The gray wolf, once nearly wiped out in the Lower 48 states, is flourishing in the northern Rocky Mountains thanks to a federal recovery effort that got underway in 1995 with the reintroduction of 14 Canadian wolves into Yellowstone National Park. Now there are nearly 700 wolves in 41 packs in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and the feds are on the verge of declaring victory. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans later this month to downlist the species from “endangered” status to “threatened” status, a shift that would let ranchers kill wolves that attack their livestock. And the government may remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list altogether next year. Some environmentalists are likely to sue to maintain federal protections for the wolves.