The gray wolf has been taken off the endangered species list in a multi-state area of the northern Rocky Mountains, National Geographic reports. "The wolves are back," said an official of the Department of the Interior. Just 66 of the animals were reintroduced to the region in 1996 and there are over 1,500 today. Environmental groups say it's too soon to take away the wolves' protection and believe many will soon be killed by hunters.
The zone affected covers Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and parts of neighboring states, where wolves had been almost completely wiped out before the reintroduction program began. Any wolf beyond the zone will retain its protected status. The return of the predators has been hailed as a conservation success story, despite the wolves' unpopularity with ranchers, and a wildlife group is now arguing that the animals should be brought back to other parts of the US. (Read more gray wolf stories.)