21 - Managing wolf–human conflict in the northwestern United States  pp. 340-356

By Edward E. Bangs et al.

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter


The grey wolf (Canis lupus) is the most widely distributed large carnivore in the northern hemisphere (Nowak 1995) and has a reputation for killing livestock and competing with human hunters for wild ungulates (Young 1944; Fritts et al. 2003). Wolves rarely threaten human safety, but many people still fear them. In the western USA, widespread extirpation of ungulates by colonizing settlers, wolf depredation on livestock and negative public attitudes towards wolves resulted in extirpation of wolf populations by 1930 (Mech 1970; McIntyre 1995). By 1970, mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), white-tailed deer (O. virginianus), elk (Cervus elaphus), moose (Alces alces) and bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) populations had been restored throughout the western USA while bison (Bison bison) were recovered only in Yellowstone National Park. However, grey wolves were still persecuted. In 1974, grey wolves were protected and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973.

In 1986, the first recorded den in the western USA in over 50 years was established in Glacier National Park by wolves that naturally dispersed from Canada (Ream et al. 1989). Restoration of wolves in that region emphasized legal protection and building local public tolerance. Wolves from Canada were reintroduced to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996 to accelerate restoration (Bangs and Fritts 1996; Fritts et al. 1997). The Northern Rocky Mountains wolf population grew from 10 wolves in 1987 to 663 wolves by 2003 (US Fish and Wildlife Service et al. 2003) (Fig. 21.1, Table 21.1).