The number of wolves in the wild in Minnesota appears to have risen sharply, according to details from an annual state survey released Monday.
After remaining stable during the past four years, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) survey for 2016-17 found there were roughly 500 wolf packs and 2,856 wolves.
That’s up about 25 percent from the 2015-2016 survey, which estimated the number of packs at 439 and the wolf population at 2,278.
The latest survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 500 wolves.
DNR experts point to an increase in the number of deer, which wolves rely on for food, as playing a role in the wolf population surge.
From spring 2015 to spring 2016, deer density within the wolf range is estimated to have increased 22 percent. “Changes in estimated wolf abundance generally have tracked those of deer over the past five years,” said John Erb, the DNR’s wolf research scientist.
The wolf population survey is conducted in midwinter near the low point of the annual population cycle. A winter survey makes counting from a plane more accurate because the forest canopy is reduced and snow makes it easier to spot darker shapes on the ground.