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Are we really leaving the future of Minnesota’s wolves up to hunters/trappers and livestock producers?

CC/Flickr/Todd Ryburn
As we have seen in our country’s history, cattlemen and trophy hunters decimated entire wolf populations throughout the lower 48 states.

I was appalled after seeing one-fourth of Minnesota’s wolf population killed in 2012, shortly after federal de-listing from Endangered Species status.

hendrickson portrait
Nicole Hendrickson

I have three primary concerns in regard to the wolf issue:

  • Public input was not acknowledged.
  • The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) failed to live up to its promise — as outlined in its Wolf Management Plan — to follow a 5-year wait after federal de-listing.
  • We need to be more careful when considering the longevity of the wolf.

In our democracy, prevailing public attitudes usually shape public policy. With the wolf hunt, it is small interest groups of trophy hunters and cattle raisers that are getting their way. In every poll that I have seen, the majority of Minnesotans do not want a wolf hunt. As Sen. Chris Eaten has pointed out, we’ve pumped a lot of money into wolf survival, and as soon as protection is removed that money is down the drain.

The International Wolf Center sponsored a study in 1999 by Stephen Kellert, Ph.D., of Yale University, to measure public attitudes toward wolves in Minnesota; and the DNR published a poll in 2012 to assess public attitudes on wolves. Dr. Kellert’s study concluded:

“The wolf is especially appreciated by Minnesota residents for its nonconsumptive value. By contrast, a majority of both northern and non-northern Minnesota residents remain skeptical about harvesting the animal for either fur or for sport, and are concerned that these forms of consumptive use could result in excessive and unsustainable mortality.” 

The DNR’s 2012 poll had similar findings:

“79% of respondents oppose wolf hunting.”

So why aren’t our voices being considered? The majority of Minnesota’s residents value wolves.

‘Primary clients, hunters and trappers’

Last month, I became aware that the DNR feels that its primary clients are hunters/trappers and livestock producers. This was confirmed through an Internal email that the organization Howling for Wolves commissioned through the Data Practices Act. In the email DNR officials state that, “we owe it to our primary clients, hunters and trappers, and to livestock producers as secondary clients, to do what we can to establish a legitimate harvest opportunity now that the wolf is under our management authority.”

Now I understood why the hunt came to fruition so quickly.

Are we really leaving the protection of wolves up to hunters/trappers and cattle producers (the DNR’s primary clients)? It doesn’t look like a sound or logical plan to me. As we have seen in our country’s history, cattlemen and trophy hunters decimated entire wolf populations throughout the lower 48 states. I am confident that history often repeats itself.

Decline of the moose

Elk, moose, bison, caribou and wolves used to occupy most of Minnesota. Based on my knowledge about the DNR’s management of moose in Minnesota and their sudden population decline for reasons outside of our control, there is good reason to believe the wolf population is at stake. This has been evident in the DNR’s management of moose. According to the DNR Moose Management Plan, “Minnesota’s moose (Alces alces) population, currently concentrated in the northeast corner of the state, is facing a decline where the cause is not understood.”

In 2012, there are 4,230 moose; in 2005 there were double that at approximately 8,150 (2012 Aerial Moose Survey.) The balance of life is fragile, and we can’t always rely on mathematical population models to determine success.

In every argument, I believe that one should acknowledge the other side’s position and a solution should be addressed. Without the protection from the law, I fear for the longevity of the wolf. History has shown me that hunters and cattle raisers are not responsible stewards of wolves. I am even more fearful because the agency that is supposed to work without bias has demonstrated its preference in aligning with hunters/trapper and cattlemen.

Poor process

If the DNR had come up with some sound baseline data and research, considered public comment, abided by their wolf management plan, and consulted with tribal nations on the sacredness of wolves, maybe I would have just bit my tongue in opposing the wolf hunt.

For the sake of meeting in the middle, a more sustainable number — like 5 percent, as suggested by one biologist I spoke to during my research — would have been more appropriate.

So the battle goes on. Minnesotans are needed to take action and contact Sen. David Tomassoni, chair of the Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee, and Gov. Mark Dayton to be the voice to help preserve Minnesota’s wolves and the future of our state. 

Nicole Hendrickson is an educator, resident of Brooklyn Park, and a volunteer for Howling for Wolves and Northwoods Wolf Alliance. She is an  enrolled member of the Sokaogon Ojibwe community.


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Comments (29)

  1. Submitted by Greg Price on 04/01/2013 - 08:44 am.

    Not in my back yard…

    I find it particularly telling that so many of the individuals in favor of the “free wolves” doctrine live in Twin Cities Metroplex…and that they have the ability to prophesize the future actions of the affected species. A wolf is a predator of opportunity…that is an accepted fact. People who wish to imbue the “Wolf” with mystical human connotations are just sadly misguided…

    It would seem that the DNR should be listening first to the residents of the areas where the wolf population is centered. They are the ones who interact with wolves on a daily basis. If that is Livestock producers and trappers are amongst the rest of the North Country population so be it…

    Perhaps a better way to handle this would be to relocate the surplus wolf population to the twin city suburbs where they can prey on the massive deer population that is maintained by surburbanites with corn feeders in every other back yard. Oh…and if if a few of your pet dogs and cats go missing as well…thats natures balance…correct???

    If a plant out of place is called a weed…what do you call a surplus wolf??? And where do you put it???

    my $.02

    • Submitted by Presley Martin on 04/01/2013 - 10:41 am.


      I think there is some validity to your suggestion of reintroduction of wolves to areas closer to the cities, we should consider it. You should also consider moving out of wolf country if you feel they are such a threat.

      • Submitted by Greg Price on 04/01/2013 - 12:13 pm.

        wolf re-inroduction

        I grew up in wolf country…that was my point…certain things in MN are governed from “Twin City Hall”.
        There should be more direction taken from the locals opinion..they have to put up with it…you don’t…

        As to being threatened by wolves…I have a far greater respect and familiarity for the animal than you know…

        I think that there are far more two legged predators in the Metro area for you to worry about…

        my $.02

    • Submitted by LISA HERTHEL on 04/01/2013 - 12:34 pm.

      hunting & trapping wolves

      As a person that has lived both in rural areas and the city, I can tell you from personal experience that the “wolf overpopulation” theory is simply not true.In rural areas I have seen two wolves in a twenty year period.They are a shy and elusive creature being attacked for no valid reason.. There is no surplus wolf population.Wolves control their own populations. If you read the paper, you will see that the wolf population at Isle Royal is no longer producing pups.If you read at all, or observe the actions of people, you will see that this animal is hated because they are misunderstood.To attack a person concerned with sound policy and wildlife management because of where she currently lives, is to attack that person’s character rather than addressing the argument. We have a lot to learn from wolves about community, loyalty, family and survival.If you cant see that, that would be your problem.Further more, how do you equate a wolf with a weed?The taxpayers of Minnesota have spent a lot of tax dollars protecting wolves for future generations. The wolves are also self supporting through tourism.
      Let common sense and rational thought dictate. If you let your pet wander, that pet may not return. A large Racoon can take down a small pet.An eagle is predatory, and can pick up a kitten or a small dog.Yes, that is natures balance.

    • Submitted by Sarah Silander on 04/01/2013 - 03:27 pm.

      Greg P – What a ridiculous tit for tat solution


      Since your idea of governance is to let the local residents decide matters that greatly impact the entire region, then you won’t have a problem if we in the Metroplex decide to stop our local taxes from being redistributed to rural Minnesota in the form of LGA.

      Oh…if a few of your rural schools close and roads aren’t plowed…that’s nature’s balance…correct???

      • Submitted by Greg Price on 04/02/2013 - 10:18 am.

        How’s that Vikings Stadium deal working for you???

        You can’t fight Twin Cities Hall…it is a fact that the Metroplex runs the state and the “rural” areas are just the tail trying to wag the dog…

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 04/05/2013 - 05:39 pm.

      “relocate the surplus wolf population to the twin city suburbs”

      Better idea, Greg. Let’s relocate you to Iowa.

      The DNR did NOT listen to Minnesota residents. We killed off a sizeable chunk of the wolf poulation in one season! They’ve finally, finally, after much deep thought and careful consideration decided that it might be a good idea to suspend the the moose hunt. Way to go!

  2. Submitted by Tim Lesmeister on 04/01/2013 - 09:28 am.

    Bogus Argument

    A five-year wait might have worked had animal rights activists allowed the wolf to fall from the Endangered Species list when it was deemed appropriate. Instead these groups held up the process in the courts while the wolves multiplied well beyond management levels. The moose have just entered an intensive study to answer the questions regarding their population decline and guess what. The first two collared moose deaths were wolf kills. Last season’s wolf hunt was a success. End wolf hunting and watch their population explode to a point where there are no moose left in Minnesota, few deer in the wolf range, and wolf that are expanding their range beyond suitable habitat. Shouldn’t we have the same concern for the species of animals that are adversely affected by high wolf numbers? Shouldn’t we use hunters and trappers as a resource to control the wolf population? After all, it’s a model that has worked well for our other hunted species.

    • Submitted by Linda Rolf on 04/01/2013 - 11:15 pm.

      Lies that Kill

      Animal rights activists have good reason to keep the wolves on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as anyone with a brain and a conscience know. Wolves are being mercilessly slaughtered now just as they have been in the past. When wolves were added to the ESA in 1974 there were only 650 wolves left in the lower 48 states all in Minnesota. 39 years later their Minnesota’s population had been stable for over 10 years at 3,000. Wolves manage their own populations they don’t need help from their mortal enemies–the MN DNR! The only reason wolves were jerked off the ESA was John Tester’s (D) MT political insecurity. He got the wolves delisted in order to win an election!

      There is no conclusive evidence that wolves killed the two moose in the DNR study. Four other moose died from the stress of being collared and there is no evidence that the other two didn’t die from being drugged and collared as well or the wolves might just have happened upon the moose in their weakened state. In other words, it is not a clear cut situation. Wait for the moose’s autopsy before you blame the wolves! Global warming has also been affecting moose populations but if you are anti-science you might chose not to believe that either.

      Last season’s wolf hunt was a present to rancher’s, hunters and trappers from the MN DNR. There was no reason to kill Minnesota’s wolves so they decided to make a sport out of killing our recently endangered wolves. As for deer, there are over one million in MN versus 3,000 wolves. More deer are hit by cars than killed by wolves.

      Wolves have played a big role in shaping the ecosystem that deer, other animals, birds and fish live in and hunters and trappers exploit. Why not let the wolves keep doing the job they are so good at? Let’s end sport hunting, trapping or wolf hunts! It is not necessary and it is politically not scientifically driven. Save Minnesota’s Iconic Timber Wolves!

    • Submitted by LISA HERTHEL on 04/02/2013 - 09:46 am.

      wolf hunt

      There were two moose killed by wolves out of 111 dead moose. Are you choosing to ignore the impact of global warming on the moose?

    • Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 04/02/2013 - 03:05 pm.

      Management levels?

      The wolves are not ours to “manage.” They’ve been here for thousands of years more than we have. If we managed our own population and activities better there’d be better outcomes for not only wolves but nature in general.

  3. Submitted by Sally Sorensen on 04/01/2013 - 10:14 am.

    Puzzling natural history

    It’s not central to the argument here, but the notion that caribou, moose and bison “used to occupy most of Minnesota” doesn’t seem grounded in fact. The bison in Minnesota were prairie mammals, the woodland caribou a creature of the North Woods, and moose wandered Northern Minnesota.

    Wolves definitely lives throughout the state, while two species of elk (a prairie and a woodland species) split the state by major ecosystems.

    Moreover, to imply that the DNR’s moose management plan is responsible for the species’ decline is pretty shaky, and thus not a strong analogy. The commenter blaming wolves for the moose decline is equally shaky: one of the moose killed by wolves was found to be quite sickly. Amazing how that works.

    That being said, had this writer struck to her core argument, since social values do influence game management policy, this would have been a stronger piece. Wolf predation of livestock is an issue for farmers, but should Minnesotans not want a wolf season, there are ways to compensate farmers for their losses.

  4. Submitted by Susan McNerney on 04/01/2013 - 10:26 am.

    If we left all our conservation decisions up to

    the tiny populations that live in rural wilderness areas, we wouldn’t have tree or wild animal left to look at. I grew up in a rural area out west, and “local interests” were entirely controlled by monied outside interests who sought to make a profit off of local natural resources. Minnesota is no different in that regard. The “locals” in rural areas are often much more dependent on these outside employers than they would ever let on, and are unfortunately easily bribed or easily threatened into supporting unsustainable policies. In fact, American small towns have been used as human shields for just about every bad environmental policy ever created.

    Big decisions about conserving entire regions or populations of animals must be made by the entire community – a community that must include at least an entire region, or state – to mitigate these corruptions of small town politics.

    We have a cultural legacy of irrational fear and hatred of wolves that we have inherited from our European forebears. Special interests are taking advantage of this and we have bad public policy as a result. Time to wake up and start managing our wildlife populations based on scientific principles rather than the needs of live-action gamers.

  5. Submitted by Presley Martin on 04/01/2013 - 10:38 am.

    A different approach

    This debate is playing out across the remaining wolf territory of the north. Check out this snip from the Guardian,

    “But what I am about to relate cuts to the heart of Norway’s image as a broadminded, liberal, green nation. It repudiates those advertisements emphasising the country’s natural beauty and astonishing wildlife and suggests that the sensibilities of Norway’s current political class are no more sophisticated than those of the frontiersmen of the wild west in the late 19th century.”
    It goes on to state that 2 million sheep are released each year to graze in the forest, about 1500 are killed by wolves, but about 100,000 die of other causes. The wolf kills are compensated by the government. Why can’t we do this here? Compensate for the wolf kills if that is people’s biggest concern. I suspect the real reason is the pure thrill of hunting a “dangerous” predator. I hope this debate continues, and a moratorium is placed on the hunt until all voices are heard.

  6. Submitted by Tom Thompson on 04/01/2013 - 01:36 pm.

    Pre-mature wolf hunt

    I believe beginning the wolf hunt in Minnesota last year gave MN a black eye. The trapping season especially indicates an unacceptable level of cruelty that is totally disrespectful toward wildlife while putting pet dogs at an unnecessary risk. The least that could be done would be to go back to the 5 year study period so at least some data can be collected to show what needs to be done to maintain wolf populations. Population goals should be at least the level wolves were at when delisted otherwise they should return to the Endangered status. Killing off a quarter of the population in the first season shows that the DNR doesn’t know what it is doing. Some believe that wolves should have been delisted sooner but that is not an excuse for setting up hunting prematurely. There are many questions to be answered about how a hunting season might effect not only wolf populations but also wolf behavior.

  7. Submitted by Zac Early on 04/01/2013 - 01:41 pm.

    No Wolf Hunting! And Yes, I am a trapper.

    A few years back I lived in Hubbard (near Wolf Lake), Beltrami, and Clearwater counties and had beaver and mink trap line. I’ve spent 15 years hunting and trapping. Living in northern Minnesota in rural areas, I’ve had the opportunity to see an occasional wolf. In 15 years, Ive had the pleasure of seeing an entire pack crossing a clearing, ive seen a wolf crossing a frozen lake, and have seen a wolf or two crossing a road. These sighting were few and far between, given my number of hours outdoors. Not once, have they come close to me or bothered my traps. I have a strong suspecion that they play a critical role in there ecosystems. As an outdoorsman, I appreciate wolves.

  8. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 04/01/2013 - 06:57 pm.

    Wolves, Dogs and traps.

    The trapping season especially indicates an unacceptable level of cruelty that is totally disrespectful toward wildlife while putting pet dogs at an unnecessary risk. I am not a trapper, nor have I ever trapped. What I have is owned numerous hunting dogs. Anyone and I mean anyone whose dog is caught in a trap of any kind should be prosecuted for endangering a dog. Everyone who owns a dog should be required to spend at least 200 hours the 1st year and 100 hours every year there after training the dog. A dog should not require a leash and should not stick its paw or nose or any part of its body into anything unless the owner directs it to do it. A well trained dog is very fun to own. I currently have 2 cats that are trained better than most peoples dogs. We don’t need leash laws, we need owner training laws. If we had them we wouldn’t have to worry about dogs and traps. By the way it takes about 45 minutes to teach a dog not to go near a trap, without harming the dog.

    • Submitted by Linda Rolf on 04/01/2013 - 11:24 pm.

      Trapping is Torture

      We could also outlaw trapping! Then our dogs, cats and other wildlife would be safe from being tortured to death so that their fur can be sold to China. Stop animal cruelty–Ban trapping!

  9. Submitted by chuck ashley on 04/01/2013 - 08:53 pm.

    Would these Same hunters give controlof their gun rights to

    I have one question for those who desire to hunt wolves and say those of us who want to protect them are out of touch-Would you intrust Your 2nd Amendment Rights to Jim Carrey,Michael Moore & Piers Morgan? Of course you would not as they have a anti-gun agenda and would take ALL your guns away! This is the SAME as cattle ranchers, deer hunters & wolf haters deciding the fate of a species they are Threatened by & Why we stand to protect them from interests that do NOT have this animal’s interests in mind. I live in West Bloomington & I for one would welcome wolves as deer here in the west metro need to be culled down & why not let the wolves who once roamed the Mn River Valley to return & restore proper balance to the ecosystem. I do not fear wolves as wolves do NOT attack people,they are curious about us like Any dog would be but they are NOT a threat to anyone. Humans are for more a threat to them!

  10. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 04/01/2013 - 09:10 pm.

    Wolves are a Natural Resource

    Man has done his/her best to screw up Minnesota’s it game birds, old growth trees, our lakes, our clean water, and yes now they want to screw up the wolf, another natural resource….all in the name of money.

  11. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 04/01/2013 - 09:59 pm.

    Perhaps some data cites

    The last wolf population count I saw in the Strib for 2012 was over 3000 wolves (winter estimate) and a trapping/hunting target quantity of 400 to be taken. My shaky math says that 400 is not “one quarter” of 3000. The winter population figure is used to set the harvest because the number of new pups in 2013 can easily double the total population and the DNR chooses to use conservative numbers so as to protect the resource. If the writer has some sources of different information it would benefit the readers.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/01/2013 - 10:10 pm.

    Wolves are not killing the Moose off

    The moose decline is rapid and unexplained, but we know that the wolves are not responsible. We do NOT have a high wolf population by any measurement.

    Just because we have a certain number off wolves doesn’t mean we should start killing wolves. The assumption here the only reason to kill or NOT to kill wolves is their population is irrational at it’s core. You don’t kill something just because it’s there.

  13. Submitted by Elanne Palcich on 04/01/2013 - 11:08 pm.

    Some points to consider

    The DNR is supposed to manage our state’s natural resources for all of the citizens of this state. Yet it considers its primary clientelle to be hunters and trappers. Since the DNR receives revenue from hunting and trapping licenses, I guess their policy is “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” According to “DNR proposed rules related to the designation of endangered, threatened, and special concern species,” forestry and land management practices are a threat to certain species–such as the moose. The DNR is obligated to make money off our state forests; forests have been managed for aspen, favoring deer over moose. The DNR is divided into two divisions–ecological and the department of lands and minerals. The DNR is granting mineral exploration leases throughout state lands that are habitat to both moose and wolves. Wildlife habitat and corridors are increasingly impacted by roads and 24 hour a day drilling, as well as mining expansion. The DNR does not know the cause of the drastic decline in the moose population, so set out with a research program that requires chasing, sedating, collaring, and testing about 100 moose..Of the 6 recently collared moose that died, 4 deaths were attributed to capture-related mortality and 2 to wolf kill. Remains of the wolf-killed moose in the Grand Portage area showed that the moose suffered from pneumonia. Our 3rd iconic species, the loon, is also facing declining population, in part from the Gulf Oil Spill, in part from contaminants in our own waters and along their migration routes. We can argue about wolf numbers and wolf threats. Or we can try to understand the real threat to our total environment, and it does not look pretty. The wolf issue mirrors our human story–fears and mythology trump information. The real facts tell us that something is terribly wrong and out of balance in our natural environment, and that the causes seem driven by human behavior. I guess it’s just easier to blame the wolf.

  14. Submitted by Tim Gieseke on 04/02/2013 - 10:18 am.


    “79% of respondents oppose wolf hunting.”

    So why aren’t our voices being considered? The majority of Minnesota’s residents value wolves.

  15. Submitted by Tim Gieseke on 04/02/2013 - 10:25 am.

    American Idol governance

    Should Minnesotan convert to a text messaging legislation? “79% of respondents oppose wolf hunting.” So why aren’t our voices being considered? The majority of Minnesota’s residents value wolves.

    To manage complex issues by popularity does not seem reasonable. Replace “wolf hunting” with whatever issue you like and would you be willing to live with the vote?

    Also, people that raise animals for a living do not just look at them as a dollar amount. They certainly aren’t their pets, but to see your livestock being killed and getting a reimbursement is not just a ho-hum event.

    Articles like this should contain a paragraph on how empathy is considered or not. Wisdom cannot occur without empathy.

  16. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/04/2013 - 09:03 am.

    Massive slaughter goes beyond control of wolf…or man?

    “We have doomed the wolf not for what it is but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be…the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer, which in reality, no more than a reflected image of self.”

    “Whenever and wherever men have engaged in the mindless slaughter of animals( including other men), they have often attempted to justify their acts by attributing the most vicious or revolting qualities to those they would destroy; and the less reason there is to slaughter, the greater the campaign for vilification.” Farley Mowat, “Never Cry Wolf”

  17. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/06/2013 - 11:44 am.


    First time I saw him was a couple years ago. Late January was it on this island strip within the city? I saw him down below from our library window. He was sitting on a snow bank next to the dune path between houses; under the street light…and combine that with full moon over the lake behind, I observe him, white on white against the snow. Only a rare few cars heading down the Point.

    He rested there as if he had been there before, watching the night among the human structures; human caves, dens growing larger; more land absorbing as time passes into a false sense of affluence; changing the neighborhood

    His den is either in the old-growth forest at the farther tip of this rare piece of land. Or had he established a permanent den on Hearding Island; or merely walked across the frozen ice from Superior?

    Sequel here:
    Hadn’t noticed him for a couple of years, then on this new moon evening some time well after midnight, snow piled high again under the street light. There Wolf is lounging on a higher snow mound this year.

    My Wolf now. I take possession virtually. I and Wolf and an occasional car when even the late joggers are long since home, slumbering. Shall I assume he comes more often than I can verify?

    Wolf obviously likes this corner on a winter’s night; his time to remember the Point of long ago. Will he/she tell his pups in the Spring how once upon a time this land was full of coyote, fox, rabbits and mice and other small creature…neighbors but yes, also, necessary natural food supply?

    Wolf is gazing up at the the Bridge beyond and noting again I’m sure, the over-development lately; the modular, giant human habitats cutting through wolf former ancestral trails?

    But he recognizes this one trail through the dunes, and this view on his snow mountain…what is he ‘thinking’?

    Suddenly there is a squeal of brakes shattering this tranquil scene; tearing down the avenue off the bridge as if chased by mad demons – humans have a few.

    Wolf stands up now, an impressive figure indeed. Looks like the ancient Victor Kowaski print, wolf looking over a village – copied so many times and gracing rural prairie homes; best they could afford. Wolf is howling at the moon one could imagine…

    Wolf, my come-and-go-again friend; midnight visitor, steps down from snow mountain. Heads back down the trail where moon still waits. Enough already?

    He shook his head as I did also at the shattered silence…will humans ever learn? Peace

    Footnote: N. Chomsky recognizes elsewhere of humans, not wolf…”The need to humiliate those who raise their heads is an ineradicable element of the imperial mentality.”

  18. Submitted by Barbara Lofquist on 04/16/2013 - 04:47 pm.

    wolf hunt

    Would a hunter of wolves please explain to me why they kill things they cannot eat? I am married to a deer and bird hunter. I know we have way too many deer, I see many daily on my trip to and from work. I never, ever see a wolf. Thank you.

  19. Submitted by Joe Smithers on 11/19/2014 - 01:18 pm.

    cry, cry, cry

    Maybe if the deer hunters weren’t so profitable for the DNR and gun ho about killing what the wolves eat we wouldn’t have to lower the wolf population to keep them from killing livestock or other domesticated animals.

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