Wolf management

Two gray wolvesMinnesota'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 is committed 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.

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What's new
  • DNR will update Minnesota's wolf management plan in 2020 with help from a new wolf plan advisory committee, which is one of several ways the DNR will engage with the public on the plan. 
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a rule in March 2019 that considers the delisting of gray wolves as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act in the contiguous United States. Read the DNR comment.



Wolves and Big Game

Current legal status

Federal court ruling makes killing wolves illegal

Effective Dec. 19, 2014, Minnesotans can no longer legally kill a wolf except in the defense of human life.

A federal judge's decision to immediately reinstate Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan place the animals under protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wolves now revert to the federal protection status they had prior to being removed from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region in January 2012. That means wolves now are federally classified as threatened in Minnesota and endangered elsewhere in the Great Lakes region.

Only agents of the government are authorized to take wolves if depredation occurs.

Minnesota's wolf range

Estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, Minnesota's wolf population now is estimated at 2,423 animals, 212 more wolves than estimated on the survey conducted in winter 2013.

The latest population survey results estimate that 470 wolf packs lived in Minnesota's wolf range this past winter, 212 more wolves than estimated on the survey conducted in winter 2013.

Estimates show a stable population and with no significant change from the 2013 estimate of 2,211 wolves. DNR will continue to evaluate the wolf population annually to ensure the wolf population remains well established across northern and central Minnesota.

DNR's goal for wolf management is to ensure the long term survival of wolves in Minnesota while addressing conflicts between wolves and humans.

Wolf mortalities

Current reported wolf mortalities

Date ReportedDate of DeathLocationCause *
2017 Q11/24/20171/24/2017ClayVehicle
2017 Q24/19/2017 St. LouisUnknown
2017 Q25/13/2017 St. LouisVehicle
2017 Q25/30/2017 St. LouisVehicle
2017 Q39/18/2017 ItascaUnder Investigation
2017 Q39/18/2017 ItascaUnder Investigation
2017 Q410/6/201710/5/2017LakeVehicle
* Causes of mortality
  • Gunshot
  • Illegal Shooting
  • Illegal Snare
  • Incidental: Wolf killed in a trap or snare legally set for another game species.
  • Natural: Natural causes of death include disease, starvation, interspecific strife (killed by other wolves), predation, etc.
  • Under Investigation
  • Unknown: Cause of death not determined.
  • Vehicle: Wolf killed by a vehicle.

Annual known wolf mortality

The table below lists known wolf mortality for the indicated year. Totals are compiled annually after April 1 each year.

YearHuntingDepredationLegalConservationTotal Annual
Reported& TrappingUSDAStateShooting 1Officer Reports 2Known Mortalities
1 Wolves shot when it was legal for the owner or owner's agent to do so to protect livestock or pets.
2 Excludes mortalities listed under legal shooting.

Questions & answers

Can I shoot a wolf to protect my livestock or pet?

Wolves in Minnesota can only be killed in defense of human life.

Only agents of the government are authorized to take wolves if pets or livestock are threatened, attacked or killed.

Protect all evidence and report depredation incidents to a DNR conservation officer. Use the Conservation Officer Locator and leave a recorded message 24/7.

Are wolves dangerous to people?

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.

In August 2013, a physically deformed and brain-damaged wolf bit a teenager near Lake Winnibigoshish.

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.

How do I practice wolf safety?

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.
What can people do to protect livestock?

It is extremely difficult to predict when wolves may choose to attack and kill livestock; however, there are some methods that may decrease your risk of losing livestock to wolf predation. Livestock producers have reported these practices as being helpful:

  • Maintaining healthy stock
  • Using guard dogs/animals
  • Housing livestock close to birthing or bringing newborn livestock near farm buildings
  • Installing predator-proof fencing
  • Practicing proper carcass disposal (The Minnesota Board of Animal Health requires that carcasses must be properly disposed of within 48 to 72 hours)
  • Ensuring regular human activity occurs in the area
  • Using other non-lethal deterrents such as electric fencing, flashing lights and fladry (strips of fabric or colored flags suspended from a line of rope mounted above the top of a fence).
What can people do to protect pets?

Pet owners can decrease the risk of losing their animals to wolf predation by:

  • Not feeding pets outside
  • Not leaving pets unattended outside, securing dogs in a covered kennel or shelter and not leaving pets tied up outside
  • Removing garbage or food that may attract wolves
  • Not letting dogs roam
  • Walking dogs on a leash or under close control.
What should I do if I suspect wolves have killed or attacked my livestock or pets?

If you suspect that wolves have killed your livestock, it is vital that you preserve the evidence of the incident by:

  • Carefully examining the kill site and dead livestock
  • Being cautious not to trample over animal tracks or disturb the site
  • Preserving the evidence of the suspected wolf kill as much as possible by:
    • Removing all other livestock
    • Covering the carcass with a weighted tarp to keep scavengers from destroying teeth marks or other evidence
    • Photographing or video taping the scene
    • Covering any tracks or scat (droppings) with an object to preserve them.
  • Immediately contacting your local conservation officer:
    • In order to qualify for compensation, a report must be made within 48 hours of discovering the carcass
    • When verified by a conservation officer, he or she will discuss options for managing wolf depredation conflicts including wolf control measures
    • The Minnesota Department of Agriculture reimburses livestock owners for verified losses caused by wolves.