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


Date of this Version


Document Type



Hansen, J. and C. Urbigkit. 2021. Monitoring for Wolves. Wildlife Damage Management Technical Series. USDA, APHIS, WS National Wildlife Research Center. Fort Collins, Colorado. 11p.


US gov't work


Gray wolves (Canis lupus) and Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) once again roam across landscapes where they have been absent for decades (Figure 1). With wolf range expansion comes increased opportunities for conflicts when wolves harass or prey on domestic livestock or other animals. Wolves have relatively high reproductive and dispersal rates but detecting individual animals in low-density populations is difficult without a concerted monitoring effort. In fact, wolf presence in an area often is not known until there is a confirmed livestock depredation. Ranchers and wildlife damage management experts need not wait for livestock depredations to occur before wolves are detected in an area. There are a variety of simple and inexpensive tools and techniques for monitoring for wolf presence (Figure 2). This publication provides information on the benefits of monitoring and monitoring techniques. For additional information on wolf damage management, please see the Wildlife Damage Management Technical Series publication on gray wolves.

Monitoring for the presence of wolves can pose difficulties but there are numerous reasons for ranchers, wildlife damage management professionals, and others to undertake such efforts. Documenting the presence of wolves provides information that livestock owners can use in making decisions about managing livestock to help prevent or minimize wolf depredations. Wildlife damage management professionals may be able to use monitoring information when assessing livestock depredation events and verifying wolf depredations in cases involving damage payments. The information may also help determine whether the presence of wolves is responsible for changing behaviors and movements of livestock, game species, or other wildlife sharing the landscape with wolves.