Conserving the Nature of America

The Gray Wolf in the Northeast

Gray wolf. Credit: Gary Kramer/USFWS
Issues surrounding the gray wolf in the U.S. have kindled interest in the species in the Northeast. Credit: Gary Kramer/USFWS

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. Both the red wolf and the gray wolf are protected by the Endangered Species Act. (The Mexican wolf, which lives in the Southwest, is a subspecies of the gray wolf.)

In the 13-state Northeast Region, we have potential wolf habitat across northern New England and upstate New York, but we have no confirmed wild wolves living here.

Reintroducing Wolves in the Northeast

What is happening with the idea of restoring gray wolves to the northeastern U.S.? The Northern Forest Ecosystem, a 26 million acre forested area from the Adirondack Mountains of New York east through most of Maine, contains suitable gray wolf habitat and lies within the historical range of the gray wolf. Although two animals believed to be wolves were found in Maine during the 1990s and an additional wolf was found in upstate New York, a breeding population is not known to occur there today.

Significant educational efforts by private conservation groups have helped to develop interest in wolf recovery in those areas. The Service is considering options for a recovery strategy. In the meantime, protection remains in place for any naturally occurring wolves that migrate to the United States from Canada.

About the Gray Wolf

  • Facts about the gray wolf (Canis lupus)
  • High resolution images of gray wolves. Go to Type "gray wolf" in the "Search" window.

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Last updated: December 21, 2011