Trends and management of wolf-livestock conflicts in Minnesota

Resource Publication 181

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The nature and extent of wolf-livestock conflicts in Minnesota during 1975-86 was studied as part of a wolf depredation control program. The level of wolf (Canis lupus) depredation on livestock in Minnesota, as determined from the total number of complaints verified annually during 1975-86, showed a slight upward trend but did not increase significantly. A significant portion of the annual variation in verified complaints-perhaps the best index on severity of the depredation problem was explained by variation in severity of the winter before the depredation season (inverse relation). The addition of a time variable did not account for a significant portion of the remaining variation. Verified complaints of depredations averaged 30 per year, affecting an average of 21 farms (0.33% of producers) annually. Conflicts were highly seasonal and involved primarily cattle (mainly calves), sheep, and domestic turkeys. Annual variation in losses of sheep and turkeys was higher than for cattle. In recent years, sheep and turkey losses in two northwestern counties have increased; preventive control may be warranted in those areas. Site-specific trapping and removal of wolves in response to depredations was the primary control method, resulting in captures of 437 wolves in 12 depredation seasons. For the wolf range as a whole, no relation was found between wolf removal and subsequent depredation rates; however, wolf removal seemed to reduce depredations locally at some farms. When adults and yearlings were removed, no subsequent losses occurred in about 55% of instances; removal of young of the year reduced losses in 22%. Removal of breeding wolves did not reduce the incidence of subsequent losses more than removal of nonbreeding adults and yearlings did. The low number of conflicts for 1975-86 was remarkable considering the frequent contact between wolves and livestock. However, an update of complaints for 1987-89 revealed a definite upward trend in depredations (Epilogue). Improvements in farm management practices may reduce the present number of conflicts.

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Federal Government Series
Trends and management of wolf-livestock conflicts in Minnesota
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Resource Publication
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
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