The Plight of Wolves in America

Wolf protections may be restored in the Western U.S. by mid-2022, but that's far too late. States in the Northern Rockies are in a killing frenzy. Additionally, three Yellowstone National Park wolves have already been killed near the park border and all Yellowstone wolves are now at risk.

Photos of wolves, call for emergency ESA relisting

A Brief History

Gray wolves were rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1970s, but remain "unrecovered" according to top scientists. Disregarding the science, the federal government began stripping Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections in 2011 and transferring management to the states. Read More

This ESA "delisting" led to hunters and trappers killing over 8,000 wolves in seven states between 2011-2019 and all federal protections being removed in 2020. The multi-state killing frenzy kicked into high gear in 2021, when Wisconsin slaughtered 216 wolves in 3 days and Idaho and Montana passed laws allowing them to kill 85-90 percent of their wolves. We have spoken out since the start and are currently working with scientists and activists urging emergency ESA relisting in the Western U.S. Join us in taking a stand.

Status Updates - A Quick Look at Recent Developments

On Sept. 15, 2021 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that they found our collective petitions urging emergency relisting of wolves in the Western U.S. under the ESA substantive and credible. But their comprehensive review will take until mid-2022 and wolves need help NOW!

On September 27, 2021 the National Park Service announced that three Yellowstone wolves have already been killed by hunters in Montana. All Yellowstone wolves are at risk, due to the heinous wolf policies of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, which border the park. Montana's 2021 legislation allows the slaughter of up to 85 percent of their wolves, while Idaho's allows for the killing of 90 percent. Wyoming has been killing wolves with abandon for some time. To make matters worse, over a third of the boundary Yellowstone shares with Montana is within a mile of private property where baiting is now allowed. (Wolves sense of smell can extend for miles!)

Given that wolves don't understand invisible boundary lines--and the fact that hunters and trappers are literally waiting for them to step out of the park--Yellowstone's entire wolf population could be destroyed before USFWS finishes its review. As an emergency measure, on Oct. 27, 2021 we urged the U.S. Forest Service to establish a 5-mile wolf hunting and trapping setback around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. This is part of an effort we helped facilitate with Footloose Montana. Over three dozen organizations and individuals have signed on and we encourage you to join in.

On Oct. 28, 2021 more than 20 U.S. senators sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland urging immediate emergency protections for wolves in U.S. West, to shield them for the next 240 days while true ESA relisting protections are considered. The Senators' letter is one of the pressure campaigns we've been working on with other groups behind the scenes. We are very grateful to Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) for hearing all our voices and taking the lead in the Senate by standing up for wolves in this way. Read AP news story

Meanwhile, Washington and Wisconsin have expressed their desire to kill more wolves, and wolf pups have been stomped to death in Idaho and gunned down in Oregon. This cannot stand. All Western U.S. wolves need protection.

Key 2021 Wolf Events, News & Opinions

The History: Removal from Federal Endangered Species List in 2011 Spelled Doom for American Wolves

Wolves were rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1970s when they gained federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. But on April 15, 2011, when President Obama signed the federal budget into law, he also signed the death warrants for thousands of wolves. This happened because Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) added a last-minute wolf-killing rider that removed wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in states that had managed to establish significant populations.

The reality was wolves had barely managed to gain a toehold and reoccupy territory from which they'd been recently extirpated by ranching and agricultural interests. They were not "recovered" by ESA standards. They did not occupy a significant portion of their historial range, and they did not meet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's own conservation principles for recovery--the 3 Rs, which include resiliency, redundancy and representation across of range of ecological contexts. Tester's rider also prohibited further judicial review, which meant conservation interests were no longer able to legally intervene.

This 2011 "delisting" turned management of these majestic animals over to state wildlife agencies. State managers moved quickly to open hunting seasons on wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In subsequent years over 8,000 wolves have been senselessly slaughtered by sport hunters and trappers alone in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan--1,141 were killed during the 2012-13 season alone. These kill numbers do not include the scores of wolves slaughtered by poachers and federal and state predator control programs.

Never in the history of the Endangered Species Act had a species been delisted because of politics. Wildlife management and politics hit a new low and established a dangerous precedent. Wolf management has swung full circle in 50 years from extermination to recovery, and back again. Free roaming packs of wolves in America will be lucky to survive, much less thrive, anywhere outside of the national parks, where they are protected.  Hunters and trappers also gained access to wolves by lying in wait for them when they cross the park boundaries, as has happened in Montana.

Please read the following for more details:

Independent Peer Review Panel Determined Government's Wolf Delisting Proposal Was Based on Outdated and Flawed Science

In early 2014 we had a special reason reason for hope that conservation science, not political science, would determine the future of America's imperiled gray wolves--that they would be able to continue to recover and expand their range into land the species once roamed and called home.

The reason for hope was two-fold: Not only did USFWS receive over a million comments on their ill-advised proposal to remove protections for wolves nationwide, but in February 2014 a scientific peer review panel rejected their proposal. 

What happened was USFWS canceled the first peer review in the wake of a scandal exposing their biased methodologies. Then the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at U.C. Santa Barbara took over peer review of the delisting proposal and provided a fair, professional, and scientific analysis. The reviewers in this independent panel unanimously decided that wolf delisting was not supported by the best available science and that removing protections would be premature. The NCEAS peer review report exposed the shoddy work and bias toward hunting and livestock interests behind the USFWS delisting proposal.

As a result, USFWS opened an additional 45-day public comment period that ran February 10-March 27, 2014. Countless people submitted comments, telling USFWS they knew their initial study was flawed and taking them to task for not operating in good faith with the public by willfully ignoring, discounting, and in some cases misrepresenting the best available science.

Watch Our Film, "The Imperiled American Wolf"


Our 2012 film, "The Imperiled American Wolf," explains the reasons wolves cannot be successfully managed by state wildlife agencies: not only do their methods ignore the core biology of how wolves hunt and breed, but their funding depends on hunting and trapping fees. In fact, current wolf management may actually lead to wolves' demise. Predator Defense and this film make a bold call for federal relisting of these important apex predators as endangered species.

The war being waged against wolves is senseless and tragic, and it is up to all of us to speak out now on their behalf (details below).

ACT NOW! Five Ways You Can Take a Stand for Wolves

We urge you to speak out for wolves today, requesting emergency reinstatement of federal ESA protections for wolves in the Western U.S. Here are five actions you can take to help:

  • Contact The Honorable Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior. Call her at (202) 208-3100, email, or use the online form at bottom of page at For inspiration, we encourage you to copy/paste and/or embelish on our sample letter and adapt it for the other recipients below.
  • Contact Martha Williams, Principal Deputy Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at (800) 344-9453, or write her at
  • Contact your federal representatives - Senate and House
  • Help boycott tourism in Idaho & Montana: Contact the tourism offices in both states. You can tell them you were planning to visit--to spend money on dine, lodge, recreate, and enjoy scenic views and wildlife in their state--but because of their horrifying laws to kill wolves you will be staying away and urging your friends to do the same. Or you could say you are a concerned citizen who is appalled by the barbaric slaughter of our vital apex predators under false pretenses and are urging all your connections to help boycott tourism in their states.
    - Contact Idaho Tourism Office
    - Contact Montana Office of Tourism
  • Expand our reach by making a contribution. Any amount truly helps and is greatly appreciated. Donate here

Sample Letter to Secretary Haaland

We encourage you to copy/paste/personalize the letter below and email it to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland via Then adapt it as needed for the other recipients (contact details above). Keep in mind that unique messages are what get leaders' attention, so using your own words as much as possible will make the biggest impact.

FORMATTING NOTE: If you experience any formatting issues when copying and pasting this sample letter into an email, try one of the following solutions: (1) Right-click before pasting and choose a "text only" or "plain text" option; (2) Select all text in your email and use your menu options to remove formatting; or (3) Copy/paste into a Notepad or Text Edit program, then copy/paste into new email.

Dear Secretary Haaland,

I am writing to request that you quickly reinstate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the Western U.S. using your emergency listing powers as authorized in the ESA.

The need for emergency action has been urgently accelerated by the September 2021 killing of three wolves in Montana near the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. The wolf-killing states bordering Yellowstone--Montana, Idaho and Wyoming--could easily wipe out the park's wolf population long before USFWS' completes their ESA relisting review, which may not be done until mid-2022. Hunters and trappers are already lying in wait for wolves to cross the imaginary park border lines that they know nothing about. Bait has also been laid a mere mile away to lure a species that can smell for miles.

These states are absolutely determined to eviscerate their wolf populations and will undo decades of work toward wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies and beyond. As you may be aware, not only will laws passed in 2021 allow Idaho to kill up to 90% of their wolves and Montana up to 85%, but Wyoming's wolf slaughter continues unabated. Equally disturbing, Washington and Wisconsin have already expressed a desire to kill more wolves, and wolf pups have been stomped to death in Idaho and gunned down in Oregon. This cannot stand.

These states' action are inhumane and unscientific. Key pieces of science and fact missing from their decisions include:

  • Top scientists said the 2011 wolf delisting was flawed, as wolves were not recovered. They remain unrecovered to this day.
  • Killing wolves negates the vital role they play in healthy ecosystems. Wolves keep deer and elk on the move, which prevents overgrazing and allows the land to recover. They also take out sick, old and inferior deer and elk, while hunters do not. And that is only the beginning of the services they provide.
  • Elk and deer populations are not declining due to wolves. In fact, in Idaho and Montana they've been thriving.
  • Wolves cause a statistically insignificant number of livestock deaths; most deaths are caused by weather, disease, and poor husbandry. in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, where the majority of wolves live, predation is far less than one percent.
  • Wolves have exceptionally strong family bonds and depend on intact family units. Disruption of wolf packs can lead to increased predation on livestock.
  • Wolves and other predators do not need to be "managed," as their populations are self-regulating for a myriad of evolutionary reasons.
  • Wolves bring in millions in vital tourism dollars. Protecting wolves could be much more valuable to states in the long run.
  • The vast majority of Americans are not OK with bringing wolves back from near extinction only to kill them all over again.

Please relist wolves in the Western U.S. as endangered and reestablish the science-based "3R" criteria of Resiliency, Redundancy and Representation for future delisting. These are the essential attributes for a self-sustaining species that can be considered recovered.

Thank you very much for your attention to this vital issue.


[Your Name]

Inspiring Letters from Citizens, Scientists and Members of Congress

We believe you may find inspiration in some of the letters below:

Petitions to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland via USFWS, Urging Emergency ESA Relisting for Western Wolves

We are one of 70 groups who filed a formal petition on July 29, 2021 (see below) urging emergency ESA relisting to stop Idaho, Montana, and other western states' plans to kill as many wolves as possible. We also support the earlier petition filed on May 26, 2021.

USFWS Deems Our Petitions Substantive, Credible, and Will Review

On Sept. 15, 2021, the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced they'd reviewed our collective petitions (see previous section), found them substantive and credible, and will perform a comprehensive review on restoring wolf protections in the Western U.S. This is great news, but their review may take 12 months and wolves need help NOW!

Wolves Need Our Help Now, Not in Mid-2022!

  • We must continue to urge USFWS to act now to stop the ongoing wolf slaughter in Western states, not in mid-2022. Act now!
  • Donate to support our work. Any amount helps and is greatly appreciated