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COMMENTS ON THE DNR WOLF MANAGEMENT PLAN - By Dale Irish

This analogy has been compiled from past and present DNR Studies on the predator/prey relationship including the VNP dietary wolf study. Although I do not have a wildlife management degree, I consider myself an avid outdoorsman and very woods wise during my senior years. I will be using facts based on numerous studies and use an average of the statistics provided along with minimal rounding off for ease of calculations. I always say that I study the studies and I have compiled the following.


The DNR estimates that there are between 2,000 – 3,400 wolves in Minnesota forming 500 packs with an average of 5 wolves per pack. This includes lone wolves.


The 500 packs include a breeding pair which have an average of 5 pups per pack with only 2 surviving by winter.


The average life span of an adult wolf is 6 years. The pack will be losing approximately 1 (.83) member per year.


Of the two surviving pups that have now entered the pack, one will maintain the packs size from the loss of a deceased member, and one will be a member and an existing two-year-old pack member will leave as a lone wolf in search of a new mate to establish a new territory and their

offspring will form a new pack.


So, the overall population of the wolves are increasing at about 500 per year as lone wolves along with the expansion of new territory. This would be a 20% increase and the current estimate is a 4.5% per year increase in the wolf population. The wolf population doesn’t increase much in a pack but the increase in population occurs through territory expansion and the

creation of new packs from the lone wolves.


Since 1 lone wolf leaves a pack of 5, the lone wolves would account for 20% of the wolf population. The DNR estimates 15 %.


Using all the statistics.

500 packs X 5/per pack = 2500 wolves

2500 X 20% (lone wolves) = 500 lone wolves

2500 +500=3000 total wolves


From this one could conclude that the number of packs each year, represents the yearly increase of the total wolf population.


If the DNR estimates that there are 36 wolves/389 sq. mi. and if there are 500 new lone wolves each year on average, then the Wolf range is expanding at 5,403 Sq. Mi. per year or an area of 73 miles x 73 miles each year, though some wolves are expanding into Canada and bordering states. Another factor is how many lone wolves are being killed as they travel through other wolf pack territories to reach the outer boundaries of the wolfs range in search of new territory to start a new pack.


A wolf needs 6# of food per day at a minimum to survive. Using 6# per day X 365 = 2,190#/year. The DNR estimates a wolf kills 14 deer per year with an average deer weight of 156#.

With an estimated 3,000 wolfs eating 14 adult deer per year, the adult deer kill would be 42,000 per year, much less than the 150,000 that are harvested statewide by hunters. The problem with these figures is they do not include the deer equivalent factor, as represented below.

In a recent DNR 5-year study near Elephant Lake on winter survival of breeding collared Does of which I do not have the final two years, showed an average wolf predation of 35%. One must remember that 90% of these breeding does have fawns and 50% will have twins. This 35 percent mortality of breeding does in winter relates to 35 does out of 100 does are due to wolf predation and if 90% of the 35 does are carrying fawns, then 32 potential deer are killed also and if 50% of those are carrying twins then another 16 will be eliminated for a total of 83 potential deer are killed out of 100. So by killing one breeding doe there is essentially 1-1/2 additional deer that are also killed and cannot contribute to the overall deer herd population. In essence the 35 deer killed would have a deer equivalent of 90 deer. So during winter months a wolf would normally eat 1.2 deer per month times 6 which equals 7.2 and including the equivalent factor of 2.5 would increase the mortality to 18 deer during winter months.

Moose calves and deer fawn mortality due to wolves has devastating effects to their population growth and endangers the herds survival.


In the Voyagers National Park Study a single wolf kills an average of 14 fawns, 12 beavers, and 3.5 adult deer in spring/summer. Deer fawns were a major food item from mid-May to mid-July. If beaver is not available within certain areas, a single beaver nutritional value is worth 1 ½ times that of a fawn so fawn mortality could be much higher. A fawn is estimated to be 22#, a beaver 33# and an adult deer 165#.


So, during the summer months a single wolf eats 14 fawns, and 4 adult deer equals 18 along with 18 deer equivalents during the winter month totals 36 deer killed by one wolf in one year. This almost triples the original estimate of 14. An estimated 3,000 x 36= 108,000 deer equivalent are killed by wolfs each year.


In the Elephant Lake study over 1 ½ year old breeding does were collared and studied because they have the best and healthiest chance of winter survival. The vulnerable fawns and mature bucks were not in the study and is assumed to have at least a 35% mortality or more from wolfs. No study to date has been done and they are not included in the total deer killed by wolfs at this time which would bring the total deer killed by wolfs comparable to hunters. Fawn mortality from wolfs is the biggest factor in loss of our deer herd.


The following research and citing provide more evidence:

In northwestern MN deer fawns made up to 80% of the summer diet of wolves. Fritts & Mech – 1981


One study reported all deer fawn mortality was due to predation caused by wolves & black bears. Kunkel & Mech-1994


In northeastern MN annual fawn survival is 22%. Nelson, Mech. -1986, Fuller-1990

In northern MN predation is the leading cause of deer mortality. Mech, Nelson, & Delgiudice. 2002 & 2006.


A recent study from the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa researcher Seth Moore revealed an 80% Moose calf mortality from predation with the vast majority from wolves. This mirrors the last wolf study done by the DNR revealing a 67% calf mortality from wolves and the number one cause of adult moose mortality was infections caused by wolf bites on their hind legs.

Three Ojibwe Bands and one Chippewa Band in Minnesota have harvested 50 moose this last year in northeastern Minnesota to provide an important source of healthy, subsistence food for band members. That need is understood along with the tribal right to gather. What is not understood is that by overprotecting the Wolf it is essentially limiting band members from this needed nutrition.


According to a recent article by Giovanni Dell’orto titled “Reviving Ojibwe spiritual traditions, one pet at a time.” Animal neglect used to be such a problem on the Ojibwe Leach Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota that packs of stray dogs would sometimes bring traffic to a halt on the main highway.


According to a tribal leader “Our pets are the ones who walk with us” and animals are central to Ojibwe beliefs and sacred origin stories. With nearly 40% of Leach Lake population in poverty injured animals would die or be abandoned as would litters of puppies and kittens nobody could afford to care for. Then a non-profit organization called the Leach Lake Legacy was formed and along with funding from the Humane Society they removed over 9,000 animals. This is a great success story and shows the importance of animal management and pet population control.

Sometimes overprotecting a species can be detrimental and cause its demise, like what happened with the wolves on Isle Royal. Proper management could have prevented this wolf population from collapsing upon itself through overpopulation.


So, this all leads to the blame game where some researchers have now turned the attention to alternate causes of the moose and deer decline. Now it’s the brain worm in deer causing the majority loss of moose. According to top DNR researchers, study stats do not show we are losing 1/3 of our Moose to brain worm. The mean annual mortality rate during the 4 year adult survival and moose cause-specific mortality study resulted in P.tenuisor or brain worm was documented in 23% of the dead moose, regardless of the cause of death. However, even if you viewed brain worm as accounting for 23% of the dead moose, that would mean that brain worm is accounting for an average 3% loss of moose, not 33% or 1/3. DelGiudice, Carstensen -2013-2016


Winter ticks were among the highest recorded on Isle Royale when the moose population was at record highs, so that cannot be used but there is always the weather to blame! About every 10 years bad weather can be a factor in winter kill but usually the herd can come back within 1-2 years but not with wolfs killing the fawns and calves at such a high rate.

By far the largest cause of our 11-year decline of both the moose and deer population is politically motivated. Our current governor was for wolf management prior to the election but changed his mind after winning the election along with the Lt. governor who supports tribal beliefs. Isn’t there supposed to be a separation of church and state. Could it be that through DNR surveys our governor realizes he can get more votes with the majority? Could it be the DNR catering to animal rights groups in order not to cope with lawsuits that would result in lost manhours and costs? It’s unfortunate but I believe this may be the only way for hunters to get policy changes that conserve the moose and deer herd before both end up on the endangered species list along with hunters.


Another concern is if the Wolves eat the old and weak deer first, could this result in a high risk of a wolf eating a CWD positive deer thus spreading CWD through fecal matter within its vast range?


In conclusion, I believe the wolf population should be managed through hunting and trapping and maintained at 1,700 with 90% confidence intervals. This figure is above the population goal of 1,500 wolves as recommended by the Federal Endangered Species Act. It is also above the state of Minnesota’s minimum population goal of 1,600.


God gave the hunter the ability to manage themselves through seasons and quotas to ensure a healthy herd and pay to protect that herd through DNR conservation and management from license fees. We all have a common goal and that is to protect animals to various degrees. Proper management can keep both predator and prey healthy for years to come. Let’s all work together to make sure this happens and keep politics out of the equation.


Thank You,

Dale Irish

Hunters 4 Hunters Board Member



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I am new here. Is there a place to post wolf airings and pictures. My cameras caught this illegal alien roaming my property in Koochiching county.


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Thanks Dale, much time and effort went into that. The deer-wolf population is out of balance and I don't

think in some areas there are enough deer left to feed them. They have to kill pets, livestock and anything just to survive. I have seen a number of trail cam's with more wolves than deer and on most you can see the wolves rib cage. The feds killed a pack of 8 between Ely and Babbit this fall that were killing pets. The report out of the Ely paper claimed the wolves were very lean for this time of year. I think we will see many wolves starving over the course of winter. I don't understand why a wolf season…

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Good read and informative thanks for sharing

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Statistics of wolf population and projection should definitely overshadow any reason given why a decline in Moose and Deer population is present. Even if the population decrease is due to illness it only strengthens the argument that population management is even more important.

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Roger Peterson
Roger Peterson
Dec 29, 2023

Well said, keep sharing your informatio…

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