Feb. 8, 2007 Final Rule to Delist the Gray Wolf Western Great Lakes DPS
This Final Rule is no longer in effect.
Questions and Answers about the Feb. 8, 2007 Final Rule to Delist the Gray Wolf Western Great Lakes DPS
1) What does this final rule do for wolves?
We have reviewed and analyzed all comments and data that we received during the 90-day public comment period following Federal Register publication of the proposed rule in March 2006 and have made a final decision to delist the Gray Wolf Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment. A map of the Distinct Population Area is shown in the answer for question 4), below.
2) How does this action affect wolves in the northeast, or elsewhere outside the Western Great Lakes DPS boundary?
3) Why are northeastern states excluded from the action?
4) What is a Distinct Population Segment?
The Western Great Lakes DPS encompasses a core area where wolf recovery has occurred. This core area includes northern and central forested areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The DPS also includes Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and portions of adjacent states that are within the range of wolves dispersing from the core area.
5) Why did the Service delist gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS?
The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to improve the status of a listed species to the point that it no longer needs ESA protection. Generally, this means reducing or removing threats to its survival, resulting in increasing numbers and distribution of the species.
The approved recovery plan for the gray wolf in the eastern United States sets forth population criteria that, when achieved, will ensure the survival of the gray wolf into the future. Those population criteria are:
Gray wolf numbers and distribution in the Western Great Lakes DPS have exceeded the population criteria identified in the recovery plan. Today’s estimated population in Minnesota is about 3,020. Wolves became established in Michigan and Wisconsin and now number 434 and 465 in those states, respectively.
In addition to exceeding population criteria set out in the recovery plan, potential threats after delisting have been addressed by Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin state management plans. To prepare for federal delisting, each of those states developed a wolf management plan with the goal of ensuring future survival of the state’s wolf population. Those plans were signed by the head of each state’s Department of Natural Resources after input from wolf experts and extensive public involvement.
6) How will gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS be managed now that they are delisted?
In the portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio that are within the Western Great Lakes DPS, wolves are protected by state and tribal law. The following is the state regulatory designation or status of gray wolves in the portions of those states within the DPS:
In the portions of these states outside the boundaries of the DPS, the gray wolf remains endangered and protected under the Endangered Species Act. For more information, please contact the appropriate state natural resource agency about how wolves are protected and managed.
Even though the ESA no longer protects gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS, the law requires the Service to monitor wolves in the DPS for five years after delisting. If wolves within the DPS later become endangered or threatened under the ESA, they could be re-listed.
7) How do the Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin gray wolf management plans ensure the survival of gray wolves in those states?
The Michigan plan calls for a minimum sustainable population of 200 wolves in the Upper Peninsula. Habitat, prey, and land-use analysis showed that the Upper Peninsula can support at least 800 wolves. No upper population limit is specified, but an upper limit referred to as the cultural carrying capacity will be determined by public reaction. The plan acknowledges that in the future, “some degree of wolf population stabilization and control” may be needed and that “some wolves will likely need to be killed under “controlled conditions.” The Michigan DNR is in the process of revising its wolf management plan. The DNR’s goal remains to ensure the wolf population remains viable and above a level that would require either federal or state reclassification as a threatened or endangered species. Based on the wolf management guidelines developed by the Michigan Wolf Management Roundtable--currently being used by the Michigan DNR in revising its wolf management plan--both the current (1997) Michigan plan and the revised plan will provide adequate protection and management for wolves in the Upper Peninsula.
Under the Minnesota plan, wolves will be allowed to continue to naturally expand their range within the state. The statewide winter population goal is a minimum of 1,600 wolves; there is no maximum goal. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will take appropriate actions to remedy the situation if the population falls below the minimum goal. The plan divides the state into wolf management zones A and B, which correspond to zones 1-4 and zone 5, respectively, in the federal Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Plan. In Zone A, where over 80 percent of the wolves reside, state protections would be nearly as strict as current protections under the ESA, and we expect little or no resulting post-delisting population decline there. The protection provided by the plan to the Zone A wolves will ensure a state wolf population well above 1,600 in that zone. In Zone B, wolves could be killed to protect domestic animals, even if attacks or threatening behavior have not occurred. While a significant decrease in the Zone B wolf population may result, such a result would be consistent with the federal recovery plan, which discourages the establishment of a wolf population in that portion of the state.
The Wisconsin wolf management plan, finalized in 1999 and updated in 2006, has a goal of 350 wolves outside of Native American reservations. Because the wolf population now exceeds this level, the state delisted wolves to Protected Wild Animal status on August 1, 2004. If numbers decline and stay below 250 for three years, the state will relist as threatened. If they decline to less than 80 for one year, the state will relist or reclassify the wolf as endangered. The only significant changes resulting from the 2006 plan update are an expansion of the allowable trapping area to one mile (from one-half mile) around verified depredation sites in Zones 1 and 2, and the elimination of automatic habitat protection requirements for all rendezvous sites. Den sites remain protected, other depredation control practices are unchanged, and the wolf management goal remains at 350 wolves outside reservations.
8) How will the Service ensure the state management plans are sufficient to protect the future survival of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS?
9) How will wolves be monitored after they are delisted?
Wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have been surveyed and studied for several decades, primarily by the three state natural resource departments, but with assistance from many partners, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey – Biological Resources Division, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services, Tribal natural resource agencies, and the Service. All three states intend to continue their previous wolf population monitoring practices with only minor changes.
In addition to monitoring population numbers and trends, the monitoring plan will include evaluating threats, in particular disease, human-caused mortality, and any legal or management measures imposed by states or tribes.
If at any time during the monitoring period the Service detects a substantial decline in the populations or a new or expanded threat, it will evaluate and change the monitoring methods, if appropriate, and consider relisting the Western Great Lakes DPS. At the end of the monitoring period, the Service will decide if relisting, continued monitoring, or ending Service monitoring is appropriate. If warranted (for example, data show a significant decline or increased threats), the Service will consider continuing monitoring beyond the specified time.
10) Can gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS now be hunted and trapped?
The Service does not prescribe the specifics of how states and tribes manage delisted wolves, but rather we ensure that they implement management and protective measures that effectively conserve the gray wolves in their states so federal relisting as threatened or endangered will not be necessary.
11) Where can I get more information?
Prepared January 29, 2007