Gray wolves once dominated the western landscape, but widespread killing virtually wiped them out by the 1940s. Today, wolves are back in the Northern Rockies thanks to a highly successful reintroduction program and dedicated conservation efforts. But the species’ recovery is far from over. Wolves still face very serious threats from people who aren’t willing, or aren’t prepared, to share the landscape with this important animal.
Why They’re Important
Wolves are considered a “keystone” species for the outsized role they play in maintaining nature’s balance. By preying on deer, moose and elk, wolves prevent these animals from growing too numerous and destroying native plant communities. As with many predators, wolves often target the weakest members of the herd--the old, sick and young—which helps keep those populations healthy and strong.
The greatest threat to wolves is conflict with people. Though wolves pose very little direct threat to humans, they do occasionally prey on livestock, and hundreds of wolves are killed each year in response. More recently, hundreds of wolves have been shot or trapped by hunters during state-regulated wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.
What Defenders Is Doing to Help Wolves in the West
Defenders of Wildlife works with ranchers to implement nonlethal deterrents, such as livestock-guarding dogs, range riders, electric fencing, and scare devices, as well as better animal husbandry practices that allow livestock and wolves to coexist. In addition, we are fighting to stop unscientific managementpractices that unnecessarily reduce wolf populations and prevent the further recovery of the species across the West.