BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Gray wolf numbers rose across most of the Northern Rockies last year, reaching their highest level since federal officials reintroduced the predators to the region two decades ago.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday reported a minimum of 1,904 wolves at the end of last year in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington.

Congress lifted protections for wolves across the region except for Wyoming in 2011.

Their numbers have continued to slowly climb as packs spread into new areas. That includes portions of Washington state and Oregon, which now have an estimated 200 wolves combined.

In states that allow hunting of the species, wolf numbers dipped in Montana to 536 animals and rose slightly in Idaho to 786 wolves.

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