Study: Human Wolf Killing Increased for Years After End of Public Hunt

July 10, 2023

Contact: Maureen Hackett, (612) 250-5915

Hopkins, MN – Howling For Wolves founder Dr. Maureen Hackett applauded the publication in Nature’s Scientific Reports of a groundbreaking peer-reviewed study that measured severe negative impacts of wolf hunting and showed large numbers of wolves were killed during and long after the end of Minnesota’s controversial wolf hunts from 2012 through 2014.

“This study strengthens what we’ve known for years: legal wolf killing leads to uncontrollable illegal wolf killing,” said Dr. Hackett. “We can end this uncontrollable cycle with a positive shift in human behavior toward wolves. The states where wolves live must stop condoning wolf killing, end public hunting and emphasize nonlethal plans. Until then, all wolves need continued federal protections and enforcement of wolf poaching laws to let them survive. Wolves have an essential ecological role and are vital for biodiversity. For Minnesota wolves, the epicenter of wolf recovery, the Minnesota state legislature must ban wolf hunting and trapping as soon as possible. We cannot risk another wolf hunt.”  

The study analyzed wolf survival data spanning 2004-2019 collected by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It found the overall wolf mortality trend doubled and human-caused mortality increased 3.5X with Minnesota hunting seasons 2012-2014 and remained elevated through the 2019 dataset. Though the three wolf hunts from 2012-2014 had quotas that were touted as low, these hunts had severe negative long-term effects on wolf survival.  

The study's statistical analysis showed that pre-hunt overall wolf mortality remained a constant 21.7% from 2004 until November 2012 when the hunts started. Then wolf mortality doubled to 43.4% during the first hunting and trapping season and remained doubled through 2019, five years after the hunts ended. The main driver of this dramatic increase in wolf mortality was human causes.  

Before wolf hunting, there was a constant 10.0% annual human-caused wolf mortality. With the start of hunting seasons in 2012, human-caused wolf mortality jumped to 35.8% – more than tripling from the 10% pre-hunt rate. The overall annual wolf mortality trend then doubled to an average 43.4% with 35.8% by human causes and 7.6% natural causes through 2019, more than five years after the public wolf hunts ended in 2014.  

This latest information shows the danger of wolf hunts and the need to pass laws to prohibit wolf hunting.  

“Minnesota’s wolf population is still reeling from our last hunt more than 10 years ago,” said Dr. Hackett. “Another hunt in Minnesota will make true wolf population recovery next to impossible.”


Study Author Roman Teo Oliynyk, is a computational biologist and geneticist at Harvard Medical School, Department of Genetics. He can be reached at

Howling For Wolves educates the public about the wild wolf to foster tolerance and to ensure the wolf’s long-term survival. Howling For Wolves opposes wolf hunting and trapping and all wildlife snaring. It advocates for nonlethal prevention methods that reduce wolf-livestock conflicts and supports federal protections for the wolf.

July 10, 2023