#MapMonday: Gray Wolves

Howl you doing wolf pack? In this episode Lindsay and John, Defenders’ Rockies and Plains Representative discuss the iconic gray wolf.

Explore the storymap: dfnd.us/graywolfstorymap

Check out our partnerships: wolfactionfund.com and rockymountainwolfproject.org

Learn more about the gray wolf: dfnd.us/graywolf

Click to view video transcript

Hey there wolf pack and welcome back for another Map Monday!

This week we showcase a true symbol of cunning intellect, cooperation, and the bonds of family. It’s no wonder that this species also finds a prominent place on the Defenders of Wildlife logo.

Yes, I’m talking about the gray wolf, the world’s largest canine and one of the most misunderstood. Despite what Little Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs may tell you, the gray wolf is extremely people-shy and once played an essential role in ecosystem health and function throughout the United States.

This of course is before their habitat was reduced to the Great Lakes, the Northern Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest.

As scientists continue to uncover the ecological benefits of wolves, Defenders is working hard to ensure the wolf returns to its historic range to perform their vital ecological role for generations to come.

Like their cousins the red wolf, gray wolves were once common throughout the U.S., but in the 1800s, European settlement and livestock production ushered in a century of wolf bounties. By the time the gray wolf gained protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973, all that remained was a single population of a few hundred wolves deep in the woods of northern Minnesota.

The species is slowly recovering and experts estimate over 6,000 wolves now live in the U.S. However, they still face many threats to recovery, including centuries of misunderstanding and continued persecution by citizens and governments alike.

Defenders has a long and storied history in protecting gray wolves. Wolves were first formally designated as “endangered” in 1967 under a policy that would later be replaced by today’s Endangered Species Act in 1973. That’s when Defenders stepped up to the plate to lead wolf recovery and helped to usher in wolf reintroductions into Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho in the mid-1990s.

While it is clear that Defenders’ cooperative efforts with stakeholders like ranchers and government agencies have made a significant positive impact, there is still work to be done.

Today our Rockies and Plains team continues this legacy, fighting for wolf restoration in the Southern Rockies and a vision of connectivity from Canada down to Mexico!

John Murtaugh is our representative in the Rockies and Plains and works with local stakeholders to ensure that wolves have the support they need for a successful recovery.

Howl’s it going John?!

Hey, Lindsay, and thanks for that background. It’s true that almost 50 years after being recognized as an endangered species, the gray wolf remains one of the most misunderstood creatures in North America.

This family-driven social predator once played a critical role in our ecosystem, but centuries of aniti-wolf myths have delayed their recovery.

This November, Coloradans and wolves alike will have a historic opportunity. We’re working to combat centuries of big, bad wolf myths and return the wolf to their natural range here in Colorado. This November, Coloradans will have the opportunity to vote on a necessary wolf reintroduction in accordance with over 20 years of public demand.

Officially, gray wolves have been missing in Colorado since the 1940s. Despite wolf populations in neighboring Wyoming, the aggressive, anti-wolf policies of that state have made it almost impossible for wolves to return home on their own.

Our storymaps have been an invaluable tool in connecting people with the story of North America’s gray wolf. Users can learn about where wolves used to live, and where they are today. You can also follow along to learn more about the vital ecological role wolves play, what Defenders’ is doing to help in their recovery, and dive into the world of coexistence - learning more about what were’s doing to ensure that wolves, people, and livestock can share the land.

You can also learn more about this opportunity in Colorado and why a “Yes” vote on Proposition 107 will ensure wolf connectivity throughout the spine of the continent again. Why don’t you tell our listeners how they can follow along, Lindsay?

Thanks John for that pawsome update! If you’d like to learn more about Defenders’ work with wolves all you have to do is click! The link above will bring you to our storymap showcasing the road to wolf recovery.

You can also read more about what John and other Defenders are doing in the fight for wolf restoration at Defenders gray wolf web page. Dispelling wolf myths is a tough business, which is why Defenders works with equally passionate partners to get the job done. You can check out one of the coalitions we sponsor at rockymountainwolfproject.org. Here is your weekly reminder to be kind to your neighbors. And please join us again next Map Monday.

Lindsay Rosa
Senior Conservation Scientist

As a Conservaion GIS Scientist with the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders, Lindsay leads geospatial analysis projects to improve conservation policies and practices.