Wolves removed from endangered and threatened species list

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a rule today that removes protection from gray wolves in the lower 48 states. Prior to this action, the wolf was federally listed as threatened.

State wildlife agencies will assume control of managing an estimated 6,000 wolves, mostly in three Midwestern states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In a news release from the Minnesota DNR, the agency said, “In our July 2019 comments on the USFWS’s then-proposed delisting, we concluded ‘all evidence indicates that the gray wolf population in Minnesota has recovered’ and federal protection under the Endangered Species Act is no longer warranted in the state. We simultaneously recognized, however, that the situation in Minnesota is not representative of the wolf’s status elsewhere and noted that ‘a blanket delisting across the United States may not be warranted.’  This continues to be our position with respect to the federal listing status of the wolf, both within and beyond Minnesota.

“Equally important is the question of how we manage wolves in Minnesota. Our management includes an extensive and sophisticated monitoring program, conducted in cooperation with federal and tribal partners, that gives Minnesota some of the very best data available to inform our wolf management. The DNR’s management of wolves is guided by a wolf management plan that reflects our commitment to maintaining a biologically healthy wolf population in Minnesota across suitable wolf range, while also addressing conflicts between wolves and humans. We have used this plan since 2001 to actively and effectively manage Minnesota’s wolf population, both during times when the wolf was federally protected and times when it was not.”

Toward that end, and as a result of today’s announcement, those who want to share their opinions on wolf management in Minnesota will have additional time to do so as the DNR announced it is extending its wolf management public input period until Nov. 20 following today’s USFWS decision.

“We have been working on an update to our wolf management plan since November of 2019, and gathering broad public input on wolf management since late September,” said Dave Olfelt, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “Given today’s delisting decision, we will extend our web-based public input until Nov. 20 so people can consider the federal delisting prior to offering their input on wolf management in Minnesota. We will carefully consider all of this input as we draft revisions to our wolf management plan.”

Minnesota’s wolf management plan provides guidance on how the state manages wolves, including population monitoring, population management, depredation control, public safety and more. The DNR intends to share a draft updated wolf management plan for public review in early 2021 and will take comments on the plan itself at that time. The current plan, developed in 2001, is posted here.

Fish and Wildlife has sought to delist gray wolves numerous times. As recently as 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit blocked the agency from delisting wolves in the Great Lakes region, where most of them exist outside Alaska. Wolves were delisted in 2012, allowing state agencies to hold wolf trapping and hunting seasons for three years until late 2014, when a federal judge ruled that the agency had erred in taking wolves off the endangered list too soon.

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