Northeast Region
Conserving the Nature of America

Gray Wolves in the East

Gary Kramer/USFWS
Gray wolf

Wolves have long fascinated us — the howling, the eyes, the powerful body, the close family structure, the hint of danger. From The Big Bad Wolf to Never Cry Wolf, from Native American reverence to wildlife conservation reintroduction, wolves are woven through the fabric of human culture for centuries.

Wolves once lived in nearly every state, but now the only state with an abundance of gray wolves is Minnesota, although Wisconsin and Michigan also have healthy gray wolf populations. Red wolves, a different species of North American wolf, live in the southeastern United States.

We do not have evidence of wild wolf populations in the Northeast, but wolves were historically found in some of the 13 states in this region.

A proposal to delist gray wolves in western Great Lakes states was published in the Federal Register on May 5, 2011. The proposal included revision of the gray wolf's range and removal of federal protection of the Western Great Lakes distinct population segment of gray wolves. In December 2011, the Service published a final rule removing wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and in portions of adjoining states, from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants.

The May 2011 proposal included recent taxonomic information that the gray wolf subspecies Canis lupus lycaon should be elevated to the full species Canis lycaon, and that the population of wolves in the Western Great Lakes is a mix of the two full species, Canis lupus and Canis lycaon. Based on substantial information received from scientists and others during the public comment period, the Service has re-evaluated that proposal, and the final rule considers all wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS to be Canis lupus.

The Service also previously proposed delisting gray wolves in all or parts of 29 states in the eastern half of the United States. The Service continues to evaluate that portion of the proposal and will make a final separate determination at a later date.

Links about the Gray Wolf

Learn more about wolves in the Eastern U.S.

For wolf photos, see National Digital Library

"A Perspective on the Genetic Composition of Eastern Coyotes" by Steven M. Chambers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, N.M., published in Northeastern naturalist Vol. 17, No. 2, pp 205-210.

Last updated: April 2, 2012