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Places for Wolves
Defenders’ overarching goal is to have multiple, resilient wolf populations thriving throughout their former habitat. We will keep pressing for restoration and recovery in unoccupied areas suitable for wolves and for continued progress and facilitation of natural dispersal in areas where recovery is underway.
We know from extensive experience that providing science-based tools, techniques and information is the key to resolving conflicts among stakeholders over wolf management and to fostering a transition from hostility toward wolves to a broader mindset of active stewardship of the land for all wildlife, including predators.
With this transformative approach and our ambitious plan of action, Defenders will continue to be an advocate for wolves on the ground, in the courts and in the halls of Congress. We will be ready to navigate the twists and turns and roadblocks ahead on the road to full recovery of our native wolf species in the lower 48 states.
Wolf conservation is at a crossroads. We must keep up our fight against unscientific management practices and policies that set back the restoration of the species and threaten Defenders’ vision for wolf conservation in the lower 48 states.
Defenders engages in a wide range of specific actions designed to meet our objectives for wolf recovery.
The Northern Rockies were once a gray wolf stronghold, but predator removal programs initiated in the 1880s essentially wiped wolves out in the region by the 1930s.
Gray wolves are beginning to make a comeback in the Pacific Northwest. Wolves were once found throughout much of the region.
Prior to European settlement, the Southwest was home to the Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies that ranged from southern Arizona, New Mexico and southwestern Texas to the mountains of south-central Mexico. The species was decimated by a concerted campaign to exterminate wolves throughout the West.
Wolves from the north and south historically met, interbred and thrived in the Southern Rockies. Today, appropriate and suitable wolf habitat and prey still abound in this region that includes southern Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, northern New Mexico and Arizona.
Gray wolf recovery in the Great Lakes region after near-extirpation has been notably successful. In the 1960s, only a remnant population of 300 to 1,000 wolves limited to northeastern Minnesota remained.
Wolves have yet to regain a footing in the Northeast since disappearing as a result of the widespread extermination campaign that began when the colonial settlers arrived.
The red wolf (currently recognized as a different species than the gray wolf) once ranged as far north as Pennsylvania and as far west as central Texas. Because of its wide distribution, the red wolf played an important role in a variety of ecosystems, from pocosin lowlands to forested mountains.
Once the most widespread carnivore on Earth, wolves were eradicated for centuries across Europe, and early immigrants to North America brought with them their cultural prejudice and fear of the species.