Effective Feb. 10, 2022, Minnesota’s gray wolf once again became a federally protected threatened species. Under current federal guidelines, wolves may only be taken in defense of human life.
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.
Minnesota's wolf management plan
The DNR's updated wolf management plan incorporates the diverse views of Minnesotans and guides the state's approach to wolf conservation. The wolf plan describes and provides guidance on wolf population monitoring, population management, depredation control, public safety and more. The current plan was finalized in 2022 and will guide wolf management for 10 years. Learn more on the wolf plan 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.
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.
- 2020 Wolf Population Survey
- 2019 Wolf Population Survey
- 2018 Wolf Population Survey
- 2017 Wolf Population Survey
- 2016 Wolf Population Survey
- 2015 Wolf Population Survey
- 2014 Wolf Population Survey
- 2013 Wolf Population Survey
- 2008 Wolf Survey Report
The DNR has developed a framework, in Appendix 2 of Minnesota's wolf management plan, to describe in greater detail how the DNR's season-related decisions will be made in the future if wolves are once again removed from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.
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
- "Do Wolf Tracks and Few Deer In Your Fall Hunting Area Mean What You Think They Mean?" article reprint courtesy of MDHA Whitetales Magazine
- Wolf mortalities
Current reported wolf mortalities
Date Location Cause * 1/5/2022 Nicollet Illegal shooting 1/6/2022 Marshall Incidental 1/3/2022 St. Louis Incidental 1/13/2022 Carlton Illegal snare 1/13/2022 St. Louis Incidental 1/25/2022 St. Louis Natural 2/12/2022 Mille Lacs Incidental 2/15/2022 Itasca Vehicle 3/4/2022 St. Louis Natural 3/5/2022 Marshall Illegal shooting 3/7/2022 Wadena Vehicle 3/18/2022 Lake of the Woods Unknown 3/18/2022 Koochiching Illegal shooting 3/25/2022 Cass Vehicle 3/29/2022 St. Louis Vehicle 4/6/2022 Norman Unknown 4/6/2022 St. Louis Illegal foot trap 4/9/2022 St. Louis Illegal snare 5/2/2022 St. Louis Vehicle 5/10/2022 Clearwater Illegal shooting 5/20/2022 Beltrami Vehicle 6/2/2022 Lake Natural 7/15/2022 Cass Vehicle 8/19/2022 Itasca Illegal shooting 9/21/2022 St. Louis Vehicle* Causes of mortality
- 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 Hunting Depredation Legal Conservation Total Annual Reported & Trapping USDA State Shooting 1 Officer Reports 2 Known Mortalities 2021 N/A 152 4 6 30 192 2020 N/A 221 N/A N/A 16 237 2019 N/A 168 N/A N/A 33 201 2018 N/A 189 N/A N/A 33 222 2017 N/A 199 N/A N/A 7 206 2016 N/A 191 N/A N/A 9 200 2015 N/A 220 N/A N/A 23 243 2014 272 172 40 10 21 515 2013 238 95 37 8 23 401 2012 413 215 48 16 27 7191 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
The 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
- Can I shoot a wolf to protect my livestock or pet?
Effective Feb. 10, 2022, Minnesota's gray wolf once again became a federally protected threatened species. Under current federal guidelines, wolves may only be taken in defense of human life.
Use the Conservation Officer Locator and leave a recorded message 24/7.
- How will we ensure the wolf population is maintained?
Minnesota's wolf plan goal is to maintain a population comparable to recent estimates at 2,200-3,000 wolves, well above federal recovery goals, and distributed across the majority of current wolf range. If the population falls below 2,000, the DNR strategy will be to implement enhanced monitoring and research to determine population decline and contributing factors. Should the population fall below 1,600 or trends indicate the population is approaching that number, the DNR will identify and implement mitigation measures to reverse decline.
The wolf 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.