Wolf Recovery

Wolves and wolf recovery programs are polarizing issues throughout most of the United States. Some livestock operators, big game hunters, and big game guides view wolves as a predator that reduces livestock, elk, and deer populations, which in turn reduces financial gains.  Wolf conservationists and advocates view wolves as an apex carnivore necessary for ecosystem restoration.

  • Mexican Gray Wolf  In the Southwest, the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi, often called the Mexican Wolf) is a small, rare, genetically distinct subspecies from the Northern gray wolf.  Mexican gray wolves were largely eliminated by the 1970s due to widespread eradication efforts in the United States and Mexico.  The recovery strategy for the region aims to use a captive breeding program to increase the population of wolves and reintroduce captive wolves in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico."Mexican Wolf 02-01-2009 42" by David Ellis is licensed by CC BY 2.0

  • Northern Gray WolfIn the Northern Rocky Mountains, wolves (Canis lupus) had been eliminated, but there were healthy populations across the border to Canada. The recovery strategy for the region was to relocate wild wolves from Canada into suitable habitats in central Idaho (35 animals) and Yellowstone National Park (31 animals). The original goal of the recovery program was three populations of 150 wolves. The Northern gray wolf was removed from the endangered species list in 2012, at which time there were thought to be 1,774 wild wolves living in three genetically connected populations.  I"Gray Wolf" by funpics47 is licensed by CC BY 2.0

  • Western Great Lakes Wolf: When the wolves (Canis lupus) were listed as endangered in 1978, only several hundred
    wolves were present in Minnesota and a small number of wolves in Wisconsin and Michigan.  The recovery strategy in this Midwest region focused on expanding the healthy population from the Minnesota-Canadian border and establishing one or two additional populations in the three-state area.  Wolves in this region were removed from the endangered species list in 2011 when the population was more than 3,600 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. "Great Lakes Wolf" by Jim Liestman is licensed by CC BY 2.0


  • Red Wolf:  Red wolves (Canis rufus) were listed as endangered in 1967.  Recovery efforts attempted to locate the rare (perhaps nonexistent) wild red wolves in the southeastern United States.  Instead, coyotes (which share a home range with the red wolf) with the strongest red wolf characteristics were bred in a captive breeding program and released on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.  This Wildlife Refuge is located on an island, which helps to avoid hybridization with coyotes.  As of 2014, there are about 100 red wolves in the wild. "Look but don't touch..." by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region is is licensed by CC BY 2.0


  • Eastern Wolf: Genetic testing indicates the eastern wolf is a member of the red wolf-coyote lineage rather than a subspecies of the gray wolf.  This classification has brought about a proposal to separate the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) from the gray wolf.  This wolf has extensively hybridized with wolves in the western Great Lakes region and also hybridized with coyotes in the eastern Great Lakes region.