#MapMonday: Envisioning a Future for Wolves

In this week’s episode of #MapMonday, the CCI team celebrates Wolf Awareness Week with a new vision for wolf restoration efforts.

To learn more, visit our storymap here.

Click to view video transcript Welcome back to another Map Monday and Happy Wolf Awareness Week. There are several elements needed to maintain balance within an ecosystem. One of these elements is the presence of top predators, of which wolves are a perfect example.

Wolves play a fundamental role in maintaining ecosystem health by keeping prey populations in check. This, in turn, helps other plant and animal species to thrive and enhances the native biodiversity of an ecosystem. In areas where wolves have been extirpated, the ecosystem has been left missing, an essential element for maintaining a structured network between predator and prey.

Unfortunately, even the wolf populations that do exist today may not be serving the true ecological functions they once did. Before European settlers arrived, hundreds of thousands of wolves ranged all across North America. Extensive eradication efforts, followed by recent decades of wolf hunts and cycles of listing and de-listing have all caused, Wolf, populations to steadily decline. Let’s hear more about how Defenders is addressing these issues through a collaborative effort between our field conservation program and the Center for Conservation Innovation to create our Wolf Restoration Vision story map, a project led by our WISE fellow, Annie Moore.

I worked as a GIS intern with Defenders of Wildlife to create a story map that can help communities understand the importance of wolf restoration and how we can achieve this goal. By looking at historical and current ranges, as well as suitable wolf habitat, we are able to map out our vision as to how we can address these population declines. We can see that currently, wolf populations occupy less than half of the lower 48 states, which is not even near the extent of wolves’ historical ranges.

Even though restoring wolf populations won’t happen overnight, taking the proper actions and necessary steps in achieving this goal will ensure security for the future of wolves in North America. In restoration efforts, there is a need for improved coexistence between humans and wolves and decisions to be guided by the three R’s - representation, resiliency and redundancy. Successful wolf restoration also requires an awareness of and increased funding for non-lethal conflict, deterrence measures and standards for their effective implementation. This story map is meant to bring defenders restoration vision to life and rally support for strategic approaches to sharing the landscape with wolves. To share more about this, here is our senior manager for field conservation, Serda Ozbenian.

Thanks, Annie. Defenders of Wildlife has been dedicated to protecting and restoring red, gray and Mexican gray wolves for decades, working on the ground, in the courts and on Capitol Hill. Our vision is to restore wolves and multiple suitable areas in numbers large enough to protect wolf populations from threats and fulfill their keystone role as top predators and with enough connectivity to other wolf populations to provide for essential dispersal and gene flow. Despite tremendous gains since the days of near eradication of wolves, we’re not there yet. Ongoing threats and inconsistent efderal protections have created significant obstacles to wolf restoration efforts. But with concerted effort, we can protect existing wolf populations and restore wolves to the lower 48 states.

Defenders advocates for coexistence with wolves and promotes non-lethal tools and strategies for addressing conflicts with wolves. We worked directly with ranchers, landowners, federal, state and tribal government agencies, researchers and other conservation organizations to minimize human wolf conflict, foster social acceptance of wolves and help rebuild wolf populations. Check out our story map to find out how you can help. Back to you, Annie.

And thanks, Serda, for all the hard work you and your team put in developing Defenders’ restoration vision for wolves. Check out the story map to learn more and we’ll see you next Map Monday.

Mae Lacey
Previous Conservation GIS Analyst

As the previous Conservation GIS Analyst in the Center for Conservation Innovation, Mae provided support and leadership for geospatial product development across Defenders.