(via: USA Today) DENVER — The gray wolf, hunted to near-extinction in the last century, has rebounded so well in six states that it can now be taken off the endangered species list, federal wildlife officials said Monday.
Federal protection for about 4,000 gray wolves in three western Great Lakes states — northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan — will end in about a month, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced.
Plans to do the same in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming probably will take the rest of this year, service director H. Dale Hall said. A formal proposal, with public hearings and a two-month comment period, will be published this week.
Two wildlife advocacy groups — the Defenders of Wildlife and Sinapu, a Colorado-based wolf advocacy group — warned they might sue to prevent taking wolves in the Rockies off the endangered list. Another group, the Center for Biological Diversity, claims the proposal will “end in the mass killing of wolves.”
The groups contend that state management of wolves in the Rockies will do too little to maintain the animal’s remarkable recovery since the mid-1990s, when 66 wild wolves from Canada were released in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. They have mushroomed to more than 1,200 today.
Hunters say wolves compete for elk, deer and other game. Ranchers complain they kill too many livestock. An anti-wolf group, Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, says it plans to sue to remove endangered status immediately.
Dropping federal protection would make states responsible for managing the wolf population. They could allow hunting and lethal control as long as at least 10 wolf packs and 100 animals remain in each state.
Ed Bangs, the Fish and Wildlife recovery coordinator in the Rockies, says Wyoming wants all its wolves outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks classified as “predators” that can be shot on sight without restriction. He hopes that talks with the state will produce an acceptable plan.
If not, Fish and Wildlife will keep federal restrictions in Wyoming, Hall said.
Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Monday that the agency’s threat “raises the interesting question of whether any (wolf) packs outside Yellowstone in Wyoming are even necessary.”
Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter told the Associated Press that he supports public hunting to kill all but the minimum 100 wolves and 10 wolf packs in his state once federal protection is lifted. “I’m going to bid for the first ticket to shoot a wolf,” he told a rally of hunters Jan. 11 at the state Capitol.
Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission last week approved seeking legislative authority to charge $26.50 for Idaho residents to hunt wolves.
Thanks to Pesya from the Insider Forum for this story