Wolf attacks becoming a costly problem in greater Minnesota


Grand Forks, ND

There’s a lot of “huffing and puffing” going on in Greater Minnesota, and it’s costing the state a lot of money.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture says wolf attacks are becoming a pricey problem. Just ask third-generation Hinckley farmer Nathan Nelson; he says wolves attacked and killed 10 of his calves. “It’s a big problem,” he said. Nelson’s neighbor dealt with a similar situation as did dozens of other farmers mostly up north in cities like Bemidji, Roseau, Grand Rapids and Aitkin.

“Their livestock gets prayed on often, and unfortunately that’s a huge economic impact for that family and that family’s farm,” Minnesota Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Charlie Poster said.

The state has a program to help reimburse farmers. The problem is that the price of cattle is way up; right now, a 500-pound calf goes for around $1,500.

Just in the first three months of this fiscal year, the state paid out more than $70,000 because of wolf attacks. Multiply that by four to get a rough projection for the whole year, and you get more than $280,000, which is more than double what the state paid for wolf attacks for all of last year.

“The value has gone up so much,” Poster said, “we’ve actually exhausted the appropriations.”

Poster says Gov. Mark Dayton wants the wolf depredation fund to double. The Department of Agriculture is also touring Greater Minnesota, teaching farmers like Nelson how to access funds and protect their livestock.

“They’re going to continue to eat,” Nelson said of the wolves, “whether it’s deer or our livestock or whatever it is.”

Poster said Minnesota’s wolf depredation fund started in the 1970s when the Endangered Species Act was passed. He explained that farmers could no longer protect their livestock themselves, so the government agreed to pay for losses caused by wolves.

Minnesotans were briefly allowed to hunt gray wolves until late last year when a federal judge reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for the animal about three years after wolves were removed from the list.