I find wolves fascinating and every now and then I'll hear a report of one seen in the backcountry of Missouri. It's not common, but I've learned the Show Me State used to be a natural habitat for these wolves and may be again soon.

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I first saw an article on Only In Your State about 4 wild animals that seem out of place, but are actually seen sometimes in Missouri. Gray wolves are on that list.

That led me on a search to find out how common it is to see these predators in Missouri. A video shared by Vox about gray wolves included a map that shows Missouri was part of their domain centuries ago and still is to some degree today.

Infographic, Vox via YouTube
Infographic, Vox via YouTube

Gray wolves that occasionally are spotted in Missouri these days are normally those that wander south from the upper Midwestern states like Michigan. I've heard stories of hunters mistaking these wolves for coyotes which is a problem since gray wolves are a protected species.

I have to wonder if Missouri will eventually see something that happened out west back in the mid-1990's when wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park. It was a controversial move that scientists believed would rebalance the ecosystem where there was an overpopulation of deer and elk. Bears had also taken over as the main predator for those populations. The wolves changed all that and there are now several prominent packs that are natural adversaries to grizzlies and now the deer elk population is back to normal levels.

Why would gray wolves be reintroduced back into Missouri in greater numbers?

It's no secret that the bear population in Missouri has grown exponentially over the past few years to the point where the state has now had 2 bear hunting seasons. I have to wonder if the gray wolf population was allowed to be what it used to in Missouri if that incursion of bears would be muted. Could it be that the ecosystem balance would be returned like it was in Yellowstone? Possibly.

There's another issue that needs to be mentioned and that's the fact that wolves out west that were returned are now a problem for ranchers. Just ask any Colorado rancher who can't shoot wolves that are attacking their herds. Missouri dairy farmers would likely not enjoy that new challenge.

Will wolves become a common sight in Missouri like they were a couple centuries ago? I doubt it as I can't imagine a politician being willing to back that effort. But, don't rule it out. It happened out west and could happen in the Show Me State, too especially if the bear population growth isn't controlled.

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