U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also studying eastern wolf population, recently determined to be a separate species
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to delist wolves in the western Great Lakes region and is taking public comment through early July. In particular, the agency is interested in information on threats and impacts on wolves and their habitat, and any data on the taxonomy of wolves in the region and throughout the eastern United States. Click here to get more information on commenting.
Delisting wolves would put them back under management of state wildlife agencies. Those agencies have made it clear that they would drastically reduce wolf populations. Minnesota’s plan resurrects a version of the old bounty system by paying state-certified predator controllers $150 for each wolf killed. The Wisconsin plan seeks to reduce the state population by half to reach a target of 350 wolves.
The proposal identifies a Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment of wolves, including a core area in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as parts of adjacent states that are within the range of wolves dispersing from the core recovery area.
After reviewing the latest available scientific and taxonomic information, the Service says there are two species of wolves in the western Great Lakes area: The gray wolf (Canis lupus), the wolf species currently listed under the ESA, and the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon), with a historical range that includes portions of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
The eastern wolf was until recently though to be a subspecies of the gray wolf, but recent genetic studies show it’s a distinct species. To establish the status of this newly recognized species, the Service is initiating a review of the eastern wolf throughout its range in the United States and Canada.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking information from governmental agencies, Native American tribes, scientific community, industry and any other interested parties on threats, population trends, and other data that could affect the long-term survival of the Western Great Lakes population of the gray wolf.
The agency is also seeking information on the status of the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) throughout its range in the United States and Canada.
Conservation advocates say it’s too early to delist populations like the western Great Lakes segment and advocate for a national wolf recovery plan.
“While there have been important strides in wolf recovery over the past several decades, the job is far from complete, and lifting protections now is a big step in the wrong direction,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves are an important part of our natural heritage and honoring that means giving them the best chance possible for healthy, robust populations.”
The plans to remove protections for the gray wolf in 29 eastern states will mean that any wolf that wanders into that region from the Great Lakes or Canada could be immediately killed.
Gray wolves were first listed as endangered in 1974. In 1978, federal biologists designated critical habitat in Minnesota and Michigan. In 2003, distinct population segments were established and the Endangered Species Act status was revised for most of the U.S. In 2004, the feds proposed de-listing the eastern gray wolf (thought to be subspecies at that time), but the proposal was rebuffed by a federal court a year later.
In 2005, a Vermont court overruled the 2003 designation of a distinct eastern wolf population segment and the Michigan and Wisconsin natural resource departments applied for permits to kill wolves preying on livestock. Under the Bush administration, the federal government declined to challenge those state court rulings. Also under Bush, the feds moved to start the de-listing process for the western Great Lakes wolves in 2006. The de-listing rule was finalized a year later, but a 2008 court ruling put them back under protection of the ESA.
In early 2009, the incoming Obama administration directed federal agencies to withdraw all regulations that hadn’t yet been published in the federal register for review. But later that year (Oct. 2009), the U.S. Interior Department decided to move ahead with the de-listing.
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, federal government, wildlife Tagged: | biodiversity, Center for Biological Diversity, eastern wolves, endangered species act, Environment, gray wolves, Summit County News, United States Department of the Interior, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Great lakes wolves delisting, wildlife