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Wolves and Defenders of Wildlife

Once the gray wolf was one of the most widely distributed land mammals on the continent. There were an estimated 400,000 gray and red wolves in North America before the first European settlers arrived. Today wolves are found in only about 5% of their original range south of Canada.

A History of Determination

Once wolves roamed free across almost all of the United States - but fear, misinformation, and myth caused their near-extermination in the lower 48 states. Bounty programs and government-financed trappers effectively removed wolves from all states except for Alaska and a small population in northeastern Minnesota.

Defenders of Wildlife has long fought for the protection and return of wolves. Wolves are a keystone species, and are vital to maintaining a healthy balance in nature. And because wolves can require home ranges of several hundred square miles, their conservation can help preserve a host of other species making use of the same habitat.

In Yellowstone National Park, the presence of wolves has resulted in reduced overgrazing by elk, allowing aspen and cottonwood trees to return. The presence of wolves has also restored a balance amongt the lesser predators, including coyotes, raptors, and ravens.

Defenders helped to clear the way for the wolf reintroductions to Yellowstone and in the Bitterroot Range in central Idaho by establishing The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Wolf Compensation Trust, which pays livestock owners for losses to wolf predation. And we created The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund, using innovative approaches to prevent conflict between imperiled predators and humans before they occur. We ask ranchers and farmers to propose solutions, and if their ideas are good, we share the costs to implement the concept.

While Defenders continues to be a leader in wolf restoration and conservation, we also work to protect all imperiled species. But Wolves have a special place in our mission. The Defenders of Wildlife wolf logo symbolizes not only our long-standing leadership in predator protection but also our broader biodiversity mission.