When wolves or other predators kill or maim domestic
animals we call this "depredation." Complaints of depredation are handled somewhat differently in
each state. In Minnesota, a state conservation officer or a county
extension agent starts the documentation and claim process. Complaints
are verified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife
Services. The complainant provides an estimated value of the loss, but
the final value is determined by a county extension agent or other appointed agent. In Minnesota, the
Minnesota Department of Agriculture processes the payment.
In the western states, the USDA Wildlife Services and the U.S.
Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service cooperatively document
and resolve complaints. The Defenders of Wildlife, a private
pays for verified complaints.
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
works to manage depredation, discover new management methods – including
non-lethal wolf control – and prevent depredation through research and
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Wildlife Research
Center is the federal institution devoted to resolving problems caused
by the interaction of wild animals and society. The Center applies
scientific expertise to the development of practical methods to resolve
these problems and to maintain the quality of the environments shared
Costs depend on the geographic area, animal(s) killed, and the
agency or organization responsible for compensation. In addition to the money paid out in claims, costs include salaries and other administrative costs of
USDA Wildlife Services, the state's Departments of
Agriculture and/or Natural Resources, and any other involved agencies or services.
Farms Affected by Depredation As wolf range expands around the country, more
farms are accessible to wolves. However, in Minnesota, indications are that
depredation continues to occur on about 1-2 percent of 8,500 farms and
seems to be decreasing, regardless of wolf population increases. This may be
due to increased lethal control. Another factor may be
the good fawn crops that have resulted from mild winters occurring over
the past five years, creating an overabundant deer population.
The number of domestic animals verified as killed by wolves
varies greatly from year to year. It also varies by geographic
location. For example, a 1000-acre pasture in Wisconsin is considerably
smaller than a ranch in Montana where cattle or sheep are grazing in a
multi-square-mile pasture. In many cases in the western United States,
animals go missing and are never recovered and therefore a claim is
To put depredation in perspective, in 1986 the Minnesota wolf population was
at 1,300-1,400, there were an estimated 232,000 cattle and 16,000
sheep in Minnesota's wolf range. During that year 26 cattle, about
0.01 percent of the cattle available, and 13 sheep, around 0.08 percent of the sheep
available, were verified as being killed by wolves. Similarly, in 1996
an estimated 68,000 households owned dogs in wolf range and only 10,
approximately 0.00015 percent of the households, experienced wolf depredation.
None-the-less, depredation can be an emotional and costly issue for affected livestock and pet owners.
Value of Domestic Animals
The market value of domestic animals varies greatly by breed, age,
condition, region of the country and market fluctuations. The Minnesota
Department of Agricultural Statistics and the University of Wisconsin,
River Falls, provide the following approximate values for livestock:
$1,800-$2,000 for a quality pure-bred cow
$1,500-$2,000 beef cow
$1,260 per milk cow
$450-$600 per beef calf
$200 per sheep
$90 per lamb
and $9-$11 per turkey
In Minnesota, a county extension agent assesses the fair market
value of each animal killed by wolves and the owner is paid that value per
animal, minus any insurance the owner may have collected.
Domestic stock are bred for weight gain, milk production, and other
qualities related to handling and production. The docile nature of most
domestic stock makes them easy prey to wolves.