HALLOCK, Minn. (AP) — A northern Minnesota sheriff says his office is better equipped than state or federal officials to investigate whether wolves have killed local ranchers' livestock.

Kittson County Sheriff Steve Porter is using a Minnesota law that allows sheriffs to investigate such cases, Minnesota Public Radio reported . The investigations have previously fallen to the state Department of Natural Resources or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

Local ranchers have submitted 45 claims of wolf kills over the past six years. The state has paid nearly $60,000 in compensation, but Porter believes ranchers have lost more than $118,000 in uncompensated losses.

State and federal officials say it's unlikely that wolves killed all of the missing cattle. Dan Stark, a large carnivore specialist with the Minnesota DNR, said certain criteria must be met to verify a wolf kill.

"There has to be a livestock carcass, and there has to be circumstantial evidence that animal was killed by a wolf," Stark said. That evidence could include tracks, bite marks and other traits characteristic of wolf kills.

But the sheriff said sometimes little is left behind by a wolf. He said his deputy interviewed 40 farmers about missing calves for which the farmers didn't receive compensation.

"You don't even find a bone. That's consistent with the wolf kill, and so their best guess is they're missing 118 calves," Porter said. "They don't get compensated for that. That's a big hit."

Steve Klopp has a beef cattle operation west of Karlstad. He lost six calves this year but was only reimbursed by the state for three. Klopp said he's frustrated that he can't do much to protect his cattle from the wolves.

"They're an impressive animal. They're fun to see. It's an amazing animal to see. I'll agree with that," Klopp said. "But they're not so fun when they're killing your cattle."

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org