Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 19, 2015

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Video Appears to Show Wolf in South Dakota's Black Hills

RAPID CITY, S.D.— An apparent gray wolf caught on video in the Black Hills of South Dakota may be from the northern Rocky Mountains. Elk hunters shot the brief video last Friday of the male animal hastening out of sight into the shelter of an aspen forest. In the recorded conversation that accompanied the video, the hunters sounded elated at the sighting.  

“Most hunters, just like other folks, try to do the right thing,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They appreciate wolves’ important role in natural ecosystems. We hope this wolf will continue to enchant viewers and contribute to recovery of his species.”

Wolves are protected from harm under the Endangered Species Act throughout the United States except in Alaska, Idaho, Montana and portions of Utah, Oregon and Washington. Wolves that disperse into South Dakota and other states outside of established populations in the northern Rockies and upper Midwest have fared poorly, with many shot and killed by people who say they thought they were shooting coyotes. Wolves are larger and appear bulkier than coyotes, with longer legs and more rounded ears.

The Center on Tuesday urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help educate the public about the difference between wolves and coyotes — and about the fact that wolves are protected under federal law — in order to enhance protections for the animal seen in the recent video. So far the Service has declined to take action.

Moreover, despite the steady push by gray wolves to expand into areas they historically inhabited, instead of expanding public education and wolf-management programs the federal agency has proposed stripping their Endangered Species Act protections across most of the country.

“Removing wolves from the endangered species list would increase the number that are killed, confine wolves to artificial islands of habitat where they risk becoming inbred, and cut off the benefits these beautiful animals provide to ecosystems, wild places and other animals in the food web,” said Robinson. “The antidote is twofold: More room in people’s hearts for wolves, and keeping them protected under the law.”

Wolves have returned to less than 10 percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states. Scientists say that linking wolf populations by allowing the animals to wander, for example between Wyoming and Minnesota, would help avoid extinction and ensure the species’ recovery.

Last year the Center for Biological Diversity investigated the fates of 56 wolves known to have dispersed from established recovery areas since 1981. Forty-eight of those were found dead, including 36 by gunshot, including five in South Dakota between 1981 and 1991.

The other 12 wolves among the 48 that died included four in South Dakota: two with the causes of mortality not disclosed, one hit by a vehicle and another thought to have been hit — in 2001, 2006 and two in 2012. Genetic tests on the 2012 animals determined that one was from the northern Rockies and the other from the upper Midwest.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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