Gray wolves have lived in North America for at least half a million years. There were once many wolves here. But by the 1960s, the United States wolf population had crashed. Only a small number were left.
In 1973, the Endangered Species Act became law. It protects animals that could become extinct. Gray wolves were put on the endangered-species list. Killing them was illegal.
This law was a success. Today, there are more than 6,000 gray wolves in the continental U.S.
In January 2021, the U.S. government removed wolves from the endangered-species list. But some conservationists disagree with the decision. They say wolves still need protection.
Saving the Wolves
In parts of the country, wolves are doing well. Some say that means the wolf does not belong on the endangered-species list. But gray wolves used to live across most of the U.S. Now they are found in fewer than 12 states.
Some people think that means the species is still at risk. “There are still too many places where the population hasn’t come back,” says Jason Rylander. He is a conservationist.
Environmental groups are suing the U.S. government for removing wolf protections. For now, it is up to each state to protect most of its wolves. In November 2020, people in Colorado voted to protect wolves inside the state’s borders.
Gray Wolf Facts
The gray wolf has long teeth. It has strong jaws. Male wolves weigh about 100 pounds. They are more than six feet long. (That includes a wolf’s bushy tail. It is one or two feet long.) Wolves live in packs, or groups. They communicate using their bodies and tails. They also howl. Howling helps pack members stay in touch.