Wolf Management Roundtable Summary

On August 28, 1998, the Minnesota wolf management roundtable reached consensus on the following package of wolf management recommendations:

Wolf Population Management

Wolves in Minnesota will be allowed to expand statewide. Population management measures, including public taking or other options, will be considered in the future but not sooner than the 5-year post-delisting monitoring period of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. If public taking is authorized by the legislature, the Department of Natural Resources will prepare and publish a rule, with opportunity for full public comment. Decisions on public taking will be based on sound data, including but not limited to the "5-year census" and the results of non-lethal control research.

To assure continued survival of the wolf in Minnesota, the roundtable recommends a minimum statewide population of 1,600 animals. This number is not a maximum population goal. If the population falls under the recommended minimum, appropriate management actions will be taken to address the cause of the reduction and assure recovery to the minimum level in the shortest possible time.

Wolf Population Monitoring

The roundtable accepts the current methodologies that the Minnesota DNR is using to indicate wolf population abundance and distribution, with the understanding that any results are estimates which may be higher or lower than the actual population. The roundtable recommends that for future wolf management decisions, the methodologies should move as close as possible toward an actual census. The roundtable understands that this movement toward a census for now will include:

a. standardized training of the data collectors and objective verification of their data
b. more continuous tracking and verification of information from more radio-collared control groups.

Wolf Depredation Management

Issue 1: Animals/damages Covered by the Depredation Program

The roundtable supports the continuation of a compensation program for wolf depredation to livestock.

The roundtable recommends a compensation program for wolf depredation to dogs under the supervised control of the owner, and livestock guard animals including llamas, donkeys and, dogs.

The roundtable recommends that veterinary costs incurred as a result of wolf depredation be included as a compensated loss.

Issue 2: Eligibility and Verification for Compensation and Lethal Control

The roundtable endorses the language in MN Rule 1515.3500 for determining eligibility for compensation, with the following additional recommendations:

a. In addition to Conservation Officers and county extension agents, other agents (State, Federal, Tribal) certified by the State should be included.
b. A handbook for wolf depredation investigations should be produced and all certified agents trained.
c. A uniform evidence-reporting form should be developed including photographs of the kill site for the file.
d. A central public contact (1-800 number) should be established.
e. A database of all reported losses, not just verified losses, should be developed. the database should include information on all predator losses.
f. The statutory requirement for a carcass to be present should be eliminated.
g. MN Rule 1515.3500 should be amended to be specific to wolves, and not endangered species.

If there are physical remains of a wolf-killed animal, lethal control may be carried out by a government agency.

Note: Consensus was not reached on the level of verification required to initiate government agency control actions if physical remains are not present.

Issue 3: Best Management Practices

The roundtable supports current legislative efforts to encourage the use of Best Management Practices (BMP's). The roundtable believes that the use of BMP's is critical to the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota, and urges the Minnesota Legislature to appropriate $500,000 on a matching basis with any non-public funding source for ongoing research, development, and dissemination of BMP's and non-lethal means of wolf control to abate wolf depredation to livestock. The roundtable suggests that farms experiencing livestock depredation be used as research sites.

Issue 4: Preventative Depredation Measures

Owners of livestock, livestock guard animals and dogs and/or their permitted agents may take action to destroy wolves that pose an "immediate threat" to human life, livestock, guard animals, or dogs. This action is permitted only on the livestock owner's property. In the case of dogs, this action is permitted only for dogs under the controlled supervision of the owner. "Immediate threat" is defined as follows: the wolf is observed in the act of pursuing or attacking. The mere presence of a wolf or a wolf feeding on an already dead animal does not constitute an immediate threat.

At any time, a farmer or dog owner may first "harass" any wolf within 500 yards of people, buildings, dogs, livestock or other domestic animals in a non-injurious, opportunistic manner. Wolves may not be purposely attracted, tracked, searched- out or chased and then harassed. Wolves showing abnormal behavior will be reported to an authorized agent for action.

The following conditions apply when taking action to destroy a wolf:

a. A farmer or dog owner will report the action to an authorized agent within 24 hours and protect all evidence.
b. The agent will investigate all reported taking of wolves and will:

  1. keep written and photographic documentation of the kill site and any instances of poor husbandry that contributed to the attack occurring;
  2. with farmers but not dog owners, evaluate what, if any, best management practices and non-lethal controls are needed to prevent future attacks and develop a reasonable written and signed plan with the farmer for implementation;
  3. confiscate the wolf carcass(es).

c. State agents will report any evidence of abuse of this rule.
d. Failure to comply with the elements of this program, including failure to implement in a reasonable length of time the best management practices and non-lethal control plan developed with the authorized agent, or abuse of the program will result in loss of a farmer or dog owner's eligibility for future wolf damage compensation for a period of one year or until they implement the best management practices/non-lethal control plan.
e. Pelts will remain in the control of the state or tribal authorities and may be disposed of only by donation or sale for educational purposes.
f. This program will be reviewed at the annual gathering of roundtable participants who will make recommendations regarding the continuation, modification or termination of this program.
g. Monthly reports of this program will be made available to the public.

Issue 5: Removal of Verified Depredating Wolves

The roundtable recommends that the Department of Natural Resources assume administrative responsibility for an integrated wolf depredation program funded from the general fund. The roundtable recommends that DNR contract for assistance with the USDA/Wildlife Services program. Investigation of a kill-site and verification of a wolf kill will be conducted by a state agent (as defined in Issue 2, a). Trapping may be accomplished by state certified contract trappers. Wolf pelts will be retained by the state and disposition will be only for educational purposes.

Issue 6: Amount of Compensation

The roundtable recommends that the legislature consider compensation closer to fair market value than the $750 cap currently in law for verified wolf kills of livestock.

The roundtable recommends that compensation for the loss of guard animals (animals specifically bred, trained and used to protect livestock from wolf depredation) be the same as for livestock.

The roundtable recommends that compensation for dogs not qualifying as guard animals, under the supervised control of the owner, be at fair market value not to exceed $500.

Habitat Management

DNR will identify currently occupied and potential wolf habitat areas with the objective of managing habitat to benefit wolves and their prey on public land and in cooperation with private, corporate and tribal landowners. Elements of wolf habitat that need to be considered include but are not limited to:

a. human access
b. disturbance at den and rendezvous sites
c. corridors and linkages

Enforcement

Enforcement and penalties for the illegal taking (killing, injuring, beating, harassing, stalking, baiting/poisoning and other activities having the likelihood of injury or attempt to do the same) of wolves should be consistent with present statutes on the illegal taking of game. Fine levels should reflect the unique nature of the wolf. The roundtable further recommends that the restitution value of the wolf be established at $2,000. Injury to wolves caused by guard dogs used in the traditional manner is not considered illegal taking.

Due to the increased workload of conservation officers, the roundtable recognizes the need to substantially increase the number of conservation officers as well as the resources available to them. The roundtable urges the legislature to provide the general fund resources necessary for proper enforcement. The roundtable urges cross-deputization of additional tribal conservation officers and continued cooperation with federal law enforcement officials.

Education

The management plan should include an education component, providing information about:

a. the history of the wolf in Minnesota
b. wolf management in Minnesota
c. wolf behavior and biology
d. the wolf as part of the ecosystem
e. wolf status
f. human/wolf coexistence
g. contacts for additional information about the wolf
h. strategies for dealing with wolves

Eco-tourism

The roundtable recommends that DNR address eco-tourism in the management plan.

Wolf-dog Hybrids/Captive Wolves

a. The release of wolf hybrids and captive wolves into the wild should be banned.
b. The legislature should consider appropriate regulatory measures, based on public safety concerns.

Management Plan Monitoring

The Dept. of Natural Resources will convene a group, including all groups participating in the existing roundtable, on an annual basis to review and comment on management plan implementation.

Funding for Plan Implementation

State funding for implementing the management plan should come from sources other than the game and fish fund.