South Dakota Cries ‘No Wolf’

Hunters in the Mount Rushmore State can now drop the hammer on transient gray wolves.

South Dakota Cries ‘No Wolf’

South Dakota GFP opens the door to hunting gray wolves in the state.

South Dakota game officials have made it, well, official. Hunters are now allowed to shoot gray wolves on sight year-round, same as coyotes. As of Jan. 4, 2021, this apex predator is no longer protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and this recent action allows South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to manage wolves as a predator/varmint, as defined by state law. Unlike some neighboring states, GFP does not have any intentions of establishing gray wolves in South Dakota.

Over the past few years, South Dakota has had a handful of gray wolves killed on both sides of the Missouri River. However, according to GFP biologists, South Dakota does not have a resident gray wolf population — those killed in the state likely transient animals that have dispersed from populations in other states. 

Under GFP’s management authority, trappers, sportsmen and women, landowners and livestock producers now have the ability to harvest gray wolves across the state. Anyone who harvests a wolf in South Dakota is required to notify a wildlife conservation officer within 24 hours after the kill and then submit the animal for inspection by a GFP representative no later than 48 hours after the kill. 

While wolves and coyotes share many physical similarities — and both are now legal to hunt in South Dakota — hunters should be aware of their differences because, as mentioned, wolves must be submitted for inspection.

A wolf’s face is broad and blocky with a large nose pad and short, rounded ears, while a coyote’s face is narrow and pointed with a small nose pad and taller, pointed ears. A wolf measures 26 to 32 inches at the shoulder with a nose to tail tip range of 4.5 to 6.5 feet. Coyotes measure 21 to 24 inches and 3.5 to 4.5 feet respectively. Wolves weigh 70 to 150 pounds while their smaller cousin weighs 15 to 50 pounds. A wolf’s coat is typically grizzled gray but can also be mostly or all black. White or cream color coats rare outside far northern populations. A coyote’s coat is gray or reddish-brown, often grizzled, often with a whitish throat, chest and/or belly. For more information on this development and other South Dakota hunting opportunities, visit


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