Gray Wolf, © Joan Poor

Next Monday is the 20th Anniversary of Wolf Reintroduction in Yellowstone: Twenty years ago this coming Monday, January 12, eight wolves were relocated to Yellowstone National Park by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service personnel. Another six wolves arrived in Yellowstone on January 21, 1995. The goal was to restore balance to a landscape where wolves had been absent for more than 70 years. Since then, wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies has become one of this country’s great wildlife conservation success stories. These original 14 wolves – along with naturally returning packs and wolves subsequently released in 1995 and 1996 – were the first generations of today’s wolf population in the Northern Rockies. Today we’re seeing wolves start to come back to new areas of the country where they’ve been absent for decades — something that would not have been possible without this original reintroduction effort.
Yellowstone Wolves,©National Park Service
January 12, 1995 – first eight reintroduced wolves to arrive in Yellowstone National Park.

Defenders was the first wildlife organization to call for the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park. We were there to help with the release of wild gray wolves in Yellowstone and central Idaho in the mid-1990s, and our field staff has been working ever since to secure the restoration of wolves in the Rockies and now Pacific Northwest. At a time when wolves are continually under fire, this anniversary is a milestone that we’re making sure to celebrate!

If you find yourself in the Yellowstone area are welcome to join us this coming Monday for an early morning of wolf watching in the Park followed by a commemorative gathering with some of the original recovery team members including Dr. Doug Smith (Yellowstone Wolf Project Leader), Carter Niemeyer (USFWS Idaho State Wolf Coordinator, retired) Suzanne Stone, (USA/Canadian Wolf Reintroduction team member and Defenders’ wolf conservation expert) and many others. For details, please email For those who cannot attend, we’ll have reports from the field to share with you regarding this important milestone in wolf restoration.

Wandering Wolf OR-7 and his Family Named “Rogue Pack” in Oregon: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that OR-7 – the famous wolf that made headlines for being the first wolf to travel into California in six decades — and his family will now officially be named Oregon’s “Rogue Pack.”  OR-7 and his family are unique in Oregon because they’ve traveled much farther west in the state than any other wolves; the eight other wolf packs in the state live in eastern Oregon. Wildlife biologists hope that the Rogue Pack’s presence in west Oregon means more wolves will “go West” in the coming years.
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Rogue Pack Pups, ©Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Two of the newly named “Rogue Pack” pups, June 2, 2014.

Not So Fast: Canceled Wolf Coyote Organized Hunt in Montana Is Back On: Last week we informed you that the “1st Annual Great Montana Coyote and Wolf Hunt” had been canceled. But this week, Idaho for Wildlife, Montana Trappers Association and Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, decided to sponsor the organized hunt and will be hosting it on private land in Sanders County, Montana. Awarding prizes for the killing, capturing or taking of wildlife is against the law in Montana so these groups have gotten around the law by awarding prizes randomly. Many states do not have such laws; we strongly believe that state wildlife agencies should work to ban these types of commercialized killing contests and we’ll continue to work with state agencies towards this goal. These events promote the attitude that predators are vermin and promulgate anti-predator myths. These tactics are similar to the misinformed thinking that led to wolves’ and other predators’ near extinction once before.

No Wolves Killed In Idaho Predator Derby: Even though our public opposition and threat of legal challenge stopped “Idaho for Wildlife’s” predatory derby from occurring on BLM-managed lands around Salmon, Idaho, no one was able to stop the derby completely. Last week the derby took place on U.S. Forest Service land and on private ranches. If there is a silver lining in this egregious event, it is that no wolves were killed during the three-day competition. Further, the number of registered participants in the derby decreased from last year, drawing fewer than 100 hunters this year.

yellowstone wolf, © Barrett Hedges/NGS

Great Lakes Wolf Recovery Causes Changes to Ecosystem: Since wolf reintroduction began, researching the effects of wolves on the environment has been a hot area of scientific inquiry. In several regions, research has demonstrated that wolves, in conjunction with other factors like climate and landscape conditions, have a distinct positive impact on the local environment. For example, in Yellowstone wolves helped reduce the intensity of elk grazing on berry producing shrubs, which provided additional food for grizzly bears. This week, the first study to examine the impact of wolf recovery in the Great Lakes showed that the forest ecosystem in northern Wisconsin has indeed changed because of wolves’ presence. The study shows that wolf reintroduction decreased local white tail deer populations, which led to an increased diversity of plant and shrub species in areas where wolves were present. This study contributes to the growing body of literature that documents the ways in which wolves contribute to the environmental health of the areas they inhabit.