Feb 17, 2010 7:49 PM by Heath Heggem/KRTV

Living With Wolves: Timeline of Wolves in Montana

This winter a federal judge will be asked to decide if gray wolves should go back under federal control, or if Montana should continue its wolf management plan.

It was 74 years ago that the gray wolf was considered extinct in Montana, but wolf sightings and wolf signs have been found throughout the years, well before re-introduction.

Here's a brief timeline of wolves in Montana since then.

In 1974, gray wolves were given full protection and placed on the endangered species list, and all events in the last 35 years have been aimed at rehabilitating and maintaining a healthy wolf population.

In 1980 there was proof that wolves were making their way back into Montana, when a lone wolf killed livestock near Big Sandy.

By 1986 wolves were living and breeding in Montana once again, as a den was confirmed in Glacier National Park, meaning Canadian wolves were moving back down to the U.S.

In 1995, the federal government gave the wolf population a boost by reintroducing gray wolves in Yellowstone Park and in Central Idaho.

By 2002, the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service declared the wolf population had reached biological recovery under the Endangered Species Act, signaling the beginning of the de-listing efforts.

In 2004, Montana's state management plan was approved by the Fish & Wildlife service, with plans implemented in 2006.

In March of 2008, wolves were delisted, but there time off of the endangered species list was short-lived. By July of that year, a preliminary injunction granted wolves federal protection once again.

In May of 2009, wolves were de-listed again, and this time possibly for good.

And in September of 2009, Montana held its first wolf hunting season with a quota set at 75 wolves. The season closed early with 73 wolves harvested.

Currently, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks says there are at least 500 wolves in Montana.

Over the next few nights we'll learn how these wolves impact the livestock industry, how they're monitored and managed, and how conservation groups are fighting for more protection.

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