Photo by Brianna R. on Unsplash.

By Esteban Guerra, age 9

Wolves play a big role in keeping our ecosystems healthy. Gray wolves are found in many parts of the United States, including Alaska, northern Michigan, northern Wisconsin, western Montana, northern Idaho, northeast Oregon and the Yellowstone area of Wyoming. Gray wolves can grow up to 5 feet and 2 inches and can weigh as much as 180 pounds, which makes them the largest canine species. Wolves eat big game animals like elk, bison, deer and moose. Gray wolves communicate with body language, scent marking, barking and howling.

Gray wolves were declared an endangered species and put on a federal protection list in 1974. However, in March 2019, the Department of the Interior began the process of removing gray wolves from this list. They were removed because Trump administration Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the animals had “exceeded all conservation goals for recovery.”

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison estimate that up to 323 wolves were likely killed by humans between April 2020 and April 2021 after being removed as an endangered species. Wildlife officials in Wisconsin ended a legal hunt of gray wolves after just three days in February this year after hunters killed at least 216 wolves, far surpassing a threshold of 119 set by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, according to HuffPost.

Since their status as endangered has been revoked, wolf conservation goals are now the responsibility of individual states. Wisconsin state law requires a wolf hunt between November and February. However, conservationists like Adrian Treves, a professor at UW-Madison, argue that wolf populations can only recover from the last deadly winter if no further hunting takes place.

Wolves are often viewed as pests by local farmers, as they have been known to feed on livestock. However, organizations like the Defenders of Wildlife work with ranchers to adopt nonlethal deterrents to keep wolves away from livestock like cows and sheep. Their goal is to reduce the likelihood that wolves will hunt livestock, and therefore build social acceptance of wolves within these communities.