Wolf management

Two gray wolves

Join us in updating the wolf plan

The DNR is updating the state’s wolf management plan. Get involved at virtual open houses Sept. 29 (northwest region), Oct. 6 (central and southern region, Twin Cities area), and Oct. 8 (northeast region). You'll also be able to give your input online through Nov. 1. Learn more at the wolf plan update page.

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.


Sign up for wolf updates 

What's new

Minnesota’s iconic wolf is the focus of upcoming virtual public input opportunities hosted this fall by the DNR. In three virtual meetings and a parallel online input period, the public will be asked to weigh in on wolf numbers and geographic range, conservation options, and impacts on agriculture and other wildlife species. You'll be able to get involved and share your input!

All are welcome to join the open house focusing on their area of the state or region of interest. Each takes place 6-8 p.m.

  • Northwest Region—Sept. 29
  • Central and Southern Region, including the Twin Cities Metro Area—Oct. 6
  • Northeast Region—Oct. 8

Find out more about the updates to the plan and how to get involved.

Other updates

  • As the DNR updates Minnesota's wolf management plan in 2020, the agency is getting help from a wolf plan advisory committee, which is one of several ways the DNR is engaging 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.
Background

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 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

In the 1960s, the population was estimated to be as low as 350. Wolf numbers trended upward during the next 40 years, peaking at about 3,000 from 2002 until 2005. Since 2014 the population estimate has been about 2,700 with a current population estimate of 2,699.

The DNR continues to be committed to taking a comprehensive approach to sustaining healthy wolf populations in Minnesota.

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
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

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.