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Minnesota at a glance

Minnesota wolf

Gray wolves once existed throughout Minnesota; however, extirpation (elimination) began shortly after European settlers arrived. Wolves were killed in Minnesota mostly by poisoning. A state-directed wolf livestock-depredation control program persisted until gray wolves were protected in 1974 by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. At that time, the wolf population numbered approximately 750 animals. Minnesota is the only state in the contiguous United States that has always held a viable gray wolf population.

According to federal recovery criteria, wolves in Minnesota have been biologically recovered for over a decade. They were delisted from the endangered species list in January 2012 but were re-listed on December 19, 2014.  In January 2021, wolves were removed from Endangered Species List protections, and management returned to individual states. In February of 2022, once again, they became a federally protected threatened species. They are currently listed as “Threatened” in Minnesota.

Map courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Main prey for wolves are deer, moose and beaver. The latest estimate of occupied range is 73,972 km2, with most wolves occupying the northeastern portion of the state. The latest population update (2022) estimated a total of 498 wolf packs with an average territory size of 148 km2. The 2021-22 midwinter wolf population was estimated to be 2,691 wolves (+/- 500), or 3.6 wolves per 100 km2 of occupied range.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources updated its wolf management plan and made it public in 2023. The plan incorporates the diverse views of Minnesotans and guides the state’s approach to wolf conservation. Read the 2023-2032 Minnesota Wolf Management Plan here.

Species Information

Species 1
Common Name: gray wolf
Latin Name: Canis lupus

Potential species designation under debate by the scientific community
Common Name: eastern wolf, timber wolf and/or Great Plains
Latin Name: Canis lycaon and Canis lupus nubilus
Location: C. lupus and the potential C. lycaon are indistinguishable from each other physically, behaviorally and ecologically. The only way to tell the difference between them is a genetic test and comparison.

Current Wolf Population, Trend, Status
Number of wolves: 2,691 (+/- 500) (2022 Wolf Population Update)
Population trend: Stable
Legal status: Effective Feb. 10, 2022, Minnesota’s gray wolf once again became a federally protected threatened species. Under current federal guidelines, wolves may only be taken in defense of human life.

Minnesota did have legal hunting seasons for wolves in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2012 hunters killed 413 wolves. In 2013 they killed 238 wolves. In 2014 they killed 272 wolves.

Human Relationships

Attitudes and Issues


Recovery and Management
Information related to legal status, hunting and trapping regulations and management plans and practices in Minnesota.





Prey and Predation Image

Recent media coverage


Minnesota’s estimated wolf population