DULUTH -- While federal Endangered Species Act protections for timber wolves officially ended Monday, Jan. 4 across the Lower 48 states, wolves still remain mostly protected under existing Minnesota laws that now kick in again — unless the wolves are killing livestock or pets.

Minnesota has not yet proposed any wolf hunting or trapping seasons. But the state Department of Natural Resources on Monday reminded residents that a still-valid state law does allow more leeway on when troublemaking wolves can be killed now that federal protections have been dropped.

Minnesota is again using two wolf management zones. Zone A, the northeastern part of the state, has more protections for wolves, while Zone B, which represents the southern two-thirds of the state, has more flexibility for people to kill wolves to protect livestock and pets.

In the core northern wolf range, Zone A, state law allows owners of livestock or pets to shoot or destroy wolves only that pose an immediate threat to their animals on their own property. “Immediate threat” means the owner observed a wolf in the act of stalking, attacking or killing livestock, a guard animal or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.

In all cases, a person shooting or destroying a 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.

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Minnesota wolf managament zones back in effect. (Minnesota DNR image)
Minnesota wolf managament zones back in effect. (Minnesota DNR image)

In the southern two-thirds of the state, Zone B, a person may shoot a wolf at any time to protect livestock, domestic animals or domestic pets on land they own, lease or manage. The “immediate threat” circumstance does not apply. The owner must notify a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours of taking the wolf and must surrender the wolf carcass to the conservation officer. People in Zone B also may employ a state-certified wolf predator controller to trap wolves on or within 1 mile of land they own, lease or manage.

State statute also allows 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 can't be attracted or searched out for purposes of harassment, and harassment cannot result in physical harm to the wolves.

Similar to federal regulations, state statute allows anyone to take a wolf at any time to defend human life, although there is no record of anyone ever being killed by a wolf in Minnesota.

PREVIOUSLY:

Wolves were federally protected from 1975 to 2012 when they were first removed from the endangered species list after their numbers had built up across the western Great Lakes region. A December 2014 court order reinstated federal protection until the Trump administration moved this fall to formally remove them again.

Environmental groups have sued the federal government saying the so-called delisting of wolves, announced in late October, was premature and threatens to push the animal back to the brink of extinction.

Meanwhile the Wisconsin DNR announced in December its intentions of restarting a wolf hunting season in fall 2021 that has been on hold since the 2014 court order.

Minnesota has about 2,700 wolves while Wisconsin has more than 1,000 and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula more than 500.

The Minnesota DNR is currently updating its wolf management plan. The issue may surface at the upcoming legislative session, but Gov. Tim Walz has said he does not support a sport hunting or trapping season on wolves.

For more information, go to dnr.state.mn.us/wolves/index.html.