Wolf management

Two gray wolves

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. The DNR's most recent public survey shows that despite having a wide array of attitudes, Minnesotans agree that maintaining a wolf population in Minnesota is important.

The DNR is committed to ensuring the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota and minimizing and resolving conflicts between wolves and humans.


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What's new

Effective Jan. 4, 2021, Minnesota wolves are managed solely by state and tribal authorities. The state, along with tribal partners, is prepared for this transition. The DNR will continue to manage gray wolves in compliance with Minnesota Statute and the Minnesota wolf management plan.

State wolf plan, state statutes in effect

The DNR is managing Minnesota wolves in compliance with Minnesota statutes and the state Wolf Management Plan. The plan, completed in 2001, ensures the long-term survival of wolves and identifies strategies to resolve conflicts between wolves and humans. A public process to update this plan was initiated in 2019 and remains underway. Find out more about the wolf plan and the update process on the DNR's wolf plan page.

Delisting means changes for livestock producers, pet owners As a result of delisting, wolves may be killed under certain circumstances to protect livestock and pets. Details can be found in the question and answer section below, which identifies procedures within Wolf Depredation Management Zone A (northeastern Minnesota) and Zone B (the remainder of the state).

Previous updates

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Oct. 29, 2020, its decision to remove the wolf from the federal endangered and threatened species list. Read the Minnesota DNR statement on this decision.

Background

Wolf management zones

Map showing Minnesota's wolf range and link to online interactive map

The primary wolf range, Management Zone A, is comprised of northeastern Minnesota from Roseau on the northwest to Hinckley on the southeast. The rest of Minnesota south and west of the Zone A border comprises Management Zone B.

Interactive mapDownloadable map

Minnesota's wolf management plan

Minnesota's wolf management plan provides the framework that guides the state’s decisions about wolf regulations, population monitoring, management, conflicts, enforcement, damage control, education, research and other issues.

The plan was adopted in 2001 and the DNR is currently in the process of updating the plan. Learn more on the wolf plan update page.

Livestock compensation claims

Compensation claims for livestock must be filed with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Information about filing claims is available by following the link above to the MDA website.

Population

The DNR regularly conducts comprehensive wolf population surveys every four to six years and in recent years has been providing annual wolf population estimates. The survey is not a count of every wolf in Minnesota. Instead, it is a statistical estimate.

Season

As the DNR updates the existing Minnesota wolf management plan, the topic of hunting and trapping will be discussed by the 20-member wolf advisory committee and a related technical committee comprised of government, tribal and university wolf experts.

Currently, it is illegal for people to hunt and trap wolves in Minnesota. Minnesotans have diverse attitudes about the topic. Until the early 1970s wolves were unprotected in Minnesota.

Prior to 2012, there had never been a regulated wolf hunting and trapping season. However, from 2012 through 2014—years when wolves were legally managed by the State of Minnesota rather than the federal government—state law allowed hunting and trapping under highly regulated conditions to ensure they would not have a negative impact on the population. 

Wolves & big game

Wolf mortalities

Current reported wolf mortalities

DateLocationCause *
1/24/20PenningtonVehicle
1/25/20CassVehicle
2/1/20OttertailUnknown
2/10/20St. LouisVehicle
4/5/20PineIllegal shooting
4/10/20LakeIllegal shooting
4/16/20AitkinIllegal shooting
5/26/20LakeUnknown
6/10/20St. LouisUnknown
9/11/20St. LouisVehicle
9/19/20St. LouisVehicle
10/31/20AitkinVehicle
11/13/20St. LouisIllegal shooting
11/25/20St. LouisIllegal shooting
12/04/20 St. LouisVehicle
12/10/20 St. LouisVehicle
* 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.

Year HuntingDepredationLegalConservationTotal Annual
Reported& TrappingUSDAStateShooting 1Officer Reports 2Known Mortalities
2019N/A168N/AN/A33201
2018N/A189N/AN/A33222
2017N/A199N/AN/A7206
2016N/A191N/AN/A9200
2015N/A220N/AN/A23243
2014272172401021515
20132389537823401
2012413215481627719
 
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.
Learn more about wolves

A wolf in snowThe International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The wolf center provides information that helps people to make their own informed decisions and help educate the public by offering up-to-date, accurate wolf information. You can explore more about wolves at the wolf center's website.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has more information about wolves in western Great Lakes states.

Questions & answers

How are wolves managed under state law and the Minnesota wolf plan?

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 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.

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

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.

What’s the difference between Zone A and Zone B?

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.

map of wolf zones in Minnesota

How will we ensure the wolf population is maintained?

Minnesota’s wolf 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. 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.

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.