Gray wolf (Canis lupus)

Principal Biologist(s)

Val Asher, Mike Phillips

Project Location

Flying D Ranch, MT

Conservation Problem

Wolves continue to be a polarizing issue in the West, limiting expansion to its historic range.

Conservation Status

– Delisted under Endangered Species Act in April of 2011

– Listed as “species in need of management” in Montana

Project Goals & Objectives

Our goals are to promote the persistence of wolves on the Flying D Ranch and to understand their relationships with bison and elk.


Project Background

Gray wolves of the Beartrap pack first established residency on the Flying D Ranch in 2002. At its peak in 2011, this pack comprised 24 wolves, a notably large pack.

Due to a successful recovery program gray wolves are now widely distributed in the northern Rocky Mountains, including the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Wolves were delisted from the Endangered Species Act in April 2011. In Montana, wolves were reclassified statewide as a “species in need of management.” This designation allows for flexibility in managing wolves and addressing wolf-livestock conflicts.

In 2009, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MTFWP) implemented a wolf harvest with a quota of 75 wolves, which was met. Due to litigation, the wolf harvest was postponed in 2010. In 2011 the state set a quota of 220, with 166 wolves harvested by the end of the season. The quota remained the same for 2012 with 225 wolves harvested by seasons end. In 2013, wolf tags were available at 5 per hunter with no wolf management area quotas set, except for areas around Yellowstone and GlacierNational Parks. As of January 10, 2014, 150 wolves had been harvested statewide.

In 2000, TESF hired Val Asher to assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and later MTFWP, with wolf recovery in southwest Montana. TESF is the only private organization ever permitted under the ESA to assist the USFWS with wolf recovery:  a notable achievement for us to be involved for over nine years with the daily implementation of wolf recovery and management. With delisting imminent, in 2010 our efforts shifted to the Flying D Ranch, with a focus on promoting wolf use of the ranch and understanding how they affect the bison ranching and elk hunting operations.