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MN: DNR survey finds mixed views on gray wolves

General public has a positive view of wolves while livestock producers are more negative toward the species

Marshall Helmberger

REGIONAL— A new survey commissioned by the Department of Natural Resources finds that Minnesotans agree by a wide margin that it is important to maintain Minnesota’s gray wolf population. The survey, which found results in line with previous surveys, sampled attitudes from more 9,000 Minnesotans representing three distinct groups, including average residents, Minnesotans who hunt deer, and livestock producers living in wolf country. The survey found considerable differences between the three groups.

Among Minnesotans in general, nearly 70 percent (68.8) expressed a positive view of gray wolves in Minnesota, compared to 19.6 percent who expressed a negative view.

That result stood in sharp contrast with livestock producers in wolf country, among whom just 31.6 percent expressed a positive view of wolves, while 62.2 percent expressed a negative opinion. Among deer hunters, perceptions were more evenly split, with 39 percent expressing support for wolves, while 51.5 percent had a negative view of the state’s top predator.

Both livestock producers and deer hunters expressed strong support for a wolf hunting and/or trapping season. Nearly 90 percent of hunters expressed support for wolf hunting, a level of support that was shared by livestock producers.

Among the general statewide population, nearly half (48.9 percent) indicated opposition to a wolf hunt, while 41 percent expressed support. A total of 58 percent of Minnesotans indicated opposition to a wolf trapping season, while 30 percent expressed support. For now, a federal court order that prohibits wolf hunting in the Great Lakes region remains in effect in Minnesota, which has prevented the DNR from reinstating a wolf season.

While support for wolf hunting or trapping was relatively high, particularly among hunters and livestock producers, a broad majority of both residents and deer hunters indicated that they support maintaining the state’s wolf population. Among residents in general, 88 percent expressed such a view. Among those who hunt deer, two-thirds expressed anywhere from slight to strong agreement with the value of wolves in Minnesota. Even among livestock producers in northern Minnesota, 47 percent indicated some level of support for maintaining wolves in the state.

The results were gathered from surveys mailed to 9,750 households in the state that met at least one of the three categories. Livestock producers had the highest response rate, with 53 percent returning their surveys. Forty-seven percent of deer hunters returned their surveys, while a third of members of the general public did so.

The DNR conducted the study in partnership with the University of Minnesota through the Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, to support the DNR’s update to the state’s wolf management plan. Results of the survey will help in understanding how people and different groups think about wolves and wolf management in the state.