Gray wolves scheduled to lose federal endangered species protection next month
The decision to remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list, announced shortly before President Bush left office and confirmed by the Obama administration last month, is one step closer to taking effect after being published in the Federal Register last week.
The delisting is scheduled to take effect May 2 and will apply to wolf populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Idaho and Montana, and parts of Utah, Washington and Oregon. Gray wolves will retain Endangered Species Act protection in Wyoming, where Interior Department officials say recovery efforts have been insufficient.
Delisting transfers the duties of wolf population management from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to state and tribal agencies. In at least one of those -- the state of Idaho -- the wolves will become legal targets for hunters in short order. Our colleague Kelly Burgess at the Outposts blog writes:
Idaho Fish and Game commissioners have already adopted dates for the wolf hunting season in the state and will set quotas once delisting takes effect.
"We have to move on and manage them similar to other big-game animals," Idaho Fish and Game Director Cal Groen said. "This is good news for wolves, elk, rural communities and hunters. I believe this action will help defuse the animosity and anger associated with wolves when we can manage wolves in concert with our other big game species."
The Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor the delisted wolf populations for a minimum of five years to ensure that they continue to sustain their recovery. At the end of that time, it will be decided if relisting, continued monitoring or ending service monitoring is appropriate.
Idaho governor C. L. "Butch" Otter has said he supports reducing his state's wolf population from its current level of around 800 animals to 100. "I'm prepared to bid for the first ticket [hunting license] to shoot a wolf myself," he once said.
Photo: A gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn.
Credit: Dawn Villella / Associated Press.