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MN: Wolf conservation continues to be a DNR priority

Contributed MN Dept of Natural Resources

Although federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves ended on Jan. 4, Minnesota laws have and will continue to protect wolves and ensure the responsible stewardship of this important wildlife species.

Minnesota has the largest wolf population in the lower 48 states and is home to an estimated 2,700 wolves across nearly 40,000 square miles of northern and central Minnesota. Through the efforts of federal, state and tribal partners, the wolf population is well established in all parts of its suitable range.

“Our wolf population is a reflection of all the management efforts of federal, state and tribal partners, and includes a strong monitoring program here in Minnesota that enables us to make sound decisions,” said Dave Olfelt, Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Division director.

Olfelt said changes in the wolf’s legal status have occurred multiple times since 2007, but the future of Minnesota’s wolf population is secure and the DNR commitment to active and effective wolf management will continue. 

“Because of the success of wolf conservation in Minnesota and the fact that wolves and humans share the same landscape, there is also the potential for conflict,” Olfelt said. “Management balances a robust wolf population with effective tools for addressing conflicts with livestock and pets.”

On Jan. 4, per existing state law, Minnesota recognized two management zones. Zone A, the northeastern part of the state, has more protections for wolves, while Zone B, which represents the southern two-thirds of the state, has more flexibility for people to manage wolves to protect livestock and pets.

In the core range (Zone A), state law allows owners of livestock, guard animals, or domestic animals to 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 owner observed a wolf in the act of stalking, attacking, or killing livestock, a guard animal, or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.

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 must be surrendered to the conservation officer.

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 domestic pets on land they own, lease, or manage. The “immediate threat” circumstance does not apply. The owner must notify a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours of taking the wolf and must surrender the wolf carcass to the conservation officer. People in Zone B also may employ a state certified wolf predator controller to trap wolves on or within one mile of land they own, lease or manage.

State statute also allows harassment of wolves that are within 500 yards of people, buildings, livestock or domestic pets to discourage wolves from contacting people and domestic animals. Wolves cannot be attracted or searched out for purposes of harassment and harassment cannot result in physical harm to the wolf(ves).

Similar to federal regulations, state statute allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life. Any wolves taken in the course of defending human life must be reported to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours, and evidence must be protected. These details are available on the DNR wolf management page.

The DNR intends to complete its wolf plan update process before considering any adjustments to wolf management in Minnesota.