The U.S. Interior Department announced it will remove Endangered Species protection for most wolves in the lower 48 states. The decision comes at the suggestion of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in light of the “successful recovery” of wolves after remaining on the list for over three decades.
One subspecies of wolves, the Mexican wolf located in the U.S. Southwest, will remain listed as endangered, the Interior Department noted.
Wolves Now Thriving
“From the moment a species requires the protection of the Endangered Species Act, our goal is to work with our partners to address the threats it faces and ensure its recovery,” FWS Director Dan Ashe told the media in a statement. “An exhaustive review of the latest scientific and taxonomic information shows that we have accomplished that goal with the gray wolf, allowing us to focus our work under the ESA on recovery of the Mexican wolf subspecies in the Southwest.”
Grey wolf populations are thriving particularly well in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, where ranchers complain about frequent livestock kills. Jon Rachael, state wildlife game manager at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said he believes wolves won’t have any trouble maintaining their populations after federal endangered species protections are lifted.
“Wolf populations in the northern Rockies of the U.S. are robust, self-sustaining, and genetically interconnected through dispersal with and among wolves throughout Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, and Oregon, and to an even larger population of wolves in Canada,” Rachael said.
States Will Manage Populations
Removal of wolves from the Endangered Species List allows state wildlife officials to formulate their own plans for managing wolf populations.
“In this region—Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming—we’re comfortable with delisting, as the wolf is certainly recovered here,” said Ron Aasheim, a spokesperson for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
FWS noted its comprehensive review discovered the current listing for gray wolf “erroneously included large geographical areas outside the species’ historical range.”
According to FWS, there are at least 6,100 gray wolves in the contiguous United States.
The proposed FWS delisting is open to a 90-day comment period, and the final decision will be made in 2014.
Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.