Wolves 101

Historically, hundreds of thousands of wolves roamed wild throughout North America. During the 19th and 20th centuries, as the human population grew, people began to compete with wolves for game and habitat. Wolves were also viewed as pests and vermin and were slaughtered by the thousands. As a result, wolves virtually disappeared from the American west. 

Why They’re Important

Wolves play a significant role in ecosystem health. They help keep large herd animal populations in check, which can benefit numerous other plant and animal species. The carcasses of their prey also help to  redistribute nutrients and provide food for other wildlife species, most notably other scavengers. Indeed, scientists are just beginning to understand the full positive ripple effects that large predators contribute in nature. 

Major Threats

Today, wolves can be found in many different regions of the United States. In some regions, like the Great Lakes district, wolves are thriving and people in the towns and cities near them have accepted them as part of the wild landscape. However, in other regions, wolves are facing serious threats to their existence. Click the links at right to see the specific threats facing the different populations around the country.

What Defenders Is Doing to Help Wolves

For decades, Defenders has been a leader in promoting wolf recovery throughout their natural ranges. We were one of the driving forces behind their successful reintroduction in 1995 and 1996 into the Northern Rockies and greater Yellowstone region and led the way to reintroduce wolves to the Southwest in 1998.

Unfortunately, wolves today continue to face threats to their survival and Defenders continues to work on the ground, in the courts, and in state and federal legislatures to give America's wolves a lasting future.

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