Minnesota's wolf legacy is unique: its northeastern corner of lakes and sub-boreal forest once sheltered the last remaining wild wolves in the lower 48 states. Wise and careful management under the Endangered Species Act allowed those remaining wolves to flourish and repopulate northern Wisconsin and Michigan's upper peninsula.
Minnesotans clearly value wolves. Public opinion surveys and attitudes demonstrated during development of the state's wolf management plan show people view the animal as ecologically important, scientifically fascinating, aesthetically attractive, recreationally appealing and significant for future generations. Only a small minority fear and dislike wolves or believe Minnesota would be a more desirable place without this apex predator.
DNR's commitment to a responsible, conservative and science-based management strategy that ensures the long-term survival of wolves in Minnesota recognizes the animal's legacy and Minnesotans' collective interest in and concern for this northwoods icon.
Estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, Minnesota's wolf population – now estimated at 2,200 – has fully recovered from its once threatened status and is firmly established on Minnesota's landscape.
Data collected as part of the most recent comprehensive wolf population survey shows that the lower 2013 population estimate, which dropped from the 2009 estimate of 2,900 wolves, correlates well with the fact that wolves' primary food sources have declined in the forested portions of Minnesota.
Information about the survey, how wolves are counted and the many factors that can influence population are available in the wolf population survey FAQ .
DNR manages the state's wolf population by state statute, rule and provisions of a wolf management plan. (1 MB) The wolf management FAQ answers common questions. Details of the 2013 season are available on the wolf hunting page.
Minnesota's wolves transitioned from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act to state management by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Jan. 27, 2012.
Minnesota's Wolf Management Plan will ensure the wolf's long-term survival. The plan gives owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. It splits the state into two management zones with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf's core range.
DNR has not established a maximum population goal. Wolves are allowed to naturally expand their range.
A statewide winter population of 1,600 wolves is the minimum goal. If Minnesota's wolf population falls below this minimum, DNR will take immediate and appropriate management actions to reverse the decline and restore the population to its minimum level in the shortest possible time.
DNR implemented a conservative and regulated hunting and trapping season in 2012. Hunters and trappers harvested 413 wolves. DNR expects the 2013 season to follow a similar framework.
When wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan were removed from the federal threatened and endangered species list, wolf management became the responsibility of each respective state.
As required by the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after de-listing to ensure that recovery continues.
The state wolf plan is designed to protect wolves and monitor their population while giving owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. It splits the state into two management zones (1.28 MB) with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf's core range.
Similar to federal regulations, the state plan allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life. Any wolves taken must be reported to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours, and the person who took the wolf must protect all evidence.
State regulations allow harassment of wolves that are within 500 yards of people, buildings, livestock or domestic pets, to discourage wolves from contacting people and domestic animals. Wolves cannot be attracted or searched out for purposes of harassment, and cannot be physically harmed.
Through the development of a wolf plan in the late 1990s through 2001, Minnesota had initially had a five-year waiting period following wolf delisting prior to any wolf season development. It was expected that wolf delisting would occur earlier in the last decade and would allow for continued monitoring of population trends prior to implementing a wolf season. Wolves were first delisted in 2007 and the state managed the wolf population for 20 months during two delisting periods. With delisting delayed, legal status affected by lawsuits and a stable yet robust wolf population, the Minnesota Legislature removed the five-year waiting period for developing a wolf season through legislation in 2011.
Owners of livestock, guard animals or domestic animals may shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to their animals, on property they own or lease in accordance with local statutes.
“Immediate threat” means the observed behavior of a wolf in the act of stalking, attacking, or killing livestock, a guard animal, or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.
Additionally, the owner of a domestic pet may shoot or destroy a wolf posing an immediate threat on any property, as long as the owner is supervising the pet.
In all cases, a person shooting or destroying a wolf under these provisions must protect all evidence, and report the taking to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours. The wolf carcass will be surrendered to the conservation officer.
Use the Conservation Officer Locator and leave a recorded message 24/7.
Outside the wolf's core range, in the southern two thirds of the state (Zone B), a person may shoot a wolf at any time to protect livestock, domestic animals or pets on land they own, lease, or manage. The circumstance of “immediate threat” does not apply.
A DNR conservation officer must be notified within 48 hours, and the wolf carcass will be surrendered to the conservation officer.
The plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota. If the population falls below the minimum, the DNR will examine reasons behind the decline and adjust wolf management accordingly. The population will continue to be monitored through population surveys every five years. The endangered species act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting to ensure that recovery continues.
In a word, the general answer is no. Wolves typically avoid people. But there are several well-documented accounts of wild wolves attacking people in North America. Although there were no witnesses, two investigations have determined that wolves attacked and killed a young man in Saskatchewan in 2005 and a woman in Alaska in 2010.
Wolf attacks on humans in North America are rare, and, as a result, poorly understood. Accounts of wolves killing people persist in India and in Russia and parts of central Asia. It is a fact that when wild animals become habituated to people, they may lose their fear of humans, especially if they are fed or if they associate humans with providing food.
Like any large predator, wolves are perfectly capable of killing people. No one should ever encourage a wolf or any other wild animal to approach. Hikers and campers should take all necessary precautions to prevent mishaps involving wildlife. People should be mindful of the potential harm that wolves and other wild animals are capable of inflicting.
No. The state of Minnesota has committed to the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota and the general public is invested in the return and recovery of the great predators on the landscape.
Wolves reproduce rapidly, and every spring brings a new pup crop to add to the growing numbers in the areas where wolves have made a comeback. Wolves were reduced in Minnesota as a directed effort in the 19th and early 20th centuries by the state and federal governments in an attempt to eliminate the population.
Wolves persevered in areas that had limited access to people and were connected to the larger wolf population in Canada. Restrictions on aerial hunting, bounties and unregulated killing allowed populations to begin to recover.
With protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act, the population expanded significantly in both number and distribution to where Minnesota now has one of the highest wolf densities in the world. It is probably safe to predict that widespread persecution of wolves never will be repeated.
Don't make your home or camp attractive to wolves:
- Keep a clean camp; don't dispose of food by dumping into the campfire.
- Don't leave unwashed cooking utensils around your camp.
- Don't leave garbage unsecured.
- Don't cook food near your tent or sleeping area.
- Don't allow pets to freely roam away from your home or camp.
- Don't leave pet food or other food attractants out near your home or camp.
- Don't bury garbage, pack it out.
In the rare event that you do have an encounter with an aggressive wolf:
- Don't run, but act aggressively stepping toward the wolf and yelling or clapping your hands if it tries to approach.
- Do not turn your back toward an aggressive wolf, but continue to stare directly at it. If you are with a companion and more than one wolf is present place yourselves back to back and slowly move away from the wolves.
- Retreat slowly while facing the wolf and act aggressively.
- Stand your ground if a wolf attacks you and fight with any means possible (use sticks, rocks, ski poles, fishing rods or whatever you can find).
- Use air horns or other noise makers.
- Use bear spray or firearms if necessary.
- Climb a tree if necessary, wolves cannot climb trees.