Wildlife Services: Killing MN Wolves

*This page will be updated as more information becomes available and annual reports are updated

View and download the full USDA Document here.


Summary

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The USDA-Wildlife Service is responsible for killing at least 7% of the estimated wolf population every year at a ratio of nearly 2 wolves killed for every verified complaint. 

Despite the claims of many, incidents are down in Minnesota—this according to the state director for WS, Gary Nohrenberg quoted in the Crookston Times in 2017 as saying “While Minnesota’s wolf population is up, there hasn’t been a surge in complaints about attacks. The 10-year average is about 175 complaints a year. There were 157 last year and this year’s total will be a little below the average.”

The USDA themselves have even referenced the period of peak estimated wolf population as being a time of stability, thrown of course by the wolf trophy hunts of 2012-2014.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture offers Wolf Livestock Conflict Prevention Grants for the implementation of nonlethal deterrents. At the moment, the state and federal program are not complementary in the since that nonlethal methods are not being given priority, nor are they allowed to work at their most effective level due to the disruptive practices of Wildlife Services.

How it’s done

On the rare occasion that a wolf-livestock conflict occurs in MN, livestock producers and landowners have the option of calling in Wildlife Services, a division of the USDA, to trap and kill local wolves. Under current Endangered Species Act regulations, the gray wolf is listed as threatened in Minnesota. This means that a wolf may only be killed in defense of human life or by a government agent. Since wolves simply do not attack people (there has been one recorded attack in Minnesota’s recorded history by a sick, starving, and deformed lone wolf), this means that the only legal killing taking place is on behalf of Wildlife Services—legal being the operative word. There are no solid estimates on frequency and extent of illegal poaching, though the phrase “Shoot, Shovel, Shut-up” has found an eerie abundance of use.

If an individual does experience a conflict, they must report it according to a set of very specific instructions as laid out by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which includes contacting a state Conservation Officer or USDA Trapper who verifies the claim and can help individuals apply for reimbursement up to full-market value of the loss. At that point, it is up to the property owner to decide whether or not they want “trapping services” provided by the USDA.

That’s when trappers begin killing wolves—sometimes entire packs.

For up to 6 weeks, Wildlife Services will bait and set traps within a half mile radius of the incident site with the explicit goal of killing every wolf that they can with the thought process that more wolves killed equals less chance of future incidents and less likelihood they will have to return to that area.

There is no requirement for producers to have nonlethal methods in place, no consideration of if an incident occurred on public land, and no effort made to confirm and track “problem wolves”. Instead, there is baited, nontargeted killing.

Other Pieces of information

As of 8/22/2018, the number of wolves killed by the USDA was 125 in response to 81 verified complaints.

Below you may find information on the breakdown of wolf-livestock conflict by type and year, a map of locations, a chart showing the seasonal distribution of how many wolves are killed, and the breakdown of incidents by county.

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