A gray wolf prowls the winter forest Credit: National Park Service

It’s not easy being a wolf in northern Minnesota.

Every year dozens of the animals die of starvation, disease, parasites, vehicle traffic and poaching.

But the No. 1 killer of Minnesota wolves may come as a surprise: agents of the federal government, acting with the full force of the law.

In 2022, there were 174 documented wolf deaths in Minnesota, according to the latest state Department of Natural Resources data. Of those, 142 were killed by a relatively obscure arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the Wildlife Services division

Wildlife Services is tasked with mitigating conflicts between humans and wild animals. In Minnesota, the agency’s staffers answer complaints from ranchers who lose cattle and other livestock to wolf predation. The agency documents and verifies those complaints, and looks for non-lethal ways to protect threatened livestock, like wolf-proof fencing.

If those options don’t work, the agency traps and kills wolves deemed responsible for the loss. USDA officers kill more […]

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