Wolves Discovered In Nevada For The First Time In Eight Years Giving Hope For The Future Of Their Species

Hopeful news for wolves in the U.S. as The Nevada Department of Wildlife has announced the presence of three wolves in Elko County. This is the first time that wolves have been documented in Nevada since 2016.

“I’m so happy to welcome wolves back to the Silver State where they belong,” said Amaroq Weiss, a senior wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves are a vital part of healthy mountain ecosystems in the West, and there’s plenty of room for them to thrive in Nevada.”

The animals were first detected on March 17th by a helicopter crew that was contracted by the department to radio-collar moose. The crew reported its sighting to the department, which then coordinated with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a search plan. This led to a site visit by department staff, who discovered tracks, collected scat for DNA-testing, and set out trail cameras.

The area where these wolves were detected is a mix of high desert sagebrush steppe and mountains forested in pinyon pine and juniper, with more mountainous forests at higher elevations. Elko County is rich in ungulates like moose, elk, deer, and pronghorns, which provide a food source for wolves.

At 2 to 3 years old, wolves typically disperse from the pack in which they’re born and set off to seek mates and territories of their own. They can wander hundreds of miles in this search.

While state officials don’t yet know where these wolves came from, California, Oregon, and Idaho could all become good source populations for more wolves to make their way into Nevada.

The wolf confirmed in Nevada in 2016 was determined, through genetic analysis of scat collected from the animal, to be an offspring of neighboring California’s Shasta pack.

Any wolves dispersing into Nevada or establishing packs there are protected as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Killing or harming wolves is prohibited and punishable by jail time and fines.

“State and federal wildlife officials should do everything they can to ensure these wolves are protected,” said Weiss. “Wolves are symbols of the wildness of the West, and Nevada is as wild as it gets. It’s truly inspiring to watch as wolves continue to recover under the protections of the Endangered Species Act.”

Wolves historically ranged through Nevada. Federal trappers reported capturing wolves in the northern half of the state throughout the early part of the 20th century. As is true across the country, wolves were systematically exterminated from Nevada through a system of bounties put on their heads.

“We are thrilled to hear that the Nevada Department of Wildlife has confirmed three wolves in northern Elko County, the first confirmed presence of wolves in Nevada in eight years! This news highlights the potential for wolf recovery in the state, and we applaud the Department’s work to coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to document these newcomers,” said Leslie Williams and Samantha Attwood, founding members of The #RelistWolves Campaign.

“We celebrate the dispersal of wolves back into their historical range and we hope that this trio will be allowed to thrive and contribute to biodiversity by performing their natural ecological functions as a keystone species,” continued Williams and Attwood. “More than ever, continuing protection of gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act is crucial for their survival and recovery, not just in Nevada but across all states. We look forward to Nevada playing a role in the broader recovery of wolves in the American West.”

We must continue to protect wolves throughout the United States to ensure that a stable and healthy wolf population continues to grow and flourish for the future of their species in the wild.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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