Minnesota at a glance
Gray wolves once existed throughout Minnesota; however, extirpation (elimination) began shortly after European settlers arrived. Wolves were killed in Minnesota mostly by poisoning. A state-directed wolf control program persisted until gray wolves were added to the endangered species list in 1974. At that time, the wolf population numbered approximately 750 animals. Minnesota is the only state in the contiguous United States that has always held a viable gray wolf population.
Main prey for wolves there are deer, moose and beaver. Wolves occupy approximately 40 percent of the map shown, with most wolves occupying the northeastern portion of the state. Range lines are not depicted. According to federal recovery criteria, wolves in Minnesota have been biologically recovered for over a decade. They were delisted from the endangered species list in January 2012 but were re-listed on December 19, 2014. They are currently listed as “Threatened” in Minnesota.
Map courtesy of MN DNR
Common Name: gray wolf
Latin Name: Canis lupus
Potential species designation under debate by the scientific community
Common Name: eastern wolf, timber wolf
Latin Name: Canis lycaon
Location: C. lupus and the potential C. lycaon are indistinguishable from each other physically, behaviorally and ecologically. The only way to tell the difference between them is a genetic test and comparison. Both inhabit the northern third of Minnesota.
Current Wolf Population, Trend, Status
Number of wolves: 2,211 (2013 Report)
Population trend: Stable
Legal status: Wolves in Minnesota are classified as threatened and are federally protected. On 12/19/ 2014, a judge ordered wolves protected again in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan under the Endangered Species Act. No one may kill a wolf except in defense of human life. In Minnesota, farmers can contact federal agents for wolf control.
Attitudes and Issues
- Full Report: The Ecocenter as a Tourist Attraction: Ely and the International Wolf Center
- Survey Shows Minnesotan’s Attitude Towards Wolves (1999)
- Public Attitudes About Wolves Summary (1999)
Recovery and Management
Information related to legal status, hunting and trapping regulations and management plans and practices in Minnesota.
- Summary of Minnesota Wolf Depredation Data
- A Guide for Minnesota Farmers and Ranchers Living in Wolf Country (from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Website)
- Visit the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services site for information on how the federal government manages depredating wildlife, resolves conflict between wildlife and humans and for contact information by state.
Harper, E. K., Paul, W. J., and Mech, L. D. 2005. Causes of wolf depredation increase in Minnesota from 1979-1998. Wildlife Society Bulletin 33:888-896.
Mech, L. David, Fritts, Steven H., and Paul, William J. 1988. Relationship Between Winter Severity and Wolf Depredations on Domestic Animals in Minnesota. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 16:269-272.
- Richard P. Thiel, Samuel Merrill, and L. David Mech. 1998. Tolerance by Denning Wolves, Canis lupus,to Human Disturbance. Can. Field-Nat. 112(2):340-342. (en Espanol – Tolerancia de los lobos, Canis lupus, en temporada de preparacion de la madriguera a las alteraciones provocadas por el hombre. Translation by Marcos Randulfe.) Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed to view this file. Download it free.
Prey and Predation
- White-tailed Deer Studies in Northeastern Minnesota
- Effects of Wolf Population Expansion on Deer Hunting in Northern Minnesota (historical document)
- The Ecological Relationship of Gray Wolves and White-tailed Deer in Minnesota
Nelson, M. E. and Mech, L. D. 2006. A 3-decade dearth of deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in a wolf (Canis lupus)-dominated ecosystem. American Midland Naturalist 155:373-382.
Kunkel, Kyran E. and Mech, L. David. 1994. Wolf and Bear Predation on White-Tailed Deer Fawns in Northeastern Minnesota. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 72:1557-1565.
DelGiudice, Glenn D., Mech, L. David, Kunkel, Kyran E., Gese, Eric M., and Seal, Ulysses S. 1992. Seasonal Patterns of Weight, Hematology and Serum Characteristics of Free-Ranging Female White-Tailed Deer in Minnesota. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 70:974-983.
Nelson, Michael E. and Mech, L. David. 1987. Demes Within a Northeastern Minnesota Deer Population. Mammalian Dispersal Patterns. 2:27-40.