Obama Administration to propose stripping protection from all gray wolves

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
April 29, 2013



The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing to end protection for all gray wolves (Canis lupus) in the lower 48 states, save for a small population of Mexican wolves in New Mexico, reports the Los Angeles Times. The proposal comes two years after wolves were removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in western states by a legislative rider on a budget bill, and soon after in the midwest. Since then hunting and trapping has killed over 1,500 wolves in these two regions.

Wolves were largely eradicated from most of the lower 48 states by the mid-20th Century, although a small population hung on in northern Minnesota. In 1973 wolves became protected under the Endangered Species Act; with this formal protection, wolves began moving back into the Rockies from Canada, and then in 1995 conservationists began re-wilding Yellowstone National Park with wolves. Since then wolves have made an astounding comeback, moving across the Rockies even so far as California, Oregon, and Washington, while in the midwest, they expanded to Minnesota and Wisconsin.

According to the USFWS, wolves now number around 5,000 individuals (the bulk of them still in northern Minnesota). However, this is only 2 percent of the wolf's historic population estimated at 250,000 animals when Europeans arrived. Moreover, wolves have by no means returned to their full historic range. But many ranchers complain that wolves are responsible for killing livestock, while hunters allege that wolves are depleting elk herds.

Complete delisting from the ESA would mean management of wolf populations would move from government protection to states, which to date have largely decided to proceed with regulated hunting and trapping seasons.

The return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park proved to scientists just how important top predators are to ecosystems. Wolves kept elk at bay, allowing forests, especially along riverbeds, to grow after decades of over-grazing. The return of these stream-side forests meant an increase in songbirds and biodiversity. Meanwhile, beavers returned for the first time in decades, having forests to make dams from. Although scientists have worked hard to make the case that wolves are key to these ecosystems, many still oppose the animals' reintroduction. In addition while wolf attacks are incredibly rare, the animals are still feared.













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (April 29, 2013).

Obama Administration to propose stripping protection from all gray wolves.

http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0429-hance-wolves-lose.html