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Group offers farmers cash not to trap wolves

The Wolf Forgiveness Bonus Program aims to reduce the number of wolves killed near livestock farms.

The group Howling for Wolves is offering farmers up to $750 for each cow killed by a wolf in Minnesota, in addition to state reimbursement payments, but only if the livestock owner doesn't call-in federal trappers to kill the wolf.
iStock / AB Photography courtesy of the Wisconsin DNR

HOPKINS, Minn. — Every year in Minnesota, upward of 150 wolves are trapped and killed under a federal program to reduce predation on livestock at northern Minnesota farms and ranches.

But the group Howling For Wolves is offering farmers extra cash if they choose not to call in the federal government to do the trapping.

The Wolf Forgiveness Bonus Program, announced Tuesday, would pay livestock owners $600 per calf and $750 per adult cow that are verified as killed by wolves — but only if the owner doesn't call in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Division to trap wolves out of the area.

Wolves are currently federally protected as threatened in Minnesota, a notch above endangered, which allows only federally approved trappers to kill the big canines near where livestock or pets have been killed. Public hunting and trapping of wolves is not allowed.

Wolf depredation on livestock is usually verified by a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer. In addition to the Howling for Wolves cash the farmer also would be reimbursed by taxpayers through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.


“Minnesota currently has the largest and only original wolf population remaining in the lower 48 states“ said Maureen Hackett, founder of the Hopkins-based Howling For Wolves. “We remain committed to working with livestock producers to address the issue of wolf predation of livestock. We understand the challenges livestock producers face when running their operation and we want to work with them to find common ground.”

The Grand Rapids-based regional staff of Wildlife Services trapped and killed 152 wolves in Minnesota in 2021. That’s down from 216 wolves killed in 2020 and below the average of about 180 annually over the past decade. The program culls about 7% of Minnesota's wolves each year. While the agency’s efforts are considered critical by many farmers and ranchers, some animal rights groups say it conducts overzealous and unnecessary killing when other options for wildlife control exist.

Cooperative effort aims to help cattle rancher, wolves and wolf researchers.

In northern Minnesota in 2021, the agency trapped wolves at 76 sites where experts verified that wolves had attacked livestock and, in a few cases, pets. Each case of wolves killing livestock must first be verified by a DNR conservation officer. Many cases aren’t confirmed because the animal is dragged away or because it’s not clear what caused the death.

If confirmed, the federal Wildlife Services trappers are called in, free of charge to the livestock owner. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture also is involved by reimbursing the farmer for the loss of the animal.

There are an estimated 2,700 wolves in Minnesota, the most in any state outside Alaska.

Eligible livestock producers interested in the program can contact Howling For Wolves at 612-424-3613 or at bonusprogram@howlingforwolves.org .

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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