Once one of the most widely distributed land mammals in North America, the gray wolf has also been one of the most persecuted. State, local and private bounties and a federal extermination program have nearly eliminated the gray wolf from the lower 48. By the 1970s, Great Lakes wolves survived only in northeastern Minnesota and Lake Superior’s Isle Royale National Park. With federal protection, wolves have grown in numbers and dispersed from Minnesota into northern Wisconsin and, from there, into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In the spring of 2010, for the first time in decades, wolves raised pups in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan.

Such progress clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act, but wolf recovery is far from complete. The latest science shows that wolves in the Great Lakes suffer from hybridization with coyotes, disease, illegal shootings and vehicle kills.

Despite the wolf's continuing endangerment in Great Lakes states — and the sucessful efforts of the Center and allies to derail all past efforts to delist gray wolves, including overturning three such rules in the Great Lakes — in December 2012S the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stripped them of Endangered Species Act protections. We and our partners immediately engaged in all possible actions to defend them, including joining Howling for Wolves to sue the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for its failure to provide a formal opportunity for public comment on rules establishing wolf hunting and trapping, and seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the opening of hunting and trapping seasons in fall 2012 (which was unfortunately denied).

Finally in 2015, following two federal court rulings, the Fish and Wildlife Service officially reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and surrounding states. But the wolves are again vulnerable: In January 2016 the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the so-called “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2016,” with the inclusion of an amendment to permanently end Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes states.

Besides defending wolves in the Great Lakes region, the Center has an important campaign to spur true recovery for all gray wolves, in 2010 filing a scientific petition and notice of intent to sue to compel the Obama administration to develop a national recovery plan that would establish wolf populations in suitable habitat in the Pacific Northwest, California, southern Rockies, New England and Colorado Plateau. Learn more about this campaign.