MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Back in 1950, only 750 wolves were estimated to be living in Minnesota.

Today, there are believed to be nearly 3,000, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Federal protection status still classifies wolves as threatened, but Minnesota’s wolf population has remained steady since last winter.

This stabilization is positive news.

The 2017-2018 winter estimate was 2,856 wolves and 500 packs in Minnesota. This winter, the DNR says the population closely matched last year’s at 2,655 wolves and 465 packs.

Wolf population surveys happen mid-winter when estimates are about half as big, due to a dip in wolf pup birth patterns. In the spring, more pups are born, but tend to die before the winter.

“Subtle changes in wolf population numbers year to year indicate that Minnesota supports a healthy wolf population,” DNR’s Dan Stark said, “The long-term trends demonstrate that the wolf population is fully recovered.”

Minnesota wolf populations are surpassing both federal and state expectations by over a thousand, the DNR said.

Unless prompted by self-protection, intentionally killing a wolf is subject to criminal penalty. Luckily, public opinion polls show Minnesotans are receptive to wolf population growth, the DNR said. While developing a state wolf management plan, DNR surveys showed the majority of Minnesotans value the wolf population for scientific, environmental, and cultural reasons.

With National Wolf Awareness week beginning October 14, Minnesotans can keep these reasons in mind while celebrating a—so-far— steady population.