U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

February 2005




Wolves (Canis lupus) have recolonized many areas of the Midwestern United States, prompting concern over the possible risk wolves may pose to livestock producers. To better understand the risks wolves may pose to livestock, we initiated a 3-y study examining the food habits of wolves in an agricultural area of northwestern Minnesota and their relation to depredation records of livestock losses in the same area. We collected 533 wolf feces during the non-winter seasons from 1997–1999. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was the most abundant food item (39.2%) of all prey items for all 3 y combined. The deer component comprised both adult deer (26.9%) and fawns (12.3%). Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) were the second highest food item at 16.6%. Moose (Alces alces), both adults (13.0%) and calves (0.6%), comprised 13.6% of the diet of wolves, followed by cattle (10.3%), domestic pig (4.4%), lagomorphs (3.6%) and beaver (Castor canadensis; 2.1%). During our 3-y study, eight head of livestock were officially reported as wolf depredations in the agricultural lands within the study area. The confirmed losses included one sheep, one injured cow, one blind cow and five calves. Even with very low deer and moose densities in the study area and a high preponderance of cattle in the area (>1000 head), the wolves in the area preyed mostly on native prey species.