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Public Attitudes About Wolves Summary

The International Wolf Center sponsored a study in 1999 by Stephen Kellert, Ph.D., of Yale University, to measure public attitudes toward wolves in Minnesota. Kellert first surveyed Minnesotans’ attitudes toward the wolf in 1985. The recent survey was provided to the state Legislature, which voted on a wolf management plan at their 2000 session. The state Department of Natural Resources will develop a plan in anticipation of delisting the wolf from the endangered species list where it is currently listed as ‚Äúthreatened.

The statewide survey was completed in June 1999, and the results were presented in a 412- page report. 525 people throughout Minnesota were surveyed; a random sample of 350 were from non-northern Minnesota, a random sample of 100 residents were from northern Minnesota, and a random sample of 75 livestock producers were selected from the Cattleman’s Association, the Minnesota Livestock and Wool Producers, and the Koochiching County Farm Bureau. Each of the 525 participants answered 158 questions during phone interviews conducted by survey specialists. The survey assessed values, attitudes, knowledge and behaviors toward the wolf.

The survey found that:

  • Of the respondents, 70 percent indicated that the wolf symbolized to them the beauty and wonder of nature.

  • Approximately half of the Minnesota public and farmers reported that they cared a great deal or fair amount about wolves, only one-fifth citing very little or no concern at all.

  • A large proportion of all respondents, although significantly more non-northern than northern residents and farmers, cited the ecological importance of wolves, the value of scientific studies of the wolf, and the moral right of wolves to exist.

  • A majority of the non-northern public indicated they were morally opposed to harvesting wolves for their fur, regardless of population numbers, in contrast to ambivalent attitudes among the northern public, and only a minority of farmers who were opposed.

  • A majority of northern and non-northern residents, at considerable variance with the views of farmers, feared legal hunting and trapping of wolves would result in so many wolves being killed that the species could become rare in Minnesota.

  • Most of the general public, in significant contrast to divided views among farmers, believed seeing or hearing a wolf in the wild would be among the greatest outdoor experiences of their lives.

  • Most of the general public, although a minority of farmers, favored promoting tourism to hear and see wolves in the wild.

As a non-advocacy educational organization, the International Wolf Center sponsored the public attitude survey to contribute to the process of developing a management plan for the wolf that is reflective of the views of Minnesota’s general public. The survey was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Turner Foundation, the Unity Avenue Foundation and the Sweatt Foundation.


International Wolf Center. Yale Researcher to Conduct Minnesota Attitude Survey Prior to Wolf Delisting. Ely, MN: International Wolf Center; 1999.

Kellert, S. R. The Public and the Wolf in Minnesota. New Haven, CT: Yale University; 1999.


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