Is the gray wolf actually endangered?
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Is the gray wolf actually endangered?

October 22, 2019

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.

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  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 video talked about the financial reason why people want the protection rolled back (killing livestock) but not others. As someone who lived in an area in which the gray wolf has made a comeback, there are other, sensible reasons why people want it rolled back. The wolves are getting frustratingly and dangerously close to people. I heard of people hitting wolves with their cars. I heard a guy say a wolf killed his dog and cat. I heard of people going for walks only to have a wolf stalk them alongside the road. I'm sure the livestock owners are the loudest voices calling for their removal from the list, but there are other voices too!

  3. Last month I shot 2 grey wolves that wandered onto my property out of boredom. Killed one instantly and severely injured the other. Didn’t know that they were endangered

  4. The amount of money the USA has spent to get the wolf population from Canada to help with the recovery. It would be a waste to take them off.

  5. I'am gonna start a livestock farm in Germany and in some parts of the country there are already wolf's again but i welcome them. So what then i have to build a little bit different high tensile perimeter fence or get some livestock guardianship dogs. The ecosystem services that the wolfs bring as a Keystone species and a predator are definitely worth a litttle bit more work

  6. I think this video leaves out a lot of the information on the other side of the argument. Grey wolves do serve a purpose in an ecosystem, and ecologists have been so happy with the work that has been done to reintroduce them to the sections of their habitat that they currently inhabit. They play vital roles in the ecosystems of america and this video treats them as just a nuisance.

  7. Hey Vice this is a well researched article but the map of current wolf populations is incorrect. There is currently wolves living in north west and south west Oregon

  8. This is not your best video considering many species probably will never be taken off the list. A population should be taken off when it’s population is not at risk for extermination, in growing and developing countries that’s not a big promise. The United States will probably never replenish the populations it has destroyed and they will constantly need regulations to at least keep those ecosystems healthy

  9. I disagree most animals should be on the dangered species list.

    Whats the downside? If an animal becomes stoo dominant it will be obvious. And if not it is safe from hunters.

    We are not in the stone age we do not need to hunt anymore.

  10. Vox, i know you like to hit a nerve, I dare you to speak about culling elephants to save them.
    I bet that would start an uproar, but would also pull back the veil on how conservation actually works.

  11. If only we treated the native Americans with the same level of respect and gave back their land. Guarantee they had much better control with way less resources and technology to help their studies.

  12. I trying to understand completely the video, but I think the mayor problem is not the enlist of the gray wolf into the endangered species list, but the lack of coordination between internacional protections act and protective measures, how could be OK to delist the gray wolf from ESL in US, and this is said to be OK because the wolves will not be extinct in the planet, the role of their ecological play in those ecosystems has to be taken into account, as showed in the video, the wolves will remain existing in the Artic ecosystem, but into the US ecosystems they will be ripped off, altering the ecosystem again, look to the sub-population, in Sonora desert, they are a very strong regulator force into this ecosystem, if the species is delisting, say in the US, probably they will desapear and the ecosystem will lost from its actual state.

  13. Fun fact: A well maintained wolf pact is much less likely to resort to hunting domestic livestock than a lone wolf that's unable to hunt wild game effectively but is free to roam because there is no local packt that keeps him away. A consistent wolf population = less wolf attacks.
    There are some farm owners who know this and protect their local wolves from being hunted so that they keep away the stray loners that are actually dangerous.

  14. There an over population of elk and deer including the onset of wasting disease… predators must be restored and find a way that humans and predators can exists?… while it is known in the past to present day that many or most farmers and ranchers including hunters want to see them gone and don't mind extinction as an afterthought?!? Still among hunters would love to shoot wolves, bobcats, mountain lions, and bears on any given day or opportunity and have them skinned, stuffed, and to have those beer nights to brag to their friends?!?

  15. I was so confused when I saw the first minute of the video, I live in northern Minnesota and hit one on the road last month. But I’m shocked now that I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

  16. Your coverage of Hong Kong was incredible, so why are you silent on Lebanon? Vox, PLEASE cover Lebanon. The western media has been all too silent on it.

  17. The Grey Wolf will never have that original range back, you have to remember alot of the Midwest used to be forest but now it's all farm fields and small woodlands which is not wolf habitat. Also animals can still be protected but not on the endangered species list, the grey wolf is clearly not endangered anymore but it still needs some protection which can be managed by the local state conservation agencies.

  18. If we dont protect them, neither the other countries are socially responsible to protect them. Can't fully depend on other countries doing the work of conservation and besides, the animal has a long ancestral history in that region, sort of like a natural heritage. You lose the genetic variation just like the Tiger species. Cases like Singapore or Hong Kong extirpated their Tiger population, and throwing the conservation responsibility to their neighboring Asian countries.

  19. Native Americans knew how to respect animals and flora. Now that’s what I call culture. Not sipping soup on a table surrounded by silverware and wine glasses. Europeans have ruined every land they’ve stepped on with their ‘more sophisticated’ western culture. Sad!

  20. It hurts seeing no wolves no longer in the wild in Colorado 🙁 it’s a shame, so much free land in the Rockies for them to live in and to many elk and deer that could be better controlled if there were wolves. I hope one day we can get wolves to thrive in Colorado once more. I say this because I’m a native and seeing the mountains so empty of wolves but so much wolf merchandise being sold threw out the Rockies is sad, thankfully there is many wolf sanctuarys at least so it ain’t completely empty

  21. The problem with endangered species list: the animals are/will NEVER be recovered to their original territory ranges… because we “civilians” are unable to live in balance with nature.

  22. There is a nastier predator, responsible of destroying ecosystems like no other, and bringing countless other species to extinction, should not there be some law to control this pest?

  23. O man and I always thought the USA was a little ahead of Germany concerning living with nature. 😕 interesting to see that "the wolf quest" especially isnt solved at all there either.

  24. Wolves and other animal species will be protected if it does not negatively affect business and economy and growth. If it does business lobbyist will influence politicians to in some way declassify or not protect them. That’s all that really needs to be known and why virtually all non human life is threatens and donned, which then ironically will threaten humans. See another comment below about keystone species.

  25. There are too many people. When do I get to hunt down the ones making the world worse instead of better? All poachers is a great place to start.

  26. Personally, the way it see is for the wild life expert to see if Gray Wolves can thrive in other areas that don't bother any humans.

  27. I still don't like the fact the Trump Administration is weakening the Endangered species act. This will have negative impacts and will likely drive many more species into extinction. Their lives are far more important than drilling for oil that will be used to cause more toxic carbon emissions

  28. If people see past the evil image of a wolf in their heads then they can make the right choice that fits humans and wolves

  29. This was interesting. Can you do a video on all the animals driven to extinction by the indigenous people? As well as the total habitation changed brought by them as well?

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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%

  33. 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

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

  35. 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.

  36. 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?

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