Few species are as historically vilified, as ecologically valued, and as continually controversial as wolves. Despite the vital role they play in many of our native ecosystems, wolves were nearly eliminated in the U.S. by relentless hunting and predator control programs determined to wipe them out. Today, though wolves have returned to some parts of the American landscape, intolerance, fear, misinformation and loss of federal protections continue to threaten wolves’ recovery and survival.
Though Defenders of Wildlife works year-round to protect wolves, Wolf Awareness Week, the third week in October is a time we set aside in particular to celebrate these important animals, highlight the threats to their survival, and spread the word about what you can do to help wolves stay protected and help humans learn to live alongside them. Below are the three primary wolf species of North American.
Mexican Gray Wolf
The War on Wolves
Gray wolf recovery in the U.S. is not complete. In states where they have already lost federal protection, wolves face rabid anti-wolf politics, aggressive lethal control, and more. To make matters worse, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to remove protections for gray wolves in nearly all of the 48 lower states — a decision could change the future of gray wolf conservation forever. Across the entire country, wolves have yet to return to suitable habitat in many parts of their historic range. By delisting them now, USFWS would be turning their backs on one of the best wildlife conservation stories in U.S. history before it’s finished.
Fact vs. Fiction
Historically demonized and misunderstood, myths about wolves are now so common that they’ve become accepted as fact in parts of the West, helped along by anti-wolf blogs and websites seeking to frighten the public and impact political decisions regarding wolves. This misinformation is even found in media stories, legislative hearings and within state wildlife agencies. With federal protection at risk and the future of wolf recovery on the line, spreading the truth about wolves and combating the lies has never been more important.
Coexistence in Action
All too often, the human response to a conflict between wolves and livestock is to kill the wolves. This reaction is not only ineffective, but it can pose a serious challenge to wolf conservation. Defenders works with local stakeholders, governments and livestock producers on the ground to promote different solutions to this problem — ones that keep livestock safe without killing wolves.