Population Status

The Gray wolf, Canis lupus, once ranged from coast to coast in North America not including the Southeast and Southwest (USFWS, 2011). Western expansion by settlers in the 18th century resulted in extreme over-exploitation of bison, deer, elk, and moose which are considered essential components of the gray wolf’s diet (USFWS, 2020). Their lack of prey caused a severe downfall in their population sizes and was eventually listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973 (USFWS, 2020). At the time of gray wolf’s listing, there were only a few hundred individuals remaining in Northeastern Minnesota and parts of Michigan (USFWS, 2020). There is currently a minimum of 8,000 individual gray wolves in Alaska and a minimum total of 5,500 in the 48 contiguous states (International Wolf Center, n.d.). Population sizes are currently increasing ((International Wolf Center, n.d.) and is accredited by the Endangered Species Act (USFWS, 2020). In 2019, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service was able to return the management of gray wolves back to the states, tribes, conservation organizations, and private landowners (USFWS, 2019). The USFWS considers the recovery of the gray wolf successful and plans to delist the species (USFWS, 2019).

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