Wolf recovery in the northwestern United States - - Gray wolf (Canis lupus) populations were deliberately eliminated from the northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) of the United States by 1930. Naturally dispersing wolves from Canada first denned in Montana in 1986. In 1995 and 1996 wolves from western Canada were reintroduced to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park to accelerate recovery. The population increased >20%/yr after 1995, but has stabilized since 2008. In December 2010, there were at least 1,650 wolves in 244 packs [115 successfully reproducing as breeding pairs]. In April 2011 another >600 pups were born. The NRM wolf population has very high genetic diversity and is connected to a large western Canada wolf population. A high level of effective migration was maintained by natural dispersal when <850 wolves were present. Wolves now occupy >110,000 square miles in the NRM and suitable habitat (largely forested mountainous public land) appears saturated with resident wolf packs. Wolf restoration initially proceeded with more benefits (public viewing and restoration of ecological processes in natural areas), and fewer problems (livestock and pet depredation, decreases in wild ungulate populations, and agency wolf control) than predicted. But problems eventually increased and reduced local tolerance of wolves. In 2011 Federal legislation enacted the USFWS's 2009 science-based delisting rule. Wolves are now managed just like other resident wildlife, except in Wyoming where wolves remained listed. While the NRM wolf population is certainly biologically viable, public opinion remains divisive and litigation continues on several issues. Some habitat suitable for persistent wolf packs exists outside of western Montana, central and northern Idaho, and northwestern Wyoming, but appears limited compared to the NRM because of potential conflicts with local residents.
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