Martin Miller 413-253-8615; Michael Amaral 603-223-2541;
Diana Weaver 413-253-8329
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has denied a petition seeking to designate gray wolves in five northeast states – Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont – as a distinct population segment under the Endangered Species Act because there is no evidence that a wolf population exists in those states.
The Service has denied additional requests to extend Endangered Species Act protection in these states to other canids (e.g., coyotes and wolf hybrids) due to similarity of appearance and to prepare a recovery plan for northeast wolves. The agency is currently evaluating the taxonomic relationship of the gray wolf to wolves found in southeastern Canada closest to the U.S. border. Any decision on the need for a recovery plan or a similarity of appearance designation will be based on analysis of that information. The Service will not be initiating a status review and has no intention of advocating a wolf reintroduction effort at this juncture.
However, any gray wolf found in the Northeast is protected as an endangered species despite the lack of an actual population in the Northeast or the status of wolves elsewhere. Killing a wolf in the Northeast remains a violation of the Endangered Species Act and subject to prosecution.
Although wolves were extirpated more than 100 years ago in the Northeast, public fascination and cultural reverence for the species remains strong in the region.
Coyote hunters in the Northeast occasionally kill large canids that are subsequently identified as wolves, wolf-dog hybrids, or wolf-coyote hybrids. While no evidence supports the existence of a wolf population in the Northeast, in 2007 an individual gray wolf was killed in western Massachusetts after it preyed on a farmers sheep. Biologists speculate that the animal probably traveled south from Quebec Canada some 200 miles away. Landowners, hunters and others are advised to take extra precaution in differentiating coyotes from wolves.
The Service defines a wolf population as having at least two breeding pairs of wolves, each successfully raising at least two young in two consecutive years. The Service’s policy for a distinct population segment designation requires that a population must be present before an analysis can be conducted on whether that population is both discrete and significant to the species as a whole.
Despite the lack of evidence that a wolf population exists in the Northeast, the Service has received two prior petitions seeking the protection of gray wolves in the Northeast.
Endangered Species Act protection for the gray wolf has changed through several past Service actions and court decisions. At this time, wolves in the lower 48 states’ range, including the Northeast, are listed as endangered except for Minnesota, where they are listed as threatened; the Northern Rocky Mountains, where they are listed as an experimental population; and Montana, Idaho, portions of eastern Washington, portions of eastern Oregon and portions of north-central Utah, where they have been delisted due to recovery.
A notice will be published June 10 in the Federal Register about the Services decision. For more about the gray wolf in the East, see