Volume 2, Number 51 - March 20, 2003
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A steadily growing gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes states and a highly successful reintroduction program in the northern Rocky Mountains have prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to change the status of gray wolves in these areas from "endangered" to the less serious "threatened" designation under the Endangered Species Act.
The reclassification rule, which finalizes an action first proposed by the Service in 2000, also establishes three "Distinct Population Segments" (DPS) for gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act. The three DPSs encompass the entire historic range of the gray wolf in the lower 48 states and Mexico, and correspond to the three areas of the country where there are wolf populations and ongoing recovery activities.
Wolf populations in the Eastern and Western DPSs have achieved population goals for recovery, and FWS proposes to begin work soon to propose delisting these populations.
The threatened designation - which now applies to all gray wolves in the lower 48 states except for those in the Southwest - is accompanied by special rules to allow some take of wolves outside the experimental population areas in the northern Rocky Mountains. Under the Endangered Species Act, these rules provide options for removing wolves that cause problems for livestock owners and other people affected by wolf populations. Such rules are possible for threatened species but not for those designated as endangered. Wolves in experimental population areas in the northern Rocky Mountains are already covered by similar rules that remain in effect.
FWS will now begin the process of proposing to remove gray wolves in the western and eastern United States from the endangered and threatened species list, once the agency has determined that all recovery criteria for wolf populations in those areas have been met and sufficient protections remain in place to ensure sustainable populations.
Gray wolf numbers in the western Great Lakes - estimated at more than 2,445 in Minnesota, 323 in Wisconsin and 278 in Michigan - have climbed beyond recovery goals for wolves in the eastern United States. In the Rocky Mountains, there are an estimated 664 wolves in 44 packs in northwestern Montana, Idaho, and in and around Yellowstone National Park. This is the third year the population has been at or above 30 breeding pairs, meeting the recovery goals for number and distribution in the West.
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