Osage DNR conservation officer Al Peterson is investigating a possible illegal wolf kill.

The animal’s head was removed.

“This is still an open case, with no known suspects, and we always encourage anyone with information to call in. This happened in south-central Becker County, and it does not appear to be killed to protect livestock,” Peterson told the Enterprise.

Anyone with information can reach Peterson at alan.e.peterson@state.mn.us or 218-255-2585.

Last month, a coalition of wildlife conservation groups formally filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service move that has stripped gray wolves of Endangered Species Act protection across nearly all the lower 48 states.

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The federal move to delist wolves took effect Jan. 4, handing control of the carnivores back to state and tribal resource agencies.

Wolves received federal protections in 1975 when only about 500 remained in the Lower 48, all of them in northeastern Minnesota. There are now about 6,000 wolves in the Lower 48, including about 2,700 in Minnesota, more than 1,000 in Wisconsin and more than 500 in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The animals were delisted in 2011, but a court order put them back under federal protection in late 2014, where they stayed until 2021.

Livestock groups and some hunting organizations, on the other hand, said the time is long past to begin culling wolf numbers. But the groups said allowing states to manage the animals, including allowing baiting and trapping, threatens to reduce their numbers again.

Details about the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ wolf management plan are available at www.dnr.state.mn.us/wolves.

The state wolf plan is designed to protect wolves and monitor their population, while giving owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. It splits the state into two management zones, with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf’s core range.
The state wolf plan is designed to protect wolves and monitor their population, while giving owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. It splits the state into two management zones, with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf’s core range. (Minnesota DNR map)

Minnesota is divided into two management zones, A and B. In Zone A, Peterson emphasized that owners of livestock, guard animals 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 the observed behavior of a wolf in the act of stalking, attacking, or killing livestock, a guard animal, or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.

Additionally, the owner of a domestic pet may shoot or destroy a 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 wolf under these provisions must protect all evidence, and report the taking to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours. The wolf carcass will be surrendered to the conservation officer.

Outside the wolf's core range, 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 pets on land they own, lease or manage. The circumstance of “immediate threat” does not apply.