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Wolf Numbers across the Northern Rocky Mountains Hold Steady

In 2011 and 2012, we concluded that gray wolves were no longer in danger of extinction in the Northern Rocky Mountains and removed them from the Endangered Species List. At that point we handed the management reins over to the states, and both we and they have taken a lot of heat ever since. That is why I was so happy to see that in 2013 the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population held steady.

Gray wolf. Photo by Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS

As of December 31, there were at least 78 breeding pairs and 1,691 wolves across the Northern Rocky Mountain area. That is a modest decline in pairs from 2012 and a very slight decline in total numbers, but when you consider the margin of error in trying to survey all wolves across this vast area, the wolf population hasn’t really changed a bit. The numbers are news to celebrate, especially with minimum management targets at the much-lower 45 breeding pairs and 450 wolves. 

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We’re Listing it as Threatened, But States, Partnerships Will Conserve Lesser Prairie-Chicken

We have determined that the lesser prairie-chicken warrants listing as a threatened species.  

lesser prairie chicken

The lesser prairie-chicken inhabits areas of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Credit: Greg Kramos/USFWS

A “threatened” listing means the species is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future. It allows us to ensure the bird’s protection while providing some measure of flexibility in implementing measures under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

The ongoing drought and past habitat loss and fragmentation throughout the chicken’s range of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas have devastated the species – the 2013 estimate had the population at 17,616 birds, almost 50 percent fewer than 2012. 

We first identified the lesser prairie-chicken as a candidate for federal protection under the ESA in 1998, and since then, have worked with the states, federal agencies, conservation organizations, landowners and other partners to protect the species’ habitat and address the threats it faces. 

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Conservation in Indian Country: Strengthening Our Relationships with Tribes

As the conservation community faces immense challenges to make wildlife conservation relevant and important to a rapidly growing and changing society, we are privileged to have as partners Native American Tribes, who understand the value of their natural heritage. 

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Manager Charlie Blair talks with Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Sioux.Credit: Charles Traxler/USFWS

With Tribes at our side, we have given many imperiled species a better chance in the modern world.

In the Southwest, I think about the efforts of the Pueblos with Rio Grande species like the silvery minnow and the Southwestern willow flycatcher.

Tribes have certainly been vital partners our ongoing work to recover the black-footed ferret.  Six of the 20 ferret reintroduction sites are on Tribal lands. I could go on for ages

I had the good fortune to help our team release about 20 ferrets on Lower Brule Tribal lands in central South Dakota a few years ago. It was one of the highlights of my conservation career. I want to expand and magnify that feeling of accomplishment and success, strengthening our partnership wherever possible.

That’s why I’m proud to announce the selection of Scott Aikin as the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Native American Liaison.

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Last updated: August 31, 2011