The gray wolf is still the second most widespread land predator, although humans (the top widespread predator) have reduced their historic range by approximately one-third. In areas where the wolf was once whipped the canny canids are making a comeback.
European wolves benefited from the continent's gradual move away from agricultural economies. As less people farmed and ranched, the wolves faced less persecution as threats to livestock. In Italy, the gray wolf population continues to increase into the hundreds and has now spread into France's Mercantour National Park and the western Alps. Italian wolves are doing so well they even have time to enjoy the finer things in life. Recent studies have found that some wolves in Tuscany are gourmands, who prefer wild boar to the deer other European wolves eat.
American wolves are retaking territory as well. The wolves lost a tremendous geographic range during the past few centuries. They once covered nearly the entire North American continent as far south as central Mexico, but extermination campaigns pushed them north of the Canadian border, with only a few remnants left in the lower 48 states by the 1950s.
U.S. gray wolves have returned to areas of the northern Rocky Mountains, where they were removed from the endangered species list last year. The wolves have also spread south in Wisconsin from a stronghold in Minnesota. Last year Wisconsin had its first organized and legal wolf hunt in recent history. However, the hunt drew criticism from groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, that considered the population (~800) to be too small for a hunt. Wolf hunts in the Rocky Mountain region also have been contentious, especially the practice of hunting wolves from helicopters.