January 2001

Note: Because some of the information in this article may be outdated, it has been archived.

Gray wolf reintroduction is a very controversial subject.

A captive Gray Wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Minnesota. Photographer: Derek Bakken Creative Commons

Of all the mammals slated for reintroduction, the gray wolf best exemplifies the hard-line, extremist positions taken by both supporters and opponents. In this day and age, with increasing complexity of groups, and a government taking the middle ground, less and less legislation seems to get off the ground. While the future of the gray wolf looks promising in the Upper Midwest with successful natural colonization, a simple but unanswered question remains: should local people control reintroduction if the wolves fail to recolonize naturally?

Wilderness as the only wolf habitat is a misconception.
Wolves can adapt to open terrain.

Based on past experiences in animal reintroduction and recolonization programs, a better understanding about gray wolf behavior is essential if the gray wolf and humans are to co-exist in reintroduced areas. One of the problems is that people associate wolves with wilderness areas only because:

  • human populations drove the wolves from all other areas, forcing them into wilderness areas, which were generally protected and hard for bounty hunters to reach5
  • as wolves are being reintroduced, local residents fear losing land they use for ranching and recreation because of this “wolf - wilderness” association, even though it has been proven that wolves are highly adaptable and can survive in quasi wilderness settings with greater road densities and more open terrain than previously suggested.5 In other words, wolves can live in semi-populated areas.

But can people live with wolves? The question is not as straightforward as it may seem.

Ryan C. Johnson, a recent graduate of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, holds a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies. Because his interests and hobbies focus on “anything outdoors”, Ryan spent two months after graduation hiking along the Continental Divide Trail. After the long jaunt, he became a full-time SCA (Student Conservation Association) volunteer at Pecos National Historic Park in New Mexico.

Reintroducing the Gray Wolf in the U.S.

Gray Wolf statistics and background

Learn more about the gray wolf in the U.S. from the International Wolf Center. Look around the site for additional resources.

Defenders of Wildlife

Their section on wolves contains information on regional wolves, wolf ecology and biology, and various fact sheets, plus wolf restoration efforts.

Wolves and global warming

May 2005 article in USA Today, “Wolves teach experts about global warming.”

American Farm Bureau Federation

Ranchers’ and farmers’ view of wolf reintroductions.

National Wildlife Federation

Facts and figures about gray wolves, reintroduction, and public education.

Wolf quiz

Test your knowledge of these remarkable animals with the “Running with the Wolves” Quiz. Answers provided as you complete each question.

For Teachers: Wolf Discovery Curriculum

A wealth of activities to guide grades 3 to 8 students on an exploration of the world of wolves, from biology and behavior to the long history of interactions between wolves and humans.

Wolf petitions

» Petitions and activist guides to protect wolves, from Defenders of Wildlife organization.
» Petition to keep federal protection of gray wolves.

Join a wolf organization

The Wolf Organization Address List provides contact information for organizations devoted to the protection of wolves in Canada, Europe, and the U.S.

Wonderful Wolves

In this lesson students learn about wolves through literature and research. Students learn the truth about wolves by completing a WebQuest examining wolf myths. Then students have the opportunity to locate information about wolves through a variety of print resources and the Internet. Primary level.

Relocation Challenge

In this activity, the students have been chosen to serve on the Wolf Relocation Team for placement of Canadian grey wolves in the Granite River National Forest, a fictitious park located in the western region of the United States. In an effort to bring the wolves back to their former habitat, a pack of nine wolves has been trapped in Canada for release in this region. High School.

  1. Bangs, E.E., Fritts, S.H., Fontaine, J.A., Smith, D.W., Murphy, K.M., Mack, C.M., and Niemeyer, C.C. 1998. “Status of gray wolf restoration in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.” Wildlife Society Bulletin 26(4):785.
  2. Chadwick, D.H. May 1998. “Return of the Gray Wolf.” National Geographic 913(5):72.
  3. Environmental News Network (ENN). May 10, 1999. ” New Hampshire outlaws wolf reintroduction.” (Accessed 1/01, no longer available online)
  4. Lohr, C., Ballard, W.B., and Bath, A. 1996. “Attitudes toward gray wolf reintroduction to New Brunswick.” Wildlife Society Bulletin 24(3):414-420.
  5. Mech, L.D. 1995. “The challenge and opportunity of recovering wolf populations.” Conservation Biology 9:270-278.
  6. Mladenoff, D.J. and Sickley, T.A. 1998. “Assessing potential gray wolf restoration in the Northeastern United States: A spatial prediction of favorable habitat and potential population levels.” Journal of Wildlife Management 62(1):1.
  7. Parsons, D. 1998. “‘Green Fire’ returns to the Southwest: Reintroduction of the Mexican wolf.” Wildlife Society Bulletin 26(4):799-807.


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