By Alex Lindsay
The Current Range of The Gray Wolf
In the United States, there are an estimated 14,000 gray wolves (Wolf Conservation Center). This number may seem high for a species on the endangered list, however, the current number is dismal compared to the species at their peak. In fact, in the contiguous United States, the gray wolf population is only at 6% of what their capacity once was (International Wolf Center). In their prime, gray wolves roamed thousands of miles, ranging as far north as the Canadian Arctic and as far south as India. Over time, however, human activity has made most of the globe an undesirable habitat for the species. The gray wolf only occupies 2/3 of their former range worldwide and down to 10% of their original range in the United States (Wolf Conservation Center).
Gray Wolves and The Endangered Species Act
As the number of Gray Wolves began to decrease in the United States, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service listed the gray wolf as endangered in 1974 (Center for Biological Diversity). In 1995, gray wolves were successfully reintroduced to the Northern Rocky Mountain Region. It was found that the reintroduction of wolves was so successful that in 2009 the wolves in this region no longer needed the protection of the Endangered Species Act (Bruskotter). It is important to note that the population of wolves did not increase until they were listed as endangered, and one can infer that the increased population of wolves can be associated with being listed as endangered. While they are no longer on the endangered species list, wolves still have some federal and state protections in regulating the population.
Are Populations in Oregon Successful?
The same success can be said about gray wolves in Oregon, though the increase in population has not been as dramatic as in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region. The species was removed from Oregon’s Endangered Species Act on November 9, 2015, but the wolf population has continued to grow despite being delisted thanks to the careful management of the wolves through the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. However, the population in Oregon in 2015 was a minimum of 110 wolves and only grew by 48 wolves from 2015 to April of 2020 (Landers; Wolf Conservation Center). With only 158 wolves in Oregon as of April 2020, it is questionable why the species was removed from state protection. It is true that gray wolves may never roam the United States like they once did, however, conservationists from around the nation are working diligently to ensure the gray wolf populations will continue to thrive.
Bruskotter, Jeremy T., et al. “Are Gray Wolves Endangered in the Northern Rocky Mountains? A Role for Social Science in Listing Determinations.” BioScience, vol. 60, no. 11, Dec. 2010, pp. 941–948., doi:10.1525/bio.2010.60.11.10.
Center For Biological Diversity. “U.S. Wolf Action Timeline.” Center For Biological Diversity, Center For Biological Diversity, 2017, www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/gray_wolves/action_timeline.html.
International Wolf Center. “Are Wolves Endangered.” International Wolf Center, International Wolf Center, n.d., wolf.org/are-wolves-endangered/.
Landers, Rich. “Oregon Wolves Continue to Expand, 2015 Report Shows.” The Spokesman-Review, The Spokesman-Review, 1 Mar. 2016, www.spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors/2016/mar/01/oregon-wolves-continue-expand-2015-report-shows/.
Wolf Conservation Center. “How Many Wild Wolves Are in the United States?” Wolf Conservation Center, Wolf Conservation Center, 2020, nywolf.org/learn/u-s-wolf-populations/