The U.S. Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that it plans to remove the western Great Lakes gray wolf population from the Endangered Species list.
These are wolves found in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and areas adjoining these states.
Acting Service Director Rowan Gould was quoted in today's press release:
“Gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes are recovered and no longer warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. Under this proposed rule, which takes into account the latest taxonomic information about the species, we will return management of gray wolves in the Great Lakes to state wildlife professionals. We are confident that wolves will continue to thrive under the approved state management plans.”
There will be a sixty-day comment period before the rule is finalized.
Mary Detloff, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, says the state supports the decision and is ready to take over management of the species:
"The most recent estimate that we have of the minimum winter population for wolves in Michigan is around 687 animals which far exceeds our recovery goal here in the state. Our recovery goal was around 200-300 wolves."
Detloff says delisting the wolf would allow the state to deal with problem wolves.
Right now, the larger reproducing wolf packs are found in the Upper Peninsula (the DNR is looking for evidence of more wolves in the northern Lower Peninsula).
Some wolves in the UP have killed cattle and pets. When it comes to managing these wolves, Detloff says the state's hands are tied because the animals are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Michigan has a wolf management plan that was approved back in 2008 and would be put in place should the delisting occur.
If it does happen, it won't be the first time.
Western Great Lakes wolves were delisted back in March of 2007 under the Bush Administration's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
That delisting was successfully challenged in court and the animals were put back on the Endangered Species List in September of 2008.
The same fate could await this delisting effort.
Mary Detloff of the Michigan DNR says she hopes that doesn't happen this time around:
"What we hope to do this time is avoid further litigation. It really is time now for the wolf to be delisted in this region. It's made more than a robust recovery. It's time for the state to take over management."
The Center for Biological Diversity is one of the groups that has fought to keep protections for wolves. The group worries populations could plummet if states take over management of the species.
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Despite their rapid growth, Great Lakes wolves remain vulnerable to diseases such as parvovirus and mange as well as human attacks, said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney and biologist with the center. She noted that Wisconsin's management plan calls for a population of 350 wolves, only half the current total.
"We still might get back to a situation where they are really struggling to survive," Adkins Giese said...
Giese said the Center for Biological Diversity is studying whether they will challenge this latest attempt to delist the wolves in the western Great Lakes. The group issued a press release today following the USFWS announcement.