MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A new survey suggests that Minnesota’s wolf population has increased 25 percent in the last year, and experts say it’s likely because deer populations have also grown in the predator’s range.
The Department of Natural Resources announced Monday the findings of the 2016-2017 wolf population survey, which found that there were about 500 wolf packs in Minnesota.
The number of individual wolves in the state is estimated at 2,856 – that’s about 500 more than were counted in the 2015-2016 survey. (Note: the margin of error in the survey is 500 wolves.)
Researchers think the growth of the state’s wolf population is tied to the increase in deer numbers across many parts of the wolf range. In the last year, the deer population in northern Minnesota has grown about 22 percent, the DNR says.
Along with population growth, the survey found that average wolf pack sizes have grown slightly and average pack territories have shrunk by about 10 square miles.
The current wolf estimates – which are taken when packs are thought to be at their thinnest – are well above the state’s minimum goal of 1,600 wolves.
But don’t expect the wolf hunts to come back any time soon.
In August, a federal appeals court retained protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes region, which effectively prohibit states like Minnesota from holding wolf hunting and trapping seasons.