Every one to three years (depending on region) state and federal agencies survey and monitor gray wolf populations. These reports summarize the best available information on the status of gray wolves in specific regions in the United States.
Alaska is home to the largest remaining population of gray wolves in the United States. Wolves occur throughout nearly all of their historic range in Alaska. Wolves can be found throughout the diverse habitats of Alaska, from the rainforests along the coastal southeast to the arctic tundra in the north. The state’s wolf population is healthy and stable, and was never listed as endangered or threatened. Wolves are supported primarily by more than a million moose, caribou, and Sitka black-tailed deer. Wolf hunting and trapping is not allowed within those portions of national parks that existed prior to 1980 (parts of Denali, Katmai, and Glacier Bay National Parks) and other small areas closed to harvests for various reasons. All seven national parks in Alaska are home to wolves.
- Alaska latest estimate: 7,000 to 11,000 wolves
- 2013 estimate: 7,700 to 11,200 wolves. This number is slightly higher than the 2010 estimate.
Historically, gray wolves were common throughout much of Washington, Oregon, and northern California but numbers declined as human populations increased in the latter half of the 1800s. Wolves were believed extirpated by the 1930s. Wolves began recolonizing Washington and Oregon via dispersal from Northern Rocky Mountains area and Canadian provinces in 2008.
Gray wolves in Oregon were delisted from endangered status under the Oregon Endangered Species Act on November 9, 2015, but continue to be a highly protected species in the state. Wolves occurring in the Western Management Zone continue to be federally protected as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Gray wolves across Washington are listed as endangered by the state, but wolves only occur in central and eastern portions of the state. Federally, wolves in the eastern one-third of Washington have been delisted, but remain listed as endangered across the remainder of the state.
Gray wolves are federally listed as endangered in California. In fall 2011 a lone wolf from Oregon entered northern California where wolves were extirpated by 1924. The state started to plan for the possibility of wolves expanding from Oregon to California, and began work on a state wolf plan in 2012. The state listed gray wolves as a state endangered species in 2014. An adult pair and five pups were detected by trail camera in northern California in August 2015.Western Oregon in 2014: 5 wolves in 2 packs, with 1 breeding pair.
California 2015: 7 wolves in 1 pack
Oregon 2015: 110 wolves in 12 packs, a 36% increase from 2014
Washington 2015: 90 wolves in 8 packs, a 24% increase from 2014
- Western Oregon in 2014: 5 wolves in 2 packs, with 1 breeding pair.
- Western Washington in 2014: 12 wolves in 3 wolf packs, 1 breeding pair.
By the 1930s gray wolf populations were extirpated from the western United States. Wolves received legal protection in the area under the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Subsequently, wolves from Canada occasionally dispersed south and began recolonizing northwest Montana in Glacier National Park in 1986. In 1995 and 1996, sixty-six wolves from southwestern Canada were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. In 2011 wolves were delisted and managed under state authority in Montana and Idaho. Wolves were delisted in Wyoming in 2012, however, on September 23, 2014, wolves were federally relisted in Wyoming as a nonessential, experimental wolf population.
The Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population continued to expand to the west from the original Distinct Population Segment boundary to eastern Oregon and Washington. The entire wolf population (including all of OR and WA) on December 31, 2015, was more than 1,904 wolves. The Northern Rocky Mountain (MT, ID, and WY) wolf population was more than 1,704 wolves in over 316 packs (including at least eighty-five breeding pairs).
- Montana 2015: 536 wolves, 126 packs (32 breeding pairs) 3% decline from 2014
- Idaho 2015: 786 wolves, 108 packs (33 breeding pairs) 2% increase from 2014
- Wyoming 2015: 383 wolves, 48 packs, (30 breeding pairs) 15% increase from 2014
- Montana in 2014: 554 adults and pups in 134 packs, with 34 qualified as breeding pairs. This is slightly less than 2012.
- Idaho in 2014: 770 wolves in 195 documented packs, with 26 qualified as breeding pairs. This number is slightly more than 2013.
- Wyoming in 2014: 333 wolves in 44 packs, with 25 breeding pairs. This is slightly higher than the 2013 count.
- Eastern Washington in 2014: 56 wolves in 13 packs, with 4 breeding pairs. Statewide 52 wolves in 13 packs.
- Eastern Oregon in 2014: 70 wolves in 13 packs, with 8 breeding pairs. This is an increase over 2013. In 2014, the Oregon population marks the third year that the conservation population objective (four breeding pairs in eastern Oregon), as defined in the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, was achieved.
- Utah in 2014: No packs were documented.
The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) once roamed portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. But, as EuroAmerican settlement intensified across the Southwest in the early 1900s, wolves increasingly came into conflict over livestock concerns. Extermination campaigns were waged and by the 1970s, the Mexican wolf was eliminated from the U.S. and Mexico. The last wild Mexican wolves in Mexico were captured between 1977 and 1980 and placed in captive breeding facilities. The Mexican wolf was placed on the federal Endangered Species list in 1976.
Reintroductions in the wild began in 1998, and captive-reared wolves were released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. The U.S. population had grown to 110 in 2014, but declined slightly to ninety-seven by late 2015. Wolf reintroductions began in Mexico in 2011 and the population grew to nineteen by fall 2015.
- New Mexico in 2015: 47 wolves (19 packs in 2014) 13% decline from 2014
- Arizona in 2015: 50 wolves (14 packs in 2014) 12% decline from 2014
- Mexico in 2015: 19 wolves in the wild
- New Mexico in 2014: 53 wolves in 19 packs.
- Arizona in 2014: 56 wolves in 14 packs.
The red wolf (Canis rufus) is one of the world’s most endangered canids. Once common throughout the eastern and south central United States, red wolves were decimated by the early 1900s due to intense controls and loss of habitat. The red wolf was designated a federally endangered species in 1967, and again under the 1973 Endangered Species Act. In 1973 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began efforts to locate and capture as many red wolves as possible. Of the seventeen remaining wolves captured by biologists, fourteen became the founders of a captive breeding program. The USFWS declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.
By 1987 enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program. Four pairs of red wolves were reintroduced into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina. Today forty-five to sixty red wolves roam in eastern North Carolina, and nearly 200 red wolves are maintained in captive breeding facilities across the United States.
- North Carolina 2015: 45- 60 wolves, in at least 7 breeding packs
No Past Stats
By the early 1960s, gray wolves were mostly eradicated from Michigan and Wisconsin, and only a small pocket existed in northeastern Minnesota along the Ontario border. These Minnesota wolves have since repopulated extensive portions of that state, and spread across northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan after a federal listing as endangered in 1974. Because of improving status, Minnesota wolves were down-listed to threatened in 1978. All wolves in the region were down-listed to threatened in portions of 2003-2005, and delisted during portions of 2007-2009, but a lawsuit triggered relisting in between. Wolves were again delisted on January 27, 2012, but again relisted on December 19, 2014.
Public harvests of wolf populations occurred in Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and in Michigan in 2013. Currently wolves are listed as federally endangered in Wisconsin and Michigan, and threatened in Minnesota, thus no public harvests occurred in 2015, and lethal controls for depredation management only occurred in Minnesota. Dispersing wolves from this region have been detected in North and South Dakota, Manitoba, Ontario, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Kentucky as well as portions of southern Minnesota and Wisconsin. In Michigan, all wolf populations are found in the Upper Peninsula.
To view slide presentations from the 2015 Midwest Wolf Stewards Conference, click here.
- Michigan 2016: 618 wolves, 125 packs, 3% decline from 2014 estimate
- Minnesota 2016: 2,278, 439 packs, nearly the same as 2015
- Wisconsin 2016: 866 wolves, 222 packs, 16% increase from 2015
- Michigan in 2014: 636 wolves in 126 packs. This is a slight decrease from 658 wolves in 2013. Another winter track survey will be conducted during the winter of 2015-16. The recent re-listing will reduce the ability of the state to control livestock depredations.
- Minnesota in 2014: 2,423 in 470 packs. This number is slightly higher than the 2013 count of 2,211.
- Wisconsin in 2015, an estimated 746+ wolves in 208 packs. This is an approximate 13% increase in wolf numbers compared to the previous year. Wolf depredations had declined from 47 farms in 2010 to 22 farms in 2014, but recent federal relisting will reduce ability for the state to control livestock depredations.
In the thirteen-state Northeast Region, the Northern Forest Ecosystem is a 41,000 square mile area of forest from the Adirondack Mountains of New York east through most of Maine. It contains suitable habitat for gray (Canis lupus) and eastern wolves (Canis lycaon). The original wolf in the area may have been either or both of these species. A couple dispersers have been detected but no breeding packs have been found. In recent years, there has been a significant educational effort by private conservation groups to develop interest in wolf recovery and to consider options for potential recovery. Any gray wolves in the area would be considered federally endangered.
No Past Stats
Gray wolves (Canis lupus) occur across eighty-five percent of Canada and includes 50,000-60,000 wolves. Wolves are harvested in seven Canadian provinces, two territories, and the Nunavut Region. Wolves are only absent in the agricultural portions of southern Canada and the Maritime Provinces. The smaller eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) consisted of a minimum of 236 mature individuals in and around Algonquin Provincial Park in eastern Ontario and adjacent areas of Quebec. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) have assessed eastern wolves as threatened in May 2015, but are listed as special concern under the Species at Risk Act. Eastern wolves were designated as threatened by the Province of Ontario in June 2016.
- Canada: 50,000-60,000 gray wolves and 236+ eastern wolves
No Past Stats