Wolves once claimed territory throughout much of the lower 48 states. Under the Endangered Species Act, the reintroduction of wolves to the Intermountain West has occurred, and in the last 10 years their numbers have grown substantially after being hunted nearly to extinction. As packs begin to disperse seeking new territory, states are confronted with balancing wildlife populations with the rights and interests of landowners.
In the 2003 legislative session, the Utah State Legislature passed HJR 12 urging the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) to create a wildlife resource plan that sets out specific management goals for when wolves potentially establish a significant presence in Utah. The DWR established the Wolf Working Group (WWG) in the summer of 2003 to draft a statewide wolf management plan. Comprised of 13 members representing differing interests in wolf management, the WWG released an initial draft of its proposed management plan on March 18, 2005. Public comments on this draft will be taken until April 1, 2005 and will be considered in the creation of a final draft to be presented in public meetings in May. The draft is available for review at www.wildlife.utah.gov/wolf/. This brief examines the status of wolves in the Intermountain West and highlights recent policy developments that are relevant to the successful implementation of this management plan.