Are North American wolves endangered?
Yes, they are.
While gray wolves were delisted in 2020, they were reinstated in February 2022. A court vacated the delisting and put back protections on most gray wolves within the lower 48 states. So gray wolves that are not part of the Northern Rocky Mountain population are considered endangered in all states, except for Minnesota, where they’re considered threatened.1
When this new ruling went into effect, with it came a prohibition on any take of wolves without authorization.1
There are many arguments for and against this ruling and whether or not gray wolves still need protection. When you take into consideration that wolves still aren’t at their historic numbers or range within the U.S., it’s clear they still need protection.
- The recovery we’ve seen was only possible due to ESA protections
- Gray wolves only take up about 10% of their historic range
- There’s still a lot of anti-wolf sentiment
Continued ESA protections give wolves the stability they need to stay well away from near extinction. They’ve been there before and we don’t want them to get there again. Plus, protections for wolves help them establish new territories.
Wolves will disperse from their packs to find new territories and set up packs of their own. Without protections, these lone wolves can be shot on sight when they cross state lines and never get a chance to settle themselves in new areas.3
What about other wolf species?
Red wolves have had incredibly low population numbers – they were labeled as biologically extinct in 1980. Although efforts were made to reestablish them in the wild, politics got in the way and have made their recovery that much more difficult.3
However, the Center for Biological Diversity brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for not revising their red wolf recovery plan like they were supposed to back in 2018. A ruling in 2020 has required that the USFWS revise its plan by 2023.3&4
Mexican Gray Wolves were completely hunted out of the Southwest by the mid-1900s. With human expansion came reduced prey for these wolves and they turned to the next best thing – livestock. This put a target on their backs. They’ve had stalled recovery and it’s thought there are only 163 Mexican gray wolves left in the U.S.3
Wolves are an integral part of our environment. Without them, everything in the ecosystem suffers. They have a long history of being misrepresented for the role they actually play. Without a changing attitude around wolves, they could easily be hunted to near extinction again.
We stand up for wolves.
We want to ensure that wolves have a chance to reinstate themselves in their historic territory and thrive within the United States.