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A Yellowstone Chronology

  • 1872 -- Yellowstone National Park created by an act of Congress requiring preservation of its "natural curiosities, or wonders" and prohibiting "wanton destruction" of its fish and game. But hide hunters continue killing thousands of elk and other ungulates and poisoning their carcasses to kill wolves and coyotes for pelts.

  • 1914 -- Yellowstone wolf extirpation campaign begins after Congress appropriates funds for "destroying wolves, prairie dogs, and other animals injurious to agriculture and animal husbandry" on public lands -- the start of a war against predators in the West.

  • 1926 -- Two wolf pups are trapped on bison carcass, the last of some 136 Yellowstone wolves killed in the extirpation campaign begun in 1914.

  • 1935 -- Yellowstone Park ends predator control in line with new National Park Service policy.

  • 1944 -- Noted biologist Aldo Leopold calls for wolf restoration to Yellowstone ecosystem and other large western wild areas.

  • 1947 � Defenders of Wildlife founded.

  • 1968 -- In Defenders magazine, Canadian wolf expert Douglas H. Pimlott advocates wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone Park as well as Canada's Banff and Jasper National Parks.

  • 1973 -- Congress passes Endangered Species Act, mandating recovery planning for endangered and threatened species. Rocky Mountain gray wolf listed as endangered.

  • 1974 � The federal government establishes the Rocky Mountain wolf recovery team.

  • 1977 � Defenders hires Hank Fischer to lead its recovery efforts for the Rocky Mountain wolf. He begins working to get wolves back in Yellowstone.

  • 1978 -- Biologist John Weaver in Monograph (written for National Park Service) concludes that wolves are no longer resident in Yellowstone Park and recommends reintroduction. Defenders' Great Basin representative Dick Randall advocates Yellowstone wolf restoration in an article in Defenders magazine.

  • 1980 -- First Rocky Mountain wolf recovery plan drafted, but fails to make any recommendation regarding Yellowstone. Defenders urges revising to include Yellowstone

  • 1981 -- Federal and state agencies begin revising recovery plan.

  • 1986 -- Wolf authority L. David Mech, in Defenders magazine interview, advocates Yellowstone reintroduction, calling the ecosystem "a place that begs to have wolves."

  • 1987 -- Representative Wayne Owens (D-Utah) introduces legislation to require immediate Yellowstone wolf restoration. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) approves revised Rocky Mountain wolf recovery plan calling for Yellowstone reintroduction. Defenders' Northern Rockies representative Hank Fischer conducts western livestockmen on trip to learn about wolf/livestock experience in Minnesota. Wolf symposium is sponsored by Defenders at National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. Defenders begins compensating Montana ranchers for verified livestock losses to wolves. Defenders makes first reimbursements, totaling $3,049, to three ranchers for wolf depredations.

  • 1988 -- Utah Congressman Owens (eventually to become a Defenders Board Member), discussing his wolf legislation in a Defenders magazine interview, says he is interested in "trying to restore a balance to Yellowstone National Park. The wolf is the only missing piece." Senator James McClure (R-Idaho) in a Defenders interview backs Yellowstone and Idaho wolf reintroduction provided rancher interests are protected. Congress directs National Park Service and FWS to study potential impacts of Yellowstone reintroduction.

  • 1989 -- Congressman Owens introduces legislation requiring government to prepare Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Yellowstone wolf reintroduction. Defenders reimburses a total of $1,730 to two ranchers for wolf depredations.

  • 1990 -- National Park Service publishes "Wolves for Yellowstone?" studies ordered by Congress. Defenders announces establishment of $100,000 Wolf Compensation Fund to reimburse ranchers for verified wolf depredations on livestock. Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan, Jr., appoints Defenders' Northern Rockies representative Hank Fischer to new Wolf Management Committee to recommend wolf reintroduction plan. Senator McClure introduces wolf reintroduction bill. Defenders cosponsors summertime children's wolf art exhibition seen by several hundred thousand Yellowstone visitors. Defenders magazine later reproduces selection of paintings. Defenders pays out $4,700 from the Wolf Compensation Fund.

  • 1991 -- Defenders sues to force reintroduction. Congress votes funds for wolf EIS. Lawsuit is dismissed. Defenders pays out $1,250 from Wolf Compensation Fund.

  • 1992 -- First EIS hearings held with strong presence of wolf supporters. Defenders sets up "Vote Wolf" booth in Yellowstone Park to collect signatures of visitors. Defenders establishes wolf reward program to pay landowners $5,000 for allowing wolves to breed successfully on their property. Congress directs agencies to complete EIS by January, 1994. Defenders pays out $684 from Wolf Compensation Fund.

  • 1993 -- Draft Yellowstone wolf EIS released July 1. Public hearings in a number of cities draw predominately favorable comment. Defenders delivers 72,000 ballots, all but about 2,000 pro-wolf, from Yellowstone booth to Secretary of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes starting Yellowstone and Idaho reintroduction in October, 1994.

  • 1994 -- Final EIS issued. In June, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt signs EIS record of decision and statement of findings. FWS issues final rule on November 22nd regarding the establishment of a nonessential experimental population of gray wolves in Yellowstone and Idaho. Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation files suit against reintroduction plans, claiming "irreparable harm" to ranchers, on November 25th. At December court hearings, Defenders' Northern Rockies Representative Fischer appears as a witness at government request. Defenders pays Montana rancher $5,000 reward for first successful wolf den on private land. Defenders pays out $5,701 from Wolf Compensation Fund.

  • 1995

      January 3 -- U.S. District Judge William Downes in Cheyenne Wyoming, denies preliminary injunction sought by Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation. On January 9, government begins shipment of wild wolves from Alberta, Canada, but Farm Bureau wins temporary stay order from federal appellate court in Denver. Wolves cannot be released until judge rules on stay order.

    • January 12 -- First wolves arrive in Yellowstone National Park after capture in Alberta, Canada. Fourteen wolves, comprising three family groups, are not released but placed in acclimation enclosures. Secretary Bruce Babbitt, FWS Director Mollie Beattie and Defenders of Wildlife president Rodger Schlickeisen are on hand.

    • March 19 -- Federal district judge in Wyoming denies the American Farm Bureau's motion for a preliminary injunction to stop release of wolves from the Yellowstone acclimation pens.

    • March 21 -- Doors to Yellowstone acclimation pens are opened.

    • April 26 -- Discovery of the radio-collar of an adult male wolf in Red Lodge, Montana, indicates first illegal mortality in Yellowstone. Defenders of Wildlife immediately offers a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the wolf killer. An informant comes forward, and the wolf's head and hide are soon discovered in a cabin. The shooter, Chad McKittrick, claims he thought the animal was a dog.

    • April 28 � Judge in federal district court in Wyoming consolidates National Audubon Society suit challenging the status of Idaho wolves (not Yellowstone) with those filed by James and Cat Urbigkit (seeking natural repopulation) and the Wyoming Farm Bureau (objecting to the reintroduction altogether).

    • May 10 � Defenders receives an order granting its motion to intervene in the case, and the group's status is now that of defendant intervenor on behalf of the government. Judge Downes is expected to rule on the case by late summer or autumn.

    • August 25 -- President Clinton and his family visit the adult female and her pups in the Yellowstone Park acclimation pen. The President also meets with environmental leaders, including Defenders' president Rodger Schlickeisen and Northern Rockies representative Hank Fischer.

      Defenders pays out $1,633 from Wolf Compensation Fund. Anticipating the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf, Wolf Compensation Fund is expanded to cover potential losses in the Southwest.

      Following the government shutdown in December 1995, Defenders contributes much needed staff and funding through 1996 to complete second reintroduction of wolves.

  • 1996

      January 22 -- Second shipment of wolves is sent to Yellowstone and central Idaho. A U.S. Forest Service plane carries 20 wolves from British Columbia to Bozeman, Montana. Eleven of these wolves are taken to Yellowstone, and nine to Missoula. Bob Ferris, Species Conservation Director for Defenders of Wildlife, was among the volunteers processing animals in British Columbia. Montana Stockgrowers Association files for temporary restraining order in Billings.

    • February 26 -- Chad McKittrick is sentenced for the April 1995 wolf killing in Red Lodge, Montana, a violation of the Endangered Species Act.

    • March 29 � Judge Downes denies motion for preliminary injunction by Montana Stockgrowers Association, meaning that the second shipment of wolves will be released. No word yet on a final decision on the merits regarding the first suit challenging the first reintroduction brought by the Wyoming Farm Bureau.

    • March 30 -- Female wolf #11of the Soda Butte pack was found shot to death near Meeteetse, Wyoming. Jay York, an employee of the Deseret Ranch, soon turns himself in claiming he thought the animal was a coyote.

    • April 2 -- The Nez Perce and Rose Creek acclimation pens are opened, and eleven wolves are released. Ten days later, the Chief Joseph Pack, which was held at the Crystal Bench acclimation pen, is transported and released approximately 25 miles south of Mammoth. In another three days, the Lone Star Group, originally known as the Blacktail Pair, is released from their acclimation pen. Later, the pack is renamed the Leopold pack after Defenders president Rodger Schlickeisen suggested the name to honor pioneering conservationist Aldo Leopold, who called for the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone in 1944. Still no decision from Judge Downes on the Wyoming Farm Bureau's first complaint and motion for injunctive relief.

    • April 15 -- The U.S. Attorney's office fines Jay York $500 for the killing of wolf #11.

    • October 7 -- Soda Butte Pack is released in southeast Yellowstone.

      Defenders pays $7,483 from Wolf Compensation Fund.

  • 1997

    • September 24 - The Yellowstone wolf population briefly reaches 100, 64 being pups of that year.

    • December 12 - Judge Downes rules on the three-year-old lawsuit brought against the reintroduction by the American Farm Bureau Federation. He finds that the FWS establishment of a nonessential experimental population of gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park is unlawful and orders the removal of the reintroduced non-native wolves and their offspring from the Yellowstone and central Idaho experimental population areas pending appeal.

    • December 30 - Defenders of Wildlife files notice of appeal.

      The Defenders of Wildlife Wolf Compensation Fund officially becomes a trust. Defenders reimburses ranchers $32,690 from Wolf Compensation Trust for depredations.

  • 1998

    • June 22 � Defenders and NWF file intervenor-appellants brief.

    • July � Farm Bureau plaintiffs/appellees file their brief.

    • August � National Audubon Society, citing a reappraisal of the law and facts in the case, files a motion to dismiss and realign, changing its status from plaintiff-appellee to defendant-appellant.

    • September � Friends of Animals files its amicus brief. The brief supports the district courts' decision that naturally occurring wolves be accorded full protection under the ESA. Plaintiffs/Appellees James and Cat Urbigkit file their opening brief. The brief supports the district court's ruling that FWS violated section 10(j) of the ESA.

    • October-November � The Urbigkits file motion seeking an order enjoining the destruction of any naturally occurring wolf of unknown origin within the designated wolf recovery areas pending resolution of the appeals. Defenders, NWF, National Audubon and others file an opposition to the Urbigkit's emergency injunction. Judges deny Urbigkit motion.

      Defenders reimburses ranchers $12,156 from Wolf Compensation Trust.

  • 1999

    • Defenders' Wolf Compensation Trust is expanded to $200,000. To date, Defenders has reimbursed 85 ranchers more than $80,000 for verified wolf depredation to livestock since the program's inception in 1987.

    • February 17 Chad McKittrick starts to serve his three months jail time for the illegal killing of wolf #10M in 1995

    • May 13 -- Oral argument in the Wyoming Farm Bureau court case is postponed due to illness of the government litigator.

    • July 29 A panel of three judges is slated to hear arguments on this date at the Tenth U.S. District Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado.
  • 2000
    • The Montana Governor appoints 12 Montana residents, including a representative from Defenders of Wildlife, to the Montana Wolf Management Advisory Council. The council helps guide Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks on wolf management issues in anticipation of future state management.

    • The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are 30 breeding pair in the tri-state Rocky Mountain Recovery Area of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

    • In July, The Fish and Wildlife Service releases a proposal to reduce protections for gray wolves by "downlisting" the wolf from "endangered" to "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act across much of the country, and eliminate federal protections completely in other areas.

    Defenders makes 37 compensation payments totaling $50,377
    Defenders spends $11,112 on five proactive wolf projects

  • 2001
    • The Montana State Legislature removes the gray wolf from Montana�s list of predatory species once the wolf is de-listed. Upon delisting, wolves are legally reclassified in Montana as a species in need of management.

    • The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates 35 breeding pairs in 51 packs, are in the tri-state Rocky Mountain Recovery Area; a total of approximately 550 wolves.

    Defenders makes 28 compensation payments totaling $65,359
    Defenders spends $8,254 on three proactive wolf projects

  • 2002
    • An estimated 663 wolves in 43 breeding pairs are counted in the tri-state Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Area at the end of the year

    Defenders makes payments totaling $65,359
    Defenders spends $30,006 on wolf proactive projects

  • 2003
    • In April, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service releases its final plan to down-list wolves across much of the lower 48 states.

    • In October, Defenders and 18 co-plaintiffs file a lawsuit arguing that the Service's decision to downlist the wolf is not based solely on the best available science, as required by the federal ESA.

    • The states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming submit wolf management plans to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

    • Dr. Bill Ripple of Oregon State University finds that wolves may be helping to reverse a trend in the seven-decade long decline of vegetation, particularly aspen and willow in Yellowstone National Park. As a result of wolves pressuring elk to disperse from overgrazing fragile meadow ecosystems, a host of other species appear to benefit from the return of the wolf, including beaver, songbirds, and fish.

    • An estimated 761 wolves in 51 breeding pairs are counted in the tri-state Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Area at the end of the year

    Defenders makes 45 payments totaling $63,237
    Defenders spent $23,295 on 10 wolf proactive projects

  • 2004
    • Defenders of Wildlife issues its first State of the Wolf report

    • The United States Fish and Wildlife Service approves ID and MT state plans and rejects WY.

    • The states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming submit wolf management plans to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

    • The United States fish and Wildlife Service proposes a new 10j amendment to wolf management regulations. The new amendment would strip the wolves of much of their legal protection.

    • An estimated 835 wolves in 66 breeding pairs are counted in the tri-state Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Area at the end of the year.

    Defenders makes 84 payments totaling $130,096
    Defenders spends $65,947 on 12 proactive wolf projects

  • 2005
    • January 31: A federal district court rules that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it reduced protections for gray wolves across most of the lower-48 United States. The court's decision ensures the highest level of federal protection for wolves and requires that the government continue its efforts to recover the species throughout its historic range.

    • An estimated 1020 wolves in 71 breeding pairs are counted in the tri-state Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Area at the end of the year.

    Defenders makes 73 payments totaling $97,184
    Defenders spends $25,786 on eight wolf proactive projects

  • 2006
    • January: Sec. Norton signs a MOU with the state of Idaho which hands wolf management for much of the state over to Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

    • January: The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announces a plan to kill 75 percent of the wolves within the Clearwater National Forest's Lolo district for the next five years, blaming wolves for low elk numbers despite overwhelming evidence that habitat conditions, not wolves, are limiting those numbers

    • February: IDFG receives 42,500 comments re the Clearwater proposal, the vast majority of which oppose the plan. (more than 41,000 as a result of a Defenders e alert campaign)

    • February 8th: The United States. Fish and Wildlife Service announces its intention to establish a Distinct Population Segment of the gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains, and then delist this population.

    • April 10: Defenders Comments on the Proposed Delisting Rule

    As of March 2006, Defenders has made compensation payments totaling $72,342