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Northern Rocky Mountains gray wolf
Mexican gray wolf
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 29, 2009

Gray wolf back on endangered list, for now
By Baldur Hedinsson

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed Monday to reinstate federal protection of wolves in the upper Great Lakes region.

In early May, wolves were removed from the list of threatened and endangered species in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. A coalition of wolf advocate groups led by the Humane Society of the United States filed a lawsuit June 15, challenging the federal government's decision. A court-ordered settlement restores federal Endangered Species Act protections for more than 4,000 gray wolves around the Great Lakes.

The settlement faults the government for dropping the wolves off the endangered species list without issuing a public notice or allowing for comments. If the wildlife service tries to remove the wolves from the list again, the agency must have a comment period of no less than 60 days, according to the settlement.

"The wolf population has not recovered sufficiently in the Great Lakes region," said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiff organizations. "The comment period will allow serious assessment of scientific information."

Delisting the gray wolf allowed state and tribal wildlife managers to trap and euthanize wolves that prey on livestock. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued 39 shooting permits to landowners, resulting in two wolf kills.

The Natural Resources Board and the Wolf Science Committee, a group of researchers from a number of governmental agencies and universities, also have proposed a hunting and trapping season that would start in 2014 at the earliest.

"It's clear the wolf population has recovered in Wisconsin, and we need the flexibility to properly manage wolves and address them preying on livestock and pets," said Adam Collins, spokesman for the department.

The DNR estimates Wisconsin's wolf population to range from 626 to 662 in the winter of 2008-'09, a 17% increase from a year before. Biologists at the department wouldn't want the population to fall below 500 and envision no more than 30 hunting permits issued per year.

According to the DNR, last year wolves killed 43 farm animals and 21 dogs.

© 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton