U.S. moves to lift remaining grey wolf protections

Wildlife advocates, members of Congress say move is premature because wolves occupy only a fraction of range

Gray wolves in the U.S. would be stripped of federal protection and subject to hunting and trapping in more states under a proposal released Thursday that declares the predators recovered following a decades-long restoration effort.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to revoke the wolves’ endangered and threatened species status and put them under authority of state wildlife agencies across the Lower 48 states. The Associated Press reported last week that the proposal was in the works.

Wildlife advocates and some members of Congress said the move is premature because wolves occupy only a fraction of a historical range that once stretched across most of North America.

But Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said it was “indisputable” that wolves had recovered enough to meet recovery goals. He said the agency could now devote more work to species in greater need.

Livestock interests, hunters and officials in some states have wanted the government to make it easier to kill wolves. The predators periodically prey on livestock such as cows and sheep and have been blamed for declining numbers of elk, moose and other big game in some areas.

“We need to take control of these wolves,” said Tony Demboski with the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance in Michigan, where there are an estimated 660 of the animals. “They’re cleaning up our deer herd, we’ve got people scared to go for a walk in the evenings. We’ve just got too many wolves.”

READ MORE: B.C. petition to end wolf cull submitted to province

Those who want more wolves in more places say such fears are overblown. Wolves very rarely attack people, and far more livestock are killed by other causes, including coyotes and disease.

“It doesn’t have to be either or — we have livestock or we have wolves,” said Kate Dylewsky with the Animal Welfare Institute. “Co-existence with wolves is very possible.”

Trapping, poisoning and hunting campaigns early last century exterminated wolves across most of the Lower 48 states by the 1930s. More than 6,000 of the animals now live in portions of nine states, officials say.

A final decision on lifting protections will follow a public comment period that begins Friday and runs through May 14.

Government officials said their goal was to protect wolves from extinction, not return them to everywhere they were once found.

The Endangered Species Act is not “a means to keep species from being hunted in perpetuity once they’ve met the threshold of recovery,” said Gavin Shire, spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Environmentalists and animal advocacy groups have pledged to challenge in court any action to ease or eliminate protections.

Putting grey wolves under state control would allow Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin to resume hunting and trapping blocked by a 2014 court ruling that returned them to the endangered list.

In other areas, such as the Pacific Northwest, wildlife officials say they have no immediate plans for hunting but could consider it in the future.

Aside from Alaska only three states — Montana, Idaho and Wyoming — currently allow the public to hunt wolves.

More than 600 were killed in the Northern Rockies states during the most recent hunting and trapping seasons.

Court rulings delayed hunting in the Northern Rockies for years after wolves reached the government’s benchmark for recovery in the early 2000s. Members of the region’s Congressional delegation ultimately inserted a provision into a budget bill that forced the animals off the endangered list.

Protections will be retained under Thursday’s proposal for two small populations of related species — the Mexican grey wolf in New Mexico and Arizona and the red wolf in North Carolina.

Matthew Brown And John Flesher, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Houston mill to re-open June 8

Ends lengthy shutdown which began in March

Major paving projects announced

Extends west of Smithers to east of Houston

B.C. government eyes antlerless moose harvest increase in bid to save caribou

Antlerless moose hunts reduce predation for threatened mountain caribou, says ministry

Annual bird count thrills organizer in Houston

Count took place over 48 hours

Major paving projects announced

Extends west of Smithers to east of Houston

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

Most Read