Feds Take Comments On Delisting Wolves

Sep 15, 2010

A federal wildlife agency will consider taking wolves off the endangered species list for the fourth time in Great Lakes states. Minnesota and Wisconsin and various sportsman groups asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the animal from the list. Michigan also supports the change.

Michigan Wolves Fare Well
Chris Hoving, the endangered species coordinator in the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment, says a decades-old recovery plan for wolves said the wolf would be doing well when there were at least 100 in Michigan and Wisconsin combined.

"At this point today we are above 1,000 wolves in Michigan and Wisconsin combined. And so we're ten times the number needed to delist," he says.

But groups opposed to delisting say recovery isn't complete when a few states reach a goal.

Could Delisting Here Hurt Recovery Elsewhere?
Michael Robinson, with the Center for Biological Diversity says, if protections are removed, wolves won't have a chance to spread to other parts of their historic range. He says taking wolves off the endangered species list in the Great Lakes slams the door for recovery in nearby states.

"Wolves have time and time again shown up in the Dakotas," he says. "And there is good habitat for them there in the old Great Plains. And yet they've been unable to be established."

The Center for Biological Diversity has asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a wolf recovery plan for the entire lower forty-eight states.

Laura Ragan, a biologist with the service, says the agency is reviewing the need for that kind of plan right now. That information will be included in the decision-making about delisting wolves in the Great Lakes.

"It wouldn't necessarily keep all wolves on the endangered species list," she says. "But it would clearly articulate where we think wolves have recovered and where we think we need to keep wolves on the list."

Michigan Wants Wolves Off The List
Michigan wildlife officials are chomping at the bit to have wolves delisted and put under state management. They say all this back and forth, on and off the endangered species list is leading to frustration. The number of illegal wolf kills spiked sharply last winter.

Wildlife officials believe some people in the U.P. who think there are too many of the animals are taking matters into their own hands.

Robinson, with the Center for Biological Diversity, says wolf poaching is a concern, but that the Fish and Wildlife Service has always been opposed to granting wolves protection.

"The only reason wolves were reintroduced into the northern Rocky Mountains and into the Southwest is because of litigation that was opposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. And Fish and Wildlife Service has been all too eager to prematurely delist wolves in the Great Lakes states," he says.

The public has 60 days to comment to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency's review on whether or not to delist in the Great Lakes could take up to a year.