Minnesota’s population of wolves will transition from federal protection to state management by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Jan. 27, bringing with that transition a number of law changes.
Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan will protect wolves and monitor their population, but also give owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. The plans splits the state into two management zones, with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf’s core range.
“The DNR is well-prepared to manage gray wolves and ensure the long-term survival of the species,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “The state’s Wolf Management Plan will allow Minnesotans more flexibility to address the real conflicts that occur between wolves and humans.”
The major change with state management is the ability of individual people to directly protect their animals from wolf depredation, subject to certain restrictions. In addition, the state-certified gray wolf predator control program will be available to individuals as another option to deal with livestock depredation.
The Wolf Management Plan has provisions for taking wolves that are posing risks to livestock and domestic pets. Owners of livestock, guard animal or domestic animals may 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 observing a gray wolf in the act of stalking, attacking or killing livestock, a guard animal or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.
In addition, the owner of a domestic pet may shoot or destroy a gray wolf posing an immediate threat on any property, as long as the owner is supervising the pet.
In all cases, a person shooting or destroying a gray 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 Minnesota (Zone B), a person may shoot a gray wolf at any time to protect livestock, domestic animals or pets on land they own, lease or manage. The circumstance of “immediate threat” does not apply. A DNR conservation officer must be notified within 48 hours and the wolf carcass must be surrendered to the conservation officer. Also in Zone B, a person may employ a state-certified gray wolf predator controller to trap wolves on or within one mile of land they own, lease or manage.
Unlike federal regulations, state regulations allow 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 cannot be physically harmed.
Similar to federal regulations, Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life. Any wolves taken must be reported to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours, and evidence must be protected.
Although some level of agency wolf depredation control may be in place under a cooperative agreement between DNR and the Wildlife Services Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, funding for this program has been eliminated as a result of federal budget cuts. The DNR is working with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and state livestock associations to identify funding that could support this program in the future.
The DNR already has staff in place to fully implement the state management plan, and to ensure that wolves continue to thrive in Minnesota while minimizing the inevitable conflicts that arise between wolves, humans and livestock. Dr. John Erb, DNR wolf research biologist, will continue to address wolf research and population monitoring needs. Stark will coordinate all wolf management activities in Minnesota.
The DNR has designated three conservation officers in the wolf range as lead officers to ensure enforcement of provisions of the Wolf Management Plan. These officers are Lt. Pat Znajda in Thief River Falls, Dave Olsen in Grand Rapids and Greg Payton in Virginia.
Mary Ortiz, executive director of the International Wolf Center based in Ely, said Minnesota is taking a thorough approach to wolf management through further wolf research and monitoring. She urged Minnesotans to learn more about the DNR’s plan as a new era of state management unfolds. “This is a comprehensive and conservative plan with a very specific and highly controlled approach to wolf management,” Ortiz said.
The state’s wolf population, estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, has grown to its current estimate of 3,000. The endangered species act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting to ensure that recovery continues. Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure their long-term survival in the state.
Federal rules removing the Great Lakes population of wolves from the endangered species list also take effect Jan 27 in Wisconsin and Michigan.
The complete Minnesota Wolf Management Plan, zone maps, population survey information as well as a question and answer fact is available online.