Upper Great Lakes Wolves Off The Endangered List

Jan 27, 2012

Starting today, gray wolves are no longer under federal protection in the Upper Great Lakes region. That means states have a free hand to go after wolves that cause problems for people.

Wildlife officials say delisting is long overdue, but court battles had blocked their efforts.

Wolf numbers in the Upper Great Lakes have rebounded dramatically over the last decade. It's a success story of recovery under the Endangered Species Act.

But more wolves have meant more attacks on pets and livestock and states' hands have been tied in dealing with problem wolves as long as they were considered endangered.

Starting today that changes as states take over.

Brian Roell a state wolf specialist in Michigan's Upper Peninsula says there's a new set of rules for homeowners and farmers.

"They can use lethal force to take a wolf that is in the act of preying upon livestock or dogs," he says.

That farmers and homeowners will have a freer hand to go after wolves that are threatening their animals ought to relieve some of the frustration that's built over the last decade as wolf numbers have rebounded.

On-going court challenges from wildlife protection groups have meant wolves have yo-yoed on and off the federal protected list. Roell says he hopes the legal battles are over.

"Hopefully we keep wolves delisted here for a time where we have these abilities. We're still not out of the woods as far as some kind of injunction or other legal action occurring," he says.

Minnesota is considering a hunting season for wolves and Wisconsin plans to cut in half the number of wolves there. That's troubling to the groups that have fought to keep wolves on the endangered list. But they sat they have no plans to mount another legal challenge.