WASHINGTON (CN) – Removing the gray wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife may be warranted, according to a finding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in response to petitions by hunters and others.
The agency now begins a year-long review of the issue.
After the agency reinstated endangered status (threatened for Minnesota) in response to a court order a year ago, four petitions were submitted to remove the protections from the Western Great Lakes wolf populations: by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Sportsmen’s Alliance, and Safari Club International with the National Rifle Association. Removal from the list is based primarily on the theory that the animals from the three states are one “species.”
Gray wolves once populated the major part of the contiguous United States, according to the agency Web site. In 1974 when gray wolves were listed as an endangered species, their breeding range had been reduced to a small corner of northeastern Minnesota. and Isle Royale, Mich., according to the site. Now, there are now approximately 5,857 individual gray wolves and 182 breeding packs restored to a small part of the historic range, according to agency information. In Alaska, where the gray wolves are not protected by the Endangered Species Act, there are between 7,700 and 11,200 wolves, according to agency information.