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Gray Wolf Fact Sheet

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has released a proposal to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list. This rash move threatens to undo the unfinished recovery efforts of the past four decades, and once again decimate population levels. View our Action Alert to oppose this measure and advocate for the protection of these majestic animals!


  • The gray wolf, a keystone predator, is an integral link in the food chain of the ecosystems to which it belongs. It regulates prey populations, which indirectly restores plant communities and reestablishes species dependent upon these habitat conditions.
  • Before widespread settlement over the continent, an estimated 400,000 wolves roamed the landscape.
  • Wolves hunt ungulates, and unless human intervention and loss of habitat reduce their hunting options, they do not generally pose a problem for livestock or human safety.
  • Their annihilation was hastened by habitat destruction and government bounties that encouraged hunting wolves by any means.
  • These programs have left a legacy of wolf persecution, turning them into one of the most hated species by many people.
  • The gray wolf was placed on the endangered species list under the Endangered Species Act in 1973 as a response to perilously low population levels.

Current Situation:

  • An estimated 5,000 gray wolves currently reside in the lower 48 states.
  • Removing gray wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act places management of the species in the hands of state agencies, and many of these states have already announced plans to institute wolf hunting seasons.
  • FWS has released its proposal to delist gray wolves to appease certain interest groups, like the hunting lobby and livestock industry. This contradicts the Endangered Species Act, which requires the use of sound science in making any decisions about delisting a species.
  • Returning this key carnivore to the wide variety of habitats it once occupied would help restore balance to those ecosystems and prevent exploitation through cruel hunting methods.
  • (Update Aug., 2013) According to news reports, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has put on hold the scientific peer review of its proposal to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of species protected by the Endangered Species Act. FWS disqualified three scientists from the panel of experts reviewing this proposal because they signed a letter that questioned some of the science behind the delisting of gray wolves. The decision to list or delist species is intended to be based on commercial and scientific information, but it is evident that politics informed the actions of FWS. This manipulation of the panel is not the way to conduct a fair and independent review of a matter, particularly one that holds many lives in the balance. We encourage you to continue to write to FWS, urging a fair process that takes all available scientific information into account. Read more here.
  • (Update Feb., 2014) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reopened the comment period on its proposal to delist gray wolves. This comes after an independent scientific panel published a peer review of the science used in the FWS' proposal, and deemed it inadequate. They found that the proposal is "not well supported by the available science," and "was strongly dependent on a single publication, which was found to be preliminary and not widely accepted by the scientific community," according to a statement from the University of California-Santa Barbara. The comment period closed again on March 27th, 2014.

For more information about the highly endangered Mexican Gray Wolf subspecies, click here.

For more information about the Alexander Archipelago subspecies, and efforts to list it as threatened or endangered, click here.


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