Minnesota wolves back on endangered species list
By Bob Van Sternberg
Minnesota's gray wolves are once again officially endangered.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a rule today that formally returns about 4,000 gray wolves in the Upper Midwest to the federal endangered species list.
The wolves' legal status has seesawed for years, as environmental groups have tussled with federal wildlife officials over how much protection the animals need in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Today's rule seals a deal made with environmental groups earlier this summer, when the agency promised to reinstate the wolves' protected status while considering its next move.
The new designation makes it illegal for Minnesota landowners to kill wolves they catch in the act of preying upon livestock, pets or guard animals.
On May 4, federal officials removed gray wolves in the Great Lakes area from the endangered list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, estimating that gray wolves number about 4,000 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, concluded they no longer needed federal help.
A coalition of environmental and animal-rights groups then filed a lawsuit challenging the decision, arguing that the government broke the law when it issued its ruling because it did not provide public notice or invite public comment.
In the settlement, Fish and Wildlife Service officials agreed that they erred in not offering a public comment period, as required by law. But officials said they fully expect that the animals will eventually be removed from the protected list.
Gray wolves were listed as endangered in 1974, after they had been wiped out across most of the Lower 48 states in the early 20th century by hunting and government-sponsored poisoning.
In the Upper Midwest, Minnesota's wolf population is by far the biggest.
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