From 20 endangered animals in 1992, the gray wolves population has grown to over 500 in 2008. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service soon after began a plan to wean this species from the list of endangered animals in the great lakes area. By the time they actually got to do this, the population had risen to over 4,000 in 3 areas alone: Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It was a monumental move that garnered a lot of admiration for the incumbent governor at the time.
Their logic was that the population had reached the desired recovery point, and therefore no longer required protection under the federal government. This shifted the responsibility for sustained population to the local government instead.
However just last year, in August 2010, a federal court reversed this decision and put the gray wolves back in the list of endangered animals. The move was the culmination of a law suit that was filed by conservation groups led by the Defender of Wildlife.
These groups acknowledged that the population growth of the gray wolves is commendable. However, states such as Idaho has an existing law that allows gray wolves to be killed ”by any means necessary.” Should the gray wolves step into the this area, it would mean rampant killings of gray wolves and the sharp decline in their numbers.
According to these conservation groups, only half the work has been done. The other half which involved a protected life as wild animals should be the next focus. In the meantime, it would mean keeping the gray wolves under the protective custody of being in the endangered animals list.
Once upon a time when gray wolves roam freely, there were an estimated 2 million of them. Today, this number even with the conservation efforts has dwindled to less than a quarter of the estimated population. In Alaska, the population is about 7,000 to 11,000. Other states have a combined estimated population of 5,000 only. The rest of the gray wolves are in 57 other countries like Canada.
The numbers dropped fast because of economic growth and development. Humans would kill the wolves because they attacked their farm animals. This grew to a common misconception that gray wolves are extremely dangerous and should be killed on the spot, regardless of the presence of threat to human and animal lives. Combine this with the fact that the wolves were losing their natural habitat in exchange for residential or farm land.
Reference: Illustrated Encyclopedia of endangered animals.