A lone wolf was spotted north of Olivia Wednesday, catching the attention of local residents and conservation officials.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources confirmed the rare sighting was likely a wolf. The determination was based on the animal’s body, its muzzle, the coloring, and the shape of its ears.
The DNR believes the animal is probably a dispersed male, well out of its range.
MaryDawn Hatch lives about two miles north of Olivia. She said her husband initially spotted the wolf in the field behind their barn around noon. The couple wanted to confirm that it was actually a wolf they’d seen, so they called “Beaver,” a cousin and avid outdoorsman.
Hatch said the wolf covered a mile stretch as the trio tracked it, crossing the road, and making it halfway through another field within ten minutes. “He wasn’t wasting any time,” she said.
Beaver, Hatch said, got a look at the animal through binoculars and determined it was a young wolf.
The animal was traveling straight east, so Hatch called her friend, animal enthusiast, and Renville County Deputy Karla Koplin.
“[Hatch]” called me and said, ‘you wanna see a wolf?’,” Koplin told SMN. She searched for the wolf, seeing it in the distance away a short time later.
Koplin then called a friend at the DNR, who told her he had never seen a wolf in the area and was on the way to meet her.
“It ran right in front of me!” Koplin said of tracking the wolf as she waited for the DNR.
About 40 minutes after the call from Hatch, Koplin and DNR Conservation Officer Brett Wiltrout convened north of Bird Island, about five miles east of Olivia.
DNR officials tell SMN the track documented by the conservation officer measured approximately four inches long.
Dan Stark, the DNR’s large carnivore specialist, says Minnesota’s wolf range runs from Chisago County on the state’s eastern border, west to Morrison County, and up to the northwest corner of the state.
So why might a wolf be in Renville County?
Stark says when wolves reach maturity or breeding age, they’ll disperse, leaving their natal pack in search of a mate. They could be looking for an area not currently occupied by another wolf pack, according to Stark.
Wolf packs haven’t established in southern Minnesota, Stark says, because of conflicts such as human population, and road density. He said he receives a handful of calls reporting wolf sightings each year. Sometimes the canines are found deceased, or they might be spotted in pictures captured on a trail camera.
Wolves were removed from the federal endangered species list in Oct 2020. Under state management guidelines, wolves can only be killed under certain circumstances to protect livestock and pets.
Concerned livestock and pet owners should keep pets on a leash and remember not to leave food accessible to any wildlife.