Rising deer numbers in northern Minnesota mean more wolves

Gray wolf (Photo by dalliedee via Flickr)
Gray wolf (Photo by dalliedee via Flickr)

With whitetail deer continuing to expand their range into northern Minnesota, the population of wolves seems to have followed suit.

The wolf population increased by approximately 25 percent last year from the year before, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has reported. During the same period, deer density in the region also climbed about 22 percent.

The rising populations follows a decline in both deer and wolves in the previous two years.

“From approximately 2005 to 2014, a decline in prey appears to have translated into larger wolf pack territories, fewer or smaller packs and a reduced wolf population, said John Erb, the DNR’s wolf research scientist. “Now, the reverse appears to be happening.”

Based on the annual aerial survey last winter, biologists estimated there are approximately 2,856 wolves in 500 packs in the state. The highest estimated population on record was in 2003-2004 when there were approximately 3,020 wolves in the state.

Wolves in the Great Lakes region were removed from the federal Endangered Species List in 2012, and three state-regulated hunting seasons were allowed. But in 2014, a federal judge struck down the change in status, and the animals were again put on the Endangered Species List and all hunting was prohibited.

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