Gray Wolf

File photo. Photo Credit: Tobias Knoepfli (iStock).

Federal wildlife officials have made the decision to remove the gray wolf from the U.S. Endangered Species Act list after 45 years of protected status.

Announced on Thursday, this delisting of the gray wolf will allow for management of the species on a state-by-state and tribe-by-tribe basis. The press release on the topic states that more than 6,000 wolves are found in the lower 48 states of the US, showing "the successful recovery" of the animal as this number reportedly exceeds the official conservation goal for recovery. Those in favor of continued protection of this species fear that this will open the door to excessive hunting and trapping of the gray wolf.

According to the official press release on the topic, the decision to delist the animal was based "on the best scientific and commercial data available."

Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation-focused non-profit, released a statement calling the delisting "premature and reckless," claiming that there are still "significant portions of the wolf's range where the species is not secure."

With this delisting, the gray wolf joins a number of other species that have recovered according to the Federal government, including bald eagles, American alligators, and 50 other species. Fourteen species, including the gray wolf, have been determined to not be threatened or endangered since 2017.

Gray wolves had been previously delisted from protection in several states in the Northern Rockies where populations previously reached a "healthy and sustainable" level including Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and parts of Oregon and Washington. Wolves from these areas have expanded into other parts of the country, including northern California and Colorado. It is worth noting that some experts fear the threshold for sustainability has yet to be reached in Colorado due to the small number of wolves that have been observed.

The country's largest gray wolf population, outside of Alaska, can be found in the Western Great Lakes area, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

For the next five years, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to monitor the species to "ensure the continued success of the species."

The Endangered Species Act was passed under the Nixon Administration in 1973 with the goal of protecting imperiled species. Under the act, the gray wolf was considered endangered in all 48 lower states by 1978 with the exception of Minnesota, where the wolf was considered "threatened." More than 1,600 species are listed as threatened or endangered in the United States under the act, including the Mexican wolf.

Read more on this decision here.

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Spencer McKee manages the OutThere Colorado digital publication as the Director of Content and Operations. In his spare time, Spencer loves to rock climb, trail run, and mountain bike. Follow along with his adventures on Instagram at @spence.outside


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(7) comments

C. Crystalline

Colorado Parks and Wildlife: In addition to the lone male wolf detected in July 2019, Colorado Parks and Wildlife was able to confirm the presence of a pack of wolves living in the northwest corner of the state in January of 2020.

They are already here. Giving any money to the government is a waste. They either spread, or die. Up to the wolves, not the taxpayers.

Cactus Ed

The ranching industry insisted that wolves be eradicated from the West. Now, they say they are "fine" with wolves someday reclaiming Colorado on their own, but they strenuously oppose reintroduction. Isn't that curious?

It has been two decades since the government reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone and Central Idaho. In that time, wolves from those tiny seed populations have now reclaimed Washington, Oregon, and even northern California. Yet, northern Colorado has only seen a handful of wolves wander into the state during that same two-decade period. None of these mostly solitary wolves, including the group of four last spotted in January in far northwest Colorado, have ever established themselves in the state, and none ever yielded a breeding population. Why? Look no further than the recent story about wolves being killed just over the border in Wyoming:

So, it is with the above in mind that we continue to say that natural recolonization is a pipe dream at best, and the anti-wolf faction's ruse de jour. Reintroduction is the only way those brave solo explorers wandering south out of Yellowstone into Colorado will ever find a reason to settle down in the Centennial State.

Return the wolf, restore the balance.

For more information on this and related topics, visit the FAQs developed by the scientists at Colorado State University:


There are only a few sibling wolves in the far northwestern corner of Colorado, and one lone wolf a couple hundred miles to the east on the state line; the nearest of their kind are hundreds of miles away in the Northern Rockies. They will either inbreed or die without mates. According to this article, "It is worth noting that some experts fear the threshold for sustainability has yet to be reached in Colorado due to the small number of wolves that have been observed." That's not "some" experts; that's every expert and most people who understand the birds and the bees. That's not a footnote; that is the real story.


Finally. Also need to stop the importation of the wolves from Canada which are not a native species.


I agree!


NPR had a documentary in the last year about this.

These Grey wolves are a much larger specie of Wolves. More powerful and dangerous.

Cactus Ed

Arguments about whether the wolves that will be reintroduced to Colorado will be the same subspecies as the wolves that once lived here are simply a red herring. The most renowned conservation scientists in the world will have direct input into the decisions about what subspecies of wolf most closely represented the species native to Colorado..

The bottom line is that the wolves selected to recolonize the wilds of western Colorado will be from stock that is familiar with hunting elk as their primary prey—because what we aim to do is rekindle wolf predation as an ecological process. We are advocating wolf restoration in Colorado regardless of the status of wolves under state or Federal endangered species laws. The plan that the Colorado Parks & Wildlife biologists develop will determine where the seed stock will come from, and that decision will be made based upon the best available science.

Return the wolf, restore the balance.

For more information on this and related topics, visit the FAQs developed by the scientists at Colorado State University:

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