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.

Just Posted

City Dream Centres hands out 1,000 backpacks at back to school event in Surrey

This is the fifth year the charity is hosting the event in the city

Securing Olympic spot the latest test for Canadian softball squad at Surrey tournament

Softball hasn’t been included in the Games since 2008 when Canada finished fourth in Beijing

UPDATE: Two men injured in north Surrey shooting

Police say the incident was targeted, may be linked to drug activity

White Rock RCMP seeking information about Aug. 16 assault

Man in 60s was injured around same time Paul Prestbakmo was stabbed to death

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Border crossings across Lower Mainland seeing lengthy delays

Sumas, Peace Arch and Surrey-Blaine border crossings seeing long wait times

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Most Read