Few animals evoke the wild like wolves: Majestic, rangy and highly social, they’re crucial in driving evolution and balancing ecosystems. Wolves once roamed freely throughout North America, in numbers estimated at some 2 million. But federal extermination programs and conflicts with human settlements have reduced their numbers to the breaking point.
By the 1960s gray wolves were finally protected under what would become the Endangered Species Act. They had been exterminated from all the contiguous United States except a portion of Minnesota and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.
After receiving federal protection, gray wolves saw tremendous recovery in the western Great Lakes region. Their populations grew to around 4,500 and expanded through Wisconsin and Michigan. Through natural migration from Canada and reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, wolves returned to the northern Rockies and are establishing a toehold in the West Coast states. There are now about 1,700 wolves across Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon, with a few wolves beginning to range into California.
Despite these substantial gains, the job of wolf recovery is far from over. Wolves need connected populations for genetic sustainability, and natural ecosystems need wolves to maintain a healthy balance of species — yet today wolves occupy less than 10 percent of their historic range and continue to face persecution. The Center has worked to save wolves since our inception, and we continue to defend them through science, the law and with our help