What should I do if I suspect wolves have killed my livestock?

Recognizing the economic harm wolf depredation can have on domestic livestock, the 1977 Minnesota Legislature authorized the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to reimburse livestock owners for losses caused by wolves. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services provides wolf trapping for cases of verified wolf attacks on domestic animals. To receive trapping services and to be eligible for state reimbursement, farmers and ranchers need to follow specific reporting procedures.

Step 1: Carefully examine the kill site and dead livestock. Be cautious not to trample over animal tracks or disturb the site. A USDA trapper or Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer may be able to read subtle clues that you may not recognize. If the examination suggests a wild animal killed your livestock, protect your remaining animals by temporarily moving them to a more secure location, if possible.

CAUTION : Wolves are protected under federal law. It is illegal to harm or kill a wolf, except in defense of human life. Any attempt to frighten away wolves returning to kill other animals or to feed on dead livestock must be done without harming the wolf.

Step 2: Preserve the evidence of the suspected wolf kill as much as possible and then report the kill. To be eligible for state compensation, you must report a suspected wolf kill within 24 hours of discovery to a DNR conservation officer or USDA trapper. Make a note of who took your report and the day and time of your report for future reference.

Contact a conservation officer:
An interactive map of officer patrol areas with contact information is available at the DNR website.

Contact the USDA:
USDA APHIS Wildlife Services
34912 U.S. Highway 2
Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Phone: 218-327-3350
Fax: 218-326-7039

Step 3: After reporting the incident, a DNR conservation officer or USDA trapper will investigate and verify the wolf kill for compensation. You will be asked to complete an application for state compensation. Once MDA receives the application it is routed to the University of Minnesota Extension for a determination of the market value of the livestock lost. The completed claim is then eligible for payment by the MDA.

Preserving evidence of a wolf kill

  • Secure the area from the entry of livestock. Curious animals or upset mothers can destroy evidence quickly.
  • Look for tracks or scat (droppings) that will show a wolf's presence. Cover with plywood or weighted cans.
  • Cover livestock carcass or remains with a tarp and weight securely to keep other predators from destroying teeth marks or other evidence.
  • Photograph or video tape the evidence. It is helpful to put some common object next to the evidence to document size.
  • Do not disturb evidence until the federal trapper or conservation officer can investigate the site.
  • Remember that under Board of Animal Health regulations you must properly dispose of carcasses within 48 to 72 hours. You may need to inform the Conservation Officer of this.

Compensation Claim Form
Flow chart for understanding the wolf claim process

What can I do to prevent wolf depredation?

The University of Minnesota conducted a study in early 1999 to determine if any livestock management practices could prevent wolf depredation. The study could find no management practices certain to prevent wolf depredation. The only method proven to prevent wolf depredation was removing the depredating wolves from the farm. However, farmers and ranchers have reported a few practices that may help in some cases. These include:

  • Maintaining healthy, well-fed animals. Wolves typically select the weakest and easiest prey. Healthy animals are more difficult to take. Move lame or sick animals to a safe area when possible.
  • Using guard animals. Although not always effective, the presence of guard dogs can be a deterrent. When using guard dogs against wolves it is important to use several dogs, as wolves may kill a single animal. Moving and consolidating sheep, as is done in rotational grazing, can help guard dogs be more effective. Keep in mind, however, that rotational grazing is less suitable during lambing as it may disrupt the bond between mother and offspring.
  • Moving calving or lambing activities closer to the barnyard. Newborns are easy prey. Some farmers move calving or lambing closer to the barnyard because it allows for more frequent monitoring.

Warning Signs of Wolf Depredation

Farmers have reported some common signs that could indicate wolves have moved into your area. Signs may include:

  • animals tightly bunched together instead of being spread across the pasture;
  • the entire herd or flock is disturbed;
  • sheep become panicked in the presence of herding dogs;
  • increase of wolf signs on the farm;
  • animals refuse to enter certain areas;
  • cattle breaking through otherwise sound pasture fences;
  • drastic changes in herd temperament.