Conservation Wildlife Management

Minnesota Congressman Posts Viral Video of Wolf Killing Deer at Logging Site. Calls for Delisting

Minnesota congressman Pete Stauber posted the video on social media as part of his call for an ESA delisting, claiming that wolves have “lost any fear of humans”
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A Minnesota congressman is calling for delisting wolves as a threatened species. <p>Getty Images</p>

A video depicting a gray wolf chasing and eventually killing a deer at a logging site has gone viral on social media after U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota’s 8th District posted it to his campaign’s X (formerly Twitter) account.

“A logger from northern St. Louis County just sent me this video of a wolf running through his job site and taking down a whitetail deer,” Stauber writes in the post. “As you can see, wolves lost any fear of humans and are increasingly dangerous to livestock & pets and decimating our deer herd. Delist!”

The video, which has 5.5 million views, emerges as Stauber continues the fight to delist gray wolves through an act of Congress. Gray wolves in Minnesota are currently listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act after short stints as a delisted species from January 2012 to December 2014 and from November 2020 to February 2022. On Feb. 6, Stauber penned a letter to House leadership requesting that the fiscal year 2024 appropriations package include language delisting gray wolves again, a popular attempt at legislating wolf management under the auspices of an annual budget bill. (This strategy of attaching non-financial legislation to an appropriations package is commonly referred to as a “bill rider.”)

“We ask that the final Appropriations package for FY2024 include language passed by the House last fall, requiring the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the November 2020 final rule delisting [gray wolves],” reads the letter, signed by Stauber and 16 other members of Congress. That “language” is in reference to the “Trust the Science Act,” which passed the House in November 2023 attached to a different appropriations bill.

Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mike Simpson (R-ID) used a similar strategy on a budget bill in 2011, passing a bipartisan rider delisting wolves in Montana and Idaho. Unlike wolves in the Upper Midwest, the Rocky Mountain gray wolves have remained delisted since then.

Whitetail deer are a natural prey source for gray wolves in the Upper Midwest, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources large carnivore specialist Dan Stark tells Outdoor Life. As for whether they’ve lost fear of humans, Stark recalls a time when two wolves ran right past him while pursuing elk in a different part of the country, a sign that the wolf’s behavior in Stauber’s video, while rare to witness, might not be that abnormal.

According to Stark, Minnesota is home to approximately 2,900 wolves (of some 4,200 across the Upper Midwest). While some Minnesotans like Stauber insist that the population of gray wolves is actually much higher than 2,900, even that estimate is well above the federal delisting goal of 1,250 to 1,400 wolves.

“The DNR recognizes that the wolf population has recovered, and we have a wolf management plan in place,” Stark says. “We’re prepared to manage wolves once they come off the list.”

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On Feb. 2, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it had not found sufficient evidence to relist wolves in the Rocky Mountains and western U.S. where the species currently lacks federal protection, despite two petitions to do so. In the announcement, the FWS mentioned their development of a first-ever nationwide gray wolf recovery plan, signaling a federal intent to delist wolves elsewhere in their range in the future. FWS says that plan will emerge in December 2025.