deemed critical for the long-term sustainability of Minnesota wolves. Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan describes the state’s plan for dealing with wolf depredations on livestock and pets, and addresses public safety concerns.
On Red Lake lands, wolves were not subjected to the same level of persecution as the rest of the state. Historical accounts suggest wolves were always important in tribal customs, ceremony, and spirituality, and directed removal efforts by tribal members probably did not occur. Subsistence harvest of game and fish is still very important at Red Lake and although wolves could be perceived as competition for some game species (e.g. deer), this perception has not generated major concern at Red Lake. Local wolf numbers may have experienced a decline during years of active removal in the rest of the state, but Red Lake’s large, remote land holdings probably always supported sustainable populations.
Currently, considering wolf social organization and their habitat and prey requirements, Red Lake lands are probably saturated with wolves, and have been for some time. In the short term, natural processes, such as weather, disease, and fluctuations in prey density will likely have more of an impact on wolf numbers than direct human interaction. The long-term effects of logging activities will continue to favor wolves by promoting vegetation types that support prey species, but increased demands for natural resources and space by the Band could reduce habitat availability and/or quality.
When wolf management authority is given back to the state of Minnesota, Red Lake will have final authority over the management of wolves that occur on Red Lake lands. Tribal Council resolutions and tribal game codes will supersede state laws on reservation lands. Specific guidelines that describe the relationship between the Red Lake Band and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in regards to management of natural resources on Red Lake’s lands, are not well defined. In the past, tribal activities that involve federal endangered species or other federally-protected species have been dealt with on a case-by-case basis.