April 1, 2003 Final Rule to Reclassify/Delist the Gray Wolf kes DPS
This Final Rule is no longer in effect.
is information about the Eastern Distinct Population Segment which was
established by the Final Rule to Reclassify
and Delist the Gray Wolf in Portions of the United States that was
published in the Federal Register on April 1, 2003. However, on January 31, 2005, a U.S. District Court in
Portland, Oregon vacated and enjoined that Rule. Therefore, the status of the gray wolf reverted back to the Endangered Species Act
status that existed prior to the 2003 reclassification, and the information
about the Eastern DPS (below) is no longer valid.
Gray Wolf Eastern Distinct Population Segment
What It's All About
In 2003 the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed the classification of the gray
wolf (Canis lupus) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As a
result of that change there are now three separate ESA listings for the
species which correspond to three geographic areas in the lower 48 states
where there are ongoing gray wolf recovery programs. In the eastern and
western U.S., wolves were reclassified from endangered to threatened because
wolf recovery programs are nearing their recovery goals. The definition
of "threatened" is "likely to be on the brink of extinction
in the foreseeable future," and is a more appropriate classification
than "endangered" because those recovery programs have succeeded
in reducing threats to gray wolves and increasing their numbers and range
in the eastern and western U.S. This change to "threatened"
status allowed Federal protections to be relaxed in those areas. In the
Southwest, where gray wolf recovery is in the early stages, wolves remain
classified as endangered. "Endangered" means they are on the
brink of extinction.
wolves in the eastern and western U.S. from endangered to threatened we
listed the geographic areas where there are ongoing gray wolf recovery
programs as Distinct Population Segments (DPS). The map below shows the
areas included in the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS, the Western Gray Wolf DPS,
and the Southwestern Gray Wolf DPS, where the gray wolf continues to be
listed as endangered.
Distinct Population Segment
A Distinct Population Segment is one of several ways we can list animals
as threatened or endangered. Under the ESA, the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS
is treated like a species that is listed. A DPS listing differs from a
species listing only in that it is usually described geographically rather
than biologically. The Eastern DPS is made up of 21 states in the North
Central and Northeastern U.S.
in the Eastern Distinct Population Segment
A Distinct Population Segment is a listed entity, like a species or subspecies
listing; it is not a recovery program. The recovery program for gray wolves
in the eastern United States has been directed by the Recovery Plan for
the Eastern Timber Wolf (Plan), which was prepared in 1978 and revised
in 1992. The listing of the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS will not change the
scope of that ongoing recovery program, and that Plan will continue to
guide our wolf recovery efforts. Our recovery goal for restoring gray
wolves in the eastern U.S. is being achieved by the expanding wolf populations
in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. At this time, we have no plans
to restore gray wolves elsewhere in the Eastern United States. There is,
however, a separate recovery program for the red wolf another species
of wolf in the southeastern U.S. The red wolf recovery program
is not within the area of the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS.
is no firm evidence that a wolf population exists in the northeastern
U.S., we cannot list that geographic area as a separate DPS. Instead,
the Northeast is part of the Eastern DPS. Additionally, there is conflicting
scientific evidence regarding the wolf species that historically lived
in the northeastern states. Until we know which species of wolf occurred
there, we cannot take any additional steps in planning wolf recovery in
the Northeast. When the identity of the historical northeastern wolf has
been determined, we will consider whether it warrants protection under
the Endangered Species Act, and whether we should begin a Federal program
to restore it.
Delisting the Gray
Wolf in the Eastern DPS
Now that gray wolves in the Eastern DPS have been reclassified from endangered
to threatened, we will consider whether they should be delisted, that
is, totally removed from the protections of the ESA. The purpose of the
ESA is to avoid the extinction of species; it is not intended to provide
routine long-term management and protection to species that are not imperiled.
The ESA provides emergency treatment; when the emergency is over the species
no longer needs ESA protection and should be delisted so we can focus
our efforts on other imperiled species. We believe that gray wolves in
the Eastern DPS may no longer need ESA protection. Gray wolf numbers have
already exceeded the numerical goals of the Recovery Plan for the Eastern
Timber Wolf. We also need to evaluate the threats that will be faced by
these gray wolves if Federal protection is removed. If we propose delisting
the Eastern DPS, we will publicize the proposal, conduct public hearings,
and open a lengthy public comment period before making a final decision.
If the Eastern DPS is delisted, wolf protection and management would then
be directed by State and Tribal wolf management plans and regulations.
on the information that we have at that time about wolves in the Northeast,
we will decide if those states should be included in a proposal to delist
the gray wolf.
Endangered Species Act Protections for Gray Wolves in the Eastern DPS
Gray wolves are now listed as "threatened" throughout the entire
Eastern DPS. Threatened
wolves are still protected by the Act. Federal penalties (fines and imprisonment)
still apply to illegally killing or harming threatened wolves. Federal
agencies must continue to consult with us on their actions that might
and Wildlife Service can grant permits for taking threatened wolves for
a wider range of conservation-oriented purposes.
in Minnesota were reclassified from endangered to threatened in 1978;
they retain that threatened classification.
in 11 states within the Eastern DPS are now subject to a special regulation
under section 4(d) of the Act. These are the Eastern DPS states that are
west of Pennsylvania, but excluding Minnesota. Under this special regulation:
and Tribal natural resource agencies can kill wolves that have killed
or attacked domestic animals, if there is a likelihood of repeated depredations.
can salvage dead wolves for traditional cultural use without a Federal
similar, pre-existing special regulation for depredation control remains
in effect for Minnesota.
How the Reclassification
from Endangered to Threatened Affects People in the Eastern DPS
The Endangered Species Act allows anyone to kill an endangered or threatened
wolf in self-defense or to defend the life of another person. In addition,
any State or Tribal wildlife management agency, or any Federal land management
agency can kill a wolf that is a non-immediate threat to human safety.
These provisions continue to apply now that wolves are listed as threatened.
4(d) Special Regulation" that allows State, Tribal, or Federal agents
to kill or capture wolves that depredate on livestock and other domestic
animals was enacted at the same time that the wolf was reclassified from
endangered to threatened. (The 4(d) Special Regulation is described in
the previous section). If you are having problems or expect problems,
use the numbers below to contact U.S.D.A. APHIS/Wildlife Services, the
State natural resources agency, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
for help. If on Tribal land, the appropriate Tribal agency should be contacted.
This previously was allowed only for wolves in most of Minnesota, but
it now applies throughout most of the Eastern DPS. This provision does
not apply to the northeastern corner of Minnesota, nor to the Northeastern
information on the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS, dealing with depredating wolves,
state wolf management plans, or for links to information for other wolf
recovery programs, go to:
wolves that are killing livestock or are behaving aggressively contact:
Michigan - Report All Poachers (RAP) line - 1-800-292-7800
Minnesota - USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Services 218-327-3350
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 612-725-3548
Wisconsin - Department of Natural Resources 715-762-4684 ext.107
Prepared April 2003
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