settlers’ subsequent vigorous hunting of bison, deer, elk, and moose, led to a decline in
wolves’ sources of food.
As a consequence, wolves began to hunt homesteaders’ sheep,
cattle, and other livestock. Whether caused by wolves or not, ranchers blamed most
missing or killed livestock on wolf predation, and they sought revenge against the
In response to the perceived threat to their livestock, personal safety, and way of
life, ranchers and government agencies initiated aggressive campaigns to eliminate wolf
populations. Bounty programs began in the 18th century and continued until 1965,
offering $20-$50 per wolf. By 1925, it appeared that wolves were virtually extinct in the
lower 48 states, and that no viable wolf population remained anywhere in the greater
Yellowstone National Park area.
The Endangered Species Preservation Act
The Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, later amended to the
Endangered Species Act of 1973, brought protection to the gray wolf in 1967.
because of low numbers of breeding populations, it was doubtful that wolves would
successfully establish new colonies in the lower 48 states without additional changes in
public policy. A combination of increased scientific research on wolf ecology and
behavior, changing public perceptions of wolves, environmentalist movements, and other
social, economic, and demographic factors made wolf restoration a political issue. The
late 1980s saw several wolf reintroduction bills presented to Congress, but they were
vehemently opposed by ranchers and state governments.