Is the gray wolf actually endangered?

Is the gray wolf actually endangered?

North American forests looked very different 300 years ago. And it’s not just the rise of infrastructure – it’s the purposeful decline of many natural predators. Before European colonists came to America, the gray wolf population looked something like this: looked something like this.
But by the 1930s, that vast, thriving population looked more like this. In a
matter of a few decades European settlers had trapped, poisoned, and shot
the gray wolf nearly out of existence in the lower 48.
Today, that map looks a little more like this. The gray wolf has been on the
endangered species list since 1974 and those decades of restoration efforts
have recovered the population to a few key locations, though nowhere near where it used to be. But in 2019 the Fish and Wildlife Service filed this – It’s a proposal to remove the animal from the endangered species list nationwide,
arguing that the gray wolf is no longer threatened. A hundred scientists
responded with a letter, urging the Fish and Wildlife Service to rescind the
proposal saying, “it’s way too soon.” So, when are we done protecting the gray
wolf? In 1973 President Nixon signed the
Endangered Species Act. It allows the Fish & Wildlife Service to protect
certain species from extinction by limiting hunting, trapping, and killing.
When the government decides that a species is sufficiently recovered,
they’re removed from the endangered species list or “delisted” and they
release management of the species back to the States. Unsurprisingly this is a lot more complicated than it sounds. The federal government is pretty efficient at listing species when it’s the right
thing to do but delisting that’s different. This is John Vucetich who studies wildlife ecology at Michigan Tech University. In the entire 40-plus years of the Endangered Species Act there have only
been in the neighborhood of a dozen delistings. We’re far less experienced at
that. The Fish and Wildlife Service has tried to delist the gray wolf in certain states before, and was met with a bunch of lawsuits from conservationists and environmental groups. The reason it’s so challenging to delist an animal like the gray wolf lies in the law itself. The easy way to understand the
obligations of the Endangered Species Act is that a species is recovered and
no longer requires federal protection when it’s no longer at risk of
extinction. So let’s zoom out on that map from earlier with this in mind. The gray wolf is not at risk of extinction. There have always been a whole bunch of wolves in Canada and in Russia. So if we lost every single wolf in all of the United
States even Alaska they’re not at risk of extinction. But the thing is the Endangered
Species Act is narrower than that. The legal definition of an
endangered species is “one that is at risk of extinction throughout all or a
significant portion of its range.” This is the phrase that has been heavily debated in court over the gray wolf. Because while somewhere around 6,000 wolves may roam here many more used to roam here. Meaning the animal only exists in about 15% of its former range. So in order to delist the gray wolf we have to decide if that 15% is enough. The Endangered Species Act isn’t clear
on how to define “range.” When it comes to the gray wolf, the Fish and Wildlife Service argues that the law could mean “current range.” They’re satisfied with
that 15%, especially because of how tough it would be to reintroduce the wolf to
all places it used to roam. Many sections of their former range are no longer suitable due to human encroachment. And in places where wolves do coexist with people living alongside them is challenging. I mean, wolves are happy to
kill a cow or sheep if that’s what it needs to do in order to live and get by,
and of course that’s tough – or can be tough – for the livestock owner. Regardless, environmentalists interpret this law differently. They argue that the wolves range should be interpreted historically, and that until it’s
recovered in most of its historic territory it should fall into the
protections of the Endangered Species Act It’s this tension the law that makes
delisting hard to figure out. Still, wolves have been successfully removed from the endangered species list in Idaho in Montana in 2011 and in Wyoming in 2017. The states are now in charge of their management and making sure they retain a certain population. So in Idaho for example, it’s legal to hunt wolves
with a permit but the state has promised to keep the population at or over 15
packs. Under Idaho’s law wolves do stay alive, but they don’t have room to branch
out to new or historic territories where they might thrive, which is likely what
will happen if they’re delisted across the U.S. The current population will
remain stable, but the wolves will only exist where they are right now –
not where they could be or have been. The endangered species act is pretty clear that when a species is endangered it does not matter if we can find why that species
is valuable or not. The species is valuable – according to the Endangered
Species Act – just because. but figuring on a balance between protecting a species and thriving alongside them is tough – especially when that species is a long-hated predator.

100 Replies to “Is the gray wolf actually endangered?

  1. You may have noticed at 4:41 we left out the gray wolves in the southwestern United States. This is because that population is part of a subspecies known as the Mexican Gray Wolf. The latest proposal from the Fish and Wildlife Service wouldn’t affect the endangered status of these animals, though conservationists argue we should be doing more:

    You can learn more about their recovery here:


  2. The argument that it exist in 15% of its range is not accurate.
    You forgot to include that the Wolf is not bound by American borders concerning its range.
    Include all of the land area for Canada and Russia and anywhere else it lives.
    Next recalculate the percentage.

    Example. If a zoo has 2 wolves and 1 dies. 50% of the wolf population died. UNLESS you take the worldwide population into account and realize that less than 0.00001% of them died.

    Vox should remake this episode to expose this faulty reasoning as it would be even more compelling.

  3. Yo, in India we have enacted Wildlife Prevention Act, 1972 effectively banning poaching and illegal hunting barring some exceptions. Its not all good here but has certainly helped reduce the illegal trade in wildlife specimens and stabilize population of keystone species thereby reviving the whole ecosystem.

  4. Maybe we should ask how the native Americans coexisted with these species for millions of years and why not just bring it up to 50%

  5. i highly doubt that vox knows what they're doing in most of their videos, given that a lot of information is commonly left out

  6. In no case should hunting or killing of an animal should be allowed, irrespective of whether it is endangered or not

  7. That is a good foresight on the endangered species law, not allowing the who ever is in government at the time to decide which one should and shouldn't be protected but any that needs it.

  8. So everyone loves these wolves so much. what about the woodland caribou in Washington and Idaho? There are 9 of them in existence? Seems hypocritical doesn’t it?

  9. Legal to hunt wolves? Are they eating them? Cause if it’s just for game then that’s sad. It’s pretty much like killing dogs, I mean they are distant relatives

  10. People are worried about animal cruelty on a video? Animals are employees under our care. We can treat our animal employees well, as well as our human employees. Keep wild wild. Nature can be viewed as cruel, and that interpretation can cause people to believe they can behave cruelty as well. That's not necessary.

  11. learn from those so called backward african nation so called developed nation us. same applies to European countries.

  12. Protecting your live stock from wolves isn't even that expensive, there are breeds of dog specifically bred to do this job, and wolves/foxes do not go anywhere near properties with dogs on them and all for the cost of a few dogs you can breed and dog food. Imagine wiping out an entire species because you cannot be bothered buying and feeding some dogs.

  13. I live in Idaho where they decided to implant Canadian wolf that is a larger wolf that was even here in the past and have heavily impacted the elk,turkey and deer poplation i dont see how wolves are more important then a resource of Game animal's!!!

  14. Regardless of a species global population, I think every nation is responsible for maintaining and protecting every species inside their borders.

  15. Leave the wolves alone, they're lovely introvert forest families. I'm glad to see them making a comeback in my state. Every time someone brings up the possibility of allowing hunting for them, I fight against it.

  16. Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat is a great book to read on Grey wolves. My all time favorite book. It’s hilarious and very informative.

  17. As long as deer hunting is a thing, wolves will never truly come back. Hunters are far too greedy to allow for competition

  18. Why not take its previous territory and then minus the current unsuitable areas within that previous territory. Unsuitable areas may include populated areas or areas that have been too drastically effected by whatever to now support animal life

  19. Amazing they all go after the wolf specifically and ignore other predators such as bears, coyotes, wolverines, badgers etc.People in Alaska coexist with wolves so why not the ranchers? Wolves do not hunt that many cattle when there are other sources of sustenance. Further they will take the weakest if the cow is an adult or they will take a a calf. A single herd of cows might loose one cow to a pack of wolves in an average winter. If the winter is "bad" the might tak two. there is a lot of meat on a cow and wolves will leave some for later thus not needing to hunt another cow. Further it has been proven in scientific studies wolves have an effect and affect on the environment that is positive in micro environments such as water ways.

  20. – Federal government is pretty efficient at making species extinct when they want to

    Say that to Australians who got decisively defeated by emus

  21. I can't believe they actually changed the title. Up until yesterday this was called, "The problem with the endangered species list," and now it's, "is the gray wolf actually endangered?" Lol

  22. Why should we even have a choice to delist the Gray Wolf (or other animals). Its like saying, okay theres enough of that animal so lets start killing and hunting it again, instead of protecting a living breathing being. Wonder how it feels like if Humans were delisted

    but to be fair, its not an easy issue as cattle ranchers are getting their livestocks killed due to wolves

  23. The percentage of gray wolf shoud grow up to the same percentage before the europeons came .If this happens ,then the goverment shoud delist gray golf from the list.

  24. "Endangered" predators that might have hundreds of thousands of individuals: they're valuable just because.

    Unborn children: they're valuable if the mother thinks so.

  25. Every species is valuable from a biological point of view because once that species goes extinct, its genetic information, which took billions of years for that species to evolve, will be gone forever. With genetic research on the cutting edge, losing a species that could give us a great deal of information about genetics is not something we want to happen.

  26. The gray wolf population is actually slightly more expanded in Washington then is shown on the map! There are several packs in the north and central cascades!

  27. Of course wolves are valuable just because. They have intrinsic value and should be universally appreciated. Who the heck could doubt that. Find someone one better to interview next time

  28. Grey wolves are still endangered but this is different then if they should be hunted here in the U.S. if they lost their status. Grey wolves are a keystone species, and their populations are low.

  29. Your point about wolves not being able to disperse is wrong. Wolves have been dispersing quite well into Oregon and Washington and are now even in Northern California. Most of these migrants likely came from Idaho. The bigger problem is new states refusing to protect wolves once they disperse into those areas, i.e. Colorado and Utah. Wolves are quite good dispersers and as long as they have adequate new habitat to settle, they’ll be able to expand. Most of Montana’s population wasn’t even from reintroduction, they dispersed from Canada. Also the historic range is exaggerated in the East; New England and New York were likely occupied by the red wolf or it was a hybrid zone between the two species.

  30. A question to ponder: How many or few wolves would we prefer there to be if we ourselves were to be born as a randomly picked wild animal?

  31. Wow I didn’t know Americans didn’t have grey wolves everywhere… it just seems so natural for it to be that way up here

  32. cattle are invasive in the americas, and grazing them takes up almost THREE TIMES as many acres as are protected as national parks. their waste product is a huge source of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. this story is poorly researched, the reporting here is incomplete, and wolves are not the problem here.
    source: the bureau of land management & national park service websites

  33. ALL species should be protected whether they are endangered or not in my opinion!

    (if protection means limited hunting and habitat restoration. I understand hunting in moderation to be tolerable if not necessary. And I know we deal with limited resources… hehehe)

  34. They should take some of the wolves and release them in Texas where the invasive boars can be eaten as a natural prey item

  35. Interesting video, but ruined by the ending. Wolves are not overtly aggressive animals despite most depictions in mainstream media. They hunt cattle because that is the food source that is readily available because we've hunted other food sources to near extinction as well. They are only aggressive towards humans when threatened, otherwise they are very timid creatures with immense strength. Growing up in a family that is heavily involved in the conservation of large carnivores and spending a lot of my life around wolves, I have certainly been at the receiving end of that strength and sustained some injuries, none of which were made in an aggressive manner. The media needs to do more to help the wolf population grow globally, not just in the US, and a start would be to dispel this image of the wolf as an "aggressive predator" and rather show how vital their role is in the global eco system. If anyone is interested I suggest taking a look at some of the videos on the ecological role of the wolf in the Yellowstone National Park and how their reintroduction in the 90s transformed the landscape of the park.

  36. To include other types of audience for your pleasure on your YouTube Channel. Could you incorporate the closed captioning in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Mandrian Chinese?

  37. Can you guys please make a video on why most of the informative YouTube videos use Blue or Yellow as the background colour to their text?

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