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Living with wolves
Sharing the land

Wolves are generally shy of people and avoid contact with them. Any wild animal, however, can be dangerous if it is cornered, injured, sick or has become habituated to people through activities such as feeding. In the case of large predators, like wolves and bears, it is particularly important for people to avoid actions that encourage these animals to spend time near people or become dependent on them for food.

Gray wolf photo courtesy of John and Karen Hollingsworth

Gray wolf photo courtesy of John and Karen Hollingsworth.

Below are guidelines that can help decrease the chance of wolf habituation and conflict while living in and visiting wolf country. Many of these suggestions will also reduce conflicts with other large predators, such as bears.

Living and working in wolf country

Wolves occasionally come close to human dwellings or work sites, often in search of prey. Normally, they move on without causing problems. However, in some instances they can become habituated to humans and can become a nuisance or a threat. Habituated, or bold wolves, usually have to be removed from the population to avoid further conflict. Use the following guidelines to avoid practices that acclimate wolves to people.

  • Never intentionally feed wolves.
  • Dispose of food scraps and garbage in cans with secure lids. Disposal of refuse, especially meat scraps, may attract wolves. Wolves may become dependent on this food source and become accustomed to the presence of humans as a result.
  • Never intentionally leave food out at your work site and pack all food scraps and garbage out. Wolves can be attracted to discarded food by loggers and other outdoor workers and can become habituated to receiving food from humans.
  • Feeding deer or other prey animals can attract predators such as wolves. Discontinue feeding until wolves move out of the area. Hang suet feeders at least seven feet above the surface of the ground or snow.
  • Installing motion sensor lights may help keep wolves away from dwellings.

Always remain aware of wolf sign near your home or work area. Report consistent and close wolf sign or incidents of bold wolves to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at 715-762-1363.

wolf prints   wolf prints  wolf prints

Pets in wolf country

To protect both pets and wildlife, owners should always monitor their pets in areas where they may encounter wildlife. Unsupervised dogs that stray from their owner's homes or from their handlers into wolf territories can be at risk. Wolves may treat dogs as interlopers on their territories and attack and kill or injure them, especially if the wolves have pups nearby. Occasionally wolves do attack pets near residences.

  • Do not leave pet food outdoors where it may be accessible to a wolf or other predators. Wolves quickly become acclimated to a consistent food source and may eventually injure or kill pets.
  • If wolves have been sighted near your home, keep pets indoors or confine them in pens until wolves are no longer present. Secure other domestic animals such as rabbits and chickens when wolves are in the area.
  • If you are hiking or walking with your dog, do not let it wander out of your sight or voice control. Consider keeping it leashed.
  • If you are visiting in wolf country, don't leave your dog unattended or chained outside at a cabin or campsite.

If you believe your pet has been injured or killed by a wolf, contact U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services (north 1-800-228-1368, south 1-800-433-0663) as soon as possible and preserve evidence such as tracks. Wisconsin DNR reimburses for verified wolf depredation of dogs.

wolf prints   wolf prints  wolf prints

Camping in wolf country

As the population of wolves continues to rise in the western Great Lakes, casual users of wild lands are more likely to encounter wolves. Even so, sighting a wolf is likely to be a rare experience.

During the past 200 years, there have been very few cases of wild wolves attacking people. Recent cases in Ontario resulting in injuries to campers serve as a reminder that people active within wolf range should respect wolves and realize that while this species has an excellent "safety record," they are very capable predators. Keep in mind:

  • seeing a wolf at close range in the wild is a very rare occurrence. Do not be alarmed - the wolf will most likely slip away at the first opportunity;
  • know wolf sign, self-educate yourself about wolves prior to hiking in wolf country;
  • cook, wash dishes and store food away from sleeping areas;
  • pack out or dispose of garbage and leftover food properly;
  • suspend or pack food, toiletries and garbage out of reach of any wildlife; and
  • keep pets near you at all times.
wolf prints   wolf prints  wolf prints

Aggressive, fearless or bold wolves

Wolves are shy, but also very curious by nature. It is not unusual for a wolf to "stand its ground" when it sees a human. This is not a show of aggression, but rather curiosity. There are many stories of wolves actually approaching humans, but rarely with aggression. Attacks by wolves on humans are rare, but not unheard of. If a wolf acts aggressively (growls or snarls) or fearlessly (approaches humans at a close distance without fear) take the following actions:

  • do not run - predators instinctively chase running animals;
  • raise your arms and wave them in the air to make yourself look larger;
  • back away slowly; do not turn your back on the wolf; and
  • make noise and throw objects at the wolf.

Report wolf conflicts immediately to Wisconsin DNR 1-715-762-1363 or Wildlife Services (north 1-800-228-1368; south 1-800-433-0663).

Contact information
Assistant Big Game Ecologist
608-261-7588
Last revised: Wednesday September 06 2017