The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is currently engaged in a 12 month review to determine if gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region should be removed from the Endangered Species List (ESL).
Wolves historically ranged over most of the United States, but by the late 1960’s, they had been hunted, trapped, and poisoned to near extinction in the lower 48 states. Only a small population survived in Northeastern Minnesota and on Isle Royale. In 1974, these last remaining wolves, estimated at about 700 animals, were granted full protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973.
Currently, Minnesota’s estimated 3,000 wolves are classified as “threatened” and have partial protection under the law. An estimated 600 wolves in Michigan and 700 in Wisconsin are classified as “endangered” and have full protection under federal law.
This is the fourth time the federal government has considered removing gray wolves in the Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species List (ESL). Three previous efforts were blocked by the courts or withdrawn over procedural errors. The current review is in response to petitions filed earlier this year by the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, Safari Club International, and the National Rifle Association.
Delisting efforts are opposed by conservation groups on the grounds that wolves currently occupy only 5% of their historical range and should remain protected until a national recovery plan can be put in place.
A 60-day public comment period on the proposed de-listing of gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan began in September and ends November 15. Comments may be submitted online or by U.S. mail. For more information, call Laura Ragan, Endangered Species Listing Coordinator at 612–713–5350, or visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website