[Federal Register: April 1, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 62)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 15803-15875]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

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Part II

Department of the Interior


Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule To Reclassify 
and Remove the Gray Wolf From the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife in Portions of the Conterminous United States; Establishment 
of Two Special Regulations for Threatened Gray Wolves; Final and 
Proposed Rules

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Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF20

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule To 
Reclassify and Remove the Gray Wolf From the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife in Portions of the Conterminous United States; 
Establishment of Two Special Regulations for Threatened Gray Wolves

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or we) hereby 
changes the classification of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We establish three 
distinct population segments (DPS) for the gray wolf in the 
conterminous United States. Gray wolves in the Western DPS and the 
Eastern DPS are reclassified from endangered to threatened, except 
where already classified as threatened or as an experimental 
population. Gray wolves in the Southwestern DPS retain their previous 
endangered or experimental population status. All three existing gray 
wolf experimental population designations are retained and are not 
affected by this rule. Gray wolves are removed from the protections of 
the Act in all or parts of 16 southern and eastern States where the 
species historically did not occur. We establish a new special 
regulation under section 4(d) of the Act for the threatened Western DPS 
to increase our ability to respond to wolf-human conflicts outside the 
two experimental population areas in the Western DPS. A second section 
4(d) special regulation applies provisions similar to those previously 
in effect in Minnesota to most of the Eastern DPS. We find that these 
special rules are necessary and advisable to provide for the 
conservation of the Western DPS and the Eastern DPS. The 
classification, under the Act, of captive gray wolves is determined by 
the location from which they, or their ancestors, were removed from the 
wild. This final rule does not affect the protection currently afforded 
by the Act to the red wolf (Canis rufus), a separate species found in 
the southeastern United States that is listed as endangered.

DATES: This rule becomes effective April 1, 2003. The explanation of 
the need for an immediate effective date is found in the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section under the heading Need for Immediate 

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this rule is available for inspection, 
by appointment, during normal business hours at our Midwest Regional 
Office: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Building, 1 Federal 
Drive, Ft. Snelling, MN 55111-4056. Call 612-713-5350 to make 
arrangements. The comments and materials we received during the comment 
period are also available for public inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours at this and other Regional Offices and several of 
our Ecological Services field offices. Use the contact information in 
the next paragraph to obtain the addresses of those locations.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Direct all questions or requests for 
additional information to the Service using the Gray Wolf Phone Line--
612-713-7337, facsimile--612-713-5292, the general gray wolf electronic 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive, Ft. 
Snelling, MN 55111-4056. Additional information is also available on 
our World Wide Web site at http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf. Individuals who 
are hearing-impaired or speech-impaired may call the Federal Relay 
Service at 1-800-877-8337 for TTY assistance.



    This rule begins with discussions on the biology, ecology, 
taxonomy, and the historical range of the gray wolf. We then describe 
previous Federal listing actions taken for the gray wolf. Next we 
provide information concerning specific issues related to this 
rulemaking, including our Vertebrate Population Policy, experimental 
population designations, and wolf-dog hybrids. We conclude this 
introductory section with a discussion on the recovery of the gray 
    We next provide a summary of the many and diverse comments and 
recommendations on the proposal. All substantive issues that were 
raised during that comment period are described, and we present our 
response to each of those issues.
    A detailed discussion is then presented for the five listing 
factors as required by the Act. We analyze these factors for the 
reclassification of certain populations in response to the current 
status of the species, which encompasses present and future threats and 
conservation efforts. We designate three distinct population segments 
(DPSs), and we also discuss how this listing affects wolves in 
captivity and their role in wolf recovery.
    We next describe the differences between our July 13, 2000, 
proposal (65 FR 43450) and this final rule. In our proposal, we 
identified a variety of alternative actions that we considered but did 
not propose, and we explained the reasons for selecting the proposed 
action. We also requested comments on those alternatives. Those 
alternatives will not be discussed in this rule except in the cases 
where they were adopted or partially adopted in our final decision, or 
were otherwise addressed in substantive comments that we received.
    Separate sections explain the two special regulations that are 
being adopted and how these special regulations are consistent with the 
conservation of the gray wolf within their respective DPSs. We also 
explain the conservation measures that are being provided to the 
species by this rule. The text of the regulatory changes for the gray 
wolf is found at the end of this document.

A. Biology and Ecology of Gray Wolves

    Gray wolves are the largest wild members of the Canidae, or dog 
family, with adults ranging from 18 to 80 kilograms (kg)(40 to 175 
pounds (lb)) depending upon sex and subspecies (Mech 1974). The average 
weight of male wolves in Wisconsin is 35 kg (77 lb) and ranges from 26 
to 46 kg (57 to 102 lb), while females average 28 kg (62 lb) and range 
from 21 to 34 kg (46 to 75 lb) (Wisconsin Department of Natural 
Resources (WI DNR) 1999a). In the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains, adult 
male gray wolves average just over 45 kg (100 lb), while the females 
weigh slightly less. Wolves' fur color is frequently a grizzled gray, 
but it can vary from pure white to coal black. Wolves may appear 
similar to coyotes (Canis latrans) and some domestic dog breeds (such 
as the German shepherd or Siberian husky) (C. familiaris). However, 
wolves' longer legs, larger feet, wider head and snout, and straight 
tail distinguish them from both coyotes and dogs.
    Wolves primarily are predators of medium and large mammals. Wild 
prey species in North America include white-tailed deer (Odocoileus 
virginianus) and mule deer (O. hemionus), moose (Alces alces), elk 
(Cervus canadensis), woodland caribou (Rangifer caribou) and barren 
ground caribou (R. arcticus), bison (Bison bison), muskox (Ovibos 
moschatus), bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) and Dall sheep (O. dalli), 
mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus),

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beaver (Castor canadensis), and snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), with 
small mammals, birds, and large invertebrates sometimes being taken 
(Mech 1974, Stebler 1944, WI DNR 1999a). In the Midwest, during the 
last 22 years, wolves have also killed domestic animals including 
horses (Equus caballus), cattle (Bos taurus), sheep (Ovis aries), goats 
(Capra hircus), llamas (Lama glama), pigs (Sus scrofa), geese (Anser 
sp.), ducks (Anas sp.), turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), chickens (Gallus 
sp.), pheasants (Phasianus colchicus), dogs, and cats (Felis catus) 
(Paul 2001, Wydeven et al. 2001a). Since 1987, wolves in the northern 
Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming have also killed 
domestic animals, including llamas, horses, cattle, sheep, and dogs 
(Service et al. 2002).
    Wolves are social animals, normally living in packs of 2 to 12 
wolves. However, 2 packs within Yellowstone National Park (NP) had 22 
and 27 members in 2000, and Yellowstone's Druid Peak pack increased to 
37 members in 2001 (Service et al. 2001, 2002). Packs are primarily 
family groups consisting of a breeding pair, their pups from the 
current year, offspring from the previous year, and occasionally an 
unrelated wolf. Packs typically occupy, and defend from other packs and 
individual wolves, a territory of 50 to 550 square kilometers (sq km) 
(20 to 214 square miles (sq mi)). However, in the northern U.S. Rocky 
Mountains territories tend to be larger, usually from 520 to 1,040 sq 
km (200 to 400 sq mi), and in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada, 
territories of up to 2,700 sq km (1,042 sq mi) have been recorded 
(Carbyn in litt. 2000). Normally, only the top-ranking (``alpha'') male 
and female in each pack breed and produce pups. Litters are born from 
early April into May; they can range from 1 to 11 pups, but generally 
include 4 to 6 pups (Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MI DNR) 
1997; Service 1992a; Service et al. 2001). Normally a pack has a single 
litter annually, but producing 2 or 3 litters in one year has been 
documented in Yellowstone NP (Service et al. 2002). Yearling wolves 
frequently disperse from their natal packs, although some remain with 
their natal pack. Dispersers may become nomadic and cover large areas 
as lone animals, or they may locate suitable unoccupied habitat and a 
member of the opposite sex and begin their own territorial pack. 
Dispersal movements on the order of 800 km (500 mi) have been 
documented (Fritts 1983; James Hammill, Michigan DNR, in litt. 2001).
    The gray wolf historically occurred across most of North America, 
Europe, and Asia. In North America, gray wolves formerly occurred from 
the northern reaches of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland to the central 
mountains and the high interior plateau of southern Mexico. The only 
areas of the conterminous United States that apparently lacked gray 
wolf populations since the last glacial events are parts of California 
and portions of the eastern and southeastern United States (an area 
occupied by the red wolf). In addition, wolves were generally absent 
from the extremely arid deserts and the mountaintops of the western 
United States (Young and Goldman 1944, Hall 1981, Mech 1974, Nowak 
2000). (Refer to the Taxonomy of Gray Wolves in the Eastern United 
States section below for additional discussion.)
    European settlers in North America and their cultures often had 
superstitions and fears of wolves. Their attitudes, coupled with 
perceived and real conflicts between wolves and human activities along 
the frontier, led to widespread persecution of wolves. Poisons, 
trapping, and shooting-spurred by Federal, State, and local government 
bounties-resulted in extirpation of this once widespread species from 
more than 95 percent of its range in the 48 conterminous States. At the 
time of the passage of the Act, likely only several hundred wolves 
occurred in northeastern Minnesota and on Isle Royale, Michigan, and 
possibly a few scattered wolves in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, 
Montana, and the American Southwest.
    Researchers have learned a great deal about gray wolf biology, 
especially regarding the species' adaptability and its use of 
nonwilderness habitats. Public appreciation of the role of predators in 
our ecosystems has increased, and we believe that the recovery of the 
species is widely supported. Most importantly, within the last decade 
the prospects for gray wolf recovery in several areas of their former 
historical United States range have greatly increased. In the western 
Great Lakes area, wolves have dramatically increased their numbers and 
occupied range. Gray wolf reintroduction programs in the northern U.S. 
Rocky Mountains have shown great success. Additionally, the 
reintroduction and recovery program of the Mexican wolf in the American 
Southwest, although in its initial stages, is beginning to show similar 
progress after only a few years.
    The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is one of two North American wolf 
species currently protected by the Act. The other is the red wolf (C. 
rufus), a separate species that is listed as endangered throughout its 
range in the southeastern United States and extending west into central 
Texas. The red wolf is the subject of a separate recovery program. This 
final rule does not affect the current listing status or protection of 
the red wolf.

B. Taxonomy of Gray Wolves in the Eastern United States

    Both the 1978 and 1992 versions of the Recovery Plan for the 
Eastern Timber Wolf were developed to recover the gray wolf subspecies 
Canis lupus lycaon, commonly known as the eastern timber wolf. C. l. 
lycaon was believed to be the gray wolf subspecies historically 
occurring throughout the northeastern quarter of the United States east 
of the Great Plains (Young and Goldman 1944, Hall 1981, Mech 1974). 
Since the publication of those recovery plans, various studies on the 
subspecific taxonomy of the gray wolf have been conducted with 
conflicting results (Nowak 1995, 2000; Wayne et al. 1995; Wilson et al. 
    At the time we prepared the July 13, 2000, gray wolf 
reclassification proposal, new information had recently become 
available that called into question the identity of the large canid in 
southeastern Canada, an area with an extant wolf population adjacent to 
the northeastern United States. However, we believed that the 
preponderance of available data supported the position that the 
historical canid in the northeastern United States was a subspecies of 
the gray wolf, probably Canis lupus lycaon.
    An alternative position advanced by Wilson et al. (2000) appears to 
be gaining wider acceptance. That view is that the wolf currently 
occurring in Algonquin Provincial Park, and possibly the ancestral wolf 
of southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States, is a smaller 
form of wolf that is similar to or indistinguishable from the red wolf 
(C. rufus). Still others argue that ecologically, the ancestral wolf in 
northern Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, where moose and woodland 
caribou were the predominant ungulate prey (Hall 1981), was likely to 
be a large-bodied C. lupus, rather than a smaller, deer-eating wolf 
such as the red wolf (Daniel Harrison, University of Maine, pers. 
    The coyote is the dominant canid in the northeastern United States 
today, although wolf genetic material is also present in these animals. 
Prey species' ranges in the Northeast have undergone significant 
changes in the last hundred-plus years as the whitetail deer has 
expanded north into Canada, while the

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caribou has disappeared from the northeastern United States, and the 
moose has repopulated northern and central New England and are newly 
reestablished in the Adirondacks of northern New York. Changes in prey 
base may trigger accompanying changes in the primary predator, because 
smaller canids and smaller canid social groups are able to subsist on 
deer, but are less well suited to preying on caribou and moose. All of 
these changes have proceeded with surprising rapidity, as has the 
eastern expansion of the coyote. Clearly, it becomes extremely 
difficult to determine the genetic identity of the wolf (or wolves) 
that occurred in the Northeast prior to European settlement. Bounty 
records, old trapper notes, and discovery of heretofore unknown mounted 
specimens may hold clues that will be investigated. However, the ranges 
of specific forms of wolf may have changed over time or intermingled 
along contact zones, and scientific consensus on one ancestral form of 
wolf for the Northeast may not be possible.
    Currently, the existing molecular genetic and morphological data 
suggest several plausible identities for the large canid that 
historically occupied the Northeast. Nowak's morphological data 
continue to support the contention that Canis lupus lycaon, a 
subspecies of the gray wolf, occupied part of the Northeast and 
adjacent southeastern Canada; however, his more recent work suggests a 
smaller United States range (and a possible hybrid origin) for that 
subspecies and a consequent larger range for the red wolf (Nowak 1995, 
2000). The recent molecular genetics studies (Wilson et al. 2000) 
identify this canid as something other than a gray wolf, which they 
tentatively refer to as C. lycaon. Under this scenario the historical 
northeastern United States wolf could either be the red wolf (C. rufus) 
or a separate subspecies of C. lycaon. Due to the extreme uncertainty 
over wolf taxonomy, at this time we are adopting no final position on 
the identity of the wolf (or wolves) that historically existed in the 
northeastern United States. Instead, we are encouraging additional 
research on that question, and we are maintaining the listing of the 
gray wolf in the northeastern United States because there are 
insufficient data showing that listing to be in error.

C. Historical Range of the Gray Wolf

    Until the molecular genetics studies of the last few years, the 
range of the gray wolf prior to European settlement was generally 
believed to include most of North America. The only areas that were 
believed to have lacked gray wolf populations are southern and interior 
Greenland, the coastal regions of Mexico, all of Central America south 
of Mexico, coastal and parts of California, the extremely arid deserts 
and the mountaintops of the western United States, and parts of the 
eastern and southeastern United States (Young and Goldman 1944, Hall 
1981, Mech 1974, and Nowak 1995). (However, some authorities question 
the reported historical absence of gray wolves from parts of California 
(Carbyn in litt. 2000, Mech in litt. 2000)). Authors are inconsistent 
on their views of the precise boundary of historical gray wolf range in 
the eastern and southeastern United States. Some use Georgia's 
southeastern corner as the southern extent of gray wolf range (Young 
and Goldman 1944, Mech 1974); others believe gray wolves didn't extend 
into the southeast at all (Hall 1981) or did so to a limited extent, 
primarily at somewhat higher elevations (Nowak 1995). The southeastern 
and mid-Atlantic States have generally been recognized as being within 
the historical range of the red wolf, and it is not known how much 
range overlap historically occurred between these competing canids. 
Recent morphological work by Nowak (2000) supports extending the 
historical range of the red wolf into southern New England or even 
further northward, indicating that the historical range of the gray 
wolf in the eastern United States may have been more limited than 
previously believed. Another possibility is that the respective ranges 
of several wolf species expanded and contracted in the eastern and 
northeastern United States, intermingling along contact zones, in post-
glacial times.
    The results of the recent molecular genetic (Wilson et al. 2000) 
and morphometric studies (Nowak 1995, 2000) may help explain some of 
the past difficulties in establishing the southern boundary of the gray 
wolf's range in the eastern United States. It may be shown by 
additional genetics investigation that the red wolf, or another wolf 
species, historically populated the entire east coast of the United 
States, and the gray wolf did not occur there at all. However, until 
additional data convincingly show that gray wolves did not historically 
occur in the northeastern States, we will view the historical range of 
the gray wolf as including those areas north of the Ohio River, the 
southern borders of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and southern Missouri; 
and west from central Texas and Oklahoma. This boundary is a reasonable 
compromise of several published accounts, being somewhat south of that 
shown by Nowak (2000) and north of the range boundary shown by Young 
and Goldman (1944) and Mech (1974). The historical range boundary we 
are using most closely approximates that given in Hall (1981).

D. Previous Federal Action

    The eastern timber wolf (Canus lupus lycaon) was listed as 
endangered in Minnesota and Michigan, and the northern Rocky Mountain 
wolf (C. l. irremotus) was listed as endangered in Montana and Wyoming 
in the first list of species that were protected under the 1973 Act, 
published in May 1974 (USDI 1974). A third gray wolf subspecies, the 
Mexican wolf (C. l. baileyi), was listed as endangered on April 28, 
1976, (41 FR 17740) with its known range given as ``Mexico, USA 
(Arizona, New Mexico, Texas).'' On June 14, 1976, (41 FR 24064) the 
subspecies C. l. monstrabilis was listed as endangered (using the 
nonspecific common name ``Gray wolf''), and its range was described as 
``Texas, New Mexico, Mexico.''
    To eliminate problems with listing separate subspecies of the gray 
wolf and identifying relatively narrow geographic areas in which those 
subspecies are protected, on March 9, 1978, we published a rule (43 FR 
9607) relisting the gray wolf at the species level (Canus lupus) as 
endangered throughout the conterminous 48 States and Mexico, except for 
Minnesota, where the gray wolf was reclassified to threatened (refer to 
Map 1 below, located after the Changes from the Proposed Rules 
section). In addition, critical habitat was designated in that 
rulemaking. In 50 CFR 17.95(a), we describe Isle Royale National Park, 
Michigan, and Minnesota wolf management zones 1, 2, and 3 (delineated 
in 50 CFR 17.40(d)(1)) as critical habitat. We also promulgated special 
regulations under section 4(d) of the Act for operating a wolf 
management program in Minnesota at that time. The depredation control 
portion of the special regulation was later modified (50 FR 50793; 
December 12, 1985); these special regulations are found in 50 CFR 
    On November 22, 1994, we designated areas in Idaho, Montana, and 
Wyoming as nonessential experimental populations in order to initiate 
gray wolf reintroduction projects in central Idaho and the Greater 
Yellowstone Area (59 FR 60252, 59 FR 60266). On January 12, 1998, a 
nonessential experimental population was established for the Mexican 
gray wolf in portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas (63 FR 1752). 
These experimental population designations also contain special

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regulations that govern take of wolves within these geographic areas 
(codified at 50 CFR 17.84(i) and (k)). (Refer to Currently Designated 
Nonessential Experimental Populations of Gray Wolves, section below, 
for more details.) We have received several petitions during the past 
decade requesting consideration to delist the gray wolf in all or part 
of the 48 conterminous States. We subsequently published findings that 
these petitions did not present substantial information that delisting 
gray wolves in all or part of the conterminous 48 States may be 
warranted (54 FR 16380, April 24, 1989; 55 CFR 48656, November 30, 
1990; 63 FR 55839, October 19, 1998).
    On July 13, 2000, we published a proposal (65 FR 43450) to revise 
the current listing of the gray wolf across most of the conterminous 
United States (Refer to Map 2 following Changes from the Proposed Rules 
section below). That proposal also included recommended wording for 3 
special regulations that would apply to those wolves proposed for 
reclassification to threatened status. The proposal was followed by a 
4-month public comment period, during which we held 14 public hearings 
and many additional informational meetings in those areas of the 
country where wolves and people would be most affected by the proposed 
    Following the development of our July 2000 proposal, but prior to 
its publication, we received petitions from Mr. Lawrence Krak, of 
Gilman, Wisconsin, and from the Minnesota Conservation Federation. Mr. 
Krak's petition requested the delisting of gray wolves in Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, and Michigan. The Minnesota Conservation Federation 
requested the delisting of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS. 
Because the data reviews that would result from the processing of these 
petitions would be a subset of the review begun by our July 2000 
proposal, we did not initiate separate reviews in response to those two 
    Subsequent to our proposal, but after the close of the comment 
period, we received petitions from Defenders of Wildlife to list gray 
wolf DPSs in the southern Rocky Mountains, northern California--
southern Oregon, and western Washington, and to grant endangered status 
to gray wolves in those DPSs. Because wolves were already protected as 
endangered in those areas, we took no action on these petitions. 
Additionally, there are no wolf populations in those areas, and a DPS 
cannot be designated for an area that is unoccupied by a population of 
the species of concern.
    Since then, we have received a petition from Mr. Karl Knuchel on 
behalf of the Friends of Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd Inc. Mr. 
Knuchel's petition requested the delisting of gray wolves in the Rocky 
Mountains. Because the data review that would result from the 
processing of this petition would be a subset of the review begun by 
this rulemaking, we will not initiate action on this petition until 
after publication of this rule.

E. Summary of Issues Related to This Final Rule

Purpose and Definitions of the Act
    The primary purpose of the Act is to prevent animal and plant 
species endangerment and extinction. One of the ways the Act does this 
is to require the Service to identify species that meet the Act's 
definitions of endangered and threatened species, to add those species 
to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants 
(50 CFR 17.11 and 17.12, respectively), and to plan and implement 
conservation measures to improve their status to the point at which 
they no longer need the protections of the Act. When that protection is 
no longer needed, we take steps to remove (delist) the species from the 
Federal lists. If a species is listed as endangered, we may first 
reclassify it to threatened status as an intermediate step before its 
eventual delisting; however, reclassification to threatened status is 
not required prior to delisting.
    Section 3 of the Act provides the following definitions that are 
relevant to this rule:
    Endangered species--Any species which is in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range;
    Threatened species--Any species which is likely to become an 
endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range; and
    Species--Includes any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and 
any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or 
wildlife which interbreeds when mature. (See additional discussion in 
the Distinct Population Segments Under Our Vertebrate Population Policy 
section, below.)
Distinct Population Segments Under Our Vertebrate Population Policy
    The Act's definition of the term ``species'' includes ``any 
distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or 
wildlife which interbreeds when mature.'' On February 7, 1996, we, in 
conjunction with the National Marine Fisheries Service, adopted a 
policy governing the recognition of distinct population segments (DPSs) 
for purposes of listing, reclassifying, and delisting vertebrate 
species under the Act (61 FR 4722). This policy, sometimes referred to 
as the ``Vertebrate Population Policy,'' guides the Services in 
recognizing DPSs that satisfy the definition of ``species'' under the 
Act. To be recognized as a DPS, a group of vertebrate animals must 
satisfy tests of discreteness and significance.
    To be considered discrete, a group of vertebrate animals must be 
markedly separated from other populations of the same taxon by 
physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors or by an 
international governmental boundary that coincides with differences in 
control of exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or 
regulatory mechanisms. A population does not have to be completely 
isolated by such factors from other populations of its parent taxon in 
order to be considered discrete.
    The significance of a potential DPS is assessed in light of its 
importance to the taxon to which it belongs. Evidence of significance 
includes, but is not limited to, the use of an unusual or unique 
ecological setting; a marked difference in genetic characteristics; or 
the occupancy of an area that, if devoid of the species, would result 
in a significant gap in the range of the taxon.
    If a group of vertebrate animals is determined to be both discrete 
and significant, it is then evaluated to determine whether it meets the 
definition of threatened or endangered based on the five listing 
factors (section 4(a)(1) of the Act). If it is recovered, a DPS can be 
    Although the Vertebrate Population Policy does not allow State or 
other intra-national governmental boundaries to be used in determining 
the discreteness of a potential DPS, a State boundary may be used as a 
boundary of convenience in order to clearly identify the geographic 
area included within a DPS designation when the State boundary 
incidentally separates two DPSs that are judged to be discrete on other 
    It is important to note that a DPS is a listed entity under the 
Act, and is treated the same as a listed species or subspecies. It is 
listed, protected, subject to interagency consultation, and recovered 
just as any other threatened or endangered species or subspecies. A DPS 
frequently will have its own recovery plan and its own recovery goals. 
As with a species or subspecies, a DPS recovery program is not required 
to seek restoration of the animal

[[Page 15808]]

throughout the entire geographic area of the listed entity, but only to 
the point at which it no longer meets the definition of a threatened or 
endangered species.
Distinct Population Segments and Experimental Populations
    The Act does not provide a definition for the term ``population.'' 
However, the Act uses the term ``population'' in two different 
concepts--distinct population segments and experimental populations. 
These two concepts were added to the original Act at different times 
and are used in different contexts. The term ``distinct population 
segment'' is part of the statutory definition of a ``species'' and is 
significant for listing, delisting, and reclassification purposes, 
under section 4 of the Act. Our Vertebrate Population Policy (61 FR 
4722; February 7, 1996) defines a DPS as one or more groups of members 
of a species or subspecies within a portion of that species' or 
subspecies' geographic distribution that meets established criteria 
regarding discreteness and significance. Congress included the DPS 
concept in the Act, recognizing that a listing, reclassification, or 
delisting action may, in some circumstances, be more appropriately 
applied over something less than the entire area in which a species or 
subspecies is found or was known to occur in order to protect and 
recover organisms in a more timely and cost-effective manner.
    In contrast, Congress added the experimental population concept to 
give the Secretary another tool to aid in the conservation of 
``species'' (i.e., species, subspecies, or DPSs) that have already been 
listed under the Act. The Act also requires that an experimental 
population must be geographically separate from existing populations of 
the species. The term ``population'' as used in the experimental 
population program is necessarily a flexible concept, depending upon 
the organism involved and its biological requirements for successfully 
breeding, reproducing, and establishing itself in the reintroduction 
    For purposes of gray wolf reintroduction by means of experimental 
populations in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, we needed 
to examine the biological characteristics of the species to determine 
if the reintroduced wolves would be geographically separate from other 
gray wolf populations. We defined a wolf population to be two breeding 
pairs, each successfully raising two or more young for two consecutive 
years in a recovery area (Service 1994a). This wolf population 
definition was used to evaluate all wolves in the northern U.S. Rocky 
Mountains to determine if, and where, gray wolf populations might 
exist. We determined that gray wolves in northwestern Montana qualified 
as a wolf population under this definition and that this population was 
geographically separated from the potential experimental population 
areas. We therefore designated the two experimental population areas 
and began gray wolf reintroductions to establish the two experimental 
    Because of these different purposes for experimental populations 
and distinct population segments, a DPS can contain several 
experimental populations, or a combination of experimental and 
nonexperimental populations.
    Refer to the Designation of Distinct Population Segments section 
below, for further discussion and analysis of how our Vertebrate 
Population Policy has been applied in this rule.

F. Currently Designated Nonessential Experimental Populations of Gray 

    Section 10(j) of the Act gives the Secretary of the Interior the 
authority to designate populations of listed species that are 
reintroduced outside their current range, but within their probable 
historical range, as ``experimental populations'' for the purposes of 
promoting the recovery of those species by establishing additional wild 
populations. Such a designation increases our flexibility in managing 
reintroduced populations, because experimental populations are treated 
as threatened species under the Act. Threatened status, in comparison 
to endangered status, allows somewhat more liberal issuance of take 
permits for conservation and educational purposes, imposes fewer permit 
requirements on recovery activities by cooperating States, and allows 
the promulgation of special regulations that are consistent with the 
conservation of the species.
    For each experimental population, the Secretary is required to 
determine whether it is essential to the continued existence of the 
species. If the Secretary determines that an experimental population is 
``nonessential,'' then for the purposes of section 7 of the Act 
(Interagency Cooperation), the population is treated as a species 
proposed to be listed as a threatened or endangered species, except 
when the population occurs within areas of the National Wildlife Refuge 
System or the National Park System. Proposed species are subject to the 
advisory section 7(a)(4) conference process rather than the formal 
section 7(a)(2) consultation process.
    The Secretary has designated three nonessential experimental 
population areas for the gray wolf, and wolves have subsequently been 
reintroduced into these areas. These nonessential experimental 
population areas are the Yellowstone Experimental Population Area, the 
Central Idaho Experimental Population Area, and the Mexican Wolf 
Experimental Population Area. The first two of these are intended to 
further the recovery of gray wolves in the northern U.S. Rocky 
Mountains, and the third is part of our Mexican wolf recovery program, 
as described in their respective recovery plans (Service 1982, 1987) 
(Refer to Map 1, after the Changes from the Proposed Rules section 
    The Yellowstone Experimental Population Area consists of that 
portion of Idaho east of Interstate Highway 15; that portion of Montana 
that is east of Interstate Highway 15 and south of the Missouri River 
from Great Falls, Montana, to the eastern Montana border; and all of 
Wyoming (59 FR 60252; November 22, 1994).
    The Central Idaho Experimental Population Area consists of that 
portion of Idaho that is south of Interstate Highway 90 and west of 
Interstate 15; and that portion of Montana south of Interstate 90, west 
of Interstate 15, and south of Highway 12 west of Missoula (59 FR 
60266; November 22, 1994).
    The special regulations for these two experimental populations 
allow flexible management of wolves, including authorization for 
private citizens to take wolves in the act of attacking livestock on 
private land. These rules also provide a permit process that similarly 
allows the taking, under certain circumstances, of wolves in the act of 
attacking livestock grazing on public land. In addition, they allow 
opportunistic noninjurious harassment of wolves by livestock producers 
on private and public grazing lands, and designated government 
employees may perform lethal and nonlethal control efforts to remove 
problem wolves under specified circumstances.
    On January 12, 1998, we established a similar third nonessential 
experimental population area to reintroduce the Mexican gray wolf into 
its historical habitat in the southwestern States. The Mexican Gray 
Wolf Nonessential Experimental Population Area consists of that portion 
of Arizona lying south of Interstate Highway 40 and north of Interstate 
Highway 10; that portion of New Mexico lying south of Interstate 
Highway 40 and north of Interstate Highway 10 in the west and north of 
the Texas-New Mexico border

[[Page 15809]]

in the east; and that part of Texas lying north of U.S. Highway 62/180 
(63 FR 1752).
    This final rule will not affect any of these three existing 
nonessential experimental populations for gray wolves, nor will it 
affect the existing special regulations that apply to them.

G. Gray Wolf-Dog Hybrids

    The many gray wolf-dog hybrids in North America have no value to 
gray wolf recovery programs and are not provided the protections of the 
Act. Wolf-dog hybrids, when they escape from captivity or are 
intentionally released into the wild, can interfere with gray wolf 
recovery programs in several ways. They are familiar with humans, so 
they commonly are attracted to the vicinity of farms and residences, 
leading to unwarranted fears that they are wild wolves hunting in 
pastures and yards. In such situations they may exhibit bold behavior 
patterns and show little fear of humans, leading to human safety 
concerns. They generally have poor hunting skills; thus, they may 
resort to preying on domestic animals, while the blame for their 
depredations is commonly and mistakenly placed on wild wolves. These 
behaviors, when reported in the media or spread by word of mouth, can 
erode public support for wolf recovery efforts. In addition, although 
unlikely, feral wolf-dog hybrids may mate with wild wolves, resulting 
in the introduction of dog genes into wild wolf populations. For these 
reasons, this rule does not extend the protections of the Act to gray 
wolf-dog hybrids, regardless of the geographic location of the capture 
of their pure wolf ancestors.
    In recovery programs for other threatened or endangered species, 
hybrids and hybridization could perhaps play an important role. This 
decision to not extend the protections of the Act to gray wolf-dog 
hybrids should not be taken as an indication of our position on the 
potential importance of hybrids and hybridization to recovery programs 
for other species. Determining the importance and treatment under the 
Act of hybrids requires a species-by-species evaluation.

H. Conservation and Recovery of the Gray Wolf

    Understanding the Service's strategy for gray wolf recovery first 
requires an understanding of the meaning of ``recover'' and 
``conserve'' under the Act. ``Conserve'' is defined in the Act itself 
(section 3(3)) while ``recovery'' is defined in the Act's implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 402.02. Conserve is defined, in part, as ``the 
use of all measures and procedures which are necessary to bring any 
endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the 
measures provided pursuant to this Act are no longer necessary.'' 
Recovery is defined as ``improvement in the status of listed species to 
the point at which listing is no longer appropriate under the criteria 
set out in section 4(a)(1) of the Act.'' Essentially, recover and 
conserve both mean to bring a species to the point at which it no 
longer needs the protections of the Act, because the species is no 
longer threatened or endangered.
Important Principles of Conservation Biology
    Representation, resiliency, and redundancy are three principles of 
conservation biology that are generally recognized as being necessary 
to conserve the biodiversity of an area (Shaffer and Stein 2000). 
Although the Act is not a biodiversity conservation statute, in some 
ways it functions as such on a single species level. Thus, we can and 
should apply these principles when establishing goals for individual 
species' recovery under the Act.
    The principle of representation is the need to preserve ``some of 
everything''--every species, every habitat, and every biotic 
community--so biodiversity can be maintained. At the species level it 
also calls for preserving the genetic diversity that remains within a 
species, in order to maximize the species' ability to cope with short-
term environmental variability and to adapt and evolve in response to 
long-term environmental change.
    Redundancy and resiliency both deal with preserving ``enough to 
last,'' but they address it at distinctly different levels. Redundancy 
addresses the need for a sufficient number of populations of a species, 
while resiliency deals with the necessary size (numerical and 
geographic) of those individual populations that are needed for 
species' persistence over time. Larger populations are more resilient 
to environmental changes and other threats to their existence. The 
redundancy that comes from preserving multiple populations provides 
additional assurances of species' survival. (In the broader 
conservation biology context, these two principles are also applied to 
biotic communities and ecosystems.)
    Due to the vast array of life forms that are potentially subject to 
the protections of the Act, and the variety of physical, biological, 
and cultural factors acting on them, these three principles must be 
applied on a species-by-species basis to determine the appropriate 
recovery goals. For example, addressing the need for redundancy and 
resiliency for nonmotile organisms, species of limited range (for 
example, island or insular species), or those species restricted to 
linear features of the environment (stream or shoreline species) should 
be expected to result in recovery goals that are quite different from 
goals developed for habitat generalist, widely distributed, and/or 
highly mobile species.
Application of These Principles to the Gray Wolf DPSs
    Because this rule finalizes three new DPS listings for the gray 
wolf (see ``Designation of Distinct Population Segments'' below), we 
evaluated what is necessary for long-term extinction avoidance in each 
DPS, and the extent of progress made to date toward that goal in each 
DPS. This examined whether recovery is underway across a significant 
portion of each DPS to ensure long-term viability when that recovery is 
completed. Each DPS evaluation used the principles of conservation 
biology and focused on the size, number, makeup, and distribution of 
wolves in the individual DPSs, and the threats manifest there, in order 
to determine if the gray wolf is in danger of extinction throughout all 
or a significant portion of the respective DPS.
Eastern DPS
    The original Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf and the 1992 
revision of that plan (Service 1978, 1992a) established and reiterated 
criteria to identify the point at which long-term population viability 
would be assured in the eastern United States (Recovery Plans for the 
gray wolf are discussed in more detail below). Although the 1978 
Recovery Plan predated the scientific field of conservation biology, it 
embodied conservation biology tenets in its recovery criteria, and 
those criteria were carried forward unchanged in the 1992 revised 
recovery plan. The Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team was subsequently 
queried by the Service in 1997, and at that time the Eastern Team 
reviewed the criteria and found them to be adequate and sufficient to 
ensure long-term population viability (Peterson in litt. 1997).
    The principles of representation, resiliency, and redundancy are 
fully incorporated into the recovery criteria developed by the Eastern 
Timber Wolf Recovery Team. The need to maintain the Minnesota wolf 
population is believed to be vital, because the remaining genetic 
diversity of gray

[[Page 15810]]

wolves in the eastern United States was carried by the several hundred 
wolves who survived in the State into the early 1970s. The Eastern Team 
insisted that the remnant Minnesota wolf population must be maintained 
and expanded to achieve wolf recovery in the eastern United States, and 
the successful growth of that remnant population has maximized the 
representation of that genetic diversity among Midwestern gray wolves. 
Furthermore, the Eastern Team specified that the Minnesota wolf 
population would increase to 1250-1400 animals, which would increase 
the likelihood of maintaining its genetic diversity over the long-term, 
and would provide the resiliency to reduce the adverse impacts of 
unpredictable chance demographic and environmental events. The 
Minnesota wolf population currently is estimated to be double that 
numerical goal.
    The need for redundancy was clearly recognized by the Eastern Team 
members, and they specified that it be accomplished by establishing a 
second population of gray wolves in the eastern United States. They 
identified several potential locations for the second population. To 
ensure that the second population also had sufficient resiliency to 
survive chance demographic and environmental fluctuations, the Recovery 
Teams specified a minimum size that must be maintained for a minimum of 
five years by the second population. If the second population was 
isolated from the larger Minnesota wolf population, the recovery 
criteria required that the second population contain at least 200 
wolves for a minimum of 5 years. However, if it was near the Minnesota 
wolf population, the 2 populations would function as a metapopulation 
rather than as 2 separate and isolated populations; in that case the 
second population would be viable if it maintained 100 wolves for at 
least 5 years. A metapopulation is a conservation biology concept 
whereby the spatial distribution of a population has a major influence 
on its viability. In nature many populations exist as partially 
isolated sets of subpopulations-termed ``metapopulations.'' A 
metapopulation is widely recognized by conservation biologists as being 
more secure over the long-term than are several isolated populations 
that contain the same total number of packs and individuals (Service 
1994a, Appendix 9, Dr. Steven Fritts). This is because adverse affects 
experienced by one of its subpopulations resulting from genetic drift, 
demographic shifts, and local environmental fluctuations can be 
countered by occasional influxes of individuals and their genetic 
diversity from the other components of the metapopulation.
    The close proximity to the larger Minnesota population would allow 
wolves to move between the two populations and would provide 
substantial genetic and demographic support for the smaller second 
population. Therefore, the Recovery Team specified a lower recovery 
goal of 100 wolves if a second population would develop in a location 
that would allow it to be closely tied to (that is, less than 200 miles 
from) the Minnesota wolf population. Such a second wolf population has 
developed in Wisconsin and the adjacent Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 
This second population is less than 200 miles from the Minnesota wolf 
population, and it has had a late winter population exceeding 100 
animals since 1994.
    As described elsewhere in this final rule, there is no convincing 
evidence in recent decades of another wild gray wolf population in the 
United States east of Michigan, so the wolves in the western Great 
Lakes States represents all the known gray wolf genetic diversity found 
in the Eastern DPS. In other words, the area in the western Great Lakes 
States where the wolf currently exists represents the entire range of 
the species within the Eastern DPS. Furthermore, the number of wolves 
in the Eastern DPS greatly exceeds the recovery goals of (1) a secure 
wolf population in Minnesota and (2) a second population of 100 wolves 
for 5 successive years, and thus contains sufficient numbers and 
distribution (resiliency and redundancy) to ensure the long-term 
survival of gray wolves within the DPS. The wolf's progress toward 
recovery in the Eastern DPS, together with the threats that remain to 
the wolf within the DPS, indicates that the gray wolf is not in danger 
of extinction in its entire range within the DPS. Moreover, the 
progress towards recovery of each of the two populations that comprise 
the metapopulation within the western Great Lakes States demonstrates 
that the species is not in danger of extinction in any significant 
portion of the range of the species within the DPS. We therefore 
conclude that gray wolves are no longer properly classified as 
endangered in the Eastern DPS.
Western DPS
    Similarly, the reclassification and recovery criteria that were 
found in the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan (Service 1987) 
have been subsequently revised following peer review (Bangs 2002) to 
provide sufficient representation, resiliency, and redundancy to ensure 
the species is no longer endangered in the Western DPS when those 
criteria are met. Large numbers of wolves in three widely-spaced 
locations in the Northern U.S. Rockies achieve the desired resiliency 
and redundancy. Furthermore, the recovery program is based on 3 founder 
populations from 3 different Canadian source populations having high 
levels of genetic diversity (Forbes and Boyd 1997, Fritts et al. 1997). 
This has achieved sufficient representation of the genetic diversity 
from the closest thriving wolf populations in Canada, and allowed the 
Northern U.S. Rockies wolves to benefit from the local adaptions of 
those source populations. Additionally, the northwest Montana 
population remains connected to the Canadian wolf population, providing 
a conduit for continuing genetic exchange with wolves farther to the 
north. This connection is exemplified by wolves such as ``Opal,'' which 
was radio collared in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, and 
subsequently moved south and successfully raised pups as the alpha 
female of the Boulder Pack in northwestern Montana.
    The three initially isolated gray wolf populations in northwestern 
Montana, central Idaho, and the Greater Yellowstone Area have expanded 
in range and increased in numbers to the point that they are no longer 
isolated from each other and the movement of individual wolves from one 
to another is becoming more common. Wolf dispersal and interbreeding 
has been documented between all three core recovery areas within the 
northern Rocky Mountains (see Dispersal of Western Gray Wolves). They 
are now functioning as a large metapopulation rather than as three 
isolated populations. The revised recovery criteria specify that at 
least 30 packs, comprising at least 300 wolves, should exist across the 
metapopulation's range for a minimum of 3 years. Twenty packs (200 or 
more wolves) across the metapopulation for 3 years would indicate the 
species is no longer endangered in the DPS and should be considered for 
reclassification to threatened status. There have been at least 300 
wolves in a minimum of 30 packs since the end of 2000, and at the end 
of 2001 there were 563 wolves in 34 packs in the Northern U.S. Rockies. 
There have been over 200 wolves in at least 20 packs since the end of 
    The gray wolf's substantial success in meeting the revised recovery 
criteria for the Northern Rocky Mountains area ensures the wolf's long-
term survival within its range in the Western DPS (i.e., the area 
inhabited by the

[[Page 15811]]

metapopulation of gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains). We 
conclude, based both on the wolf's recovery progress, and on our 
assessment of the threats that will remain once the wolf is 
reclassified as threatened (including the continuation of the 
nonessential experimental population designation and its special 
regulations), that the gray wolf is not in danger of extinction 
throughout its range within the Western DPS. Because the three 
initially isolated populations in the Western DPS now function as a 
single large metapopulation, and because there is no other population 
of wolves within the DPS, this conclusion applies to all parts of the 
wolf's range in the DPS, and so we also conclude that the wolf is not 
in danger of extinction within any significant portion of its range in 
the DPS. The gray wolf therefore is no longer endangered throughout all 
or a significant portion of its range in the Western DPS.
Southwestern DPS
    The recovery program for the Southwestern (Mexican) gray wolf is 
based upon reintroductions of captive reared Mexican wolves to portions 
of their historical range in the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico. These 
captive-reared wolves are the products of a carefully managed breeding 
program designed to preserve the remaining genetic diversity of the 
historical wolves in those areas and maximize the genetic diversity in 
the reintroduced population. This propagation and reintroduction 
program ensures that the principle of representation is achieved in the 
Mexican wolf recovery program.
    At this point, the Mexican wolf recovery program lacks a recovery 
goal. A prime objective of 100 self-sustaining wolves in the wild was 
set in the 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan (Service 1982), but the Plan 
states that goal is preliminary, and is focused more on assuring the 
survival of wolves in the Southwest and Mexico, rather than on 
recovering and delisting them. As more is learned about wolves and 
their conservation in the Southwest, the Service will endeavor to 
develop reclassification (endangered to threatened) and delisting 
criteria for the Mexican wolf. When delisting criteria are developed, 
they too will incorporate the principles of representation, resiliency, 
and redundancy to assure the long-term survival of the Mexican wolf.
    However, at this time we believe their geographic distribution, low 
numbers and population density, and relatively low rate of population 
increase indicate that the Mexican wolf recovery program has not 
achieved sufficient redundancy and resiliency to assure the long-term 
survival of the gray wolf in the Southwest and Mexico. We conclude that 
the gray wolf continues to be in danger of extinction throughout all or 
a significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future in the 
Southwestern DPS, and it remains properly classified as endangered in 
the DPS except where part of a nonessential experimental population.

I. Gray Wolf Recovery Plans

    Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement 
recovery plans for listed species. In some cases, we appoint recovery 
teams of experts to assist in the writing of recovery plans and 
oversight of subsequent recovery efforts. Once a species no longer 
meets the definition of endangered or threatened it is considered to be 
recovered and must be delisted. Therefore, the restoration of a species 
throughout its historical range, or even throughout all the remaining 
suitable habitat, may not be necessary before a species may be 
    We initiated recovery programs for the originally listed subspecies 
of gray wolves by appointing recovery teams and developing and 
implementing recovery plans. Recovery plans describe criteria that are 
used to assess a species' progress toward recovery, contain specific 
prioritized actions believed necessary to achieve the recovery criteria 
and objectives, and identify the most appropriate parties to implement 
the recovery actions.
    Recovery plans contain criteria that are intended to trigger our 
consideration of the need to either reclassify (from endangered to 
threatened) or to delist a species due to improvements in its status. 
Criteria are based upon factors that can be measured or otherwise 
objectively evaluated to document improvements in a species' biological 
status. Examples of the type of criteria typically used are numbers of 
individuals, numbers and distribution of subgroups or populations of 
the species, rates of productivity of individuals and/or populations, 
protection of habitat, and reduction or elimination of threats to the 
species and its habitat.
    The reclassification and recovery criteria contained in our 
recovery plans must be viewed in terms of the other currently available 
information. In some cases, new information will demonstrate that 
reclassification or delisting is appropriate independent of the 
information in the recovery plan. For example, our knowledge of a 
species and its conservation needs may be incomplete when the recovery 
plan is prepared. The criteria are based on the best available 
scientific data and analysis at the time the plan is developed. 
However, as recovery progresses and our knowledge of a species 
increases, we may need to reinterpret the original recovery goals, or 
even add or drop one or more recovery criteria. If appropriate, and if 
funding and timing allow, we may revise or update recovery plans to 
reflect our new knowledge and modified recovery criteria. However, 
revision of recovery plans or recovery criteria is not a required 
precursor to species reclassification or delisting.
    The first gray wolf recovery plan was written for the eastern 
timber wolf, and it was approved on May 2, 1978 (Service 1978). This 
recovery plan was later revised and was approved on January 31, 1992 
(Service 1992a). The 1978 Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf 
(Eastern Plan) and its revision were intended to recover the eastern 
timber wolf, Canus lupus lycaon, believed at that time to be the only 
gray wolf subspecies that historically inhabited the United States east 
of the Great Plains. Thus, the Eastern Plan covers a geographic 
triangle extending from Minnesota to Maine and into northeastern 
Florida. The recovery plan for the eastern timber wolf was based on the 
best available information on wolf taxonomy at the time of its 
publication. Since the publication of those recovery plans, various 
studies have produced conflicting results regarding the identity of the 
wolf that historically occupied the eastern States. Therefore, this 
recovery program has focused on recovering the gray wolf population 
that survived in, and has expanded outward from, northeastern 
Minnesota, regardless of its subspecific identity. (See the Taxonomy of 
Gray Wolves in the Eastern United States section above).
    The Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan (Rocky Mountain 
Plan) was approved in 1980 and revised in 1987 (Service 1980, 1987). 
The Rocky Mountain Plan states in its introduction that it should be 
understood to refer to ``gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains of 
the contiguous 48 States, rather than to a specific subspecies.'' The 
Rocky Mountain Plan focuses recovery efforts in Idaho, most of Montana, 
and Wyoming.
    The Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan was approved in 1982 (Service 1982). 
Based on a review of Southwestern (Mexican) subspecies of the gray wolf 
by Bogan and Mehlhop (1983), the plan combines the historical ranges of 
Canus lupus baileyi, C. l. monstrabilis, and the

[[Page 15812]]

presumed extinct C. l. mogollonensis (which historically occurred in 
parts of New Mexico and Arizona) to define the portions of Arizona, New 
Mexico, Texas, and Mexico where recovery of the Mexican wolf would be 

J. Recovery Progress of the Eastern Gray Wolf

    The 1992 revised Eastern Plan has two delisting criteria. The first 
criterion states that the survival of the wolf in Minnesota must be 
assured. We, and the Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team (Rolf Peterson, 
Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team, in litt. 1997, 1998, 1999a, 1999b), 
believe that this first delisting criterion remains valid. It 
identifies a need for reasonable assurances that future State and 
tribal wolf management practices and protection will maintain a viable 
recovered population of gray wolves within the borders of Minnesota for 
the foreseeable future. While there is no specific numerical recovery 
criterion for the Minnesota wolf population, the Eastern Plan 
identified State subgoals for use by land managers and planners. The 
Eastern Plan's subgoal for Minnesota is 1,251 to 1,400 wolves.
    The second delisting criterion in the Eastern Plan states that at 
least one viable wolf population should be reestablished within the 
historical range of the eastern timber wolf outside of Minnesota and 
Isle Royale, Michigan. The Eastern Plan provides two options for 
reestablishing this second viable wolf population. If it is located 
more than 100 miles from the Minnesota wolf population, it would be 
considered ``isolated,'' and the frequency of movement of individuals 
and genetic material from one population to the other would likely be 
low or nonexistent. Such an isolated population, in order to be self-
sustaining, should consist of at least 200 wolves for at least 5 years 
(based upon late winter population estimates) to be considered viable. 
Alternatively, if the second population is located within 100 miles of 
a self-sustaining wolf population (for example, the Minnesota wolf 
population), a reestablished population having a minimum of 100 wolves 
for at least 5 years would be considered viable. Such a smaller 
population would be considered to be viable, because its proximity 
would allow frequent immigration of Minnesota wolves to supplement it 
numerically and genetically.
    The Eastern Plan does not specify where in the eastern United 
States the second population should be reestablished. Therefore, the 
second population could be located anywhere within the triangular 
Minnesota-Maine-Florida land area covered by the Eastern plan, except 
on Isle Royale, Michigan and within Minnesota. While the 1978 Eastern 
Plan identified potential gray wolf restoration areas throughout the 
eastern States, extending as far south as the Great Smoky Mountains and 
adjacent areas in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia, the revised 
1992 Eastern Plan dropped from consideration the more southern 
potential restoration areas, because recovery efforts for the red wolf 
were being initiated in those areas (Service 1978, 1992a).
    The 1992 Eastern Plan recommends reclassifying wolves in Wisconsin 
and Michigan from endangered to threatened status separately, 
recognizing that progress towards recovery may occur at differing rates 
in these two States. The Plan specifies that wolves in Wisconsin could 
be reclassified to threatened if the population within the State 
remained at or above 80 wolves (late winter estimates) for 3 
consecutive years. The Plan does not contain a reclassification 
criterion for Michigan wolves. Instead, it states that if Wisconsin 
wolves reached their reclassification criterion, consideration should 
also be given to reclassifying Michigan wolves. However, with the 
subsequent increase in Michigan wolf numbers, it has frequently, but 
unofficially, been assumed that the ``80 wolves for 3 years'' criterion 
also would be applied to Michigan. In other words, each State could be 
considered for reclassification if its wolf population reached 80 
individuals or more for 3 successive years. The Eastern Timber Wolf 
Recovery Team used these criteria in its recommendation that the gray 
wolf in the western Great Lakes States be reclassified to threatened as 
soon as possible (Peterson in litt. 1997, 1998, 1999a, 1999b).
    The Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team clarified the second 
population delisting criterion, which considers the wolves in northern 
Wisconsin and the adjacent Upper Peninsula of Michigan to be a single 
population. The Recovery Team stated that the numerical delisting 
criterion for the Wisconsin-Michigan population will be achieved when 6 
successive late winter wolf surveys document that the population 
equaled or exceeded 100 wolves (excluding Isle Royale wolves) for 5 
consecutive years (Rolf Peterson, in litt. 1998). Because the 
Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population was first known to have exceeded 100 
wolves in the late winter 1993-94 survey, the numerical delisting 
criterion was satisfied in early 1999, based upon late winter 1998-99 
data (Beyer et al. 2001, Wydeven et al. 1999).
    The Eastern Plan has no goals or criteria for the gray wolf 
population on the 546-sq km (210-sq mi) Isle Royale, Michigan. This 
small and isolated wolf population is not expected to make a 
significant numerical contribution to gray wolf recovery, although 
long-term research on this wolf population has added a great deal to 
our knowledge of the species.
    Over the last several years, the Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team 
has consistently recommended that we designate a DPS in the western 
Great Lakes area and proceed with reclassification of wolves in that 
DPS to threatened status as soon as possible. The Eastern Team 
recommended that the DPS include a wide buffer around the existing 
populations of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. This 
buffer was described as lands that may not be regularly occupied by 
wolves but which may be temporarily used by dispersing wolves. Thus, 
the Eastern Team suggested the DPS also include the States of North 
Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio (Peterson in 
litt. 1997, 1998, 1999a, 1999b).
    During the pre-1965 period of wolf bounties and legal public 
trapping, wolves persisted in the more remote northeastern areas of 
Minnesota. Estimates of population levels of Minnesota wolves prior to 
listing under the Act in 1974 include 450 to 700 in 1950-53 (Fuller et 
al. 1992, Stenlund 1955), 350 to 700 in 1963 (Cahalane 1964), 750 in 
1970 (Leirfallom 1970), 736 to 950 in 1971-72 (Fuller et al. 1992), and 
500 to 1,000 in 1973 (Mech and Rausch 1975). While these estimates were 
based upon varying methodologies and are not directly comparable, they 
all agree in estimating the wolf population in Minnesota, the only 
significant population in the Lower 48 States during those time-
periods, at 1,000 or fewer animals preceding their listing under the 
    Various population estimates in Minnesota have indicated increasing 
numbers after the wolf was listed as endangered under the Act. A 
population of 1,000 to 1,200 was estimated by L. David Mech for 1976 
(Service 1978), and 1,235 wolves in 138 packs were estimated for the 
winter of 1978-79 (Berg and Kuehn 1982).
    In 1988-89, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) 
repeated the 1978-79 survey, and also used a second method to estimate 
wolf numbers in the State. The resulting

[[Page 15813]]

independent estimates were 1,500 and 1,750 wolves in at least 233 packs 
(Fuller et al. 1992).
    During the winter of 1997-98, a Statewide wolf population and 
distribution survey was repeated by MN DNR, using methods similar to 
those of the two previous surveys. Field staff of Federal, State, 
tribal, and county land management agencies and wood products companies 
were queried to identify occupied wolf range in Minnesota. Data from 
five concurrent radio telemetry studies tracking 36 packs, 
representative of the entire Minnesota wolf range, were used to 
determine average pack size and territory area. Those figures were then 
used to calculate a Statewide estimate of pack numbers and the overall 
wolf population in the occupied range, with single (nonpack) wolves 
factored into the estimate (Berg and Benson 1999).
    The 1997-98 survey concluded that approximately 2,445 wolves 
existed in about 385 packs in Minnesota during that winter period. This 
figure indicates the continued growth of the Minnesota wolf population 
at an average rate of about 3.7 percent annually. The Minnesota wolf 
population has shown approximately this average annual rate of increase 
since 1970 (Berg and Benson 1999, Fuller et al. 1992). No rigorous 
survey of the Minnesota wolf population has been conducted since the 
winter of 1997-98, but biologists generally accept that the population 
has increased, and will continue to increase, perhaps at a slower rate 
and with occasional fluctuations (Mech 1998, Paul 2001).
    Simultaneous with the increase in wolf numbers in Minnesota there 
has been a parallel expansion of the area in which wolves are routinely 
found. During 1948-53 the major wolf range was estimated to be about 
31,080 sq km (11,954 sq mi) (Stenlund 1955). A 1970 questionnaire 
survey resulted in an estimated wolf range of 38,400 sq km (14,769 sq 
mi) (calculated by Fuller et al. 1992 from Leirfallom 1970). Fuller et 
al. (1992), using data from Berg and Kuehn (1982), estimated that 
Minnesota primary wolf range included 36,500 sq km (14,038 sq mi) 
during winter 1978-79. By 1982-83, pairs or breeding packs of wolves 
were estimated to occupy an area of 57,050 sq km (22,000 sq mi) in 
northern Minnesota (Mech et al. 1988). That study also identified an 
additional 40,500 sq km (15,577 sq mi) of peripheral range, where 
habitat appeared suitable but no wolves or only lone wolves existed. 
The 1988-89 study produced an estimate of 60,200 sq km (23,165 sq mi) 
as the contiguous wolf range at that time in Minnesota (Fuller et al. 
1992), an increase of 65 percent over the primary range calculated for 
1978-79. The 1997-98 study concluded that the contiguous wolf range had 
expanded to 88,325 sq km (33,971 sq mi), a 47 percent increase in 9 
years (Berg and Benson 1999). The wolf population in Minnesota has 
recovered to the point that its contiguous range covered approximately 
40 percent of the State during 1997-98.
    Wolves were considered to have been extirpated from Wisconsin by 
1960. No formal attempts were made to monitor the State's wolf 
population from 1960 until 1979. From 1960 through 1975 individual 
wolves and an occasional wolf pair were reported. However, no evidence 
exists of any wolf reproduction occurring in Wisconsin, and the wolves 
that were reported may have been dispersing animals from Minnesota.
    Wolf population monitoring by the WI DNR began in 1979 and 
estimated a Statewide population of 25 wolves at that time. This 
population remained relatively stable for several years, then declined 
slightly to approximately 15 to 19 wolves in the mid-1980s.
    In the late 1980s, the Wisconsin wolf population began an increase 
that continues today. WI DNR intensively monitors its wolf population, 
using a combination of aerial, ground, and satellite radio telemetry, 
snow tracking, and wolf sign surveys (Wydeven et al. 1995, 2001a). The 
number of wolves in each pack is estimated based on the totality of 
ground and aerial observations made of the individual packs over the 
winter. During the winter of 2000-01, 30 of Wisconsin's 66 wolf packs 
(45 percent) had members carrying active radio transmitters much of the 
season. Twenty-seven of these monitored wolves were located 20 or more 
times during the mid-September to mid-April period. Five additional 
radio-tracked wolves were loners, and one was in an adjacent Minnesota 
pack. Minimum wolf population estimates (late-winter counts) for 1994 
through 2001 are 57, 83, 99, 148, 178, 205, 248, and 257 animals, 
comprising 14, 18, 28, 35, 47, 57, 66, and 66 packs respectively 
(Wydeven et al. 2001a). WI DNR preliminarily estimated that about 320 
wolves in 70 to 80 packs were in the State in late winter 2001-2002 (WI 
DNR 2002, Wydeven et al. 2002). Because the monitoring methods focus on 
wolf packs, it is believed that lone wolves are undercounted in 
Wisconsin, and that, as a result, these population estimates are 
probably slight underestimates of the actual wolf population within the 
    In 1995, wolves were first documented in Jackson County, Wisconsin, 
an area well to the south of the northern Wisconsin area occupied by 
other Wisconsin wolf packs. The number of wolves in this central 
Wisconsin area has dramatically expanded since that time. During the 
winter of 2000-2001, there were 34 wolves in 9 packs, plus 3 lone 
wolves, in and around Jackson County (Wydeven et al. 2001a).
    During the winter of 2000-2001, 10 wolves occurred on Native 
American reservations in Wisconsin, and this increased to at least 13 
wolves in the winter of 2001-2002 (WI DNR 2002, Wydeven pers. comm. 
2002). These animals were on the Bad River (8) and Lac Courte Oreilles 
Reservations (5). There also is evidence of individual wolves on the 
Lac du Flambeau and Menominee Reservations, with a high likelihood of 
wolf packs developing on these reservation in the near future (Wydeven 
pers. comm. 2002).
    Wolf numbers in Wisconsin alone greatly surpassed the second 
population goal of 200 animals identified in the Eastern Plan and 
exceeded its reclassification criterion several years ago. Although 
population growth nearly stalled between 1999-2000 and 2000-2001, a 
resumption of the steady upward trend was again quite apparent in the 
preliminary late-winter 2001-2002 estimate of 320. (Refer to the 
Disease or predation section below for additional discussion.)
    Michigan wolves were extirpated as a reproducing population long 
before they were listed as endangered in 1974. Prior to 1991, and 
excluding Isle Royale, the last known breeding population of wild 
Michigan wolves occurred in the mid-1950s. As wolves began to reoccupy 
northern Wisconsin, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MI 
DNR) began noting single wolves at various locations in the Upper 
Peninsula of Michigan. In the late 1980s, a wolf pair was verified in 
the central Upper Peninsula and produced pups in 1991. Since that time, 
wolf packs have spread throughout the Upper Peninsula, with immigration 
occurring from both Wisconsin on the west and Ontario on the east. They 
now are found in every county of the Upper Peninsula.
    The MI DNR annually monitors the wolf population in the Upper 
Peninsula by intensive late winter tracking surveys that focus on each 
pack. Pack locations are derived from previous surveys, citizen 
reports, and ground tracking of radio-collared wolves. During the 
winter of 2000-2001 at least 50 wolf packs

[[Page 15814]]

were resident in the Upper Peninsula. Approximately 40 percent of these 
packs had members with active radio tracking collars (Hammill pers. 
comm. 2002.) Care is taken to avoid double-counting wolves, and a 
variety of evidence is used to distinguish adjacent packs and 
accurately count their members (Beyer et al. 2001).
    These annual surveys have documented the following minimum late 
winter estimates of wolves occurring in the Upper Peninsula from 1994 
through 2001: 57 wolves in 1994, 80 in 1995, 116 in 1996, 112 in 1997, 
140 in 1998, 174 in 1999, 216 in 2000, and 249 in 2001. In recent years 
the annual rate of increase has been about 24 percent (MI DNR 1997, 
1999a, 2001). The MI DNR estimated a minimum of 278 wolves in the Upper 
Peninsula in late winter 2001-2002 (MI DNR 2002).
    The Upper Peninsula Michigan wolf population has exceeded the 
unofficial criterion of 80 animals for reclassification from endangered 
to threatened status. Similar to the situation in Wisconsin, the Upper 
Peninsula wolf population by itself has surpassed the goal of 200 
wolves for a second population, as specified in the Eastern Plan.
    During the winter of 1997-98, one wolf pack composed of four 
animals lived on lands of the Keewenaw Bay Indian Community. No other 
wolves are known to be primarily using tribal lands in Michigan 
(Hammill in litt. 1998).
    The wolf population of Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, is not 
considered to be an important factor in the recovery or long-term 
survival of wolves in the western Great Lakes States. This population 
is small, varying from 12 to 29 animals over the last 15 years, and is 
almost completely isolated from other wolf populations (Peterson et al. 
1998, pers. comm. 1999). For these reasons, the Eastern Plan does not 
include these wolves in its recovery criteria and recommends only the 
continuation of research and complete protection for these wolves 
(Service 1992a).
    Although there have been reports of wolf sightings in the Lower 
Peninsula of Michigan, including a 1997 report of 2 large canids 
believed to be wolves on the ice west of the Mackinaw Bridge, there is 
no evidence that there are resident wolves in the Lower Peninsula. 
However, recognizing the likelihood that small numbers of gray wolves 
will eventually move into the Lower Peninsula, MI DNR has begun a 
revision of its Wolf Management Plan to incorporate provisions for wolf 
management there (see issue U, ``State Wolf Management Plans'').
Northeastern United States
    Wolves were extirpated from the northeastern United States by 1900. 
Few credible observations of wolves were reported in the Northeast 
during most of the 20th century. However, in 1993 a single female wolf 
was killed in western Maine, and in 1996 a second wolf or wolf-like 
canid was trapped and killed in central Maine. Another wolf-like canid 
was mistaken for a coyote and killed in 1997 in northern Vermont. In 
early 2002 a 29 kg (64 lb) apparent wolf was killed by a trapper in 
southeastern Quebec, 20 miles from the New Hampshire border; tissue 
samples are undergoing genetic analysis. These records and other 
observations and signs of large, unidentified canids in Maine during 
recent years led to speculation that wolves may be dispersing into the 
northeastern United States from nearby occupied habitat in Canada. Many 
of the characteristics of the unidentified canids are consistent with 
an animal intermediate between the eastern coyote and the gray wolf. 
Private conservation organizations, the Maine Department of Inland 
Fisheries and Wildlife, the New York Department of Environmental 
Conservation, and the Service are continuing to seek evidence of the 
presence of wild wolves in northern New York and New England. However, 
at this time there is no firm evidence that a breeding population of 
wolves or wolf-like animals exists in the northeastern United States.
    A recent Geographic Information System analysis evaluated the 
potential for wolf dispersal from southern Quebec and Ontario into the 
northeastern United States (Harrison and Chapin 1998). The study also 
estimated the amount of suitable wolf habitat present in northern New 
York and other New England States, and with Wydeven et al. (1998) 
evaluated the likelihood of natural wolf colonization from existing 
occupied wolf range in Canada. These studies, and Mladenoff and Sickley 
(1998), found that sufficient suitable wolf habitat is available in the 
Adirondack Park region of New York and in Maine and northern New 
Hampshire. However, the New York habitat is relatively isolated, and 
the authors concluded that natural recolonization is unlikely to occur 
there. Furthermore, while there are relatively narrow potential 
dispersal corridors connecting expansive wolf habitat in Maine and New 
Hampshire with existing wolf populations north of Quebec City, there 
are significant barriers to dispersal, including about 18 km (11 mi) of 
the St. Lawrence River, an adjacent four lane highway, rail lines, and 
dense human developments that may preclude the movement of a sufficient 
number of wolves from Canada into Maine (Harrison and Chapin 1997).
    In the study on the feasibility of wolf reintroduction in the 
Adirondacks, Paquet et al. (1999) found that suitable habitat for 
sustaining a small population of gray wolves is present, but that 
habitat fragmentation within the Adirondack Park and the lack of 
linkages to occupied wolf areas to the north suggest that wolves would 
not persist there without periodic human intervention. As a result, the 
authors conclude that the ecological conditions in the Adirondack Park 
dictate against a successful reintroduction of gray wolves.
Other Areas in the Eastern United States
    The increasing numbers of wolves in Minnesota and the accompanying 
expansion of their range westward and southwestward in the State have 
led to an increase in dispersing, mostly young, wolves that have been 
documented in North and South Dakota in recent years. An examination of 
skull morphology of North and South Dakota wolves indicates that of 
eight examined, seven likely had dispersed from Minnesota; the eighth 
probably came from Manitoba, Canada (Licht and Fritts 1994). Genetic 
analysis of an additional gray wolf killed in 2001 in extreme 
northwestern South Dakota indicates that it, too, originated from the 
Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population (Straughan and Fain 2002). 
The low potential for the establishment of a viable and self-sustaining 
wolf population in North and South Dakota, and the belief that all or 
most wolves in the Dakotas are biologically part of the Minnesota-
Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population, leads us to conclude that any 
wolves in these States should be included in the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS.
    In October 2001, a wolf was killed in north-central Missouri by a 
farmer who believed it was a coyote. The wolf's ear tag identified it 
as having originated from the western portion of Michigan's Upper 
Peninsula, where it had been captured as a juvenile in July of 1999.
    Wolves like these and others described below in the Western DPS are 
expected to continue to disperse from the core recovery populations and 
move into areas where wolf numbers are extremely low or nonexistent. 
Unless they return to a core recovery population and join or start a 
pack there, they are unlikely to contribute to wolf recovery. While it 
is possible for them to disperse and encounter another wolf, mate, and 
even reproduce,

[[Page 15815]]

throughout much of the Midwest the lack of large expanses of 
unfragmented public land will make it difficult for wolf packs to 
persist in new areas without causing significant conflicts with 
agricultural and other human activities.
    Because gray wolf recovery in the eastern United States can be 
achieved by restoring the species to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and 
Michigan, we do not intend to undertake wolf recovery programs in other 
areas of the Midwest. However, we may provide technical assistance to 
States and tribes who wish to develop wolf recovery plans beyond those 
which we have undertaken.

K. Recovery Progress of the Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf

    In 1974, an interagency wolf recovery team was formed, and it 
completed the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan in 1980 
(Service 1980). The Rocky Mountain Plan focuses wolf recovery efforts 
on the large contiguous blocks of public land from western Wyoming 
through Montana to the Canadian border.
    The revised Rocky Mountain Recovery Plan (Service 1987) identifies 
a recovery criterion of 10 breeding pairs of wolves (defined as a male 
and female capable of reproduction) for 3 consecutive years in each of 
the 3 recovery areas--(1) northwestern Montana (Glacier National Park; 
the Great Bear, Bob Marshall, and Lincoln Scapegoat Wilderness Areas; 
and adjacent public lands), (2) central Idaho (Selway-Bitterroot, 
Gospel Hump, Frank Church River of No Return, and Sawtooth Wilderness 
Areas; and adjacent, mostly Federal, lands), and (3) the Yellowstone 
National Park area (including the Absaroka-Beartooth, North Absaroka, 
Washakie, and Teton Wilderness Areas; and adjacent public lands). The 
Plan states that if one of these recovery areas maintains a population 
of 10 breeding pairs for 3 successive years, wolves in that recovery 
area can be reclassified to threatened status. If 2 recovery areas 
maintain 10 breeding pairs (totaling about 200 adult wolves) for 3 
successive years, gray wolves across the coverage area of the Rocky 
Mountain Plan can be reclassified to threatened status. It also states 
that if all 3 recovery areas maintain 10 breeding pairs for 3 
successive years, the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population can be 
considered as fully recovered and can be delisted. The wolf population 
would be about 300 adult wolves upon attainment of full recovery. The 
Plan also recommends that wolves be reintroduced into the Yellowstone 
National Park area as an experimental population. Additionally, if 
natural recovery has not resulted in at least two packs becoming 
established in central Idaho within 5 years, the Rocky Mountain Plan 
states that other measures, including reintroduction, would be 
considered to recover wolves in that area. The goals identified in the 
Rocky Mountain Plan are intended to ensure a well distributed and 
viable population in the Rocky Mountains, goals that could be met in a 
variety of ways while still adhering to the ``biological intent'' of 
the recovery plan.
    Gray wolf populations were eliminated from Montana, Idaho, and 
Wyoming, as well as adjacent southwestern Canada by the 1930s (Young 
and Goldman 1944). After human-caused mortality of wolves in 
southwestern Canada was regulated in the 1960s, populations expanded 
southward (Carbyn 1983). Dispersing individuals occasionally reached 
the northern Rocky Mountains of the United States (Ream and Mattson 
1982, Nowak 1983), but lacked legal protection there until 1974 when 
they were listed as endangered.
    In 1982, a wolf pack from Canada began to occupy Glacier National 
Park along the United States-Canada border. In 1986, the first litter 
of pups documented in over 50 years was born in the Park. In 
recognition of the ongoing natural recovery of wolves arising from 
these Canadian dispersers, the Rocky Mountain Plan was revised in 1987 
(Service 1987). The revised Rocky Mountain Plan recommends that 
recovery be focused in areas with large blocks of public land, abundant 
native ungulates, and minimal livestock. Three recovery areas were 
identified-- northwestern Montana, central Idaho, and the Greater 
Yellowstone Area. Promotion of natural recovery was advocated for 
Montana and Idaho (unless no breeding pairs formed in Idaho within 5 
years), but recovery in the Yellowstone area was believed to require a 
reintroduction program.
    By 1989, we formed an interagency wolf working group, composed of 
Federal, State, and tribal agency personnel. The group conducted four 
basic recovery tasks, in addition to the standard enforcement functions 
associated with any take of listed species. These tasks were--(1) 
monitor wolf distribution and numbers, (2) control wolves that attacked 
livestock by either moving or killing them, (3) research wolves' 
relationships to ungulate prey, livestock, and people, and (4) provide 
accurate information to the public through reports and mass media so 
that people could develop their opinions about wolves and wolf 
management from an informed perspective.
    In 1995 and 1996, we reintroduced wolves from southwestern Canada 
to remote public lands in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park 
(Bangs and Fritts 1996, Fritts et al. 1997, Bangs et al. 1998). We 
designated these wolves as nonessential experimental populations to 
increase management flexibility and address local and State concerns 
(59 FR 60252 and 60266; November 22, 1994). Wolves in northwestern 
Montana remain listed as endangered, the most protective category under 
the Act; they are not included within the nonessential experimental 
population areas. (Refer to the Currently Designated Nonessential 
Experimental Populations of Gray Wolves section above, for additional 
    The reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park and 
central Idaho in 1995 and 1996 greatly expanded the numbers and 
distribution of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains of the United 
States. Because of the reintroduction, wolves soon became established 
throughout central Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone Area. In 1995, an 
estimated 8 breeding pairs (using the Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) definition of a male and female successfully raising 2 pups until 
December 31), within a total population of about 101 individual wolves, 
produced pups in the northern Rocky Mountains. By 1996, a total 
population of 152 wolves containing 14 breeding pairs were producing 
pups. In 1997, 213 wolves with 20 breeding pairs produced pups. In 
1998, there were 275 wolves and 21 breeding pairs. In 1999 there were 
322 wolves with 24 breeding pairs. December 1999 ended the third 
successive year in which over 20 wolf breeding pairs successfully 
produced pups in the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains. In 2000 there were 
433 wolves with 30 breeding pairs. As of December 2001 the wolf 
population was about 563 wolves, with 34 breeding pairs producing pups 
(Service et al. 2002).
    The presence of 20 breeding pairs (using the EIS definition of a 
male and female successfully raising 2 pups) distributed in 3 recovery 
areas for 3 successive years, exceeded the biological criteria of 
having 10 breeding pairs (defining as a male and female capable of 
reproduction) in only 2 recovery areas as recommended in the 1987 
recovery plan. For this reason the Service proposed to reclassify the 
wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains and adjacent States in 

[[Page 15816]]

2000. Because the wolf population has continued to expand since that 
time, it no longer warrants listing as endangered.
Northwestern Montana
    Reproduction first occurred in northwestern Montana in 1986. The 
natural ability of wolves to find and quickly recolonize empty habitat 
and the interagency recovery program combined to effectively promote an 
increase in wolf numbers. By 1993 the number of wolves had grown to 
about 55 wolves in 4 packs. However, since 1993 the number of breeding 
groups and number of wolves has slowed or perhaps stabilized, varying 
from 5 to 7 packs and from 48 to 84 wolves. The reasons for this are 
unknown, but are being investigated. The lack of continuing steady 
growth in documented wolf numbers may be due to a dramatic reduction of 
white-tailed deer numbers throughout northwestern Montana (Caroline 
Sime, Montana Dept. Fish, Wildlife and Parks, pers. comm. 1998) due to 
the severe winter of 1996-97, which we believe was responsible for the 
record high level of livestock depredations and correspondingly high 
level of wolf control in northwestern Montana during summer 1997. Our 
1998 estimate was a minimum of 49 wolves in 5 reproducing packs. In 
1999, and again in 2000, 6 breeding pairs appear to have produced pups, 
and the northwestern Montana population increased to about 63 wolves. 
In 2001, there were an estimated 84 wolves in 7 breeding pairs (Service 
et al. 2002).
    Wolf conflicts with livestock have increased with the growing wolf 
population and with fluctuations in prey populations. For example, in 
1997, following a severe winter that reduced white-tailed deer 
populations, wolf conflicts with livestock increased dramatically. That 
year alone accounted for nearly 50 percent of all the wolf livestock 
depredations that were confirmed and subsequent lethal wolf control 
actions that were taken in northwestern Montana during the period 1987-
1999 (Bangs et al. 1998). Wolf numbers should increase as prey numbers 
rebound, but, for now, the need for wolf control measures has subsided. 
Unlike Yellowstone National Park or the central Idaho Wilderness, 
northwestern Montana lacks a core refugia that also contains 
overwintering ungulates. Therefore, wolf numbers are not ever likely to 
be as high in northwestern Montana as they are in central Idaho and 
northwest Wyoming.
Central Idaho
    In January 1995, 15 young adult wolves captured in Alberta, Canada, 
were released in central Idaho (Bangs and Fritts 1996, Fritts et al. 
1997, Bangs et al. 1998). During January 1996, an additional 20 wolves 
from British Columbia were released. In 1998 the population consisted 
of a minimum of 114 wolves, including 10 packs that produced pups 
(Bangs et al. 1998). In 1999 it had grown to about 141 wolves in 10 
reproducing packs. By 2000 Idaho had 192 wolves in 10 breeding pairs 
and in 2001 the population was about 261 wolves in 14 breeding pairs 
(Service et al. 2002).
Greater Yellowstone Area
    In January 1995, 14 wolves from Alberta, representing three family 
groups, were placed in 3 pens in Yellowstone National Park (Bangs and 
Fritts 1996, Fritts et al. 1997). The groups were released in late 
March. Two of the three groups produced young in late April. In January 
1996, this procedure was repeated with 17 wolves from British Columbia, 
representing 4 family groups, for release in early April. Two of those 
groups produced pups in late April. Furthermore, as the result of a 
September 1996 wolf control action in northwestern Montana, 10 5-month-
old pups were transported to a pen in the Park. These pups and 3 adults 
from the Greater Yellowstone Area, which were originally reintroduced 
from Canada, were released in spring 1997. By 1998, the Greater 
Yellowstone Area population consisted of 112 wolves, including 6 packs 
that produced 10 litters of pups. The 1999 population consisted of 118 
wolves, including 8 breeding pairs. In 2000 Yellowstone had 177 wolves, 
including 14 breeding pairs, and there were 218 wolves, including 13 
breeding pairs, in 2001 (Service et al. 2002).
Dispersal of Western Gray Wolves
    Significant numbers of pups (9 in 1995, 25 in 1996, 99 in 1997, and 
steadily increasing to about 150 in 2000, and nearly 200 in 2001 and 
2002) born to reintroduced wolves are becoming sexually mature and are 
dispersing from their natal packs. Because dispersing wolves may travel 
extensively and often settle in areas without resident packs, we expect 
that these wolves will continue to initiate significant expansion in 
the number and distribution of wolf packs in the northern Rocky 
Mountains. Dispersal will increase management costs and controversy, 
because many of these wolves will not be radio-collared and will 
attempt to colonize areas of private land used for livestock 
production. This geographic expansion of wolf presence will also 
increase the amount of needed agency wolf control, particularly lethal 
control. Wolves that disperse southward in central Idaho and the 
Greater Yellowstone Area will increasingly encounter the full range of 
domestic livestock, including sheep, which are more susceptible to 
predation and multiple-mortality incidents than are other domestic 
livestock (Bangs et al. 1995, Fritts et al. 1992).
    We predicted that these three populations eventually would expand 
and begin to overlap, resulting in one meta-population of gray wolves 
in the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains. In 1994 we believed that the most 
likely direction for wolf dispersal and population growth would be from 
northwestern Montana southward into the experimental areas. Wolves most 
commonly disperse toward other wolves even when separated by great 
distances, and we speculated that the presence of reintroduced wolves 
in the central Idaho and Yellowstone experimental areas would increase 
the likelihood for wolf dispersal into those areas from northwestern 
Montana. At that time, we believed that wolves in the northwestern 
Montana recovery area would be the first to reach 10 breeding pairs. We 
now believe that the severe winter of 1996-97 temporarily depressed the 
number of wolves in northwestern Montana and limited the number of 
dispersal-aged wolves in that area (Service 1994a, Bangs et al. 1998).
    In contrast, the wolves reintroduced into central Idaho and 
Yellowstone have increased their numbers greatly, and nearly two-thirds 
of those wolves are young, dispersal-aged animals that may move from 
those areas over the next several years. We now believe that wolves 
that are offspring of the reintroduced animals will increasingly 
disperse into northwestern Montana and elsewhere. A recent study of 
wolf genetics among wolves in northwestern Montana and the reintroduced 
populations found that wolves in those areas were as genetically 
diverse as their source populations in Canada and that genetic 
diversity was not a wolf conservation issue in the northern Rocky 
Mountains at this time (Forbes and Boyd 1997). To date, from radio 
telemetry monitoring we have documented routine wolf movement between 
wolves in Canada and northwestern Montana, occasional wolf movement 
between wolves in Idaho and Montana, and at least two wolves that have 
traveled into Idaho from northwestern Wyoming. Additionally,

[[Page 15817]]

in 2001-2002 a wolf from Yellowstone dispersed 240 km (150 mi) into 
northwestern Montana, and a wolf from Idaho dispersed over 480 km (300 
mi) to northwestern Wyoming. Since two-thirds of the wolf population is 
not radio-collared, additional dispersal has undoubtedly occurred in 
addition to that documented by radio-collared wolves. Because of the 
long dispersal distances and the relative speed of natural wolf 
movement between Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, we anticipate that wolves 
will continue to maintain high genetic diversity in the three States. 
If significant genetic concerns do arise at some future time, our 
experience with wolf relocation shows that we could effectively remedy 
those concerns with occasional wolf relocation actions.
    We also anticipate additional movement of wolves from the northern 
U.S. Rockies and Canada into western Washington and Oregon and into the 
Cascade Range. For example, one radio-collared wolf from northwestern 
Montana was found dead in 1994 from unknown causes in eastern 
Washington, and a radio-collared young female wolf from central Idaho 
dispersed into eastern Oregon in early 1999. She was recaptured and 
returned to the Central Idaho Recovery Area where she would have a 
better opportunity to find a mate. Since 1999, 2 other dead wolves (1 
radio-collared in Idaho and one not radio-collared) were found in 
eastern Oregon. These wolves were killed by a vehicle collision and an 
illegal shooting, respectively. Furthermore, suitable habitat and prey 
conditions exist in other areas to which wolves may be able to disperse 
from current populations. Given that wolves in the northern Rocky 
Mountains have dispersed over 800 km (500 mi), it is reasonable to 
assume that occasional but routine wolf dispersal will continue to 
occur within 400 km (250 mi) of the current boundaries of the wolf 
    Observation data indicate that the wolves outside of the core 
recovery areas mostly occur as individuals, although several wolf 
family units have been reported in the North Cascades (Almack and 
Fitkin 1998). However, because efforts to locate family units have been 
unsuccessful, we are not sure whether wolves are reproducing in the 
North Cascades. Under this final rule, any animals outside the core 
recovery areas are protected by the Act as threatened wolves, and we 
will continue to provide protection recommendations for den and 
rendezvous sites to Federal agencies on a site-specific basis.
    While habitat that could support wolves certainly exists in several 
areas, we have no plans to initiate new wolf restoration efforts for 
any areas in the western United States outside of those already 
underway in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and the southwestern States. 
However, this final rule continues the protections of the Act for any 
wolves in the wild within all States that are included within the 
boundaries of the Western DPS. Therefore, any new gray wolf restoration 
programs undertaken by States or tribes within the boundaries of the 
DPS would benefit from the protections of the Act as long as the DPS 
remains listed as threatened.
    While we have no plans to actively pursue wolf restoration in other 
areas of the Western DPS, we will not act to routinely prevent natural 
wolf recolonization in such areas. Wolves that naturally disperse into 
other States will be managed on a case-by-case basis, and we have the 
authority to manage these wolves. Generally, if there are no conflicts 
with human activities, such wolves will likely not be returned to the 
area of their origin. If wolves move outside of the recovery areas and 
depredate livestock, they will be killed rather than moved. In 
addition, States or tribes considering wolf restoration planning for 
lands under their jurisdiction may request us to provide technical 
assistance for those efforts.
Reclassification and Recovery Goals for the Northern U.S. Rocky 
    The criteria for threatened and recovered wolf populations in the 
northern Rocky Mountains have been the subject of intense interest and 
several peer review efforts (Fritts and Carbyn 1995). The 1987 Northern 
Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan (Service 1987) defined a recovered 
wolf population as securing and maintaining a minimum of 10 breeding 
pairs in each of 3 recovery areas for a minimum of 3 successive years. 
A breeding pair was defined as ``Two wolves of opposite sex and 
adequate age, capable of producing offspring.'' Recovery areas were 
relatively small and separate areas in northern Montana, central Idaho, 
and the Greater Yellowstone Area.
    The 1994 environmental impact statement (EIS) review (Appendix 9, 
in Service 1994a) indicated that the 1987 recovery goal was, at best, a 
minimal recovery goal, and that modifications were warranted on the 
basis of more recent information about wolf distribution, connectivity, 
and numbers. Fritts (Appendix 9, in Service 1994a) specifically 
reviewed the issue of a viable wolf population in the EIS on wolf 
reintroduction. He concluded that ``Thirty or more breeding pairs 
comprising some +300 wolves in a metapopulation with genetic exchange 
between subpopulations should have a high probability of long-term 
persistence.'' Further, Fritts stated, ``My conclusion is that the 1987 
wolf recovery plan's population goal of 10 breeding pairs of wolves in 
3 separate recovery areas for 3 consecutive years is reasonably sound 
and would maintain a viable wolf population into the foreseeable 
future. The goal is somewhat conservative, however, and should be 
considered minimal.'' In his review, a breeding pair was defined as 
``An adult male and an adult female wolf that have produced at least 2 
pups that survived until December 31 of the year of their birth, during 
the previous breeding season.'' His review was based upon abutting 
recovery areas that were much larger than those recommended in the 1987 
plan. This proximity would allow wolves to occasionally move from one 
recovery population to another, thus producing the metapopulation 
structure that was inherent to Fritts' analysis, but was absent from 
the 1987 Recovery Plan goal.
    The Service (Bangs 2002) conducted another review of what 
constitutes a recovered wolf population in late 2001 and early 2002. 
Relevant literature was reviewed, and responses were received and 
evaluated from 50 of 88 experts contacted. That review showed that 
there is a wide variety of professional opinion about wolf population 
viability. However, that review supported and reaffirmed Fritts' 
earlier conclusions that 30 breeding pairs of wolves (using Fritts' 
definition of a breeding pair) widely distributed in a metapopulation 
structure (that is, populations within dispersal distance to promote 
movement between recovery populations) throughout the mountainous 
portions of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming for 3 successive years would 
exceed the minimum biological requirements of a viable and recovered 
wolf population. The experts also compared the 1987 recovery plan 
recommendation of a recovered wolf population with Fritts' 
recommendation and concluded that Fritts' definition was more likely to 
define a viable wolf population than the 1987 recovery plan definition.
    Therefore, in place of the 1987 Recovery Plan goal, we have adopted 
the definition of wolf population viability and recovery developed in 
the 1994 EIS (Service 1994a). That definition is ``Thirty breeding 
pairs of wolves (defined as an adult male and an adult female that 
raise at least 2 pups until December 31 of the year of their birth), 
comprising some +300

[[Page 15818]]

individuals in a metapopulation with some genetic exchange between 
subpopulations, for three successive years.''
    A minimum of 30 breeding pairs was first documented in 2000, and a 
minimum of 34 breeding pairs was documented in 2001. We fully expect to 
confirm in early 2003 that the wolf population in the northern Rocky 
Mountains will have again exceeded 30 breeding pairs in 2002, thus 
achieving the wolf population recovery goal. At that point the Service 
could propose to delist the wolf population.
    The 1987 recovery plan recommended that wolves be downlisted to 
threatened status throughout the northern Rocky Mountains at the time 
each of 2 recovery areas had maintained a minimum of 10 breeding pairs 
for 3 successive years. In 2000, when the Service proposed to 
reclassify these wolves to threatened status, the year 2000 was the 
fourth successive year of having 20 or more breeding pairs in the 
northern Rocky Mountains. The Service considered this to fully meet the 
intent of the downlisting goal. Since that time, the wolf population 
has continued to grow even larger and should no longer be considered 

L. Recovery Progress of the Southwestern (Mexican) Gray Wolf

    The objectives of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan (Service 1982) are 
to maintain a captive breeding program and to reestablish a population 
of at least 100 Mexican wolves within its historical range. The plan 
contains no numerical criteria that would support either revision of 
the endangered status of the Mexican wolf to threatened or delisting. 
We consider the current recovery plan objective for the wild population 
to be an essential first step toward the eventual recovery of the 
Mexican wolf. A revised recovery plan for the Mexican wolf will contain 
numerical criteria for reclassifying to a threatened status and for 
delisting. Because recovery of the Mexican wolf is in its very early 
stages, we are establishing a Southwestern Gray Wolf DPS, but we are 
making no changes to the protective legal status of the Mexican gray 
wolf at this time.
    Through managed breeding, the captive population of Southwestern 
(Mexican) gray wolves had increased to 247 animals as of August 2002. 
Forty-five zoos and wildlife sanctuaries throughout the United States 
and Mexico cooperate in the maintenance and breeding of the captive 
wolves. The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA), an 18,000-sq km 
(7000-sq mi) area, has been designated for the re-establishment of a 
wild population of at least 100 wolves. This area includes all of the 
Apache and Gila National Forests in eastern Arizona and western New 
    Re-establishment of a wild population began with the release of 13 
captive-reared Mexican gray wolves in eastern Arizona in 1998. Releases 
have occurred each year since then, and as of August 2002, an 
additional 61 wolves, including uncollared pups, had been released in 
the BRWRA. A minimum of 24 Mexican wolves representing 8 packs were 
free-ranging in the wild as of January 2003. During 2002, we documented 
surviving wild-conceived offspring from the past 3 breeding seasons and 
documented the production of the first second-generation wild-
conceived, wild-born offspring. Efforts are ongoing to capture 
uncollared wolves living in the population. The documentation of the 
birth of second-generation wild-born offspring and breeding pairs 
forming on their own are both key signs that a Mexican wolf population 
is establishing itself in the BRWRA. Additional releases are planned to 
occur as they are needed to reach the current goal of a wild population 
of 100 wolves. This reintroduced population of wolves, like those in 
central Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone Area, has been designated 
nonessential experimental (63 FR 1752-1772, January 12, 1998); these 
wolves can be legally killed by ranchers if the wolves attack livestock 
on private land. Other provisions of the special regulation designating 
the population as nonessential experimental give agency managers 
flexibility to address wolf-human conflicts. Defenders of Wildlife, a 
private conservation organization, compensates ranchers whose livestock 
are killed by these wolves.

Designation of Distinct Population Segments

    Previously, the gray wolf was listed as threatened in Minnesota and 
as endangered in the other 47 conterminous States, effectively 
establishing a Minnesota DPS that was delimited by State boundaries in 
the absence of any other indications of discreteness (Map 1). This 
separate designation of Minnesota gray wolves as threatened was 
established in 1978, before our adoption of the 1996 Vertebrate 
Population Policy (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996); this final rule 
brings the current listing of the gray wolf into compliance with the 
    As discussed above in the Distinct Population Segments Under Our 
Vertebrate Population Policy section, our Vertebrate Population Policy 
requires that we consider the concepts of ``discreteness'' and 
``significance'' when deciding if a vertebrate population meets the 
requirements for a DPS designation. If the population is determined to 
be discrete and significant, then we evaluate the conservation status 
of the population to determine if it is threatened or endangered. The 
discussion of discreteness and significance for each DPS follows the 
descriptions of the geographic area included in each DPS.
    Based on the Vertebrate Population Policy, this rule reclassifies 
the gray wolf by establishing the following 3 DPSs within the 
conterminous 48 States (Map 3).
    Eastern Gray Wolf Distinct Population Segment. Consisting of gray 
wolves within the States of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, 
Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, 
Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode 
Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine; and those 
gray wolves in captivity that originated from, or whose ancestors 
originated from, this geographic area. This DPS includes all the areas 
that we proposed in July 2000 for the Western Great Lakes DPS and the 
Northeastern DPS, as well as 12 additional States.
    Western Gray Wolf Distinct Population Segment. The exterior 
boundary of the Western DPS encompasses the States of California, 
Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Utah north of U.S. 
Highway 50, and Colorado north of Interstate Highway 70. Gray wolves in 
this geographic area are included in the Western DPS, except for gray 
wolves that are part of an experimental population. Gray wolves in 
captivity that originated from, or whose ancestors originated from, 
this geographic area are also included in the Western DPS.
    Southwestern Gray Wolf Distinct Population Segment. The exterior 
boundary of the Southwestern DPS encompasses the States of Arizona, New 
Mexico, Utah south of U.S. Highway 50, Colorado south of Interstate 
Highway 70, those parts of Oklahoma and Texas west of Interstate 
Highway 35, and Mexico. Gray wolves in this geographic area are 
included in the Southwestern DPS, except for gray wolves that are part 
of an experimental population. Gray wolves in captivity that originated 
from, or whose ancestors originated from, this geographic area are also 
included in the Southwestern DPS.
    Discreteness. To date, we have no evidence that any wolves from any 
of these DPSs have dispersed across these DPS boundaries, although we 

[[Page 15819]]

such dispersals to occur. The current gray wolf populations within each 
of these DPSs are separated from the gray wolf populations in the other 
DPS by large areas that are not occupied by breeding populations of 
resident wild gray wolves. Although small numbers of dispersing 
individual gray wolves have been seen in some of these unoccupied 
areas, and it is possible that individual dispersing wolves can 
completely cross some of these gaps between occupied areas and may 
therefore join another wolf population, we believe that the existing 
geographic isolation of wolf populations in each of these three DPSs 
from the other far exceeds the Vertebrate Population Policy's criterion 
for discreteness of each DPS. (Refer to the Change to the Boundary 
Between the Western DPS and the Southwestern DPS section, below, for 
additional discussion on establishing these DPS boundaries.)
    The Vertebrate Population Policy allows us to use international 
borders to delineate the boundaries of a DPS even if the current 
distribution of the species extends across that border. Therefore, we 
will continue to use the United States-Canada border to mark the 
northern portions of the boundaries of the Western and Eastern DPSs due 
to the difference in control of exploitation, conservation status, and 
regulatory mechanisms between the two countries. In general, wolf 
populations are more numerous and wide-ranging in Canada; therefore, 
wolves are not protected by Federal laws in Canada and are publicly 
trapped in most Canadian provinces.
    Along our border with Mexico, the situation is quite different. 
Gray wolves have been extirpated, or nearly so, from Mexico. However, 
the captive animals that have been used to start the Mexican wolf 
recovery program in the United States are of Mexican origin, and Mexico 
is closely cooperating with the Service in the Mexican wolf recovery 
program in a number of ways. The current Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan 
(1982) is a bi-national recovery plan, signed by both the U.S. and 
Mexico. This bi-national recovery effort will continue with plans for 
Mexico and the Service to jointly revise the bi-national recovery plan 
for the Mexican wolf. Because of the cooperative gray wolf conservation 
efforts we have with Mexico across our southern border, our 
Southwestern DPS does not end at the Mexican border, but rather it 
includes all historical gray wolf range in Mexico.
    Significance. We further believe that all three of these wolf 
populations satisfy the significance criterion of the Vertebrate 
Population Policy under examples 2 and 4, as provided in the Policy--
significant range gaps and genetic characteristics.
    In our Vertebrate Population Policy, example 2 states that 
``evidence that loss of the discrete population segment would result in 
a significant gap in the range of a taxon'' shows that the population 
meets the significance criterion. Loss of the discrete wolf populations 
in either the Eastern DPS, the Western DPS, or the Southwestern DPS 
would clearly produce huge gaps in current gray wolf distribution in 
the 48 States.
    Our Vertebrate Population Policy also states (example 4) that 
``[E]vidence that the discrete population segment differs markedly from 
other populations of the species in its genetic characteristics'' is 
another indication that the population satisfies the significance test. 
Although genetic studies are continuing, and the subspecific taxonomy 
of the gray wolf remains to be conclusively determined, several studies 
agree that these three recovery programs are recovering different 
evolutionary lineages of the gray wolf (Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, Nowak 
1995, Wilson et al. 2000). Even various gray wolf subspecies maps, 
which show vastly different numbers and ranges of subspecies and are 
still being disputed, all agree that the wolves currently being 
recovered in the Midwest, the northern U.S. Rockies, and in the 
Southwest are of different subspecific origins (Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, 
Hall 1981, Nowak 1995, 2000, Young and Goldman 1944). At a minimum, 
even if these three groups of gray wolves are not separate subspecies, 
strong indications suggest that they are separate reservoirs of 
diversity that differ from each other and therefore are significant to 
the species (Bogan and Mehlhop 1983, Nowak 1995, Wilson et al. 2000).
    The existence of large areas of potentially suitable wolf habitat 
and prey resources in parts of northern New York and northern New 
England, occurrence records of a few wolves or wolf-like canids during 
the 1990s, and the presence of wolf populations in neighboring areas of 
eastern Canada caused us to propose a DPS for the gray wolf in the 
Northeast (Map 2). At the time of the proposal, we had limited 
information on extant wolves in the Northeast, and we specifically 
requested additional data and other information on Northeastern wolves. 
However, no new data were provided to substantiate that a wolf 
population exists in the Northeast.
    A wolf population must exist in an area in order for us to 
designate it as a DPS. Therefore, as discussed above in the Taxonomy of 
Gray Wolves in the Eastern United States section, we do not have 
sufficient data on the identity of historical northeastern United 
States wolves or the current existence of wolves in the Northeast to 
support the designation of a DPS there. However, we are retaining the 
listing of gray wolves in these States under the Act in order to 
preserve the ability to protect wolves that may occur there. Because a 
separate DPS cannot be designated in the Northeast due to the lack of 
evidence of an extant wolf population, this area is being combined with 
the proposed Western Great Lakes DPS and with other States, and is 
being designated as part of the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS. The future 
possibility of establishing a Service wolf recovery program in the 
Northeast remains possible if it is demonstrated to be necessary for 
the recovery of a wolf ``species,'' as defined in the Act.
    We emphasize that the expansion of the boundaries of these three 
DPSs from our July 2000 proposal does not reflect any intent of the 
Service to expand our current gray wolf recovery programs beyond their 
current geographic areas, or to initiate new gray wolf restoration 
efforts in these DPSs.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our longstanding practice and with our July 1, 
1994 (59 FR 34270), Interagency Cooperative Policy on Peer Review (Peer 
Review Policy), we requested the expert opinions of independent 
specialists regarding pertinent scientific or commercial data and 
assumptions relating to supportive biological and ecological 
information in the proposed rule. The purpose of such review is to 
ensure that our decision is based on scientifically sound data, 
assumptions, and analyses, including input from appropriate experts and 
    Our Peer Review Policy requires that we solicit expert opinions of 
three independent specialists. Because of the complexity, geographic 
scope, and expected controversial nature of the proposed actions, we 
requested reviews from 14 independent experts and received comments 
from 11 of them during the comment period. We contacted individuals who 
possess expertise on gray wolf biology and ecology, threats to wolves, 
and wolf health and diseases. In order to adhere to the Policy's 
requirement for independent reviewers, this peer review did not use 
employees of the Service, or of States that have a significant stake in 
the outcome of this rulemaking. The reviewers that we chose are from 
Alaska and Canada, as well as from across wolf range in the 
conterminous States. They

[[Page 15820]]

were asked to review the proposed rule and the supporting data, and to 
point out any mistakes in our data or analysis, and to identify any 
relevant data that we might have overlooked. We have incorporated their 
comments into the final rule, as appropriate, and have briefly 
summarized their observations below.
    Of the peer reviewers who specifically expressed support for, or 
opposition to, our various proposed actions, all supported the DPS 
approach, that is, dividing the current listing into smaller geographic 
units that better reflect recovery progress and recovery needs, and 
providing the protections that are appropriate to that progress and 
those needs. All but one supported reclassification of the wolves in 
the western Great Lakes area to threatened status, and that dissenting 
reviewer recommended that we go a step further and delist those wolves 
instead of reclassifying them. Most peer reviewers supported 
reclassification of the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population to 
threatened, but one questioned whether this is appropriate before the 
reclassification criteria of the 1984 Recovery Plan have been achieved. 
Another reviewer supported reclassification of the Western DPS, but 
stated that delisting should not occur until each of the 3 recovery 
segments exceed 10 breeding pairs. One reviewer suggested reducing the 
recovery goal for northwestern Montana to fewer than 10 breeding pairs.
    Of those who specifically commented on it, all peer reviewers 
supported the proposed establishment of a separate Northeastern DPS. 
There was general support for gray wolf delisting in areas where wolf 
restoration was not necessary and not feasible, but there was some 
disagreement on where those areas were. Delisting in the Southeast was 
supported, but delisting in California and Nevada was opposed by two 
reviewers. Delisting the Dakotas (instead of reclassifying to 
threatened, as we proposed) was recommended by one reviewer. Five of 
the reviewers also recommended that the southern Rocky Mountains 
(Colorado, Utah, and the northern parts of Arizona and New Mexico) 
either be established as a separate DPS, or be included in the proposed 
endangered Southwestern (Mexican) DPS rather than in the threatened 
Western DPS. One reviewer recommended that a Northwestern DPS be 
established, composed of California and the western halves of 
Washington and Oregon.
    Numerous suggestions for technical corrections were provided by the 
peer reviewers, and they also pointed out parts of the proposal that 
needed clarification.
    The recommendations of the peer reviewers, as well as the comments 
we received from other sources during the comment period, are discussed 
in the following section. We also provide explanations for why the 
recommendations were, or were not, adopted in our final decision.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In our July 13, 2000, proposed rule and associated notifications, 
we requested that all interested parties submit comments, data, or 
other information that might aid in our decisions or otherwise 
contribute to the development of this final rule. The comment period 
for the proposed rule was open from July 13, 2000, through November 13, 
2000. During that period we publicized and conducted 14 public hearings 
and numerous public informational meetings in order to explain the 
proposal, respond to questions concerning gray wolf protection and 
recovery, and receive input from interested parties. We contacted 
appropriate Federal, State, and tribal agencies, scientific 
organizations, agricultural organizations, outdoor user groups, 
environmental organizations, animal rights groups, and other interested 
parties and requested that they comment on the proposal. We conducted 
two national press conferences to promote wide coverage of our proposed 
rule in the print media, and we published legal notices in many 
newspapers across the range of the gray wolf announcing the proposal 
and hearings, and inviting comments. We posted the proposal and 
numerous background documents on our Web site, and we provided copies 
upon request by mail or E-mail and at our hearings and informational 
meetings. We established several methods for interested parties to 
provide comments and other materials, including verbally or in writing 
at public hearings, by letter, E-mail, facsimile, or on our Web site.
    During the 4-month comment period and at our 14 public hearings we 
received nearly 16,000 separate comments, including comments from 329 
individuals who spoke at public hearings and comments from 11 peer 
reviewers. We also received form letters and ``petitions'' with over 
27,000 additional signatures. Comments originated from addresses in all 
50 States, including the District of Columbia.
    We revised and updated the proposed rule in order to make the final 
rule reflect comments and information we received during the comment 
period. In the following paragraphs we address the substantive comments 
that we received concerning various aspects of the proposed rule. 
Comments of a similar nature are grouped together under subject 
headings (referred to as ``Issues'' for the purpose of this summary) 
below, along with our response to each. In addition to the following 
discussion, refer to the Changes from the Proposed Rule section (also 
below) for more details.

A. Technical and Editorial Comments

    Issue 1: Numerous technical and editorial comments and corrections 
were provided by respondents, including the peer reviewers. 
Clarification and consistent usage of terms such as ``public lands,'' 
``tamed,'' ``domesticated,'' and ``breeding pair'' was recommended.
    Response: We have corrected and updated numbers and other data 
wherever appropriate. Wolf population estimates made during 1999 have 
been replaced with the final numbers calculated in late December 2001. 
We also clarified numerous discussion points and have provided clearer 
terminology in several locations. We have substituted ``domesticated'' 
for ``tamed'' and have standardized our use of the phrase ``breeding 
    Issue 2: Commenter pointed out inconsistencies between the text of 
the proposed Western DPS 4(d) rule, the text explaining that proposed 
rule, and the table that compared it to the experimental populations 
special rules and the normal protections of the Act. In addition, the 
phrase ``public land'' is used several times in the table but is not 
defined there.
    Response: We have revised the table, the explanatory text, and the 
wording of that 4(d) rule to make sure they are consistent. For 
example, as defined in the 4(d) rule, the term public lands refers only 
to federally administered lands unless specifically defined otherwise 
in State or tribal wolf management plans (see issue U, ``State Wolf 
Management Plans''). Other public lands such as city, county, or State 
lands would be treated the same as private land for the purposes of 
wolf management under the Western DPS 4(d) rule.

B. Compliance With Laws, Regulations, and Policies

    Issue 1: Commenters expressed concern that the proposal was not in 
compliance with the Act and implementing regulations.

[[Page 15821]]

    Response: We have carefully reviewed the requirements of the Act 
and its implementing regulations. We believe this final rule, as well 
as the process by which it was developed and finalized, complies with 
all provisions of the Act and applicable regulations. The Act requires 
that we identify and protect species that are endangered or threatened, 
develop and implement recovery programs for those species, and delist 
them when they are no longer threatened or endangered. These actions 
are not discretionary, but are mandated by the Act. We do this to the 
extent possible under the funds appropriated to us each year and in 
accordance with priorities established by Congress, and by us pursuant 
to the provisions of the Act. However, the Act does not require us to 
restore a species across its historical range, or to all remaining 
areas of suitable habitat. Rather, we restore it to the point that the 
threats to its continued existence are reduced to the point that it no 
longer is threatened or endangered. Our detailed analysis of the 
threats for each DPS is found in the Summary of Factors Affecting the 
Species section below.
    Issue 2: A number of commenters stated that establishing numerical 
quotas for endangered or threatened species is contrary to the intent 
of the Act and that we should not use such quotas in reclassification 
or delisting decisions for the gray wolf.
    Response: The Act (section 4(f)(1)) requires us to develop recovery 
plans that contain ``objective, measurable criteria'' that we are to 
use in making our determination of whether a species is recovered or is 
making significant progress toward recovery. Our longstanding practice 
is to include numerical criteria in our recovery plans as one means to 
trigger consideration of delisting or reclassification. However, we 
agree with the commenters that these numerical criteria should not be 
the sole basis for delisting or reclassification decisions. As required 
by the Act (section 4(a)(1)), we also conduct an evaluation of the 
factors (threats) that currently affect the species and the factors 
that would impact the species, or would increase their impact, if the 
species were to be delisted or reclassified.
    Issue 3: Other commenters questioned our compliance with the 
Vertebrate Population Policy and stated that we must list more DPSs in 
order to comply with that Policy.
    Response: The Act gives us the authority to list by species, 
subspecies, or DPS. However, Congress directed that we use our 
authority to list by DPS sparingly. The DPS policy identifies the 
criteria that must be met for a vertebrate group to qualify as a DPS, 
but it does not require that we designate a DPS in all cases where a 
vertebrate group meets the DPS criteria. The Service has the discretion 
to list, reclassify, or delist at the subspecies or species level 
instead of the DPS level, as we believe to be most appropriate to carry 
out our listing and recovery programs.
    Issue 4: The Service should reclassify and delist the wolf on a 
State-by-State basis.
    Response: The previous listing of the gray wolf, in which wolves in 
Minnesota were listed as threatened while wolves in adjacent States, 
including Wisconsin, are endangered, was done prior to our 1996 
Vertebrate Population Policy, and that previous listing did not conform 
to the 1996 Policy. The Policy states that listings not in conformance 
with the Policy will be brought into conformance whenever the listing 
status of that taxon is changed.
    While the policy allows us to use boundaries between States as 
boundaries of convenience between two populations if those populations 
are already discrete in relation to each other, we cannot use a 
boundary between States to subdivide a single biological population in 
an effort to artificially create a discrete population. Thus, although 
Minnesota wolves were listed separately in the past, we no longer list, 
or delist, them separately from the Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population 
because they are not biologically discrete. By reclassifying wolves 
throughout the Midwest from endangered to threatened status and joining 
them into a single DPS, we have brought the listing into conformance 
with the Vertebrate Population Policy and given the overall Midwest 
wolf population a threatened designation, which is biologically more 
appropriate than is an endangered designation.
    Issue 5: One respondent believes that the proposal was in conflict 
with our mission statement, which is ``working with others, to 
conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their 
habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.''
    Response: We believe the proposal portrays an example of doing 
exactly what is intended by our mission statement. Gray wolf recovery 
programs involve many partners in the private and public sector, at all 
levels of government, and include numerous Federal agencies. The wolf 
recovery successes described in the proposal resulted from working with 
others to conserve, protect, and enhance gray wolf populations in 
several areas across their historical range. Those successes have now 
reached a point where several of those wolf populations no longer 
qualify for protection as endangered, so we are reclassifying them to 
threatened. Congress, through its enactment of the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, stated that such programs benefit our nation and the 
American people. Furthermore, we have provided extensive opportunities 
and numerous pathways for all interested parties to become involved in 
the reclassification process.
    Issue 6: A commenter believes that the proposal is not in 
compliance with our National Policy Issuance 96-06, which is also known 
as the ``10-point Plan for the Endangered Species Act.''
    Response: The relevant points in this March 6, 1995 policy are 
these: base our listing/delisting decisions on sound and objective 
science; minimize social and economic impacts of our actions; treat 
landowners fairly and with consideration; promptly recover and delist 
threatened and endangered species; and provide State, tribal and local 
governments with opportunities to play a greater role in carrying out 
the provisions of the Act. To the extent allowed by the Act and other 
Federal laws and regulations, we have conducted gray wolf recovery and 
reclassification in a manner that fully adheres to the points of this 
Policy. We have used the best available scientific data, we have 
developed special regulations and depredation control programs that 
reduce social and economic impacts, we are reclassifying and intend to 
delist at the appropriate time, and we have provided State, tribal, and 
other governments many opportunities to participate in wolf recovery 
and in this rulemaking. In many ways, gray wolf recovery and this 
reclassification is an excellent example of following National Policy 
Issuance 96-06.
    Issue 7: The proposal was not in compliance with National Policy 
Issuance 95-03 and Director's Order No. 110, both dealing with using 
the ``ecosystem approach.''
    Response: This 1995 Policy and 1999 Order state that the Service 
will apply an ecosystem approach in carrying out our programs for fish 
and wildlife conservation. The goal of an ecosystem approach is for the 
Service, when carrying out its various mandates and functions, to 
strive to contribute to the effective conservation of natural 
biological diversity through perpetuation of dynamic, healthy 
    Preserving and recovering endangered and threatened species is one 
of the more basic aspects of an ecosystem approach to conservation. 

[[Page 15822]]

recovery of a rare species requires that the necessary components of 
its habitat and ecosystem be conserved, and that diverse partnerships 
be developed to ensure the long-term protection of those components. 
Thus, the recovery success demonstrated for gray wolves is also a 
demonstration of the ecosystem approach, including the various 
partnerships that are needed for success.
    Issue 8: The Service has not adequately consulted with Native 
American tribes, as required by Secretarial Order 3206. (Refer to issue 
V, Native American Concerns, below, for additional Native American 
    Response: During the development of the proposal and this final 
rule, we endeavored to consult with Native American tribes and Native 
American organizations in order both to provide them with a complete 
understanding of the proposed changes and also to enable ourselves to 
gain an appreciation of their concerns with those changes. Although we 
must base the decision on whether a species should be listed, 
reclassified, or delisted under the Act purely on scientific data 
concerning the threats and commercialization of the species, the manner 
in which we carry out listing, reclassification, or delisting vary so 
that we can address the cultural and spiritual importance of a species 
to Native Americans. As we have become aware of Native American 
concerns through consultation with them, we have tried to address those 
concerns to the extent allowed by the Act, the Administrative 
Procedures Act, and other Federal statutes.
    For example, the proposed 4(d) rule for lethal control of 
depredating wolves in Wisconsin and Michigan has caused concern among 
several tribes that have, or expect to soon have, wolves living on 
their reservations. We are currently working with the Bad River Band 
and the WI DNR to develop a Memorandum of Understanding for the 
cooperative management of wolves in the area surrounding the Bad River 
Reservation (Wisconsin), in order to minimize the impacts that off-
reservation depredation control actions by the WI DNR might have on 
reservation wolves. This agreement may serve as a prototype for other 
tribes and States.
    We acknowledge that our early consultation efforts could be 
improved. Early consultation efforts were hampered primarily by the 
geographic scope and complexity of the proposal. We tried to remedy 
this issue by making additional efforts to contact and inform tribes 
during the comment period.
    Issue 9: The Service should propose critical habitat for the gray 
    Response: Critical habitat was designated in 1978 for the gray wolf 
in parts of northeastern and north-central Minnesota and on Isle 
Royale, Michigan (43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978). We are not making any 
changes to the currently designated critical habitat, because we do not 
believe it is appropriate to do so.
    The Endangered Species Act amendments of 1982 specified that, for 
any critical habitat designation for a species already listed as 
threatened or endangered at the time of enactment of the 1982 
amendments, the procedures for revisions to critical habitat would 
apply (Pub. L. 97-304, section 2(b)(2)). Consequently, designation of 
critical habitat for the gray wolf is subject to the procedures for 
revisions to critical habitat. As such, it is not mandatory for the 
Service to designate critical habitat for the gray wolf. Section 
4(a)(3)(B) provides that the Service ``may'' make revisions to critical 
habitat ``from time-to-time * * * as appropriate'' (16 U.S.C. 
1533(a)(3)(B)). The Service has determined that there currently are no 
likely benefits to be derived from additional critical habitat 
designations, and it therefore is not appropriate to designate 
additional critical habitat. Wolf populations in both the Eastern and 
Western DPSs are at their numerical recovery goals as a result of past 
and current protections, but the currently designated critical habitat 
played a negligible role in wolf recovery. This is attributable to the 
fact that gray wolves are habitat generalists, and their numbers and 
range are not limited by a lack of suitable habitat or by any 
degradation of any essential habitat features. Designating critical 
habitat would be an inappropriate use of our limited listing funds if 
done for a species that is successfully recovering without such 
designation, and at a time when we have determined that it is more 
appropriate to reduce, rather than increase, the Federal protections 
for the species.
    It should also be noted that the Act (section 10(j)(2)(C)(ii)) 
prohibits us from designating critical habitat for the nonessential 
experimental populations established in the Western DPS and the 
Southwestern DPS. Furthermore, 50 CFR 424.12(h) prohibits the 
designation of critical habitat in foreign countries.
    Issue 10: The Service should have conducted additional public 
meetings and hearings, or extended the comment period to provide 
additional opportunities to learn more about the proposal and to 
provide comments. We should have used the postmark date, rather than 
the received date, to determine whether comments were made during the 
open comment period.
    Response: The Act requires that we provide at least a 60-day 
comment period and that we conduct one public hearing if we are 
requested to do so. We recognized that the proposal would be 
controversial, would require more explanation than most of our 
proposals, and would result in a large number of comments. Therefore, 
we went well beyond the basic requirements of the Act and other Federal 
rulemaking procedures. We established a comment period that was twice 
the required length. We prearranged 14 hearings from Maine to 
Washington State. We conducted two national press conferences and two 
Congressional briefings. We conducted multiple informational meetings. 
We provided a variety of informational materials at hearings and 
meetings, by mail and e-mail, and on our Web site. We established 
mechanisms for interested parties to ask questions and to submit 
comments verbally, in writing, by e-mail or fax, and on our Web site.
    Finally, while the Service sometimes uses the postmark date to 
determine whether comments were received before a deadline in 
rulemakings, our normal practice is to use the date of receipt, and our 
intent to use that cutoff method at the close of the 4-month comment 
period was clearly stated in all our documents that referred to comment 
submission. We believe we provided extensive, varied, and sufficient 
opportunities for interested partied to ask questions, obtain 
additional information, and provide input for our consideration.
    Issue 11: The Service should conduct Population Viability Analyses 
(PVA) before reclassifying anywhere.
    Response: The Act requires that we use the best scientific data 
available when we make decisions to list, reclassify, or delist a 
species. The Service recognizes that PVAs are a tool that can provide 
some insight into the vulnerability of species, and we have conducted 
PVAs for a number of species, usually as an aid in establishing 
recovery goals or identifying the most critical gaps in our knowledge 
in order to prioritize research needs. While we have found PVAs to be 
useful in some circumstances, in other cases the analyses provided 
little or no new information, or the outcome was not considered to be 
    PVAs can be a valuable as a tool to help us understand the 
population dynamics of a rare species (White 2000). They can be useful 
in identifying gaps in our knowledge of the demographic parameters that 
are most important to a species' survival, but they cannot tell us how 
many individuals are necessary to

[[Page 15823]]

avoid extinction. The difficulty of applying PVA techniques to wolves 
has been discussed by Fritts and Carbyn (1995). Problems include our 
inability to provide accurate input information for the probability of 
occurrence of, and impact from, catastrophic events (such as a major 
disease outbreak or prey base collapse; we know of no catastrophic 
events that have significantly impacted large wolf populations except 
for human persecution), providing realistic inputs for the influences 
of environmental variation (such as annual fluctuations in winter 
severity and the resulting impacts on prey abundance and 
vulnerability), temporal variation, and individual heterogeneity, as 
well as dealing with the spatial aspects of extreme territoriality and 
the long-distance dispersals shown by wolves. Each of these factors can 
be a powerful determinant of the outcome of a gray wolf PVA, and 
relatively minor changes in any of these input values can result in 
vastly different outcomes.
    PVAs are also useful for studying small populations. In a small-
population study, the modeling exercise can provide clues to which 
demographic, genetic, or environmental parameters may have the greatest 
likelihood of influencing a species' survival, and thus possible 
insight into areas where initial conservation actions should be 
focused. However, for obviously recovering entities like the gray wolf 
populations of the Northern U.S. Rocky Mountains and the Midwest, PVA 
modeling exercises may largely be an exercise in quantifying the 
recovery of a species whose increases, and the reasons for them, are 
already qualitatively quite apparent. In the case of species like the 
gray wolf--a species that has been well studied and is well along the 
road to recovery--generally little is to be learned from a PVA.
    The WI DNR conducted a PVA for the State's wolf population several 
years ago when its wolf population was considerably smaller than it is 
today. Most scenarios that were modeled by WI DNR (varying the 
probability of catastrophic events, reproductive rates, and 
environmental variability) resulted in very low probabilities of 
extinction even with the maximum wolf population limited to only 500 
animals (WI DNR 1999a). The model treated the Wisconsin wolf population 
as a totally isolated population (that is, with no possibility of wolf 
immigration from Minnesota or Michigan), so even those low extinction 
probabilities were overestimates. Because this reclassification reduces 
Federal protection of wolves only slightly, a PVA would not be expected 
show any resultant significant change in the risk of extinction.
    Finally, we note that none of the 11 peer reviewers of the proposal 
indicated that there was any need for the Service to conduct a PVA or 
minimum viable population analysis for the 2 gray wolf populations for 
which we proposed changes in July 2000. One reviewer stated that PVAs 
are of little value and may even be misleading.
    Issue 12: The Service should prepare an Environmental Impact 
Statement for this rule.
    Response: As stated in the proposal, the question of whether 
environmental assessments or environmental impact statements need to be 
prepared was addressed by our previous determination (48 FR 49244; 
October 25, 1983) in which we stated that such documents do not have to 
be prepared for regulations developed under section 4(a) of the Act.
    Issue 13: A better notification process is needed for our public 
    Response: We did a great deal to alert interested parties to the 
details of public hearings. Public hearing times and locations were 
announced in the Federal Register, posted on our Web site, publicized 
in local and national press releases, and, in some areas of the 
Midwest, advertised on local radio stations. Notification letters were 
sent to numerous organizations so they could alert their memberships. 
In addition, parties who requested to be added to our wolf electronic 
mailing list received information on hearings and public meetings 
electronically. However, we acknowledge that, despite all these 
efforts, some interested parties did not learn of the hearings in time 
to attend. We are interested in receiving ideas to further improve our 
efforts to publicize our public hearings in the future. However, in 
this case there were numerous avenues, in addition to public hearings, 
for interested individuals to obtain information and submit comments on 
the proposal. All comments received during the comment period, whether 
presented at a public hearing or provided in another manner, received 
the same review and consideration.
    Issue 14: The Service should consider how to delist nonessential 
experimental populations.
    Response: For the gray wolf, the nonessential experimental 
populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains are part of a larger 
recovery program that also includes the northwestern Montana wolves. 
They will be delisted at whatever time the Western DPS is delisted.
    Issue 15: One commenter stated that we cannot use wolves in 
experimental populations to count toward recovery or reclassification 
goals, because such populations can only be used for research purposes.
    Response: The term ``experimental'' is used in the Act to describe 
these populations; however, this designation does not mean these 
populations may only be used for research purposes. Reintroductions of 
plants and animals are often experimental in the sense that they may 
use techniques that are newly developed, untested on that species or 
locality, or uncertain in success rate for other reasons. The authority 
to designate and establish experimental populations was added to the 
Act for the specific purpose of assisting the Service in establishing 
additional populations to further the recovery of the species. We have 
used this authority for many species to help achieve recovery goals by 
expanding occupied range. In the case of the two nonessential 
experimental populations (NEPs) in the northern U.S. Rockies, the final 
rule establishing those two NEPs indicated specifically that they were 
being established to help achieve the Western Plan's goals to establish 
viable wolf populations in central Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone 

C. Comments Regarding the Number of Distinct Population Segments and 
Recovery Programs Necessary for Gray Wolf Recovery

    Issue: A large number of comments expressed the opinion that 
additional gray wolf DPSs should be established, and that the Service 
should initiate additional recovery programs in order to achieve gray 
wolf recovery as mandated by the Act. Additional DPSs and recovery 
programs were suggested for Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa; 
Virginia and Kentucky; the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee; 
California and Nevada; Colorado, Utah, and the northern portions of New 
Mexico and Arizona; Oregon and Washington; the Pacific Coast; the 
Cascade Range; West Virginia; Missouri; Florida; and Utah. In addition, 
some respondents recommended that gray wolves should be reintroduced 
and recovered throughout their historical range or ``in all States.''
    Response: These comments appear to reflect a misunderstanding of 
the purpose of the Act and confusion regarding the meaning of 
``recover'' under the Act. The purpose of the Act is to provide for the 
conservation of endangered and threatened species. Conservation is 
defined as the use of all methods and procedures which are

[[Page 15824]]

necessary to bring any endangered or threatened species to the point at 
which the measures provided pursuant to the Act are no longer 
necessary. When a species no longer meets the definition of an 
endangered or threatened species under the Act, it is recovered, and we 
are to delist it.
    The meaning given to ``recover'' in common conversational usage is 
``to restore to a previous, or to the original, condition.'' However, 
incorrectly ascribing this common meaning to ``recover'' as used in the 
Act has led some individuals to mistakenly believe the Act functions as 
a biodiversity restoration program. The goal of the Act--preventing 
species extinctions--is much narrower that the rangewide wolf 
restoration and biodiversity restoration goals implicit in these 
    We have evaluated, in light of the conservation biology principles 
discussed previously, our three continuing recovery programs for the 
gray wolf in the context of its previous listing across the 48 
conterminous States and Mexico. We have concluded that sufficient 
redundancy and resiliency will be achieved by establishing three 
separate viable wolf populations or metapopulations in widely spaced 
areas of that geographic area. If each of these three populations 
contains enough reproducing packs so that it is a viable and self-
sustaining population, its numerical size and geographic extent will 
provide the resilience needed for it to bounce back from newly 
developing or expanding adverse factors (e.g., disease, massive 
wildfire, or the temporary decline of a prey species' population) in 
the foreseeable future. Furthermore, if these three populations are 
widely spaced and somewhat isolated from one another it is very 
unlikely that all three populations would simultaneously, or in rapid 
sequence, suffer from the same catastrophic event.
    Once they are completed, the Service's three current gray wolf 
recovery programs will result in wolf populations of sufficient size 
and relative isolation to provide the necessary resiliency and 
redundancy. For example, the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf 
population--now at recovery levels--exceeded 560 animals at the end of 
2001, and preliminary results from the end of 2002 indicate a 
population of approximately 660 wolves (Tom Meier, Service, in litt. 
2003). The Midwestern gray wolf population--which has exceeded the 
numerical goals of the Eastern Gray Wolf Recovery Plan--is estimated to 
be over 3000 wolves. (Final recovery goals have not yet been 
established for the Southwestern (Mexican) gray wolf recovery program, 
but they will be designed to ensure long-term viability of that wolf 
population.) The currently occupied areas of the Eastern and Northern 
Rockies populations are separated by approximately 1000 kilometers (600 
mi), and a similar distance currently separates the Greater Yellowstone 
Area wolf packs from the reintroduced wolves in the Southwest. Each of 
these gray wolf populations will be viable and self-sustaining when 
their recovery programs are completed, and the distances between them, 
while not providing total isolation, will provide a great deal of 
protection from multi-population catastrophic events.
    Both the Northern Rocky Mountain and Eastern gray wolf recovery 
programs--when all recovery goals are achieved--will each cover 
sufficient geographic area and have enough wolves in a population or 
metapopulation structure to be sufficiently resilient to respond to 
adverse factors that may arise in the future. The Southwestern 
(Mexican) gray wolf recovery program, when a final recovery goal is 
established and attained, similarly will have sufficient distribution 
and number of wolves. Thus, the conservation biology principle of 
resiliency is satisfied by the achievement of the respective recovery 
goals of these 3 recovery programs.
    Commenters suggested that additional gray wolf populations should 
be established in the western United States in order to maximize the 
species' long-term survival and minimize the likelihood of extinction. 
However, the Act does not mandate maximizing species survival, nor does 
it require undertaking widespread species restorations to minimize 
extinction risk. Rather, as discussed above, its mandate is to recover 
species to the point that they are ``not likely'' to become in danger 
of extinction in the foreseeable future. We believe the ``not likely'' 
standard will be exceeded by establishing three geographically 
widespread gray wolf populations that are independently viable, because 
it is highly unlikely that future threats will endanger multiple widely 
separated wolf populations. Thus, the conservation biology principle of 
redundancy is satisfied by our three current recovery programs.
    The concept of representation, when applied to the conservation of 
the gray wolf, argues that we should preserve enough of its remaining 
genetic diversity so that future genetic problems are unlikely to lead 
to its extinction. These problems may include genetic drift, inbreeding 
depression, and diminished ability to survive as new environmental 
conditions develop. The three current gray wolf recovery programs are 
preserving all of what remains of the species' genetic diversity in the 
48 States and Mexico. The current genetic diversity of the wolves in 
the western Great Lakes is a product of the remnant wolf population 
that survived in northeastern Minnesota, Canadian wolves from 
southwestern Ontario and Manitoba that moved into Minnesota, as well as 
southern Ontario wolves that moved into the eastern portion of 
Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Northern Rockies wolf population is a 
mixture of southern Canadian wolves that repopulated the Glacier 
National Park area and wolves from Alberta and British Columbia, Canada 
that were brought into central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. 
These two recovery programs are preserving all the remaining genetic 
material of the gray wolves that formerly inhabited those areas. Both 
the Midwestern and Northern Rockies wolf populations are believed to 
contain sufficient genetic diversity to survive over the long term, 
even if they were to become completely and permanently isolated from 
neighboring wolves across the Canadian border.
    The reintroduced Southwestern (Mexican) gray wolf population 
originated from small captive populations composed of individuals 
captured in the wild in Mexico and identified in captive facilities in 
Mexico and the United States (Hedrick et al. 1997). Detailed records 
and careful selection of captive breeding pairs has ensured the 
conservation of this founding Mexican wolf genome. This recovery 
program is utilizing all the remaining genetic material that has been 
preserved from the wild Southwestern and Mexican wolf population, and 
when completed, it will ensure the long-term survival of that unique 
genetic diversity and maximize the ability of this isolated population 
to cope with, adapt to, and evolve in response to environmental change.
    Thus, our three current wolf recovery programs are doing all that 
can be done to preserve the remaining genetic material from the gray 
wolves that previously occupied the 48 conterminous States and Mexico. 
Establishing additional populations would provide no additional genetic 
benefits to wolf recovery under the Act (with the possible exception of 
the Northeast; see below). Therefore, the conservation biology 
principle of representation is satisfied by these three gray wolf 
recovery programs.

[[Page 15825]]

    Based upon the above points, the Act's mandate to recover the gray 
wolf will be satisfied by the restoration of three viable populations 
of the species, located in the Midwest, Northern U.S. Rockies, and 
Southwest. Therefore, in order to recover the gray wolf, the Service 
intends to continue focusing its gray wolf recovery activities in the 
current core areas (i.e., Minnesota, Wisconsin, Upper Peninsula of 
Michigan, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arizona) of those 
recovery programs.
    We do not intend to initiate new gray wolf recovery programs in any 
area--except possibly the Northeast, pending ongoing genetic and 
taxonomic studies and efforts to locate a listable and recoverable wolf 
population there--because new recovery programs are not necessary to 
achieve recovery of the gray wolf under the Act either as formerly 
listed in the 48 States and Mexico or under the new listings 
established by this final rule.
    Once wolf recovery goals are achieved in any one of the DPSs, we 
will proceed to delist the entire DPS, even if some of the States 
within the DPS lack wild gray wolves. The presence or absence of gray 
wolves outside of core recovery areas is not likely to have a bearing 
on the long-term viability of the three wolf populations after their 
recovery goals have been achieved, and therefore such presence or 
absence will not be a factor in our consideration of delisting each 
    We have determined that the level of threats faced by wolf 
populations in the Eastern DPS and in the Western DPS warrant 
reclassification of each DPS to threatened. These threatened DPS 
listings, along with the three retained nonessential experimental 
population designations and the retained endangered listing for the 
Southwestern DPS, will continue to provide the Act's protections to all 
wild gray wolves. Furthermore, we believe that the delisting criteria 
for the Eastern DPS and the Western DPS can be achieved without 
establishment of additional populations within each DPS.
    The Act gives us the authority to list by species, subspecies, or 
DPS. The DPS policy identifies the criteria that must be met in order 
for a vertebrate group to qualify as a DPS. In order for us to 
designate a DPS, a population must exist. Most of the States have no 
wolves or in the States that do have some wolves, those wolves are part 
of a metapopulation. However, our DPS policy does not require that we 
designate a DPS in all cases where a vertebrate group meets the DPS 
criteria; Congress directed that we use our DPS authority sparingly. 
The Service has the discretion to list, reclassify, or delist at the 
subspecies, species, or DPS level, as we believe to be most appropriate 
to carry out our listing and recovery programs.
    As described in the Taxonomy of Gray Wolves in the Eastern United 
States section above, there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding 
the identity of the large canid (or canids) that occurred historically 
in the Northeastern States. At the time our proposal was developed, we 
believed that the canid was likely a gray wolf, although we were 
uncertain as to its subspecific identity. However, subsequent molecular 
genetic and morphometric information has cast doubt on that 
interpretation of the evolutionary relationship of North American 
canids. Although far from certain at this time, increasing scientific 
evidence suggests that the historical large canid in the Northeastern 
States was more closely related to the red wolf than to the gray wolf. 
We will reevaluate our retained listing of the gray wolf in the 
Northeastern States at such time that we consider delisting Midwestern 
gray wolves, and at any time prior to that if significant new data 
become available.

D. Boundaries of Distinct Population Segments

    Issue: We received comments expressing concerns with several 
aspects of the boundaries of the 4 proposed DPSs. Some commenters 
wanted the DPS boundaries to conform exactly with the geographic 
coverage of the existing gray wolf recovery plans, while other 
commenters wanted the boundaries expanded beyond those we proposed. 
Other commenters recommended that the boundaries be based solely on 
suitable wolf habitat and on physical barriers believed to subdivide 
that habitat. We also received comments suggesting that the boundary 
between the Southwestern and Western DPSs should be moved northward so 
that parts or all of Utah and Colorado are within the Southwestern DPS.
    Comments that deal with the number of DPSs are addressed above in 
issue C, ``Comments Regarding the Number of Distinct Population 
Segments and Recovery Programs Necessary for Gray Wolf Recovery''; 
those dealing with delisting wolves outside of DPSs are addressed below 
in issue E, ``The Service Should Not Delist Outside of Distinct 
Population Segments''; and those dealing specifically with the 
boundaries of the proposed Northeastern DPS are covered below in issue 
S, ``Use of Scientific Data.'' For a detailed discussion of DPSs, refer 
to the Distinct Population Segments Under Our Vertebrate Population 
Policy section above. Also refer to the Distinct Population Segments 
and Experimental Populations section above for additional discussion of 
the purposes of these designations.
    Response: A DPS is a listed entity that is usually described 
geographically rather than biologically. Nothing in the Act or in our 
Vertebrate Population Policy requires DPS boundaries to correspond to 
recovery plans, habitat characteristics, or physical barriers. DPS 
boundaries identify a geographic area that includes and surrounds a 
vertebrate biological grouping that has a separate listing under the 
Act. The DPS boundaries must contain the biological grouping and cannot 
subdivide it, but they do not have to precisely correspond with its 
present location, suitable habitat, or other features of the 
environment. In general, DPSs can be better understood, protected, 
recovered, and administered if their boundaries are placed beyond the 
area currently occupied by the biological grouping of concern, and even 
beyond the areas they are most likely to disperse into or colonize in 
the foreseeable future. Such boundary placement minimizes the potential 
confusion caused by individual wolves frequently crossing the 
boundaries and thereby changing their legal status and protection under 
the Act, and provides more consistent protection to dispersers that may 
ultimately return to their original core recovery area and contribute 
to recovery there.
    While the Vertebrate Population Policy prohibits our use of 
boundaries between States to subdivide an existing biological 
population to establish ``discrete'' populations, it does not prohibit 
our use of boundaries between States or other cultural features as 
``boundaries of convenience'' to identify the area within which the 
DPS's legal designation applies. By using boundaries between States (or 
other features such as major highways) that are located beyond the area 
currently occupied by wolf populations, we are able to clearly identify 
the geographic extent of the DPS listing (and thereby facilitate law 
enforcement and promote public understanding of the listing) while 
avoiding splitting the existing biological unit that we intend to 
    Our proposed DPS boundaries were intended to serve two purposes. 
The first purpose was to include the core areas where the respective 
wolf population is recovering, as well as a substantial surrounding 
``buffer area'' in which wolves dispersing from the core

[[Page 15826]]

areas were reasonably likely to occur in the foreseeable future. The 
second purpose was to remove Federal gray wolf protection in some areas 
of the 48 States where we believed restoration of wolves was 
unnecessary. Thus, our proposed DPS boundaries were designed to include 
the areas into which most, but not all, gray wolf dispersal was 
expected to occur. For example, most dispersing Midwest wolves have 
moved into the Dakotas, which were included in the proposed Western 
Great Lakes DPS. The Michigan Upper Peninsula wolf that recently 
dispersed to northern Missouri moved well outside of the proposed 
boundary for its DPS, but it is the only Midwestern wolf known to have 
moved beyond the proposed DPS boundary.
    However, as discussed in issue E (below), we have now expanded the 
areas covered by these gray wolf listings. These new boundaries will 
provide continued protection under the Act to all gray wolves that 
disperse to any location within the species' historical range in the 
conterminous 48 States. A portion of the boundary between the Western 
DPS and the Southwestern DPS has been moved northward to a location 
approximately midway between the core recovery populations in the 
northern Rockies and the Southwest, in order to be consistent with 
existing gray wolf dispersal data. These final boundaries continue to 
serve our purpose of including the core recovery areas along with those 
areas into which wolves from the respective core areas are most likely 
to disperse. (Refer to the Changes from the Proposed Rules section 
below for additional discussion on DPS boundary changes.)
    The expansion of the DPS boundaries does not mean that we intend to 
broaden our current gray wolf recovery programs to additional areas 
within the DPS boundaries or that we will initiate new wolf restoration 
programs. The expansion of these boundaries is being done solely 
because the Act requires that we maintain the gray wolf's listing in 
these areas until the species or the DPS is recovered. Recovery within 
a DPS can be achieved by reestablishing gray wolves in a portion of the 
DPS at a level and under circumstances that ensure that the population 
will not become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.

E. The Service Should Not Delist Outside of Distinct Population 

    Issue: We received comments from many individuals and organizations 
regarding our proposal to remove the Act's protections for the gray 
wolf in all or parts of 30 States that were outside of the boundaries 
of the proposed DPSs. The commenters recommended that gray wolves 
should not be delisted in areas where they have not recovered and do 
not currently exist.
    Response: Our proposed delisting outside of the proposed DPS 
boundaries was based on our belief that, because restoration of gray 
wolves in these areas is unnecessary, and because we have no plans to 
restore gray wolves in those areas, there was no reason to maintain the 
Act's protection for any gray wolves that might turn up there. We 
believed it was reasonable and appropriate to remove any unnecessary 
Federal regulatory burden, and any perception of such a burden, by 
removing the listing in those areas. Furthermore, we thought it would 
be desirable to eliminate any uncertainty in those areas regarding 
Federal protection for escaped or released captive gray wolves, wolf-
dog hybrids, or feral dogs that are mistaken for wolves.
    However, further analysis of the Act and implementing regulations 
has led to our conclusion that the Act does not provide for delisting a 
species in parts of its listed historical range because restoration of 
wolves in these areas is unnecessary, even if wolf recovery is 
proceeding successfully in other areas. Delisting can occur only when a 
species (or subspecies or DPS) is recovered, when it is extinct, or 
when the original data or analysis that led to the listing was in error 
(50 CFR 424.11(d)).
    Therefore, we have modified those portions of our proposal that 
would have delisted the gray wolf in any part of its historical range. 
This was done by expanding the boundaries of the remaining gray wolf 
DPSs so they now include all States within the historical range of the 
gray wolf. This has the biological benefit of continuing Federal 
protection for all long-distance dispersers that remain within the 
species' historical range, thus providing them a greater probability of 
surviving and rejoining the core population in that area, or even 
joining the population in another gray wolf recovery area.
    As discussed above in the Historical Range of the Gray Wolf 
section, we have now delisted the gray wolf in 14 States and in the 
eastern portions of Oklahoma and Texas. These southeastern and mid-
Atlantic States are not included within the boundaries of any listed 
gray wolf DPS, because they are outside the generally recognized 
historical range of the gray wolf (Hall 1981). These States should not 
have been included when the gray wolf was listed at the species level 
in 1978. Due to their close approximation of Hall's historical range 
boundaries, we have used State boundaries and an interstate highway as 
the boundaries around this delisted area to facilitate law enforcement 
efforts and public understanding of the areas now included and excluded 
in the three gray wolf DPSs.

F. The Service Should Delist Gray Wolves in Additional Areas

    Issue 1: A large number of comments recommended that we delist gray 
wolves in areas that we proposed for inclusion in one of the proposed 
DPSs, and thus would remain listed as threatened, endangered, or part 
of an experimental population and subject to the protective regulations 
that apply to it. The reasons for the delisting recommendations 
include: wolves are common elsewhere (in other areas of the 48 States 
or in Alaska and Canada) so they are not threatened or endangered; 
wolves have recovered (in that area or elsewhere) so they should be 
delisted; wolves are extirpated from the State; and a State can manage 
a resident species better than the Federal government.
    Response: The Act mandates that we identify, list, and protect 
those species, subspecies, plant varieties, and distinct vertebrate 
population segments that are threatened or endangered, and that we 
maintain the listing and protection until the entity is recovered or 
goes extinct, or until we determine that the original listing was done 
in error. Unless and until one of these occurs, the entity must remain 
a threatened or endangered species. Full management authority cannot be 
returned to States or tribes until recovery has occurred or an 
erroneous listing is removed.
    For vertebrate species, the Act, as implemented by way of our 1996 
Vertebrate Population Policy, allows us to use international borders to 
limit the geographic scope of the threats evaluation that is done when 
we are considering a species for listing as threatened or endangered. 
This is appropriate, as it allows us to protect from extirpation within 
the United States those vertebrate species that might be more common 
elsewhere (e.g., in Canada or Mexico). This approach has been 
successfully used for other species that are more common in Canada than 
in the United States, including the peregrine falcon, grizzly bear, and 
bald eagle, and we are witnessing similar success with the gray wolf.
    In order to determine when a species is recovered, we must evaluate 
the current status of the species in comparison to recovery goals 
established for it in its recovery plan. We must also analyze the 
threats that

[[Page 15827]]

still face the species, as well as the threats that might increase or 
develop if the species is delisted. Five categories of threats are 
specified in the Act: loss or degradation of habitat or range; 
overutilization for commercial, scientific, or other purposes; disease 
or predation; inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms; and, any other 
natural or manmade factors. At the time we developed our proposal and 
conducted this analysis of threats, we could not affirm that recovery 
goals had been met and also conclude that probable future threats had 
been sufficiently reduced so that recovery could be declared and 
delisting initiated for any of our gray wolf recovery programs. 
Therefore, we proposed a reduction of Federal protections via a 
reclassification to threatened in some area, but did not propose the 
delisting of any gray wolf population. Because we have not proposed 
delisting of any gray wolf populations, at this time we cannot finalize 
a rulemaking that would include such a delisting. We must first propose 
such a change and provide an opportunity for public review and comment 
on it. Given the continued recovery progress of gray wolves in the West 
and western Great Lakes States, and State wolf management plan 
development work that has happened subsequent to our reclassification 
proposal (see issue U, ``State Wolf Management Plans''), we anticipate 
working on one or more gray wolf delisting proposals in the near 
future. However, we have determined that this reclassification action 
should be finalized first.
    Since the gray wolf is not extinct in the United States, the 
species cannot be delisted for that reason.
    The final reason that could justify a delisting-that the original 
listing was done in error-is discussed above in issue E, ``The Service 
Should Not Delist Outside of Distinct Population Segments'', and in the 
Historical Range of the Gray Wolf section. For this reason, we have 
delisted the gray wolf in all or parts of 16 States where the species 
should not have been listed originally because those areas are outside 
of the species' historical range.
    Issue 2: Wolf management in the Western DPS needs to be transferred 
to the States.
    Response: The Service agrees that a recovered wolf population is 
best managed by the respective States and tribes. The Service will 
propose to delist the Western DPS wolf population as soon as possible 
under the conditions specified by the Endangered Species Act. Two 
primary conditions have to be met for the western wolf population to be 
delisted. First the recovery goal of having a minimum of 30 breeding 
pairs of wolves distributed throughout Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming for 
a minimum of 3 successive years must be met. The Service is also 
required to make sure the factors that caused wolves to be listed are 
resolved. The one factor that applies most to wolves is that human-
caused mortality be regulated so it does not cause wolf populations to 
become threatened or endangered again. The Service must be reasonably 
assured that adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place to conserve 
the wolf population so that it will not become threatened or endangered 
if the Act's protections are removed. The Service is working closely 
with the States of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming as they develop wolf 
conservation plans that will meet this requirement. Upon confirmation 
in early 2003 that the wolf population has met the wolf population 
recovery goal for the Western DPS and if the States have finalized 
their wolf management plans (see issue U, ``State Wolf Management 
Plans''), the Service could propose to delist the gray wolf throughout 
the Western DPS in early 2003.

G. Threats From Humans Need Additional Consideration

    Issue: A large number of commenters described the past persecution 
of wolves and expressed the belief that similar persecution will resume 
if the proposed rule is adopted.
    Response: We recognize that human persecution of wolves is the 
primary reason for the decline of wolves across North America, and we 
analyze the nature and magnitude of this threat before and after this 
final rule in factor ``C. Disease or predation'' under the Summary of 
Factors Affecting the Species section. We believe the protections of 
the Act, in combination with extensive public education efforts by the 
Service and numerous private and public partner organizations, have 
reduced human persecution and led to the increase in gray wolf numbers 
and range. Therefore, in order for wolf population to remain recovered 
or nearing recovery, those prelisting levels of human-caused mortality 
must be avoided.
    For two reasons, this final rule is not expected to increase the 
level of human persecution of gray wolves. First, the reclassification 
of wolves in 2 DPSs to threatened does not remove the protections of 
the Act, nor does it eliminate the Federal penalties for illegally 
killing one of these gray wolves. Second, by providing additional 
mechanisms for the control of problem wolves, including allowing 
certain landowner harassment/control actions in the Western DPS, we 
believe the incentive for illegally killing wolves will be 
significantly reduced. Thus, we do not believe this reclassification 
action will increase the threats from human-caused mortality; 
conversely, the action may result in decreasing those threats.
    At such time as we propose delisting gray wolves, we will again 
assess the threats from human-caused mortality.

H. Other Threats Need To Be Assessed

    Issue 1: The Service should consider the impacts of genetic risks 
on gray wolf recovery, because low genetic diversity can cause problems 
for a rare species.
    Response: We agree that low genetic diversity is a concern for 
species with small populations or that have gone through a population 
bottleneck. However, Midwestern gray wolf populations currently are 
showing no signs of diminished genetic diversity. These wolves came 
from a remnant wolf population in northeastern Minnesota and Canadian 
wolves that have moved across the international border from western and 
eastern Ontario and Manitoba. At its lowest level, the Minnesota wolf 
population was probably 350 wolves or more, a level well above that 
expected to potentially cause genetic problems, especially because 
there is frequent interaction with adjacent Canadian wolf populations.
    Similarly, the recovering northern U.S. Rocky Mountain wolves are 
derived from several Canadian sources, which increased the genetic 
diversity of their founding populations. They are not expected to have 
genetic problems. In contrast, Southwestern (Mexican) wolves have all 
come from 7 founders, but through managed breeding of these founders 
during the past 22 years, 86 percent of the founding genetic diversity 
has been preserved. Moreover, no signs of inbreeding depression have 
been detected (Kalinowski et al. 1999).
    Issue 2: For the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves, the Service 
should consider the impacts of wildfire, catastrophic events, human 
harassment, or genetic risks to gray wolf recovery.
    Response: The Service evaluated a host of impacts as required by 
the Act, including habitat modification, human harassment and killing, 
and genetic risks. A recent study of genetic diversity of wolves in the 
northern Rocky Mountains indicated that the population was genetically 
diverse, in fact as much so as its source populations in Canada. None 
of these factors were thought to pose a significant risk to wolf

[[Page 15828]]

population viability in the foreseeable future; none would affect the 
reclassification of the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains. With 
regard to wildfires, which humans often view as catastrophic events, 
large mobile species such as wolves and their ungulate prey usually are 
not adversely impacted. Wildfires generally lead to an increase in 
ungulate food supplies, leading to an increase in ungulate numbers, 
which supports increased wolf numbers in the area in the years 
following a wildfire.

I. Recovery Goals and Progress in the Western DPS

    Issue 1: Commenters recommended that the Service abide by the 
strictest interpretation of the reclassification and recovery criteria 
found in the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan.
    Response: We acknowledge that the proposed rule did not adequately 
explain how our goals for gray wolf reclassification and recovery in 
the northern Rocky Mountains have evolved since the 1987 Recovery Plan 
was written. A complete explanation can now be found in the subsection 
Reclassification and Recovery Goals within the section Recovery 
Progress of the Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf.
    Issue 2: Several comments indicated that restoration of wolves in 
Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming does not warrant changing the 
classification of wolves throughout the much larger Western DPS from 
endangered to threatened.
    Response: Wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains of the 
United States has been defined as a minimum of 30 breeding pairs of 
wolves (a breeding pair is defined as a male and a female wolf that 
raise at least 2 young that survived until December 31) that are 
distributed throughout the mountainous portion of western Montana, 
Idaho, and northwestern Wyoming for a minimum of 3 successive years 
(see previous issue). A review of that definition by a wide diversity 
of professional peer reviewers indicated that such a population would 
be comprised of about 300 individuals and that some minimum level of 
connectivity among the U.S. subpopulations and with the larger wolf 
population in Canada was necessary to guarantee long-term persistence. 
That peer review indicated that population viability is a function of 
the population and not the area it occupies. The reviewers felt that 
geographically expanding an area that a population occupies had no 
impact on that population's viability. The Service believes that the 
Western DPS wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, 
Idaho, and Wyoming is not in danger of extinction, and therefore is no 
longer endangered but rather warrants reclassification to threatened 
    Issue 3: Address how reclassification of gray wolves in the Western 
DPS eliminates the threat of extinction.
    Response: Reclassifying a species from endangered to threatened is 
not intended to eliminate the threat of extinction; instead, it is done 
in recognition that the species no longer warrants endangered status. 
Such is the case for gray wolves in the Western DPS. There currently 
are about 563 wolves in 34 breeding pairs in the Western DPS. Many of 
those breeding pairs are in extensive and secure habitats under public 
ownership, such as Yellowstone National Park and several National 
Forests. The gray wolf in the northwestern United States has achieved a 
population that is rapidly approaching our recovery goal. Reclassifying 
wolves in the Western DPS to threatened status still maintains the 
Service's management authority and the Act's protection for those 
wolves. The Act's protections will continue to prevent the excessive 
human-caused mortality that caused wolf extirpations in the past. When 
the States have adequate regulatory mechanisms in place, the Act's 
protections will no longer be needed. The reasons that wolves are no 
longer endangered are described in more detail in the 5-factor analysis 
that is part of this rulemaking.

J. Recovery in Northwestern Montana

    Issue: The Service should not reclassify wolves in northwestern 
Montana, because recovery has proceeded slowly and may have stopped. 
Thus, full protection under an endangered classification should be 
    Response: The estimated wolf population in northwestern Montana is 
84 wolves in 7 breeding pairs, which is the highest level recorded to 
date. The final regulations will not cause any significant increase in 
wolf mortality that would impact wolf population levels or prevent 
additional recovery there. We anticipate that the wolf population in 
northwestern Montana will enjoy the same benefits from more flexible 
management under this rule as have the rapidly expanding wolf 
populations in the nonessential experimental population areas. In 
addition, that management flexibility will extend to areas where the 
Service currently has no plans to actively promote wolf restoration 
under the Act, but where wolves may occasionally disperse and may cause 
conflicts. That flexibility should help increase local public tolerance 
of wolves.
    Maintaining the connectivity of the wolf population in the northern 
Rocky Mountains of the United States with the much larger Canadian wolf 
population is important to the long-term viability of western United 
States wolves. However, at the current time, research indicates that 
wolves in all three general recovery areas of Montana, Idaho, and 
Wyoming are as genetically diverse as the source populations in Canada. 
Long-term genetic and demographic viability of wolves in the northern 
Rocky Mountains will depend on long-term management by the States and 
tribes and their strategies for maintaining population characteristics 
such as genetic diversity. That management could involve maintaining 
natural connectivity between United States and Canadian wolf 
populations or by active management such as relocation. With about 563 
wolves in 34 breeding pairs distributed throughout Montana, Idaho, and 
Wyoming, the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains--including 
northwestern Montana--is clearly no longer endangered with extinction. 
The 4(d) rule is very similar to the nonessential experimental 
population rule, under which rule wolf populations in Idaho and Wyoming 
have flourished. The Service believes the increased management 
flexibility under threatened status and a 4(d) rule is appropriate and 
the increased management flexibility will assist in completing the 
species recovery.

K. Special Regulations Under Section 4(d) for the Western DPS

    Issue 1: The Service should not encourage harassment of wolves in 
the Western DPS.
    Response: The Western DPS 4(d) rule allows landowners and 
permittees on Federal grazing allotments to harass wolves in a 
noninjurious manner at any time. This type of harassment will not 
affect the wolf population other than by making some individual wolves 
more wary of people. Wolves are adept social learners. Harassing wolves 
that have begun to be comfortable around people will cause those wolves 
to become more wary. Wolves that are wary of people and places that are 
frequented by people may be less likely to be involved in livestock and 
pet depredations. Wolves that are not wary of people are more 
vulnerable to being illegally killed or being hit by cars and, in rare 
and the most extreme circumstances, wolves can become habituated to 
human foods and can become a potential threat to human safety.

[[Page 15829]]

    In some situations the 4(d) rule also allows the injurious 
harassment (for example, by rubber bullets) of wolves under a permit 
from us. This type of harassment will permit management of situations 
(for example, loitering around vulnerable livestock, approaching 
humans, trying to attack pets) before they have escalated into a 
situation that calls for more drastic measures such as lethal control. 
To prevent abuse, this type of activity would be limited by case-by-
case evaluation and controlled by a permit. In the experimental 
population areas, this type of management has been used in a few 
situations, and no wolves have been permanently injured.
    Issue 2: The Service should only allow translocation (that is, 
livetrapping and releasing at a distant location) to control problem 
    Response: Translocation of wolves to reduce wolf-livestock 
conflicts can be a valuable management tool when wolf populations are 
low and empty habitat is available for translocated wolves. Wolves are 
territorial, and resident packs will kill wolves that are translocated 
to their territory. With the wolf population near recovery levels, few 
places are available to translocate wolves. It also appears that 
translocation of problem wolves is often not successful at preventing 
further problems, because the wolf has learned that livestock can be 
prey and carries that learned behavior to its new location and becomes 
a problem wolf there. Some wolves have traveled great distances after 
translocation and have returned to the area where they were captured. 
The Service primarily will rely on lethal control for management of 
wolves that attack livestock, because most habitat in Montana, Idaho, 
and Wyoming that does not have livestock is already occupied by 
resident wolf packs. However, translocation may continue to be used to 
resolve pet dog depredations and excessive depredation of native wild 
ungulate populations.
    Issue 3: The Service should allow a limited wolf hunting season in 
    Response: Hunting is a valuable, efficient, and cost effective tool 
to manage wildlife populations. The Service has recommended that State 
wolf management programs in the West have regulated public hunting as 
part of their policy to conserve the wolf population. Conservation 
programs to restore large predators such as mountain lions and wolves 
are succeeding because of the historic restoration of wild ungulates, 
such as elk and deer, by State fish and game agencies and sportsmen. 
However, allowing public hunting of wolves while they are listed under 
the Act is unlikely. (A Service-proposed public trapping season for 
threatened Minnesota wolves in areas of high wolf depredation was 
prohibited by a Federal court in the mid-1980s.) Upon confirmation in 
early 2003 that the wolf population in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming has 
met the recovery goal and when State wolf management plans are 
completed (see issue U, ``State Wolf Management Plans''), the Service 
will move as quickly as possible to delist the wolf population. 
Following delisting, State-managed wolf hunting could be allowed by 
States if it is carefully managed and closely monitored.
    Issue 4: The Service should relocate livestock if conflicts occur 
on public grazing allotments.
    Response: Wolves and livestock, primarily cattle and horses, can 
live near one another for extended periods of time without significant 
conflict. Most wolves do not learn that livestock can be successfully 
attacked and do not view them as prey. However, when individual wolves 
learn to attack livestock, that behavior can quickly be learned by 
other wolves if it is not stopped. Since large portions of wild 
ungulates winter on private property, even wolves that prey on wild 
ungulates will be in close proximity to livestock during at least some 
portion of the year. Wolf recovery can occur without disruption of 
traditional western land-use practices and has successfully occurred 
without moving livestock off of public grazing allotments. Public lands 
can have both large predators and seasonal livestock grazing.
    Furthermore, the Service does not have the authority to relocate 
livestock on either public or private land, except on lands within the 
National Wildlife Refuge System. Regulating or prohibiting livestock 
grazing on public lands is under the discretion of the respective land 
management agency.
    Issue 5: The Service should emphasize nonlethal wolf control to 
resolve conflicts.
    Response: We will continue to use nonlethal forms of wolf 
management, such as wolf harassment by landowners, injurious but 
nonlethal harassment by permitted individuals, use of scaring devices, 
working with conservation groups to provide fencing, alternative 
pasture, and guard animals and extra herders, and providing information 
on livestock management practices that can reduce conflicts with 
wolves. However, these methods are only effective in some 
circumstances, and no one tool is a cure for every problem. Wolf 
populations are at recovery levels, and wolf conflicts will increase as 
the population continues to grow. Most habitats in Montana, Idaho, and 
Wyoming, where conflicts between people and wolves are unlikely, are 
now occupied by wolves. The Service will rely on a variety of 
management tools including nonlethal approaches, but lethal control 
will often be used to resolve conflicts with livestock. Wolf 
populations can remain stable while withstanding 25-35 percent human-
caused mortality per year. Agency lethal control of problem wolves was 
predicted to remove about 10 percent of the wolf population annually, 
and at that level it will not reduce the wolf population, but will 
minimize conflicts with livestock.
    Issue 6: The special rule under section 4(d) should not exempt 
Federal agencies from the section 7 consultation requirements of the 
    Response: The proposed rule does not exempt Federal agencies from 
their consultation requirements under the Act for threatened species. 
Federal agency consultation with the Service on their actions that may 
affect gray wolves is required, but under the special rule, it will not 
result in land-use restrictions unless these restrictions are needed to 
avoid take at active den sites between April 1 and June 30. Wolves are 
very adaptable, and Federal activities--unless they directly kill 
wolves--will have no significant effect on them. To date there have 
been virtually no land-use restrictions imposed for the benefit of 
wolves, and the wolf population has recovered quickly.
    Issue 7: The Service should not loosen restrictions on lethal take; 
and we should base the take levels on scientific information.
    Response: Wolf management, including the nearly identical forms of 
lethal wolf control included in the 4(d) rule, have been employed in 
the nonessential experimental population areas since 1995. The wolf 
population in those areas has rapidly expanded, and very few wolves 
have been taken under those provisions. Lethal take by agency personnel 
and lethal take under permits issued to the public are designed to 
target problem wolves and reduce the level of conflict with local rural 
residents. This level of take is unlikely to affect wolf population 
recovery and is based upon the biology of wolf populations. We have 
scientific data that show that such take is not excessive and allows 
the continuing growth of wolf populations.
    Issue 8: The Service should allow wolves to be lethally taken for 
depredations on public land.
    Response: The 4(d) rule allows wolves to be killed on public 
grazing allotments. Livestock producers can

[[Page 15830]]

receive a permit from us to shoot a wolf that is physically attacking 
livestock or guard and herding animals after we have confirmed that a 
wolf depredation has previously occurred. Comments on the environmental 
impact statement on wolf reintroduction, the experimental population 
designation process, and the proposal for this final 4(d) rule 
indicated that commenters believed that wolf management on public lands 
should be more closely controlled (that is, more protective of wolves) 
than on private land. To address this public concern and the legal 
responsibilities of Federal land management agencies to conserve listed 
species and provide a balance between the needs of wildlife and other 
uses, the 4(d) rule distinguishes between wolf management practices on 
Federal lands versus those on private land, while also addressing 
chronic wolf depredation. Under otherwise similar circumstances, the 
4(d) rule will allow livestock producers to kill a gray wolf that is 
attacking their livestock on their private land without a Federal 
    Issue 9: Commenters stated that the Service should deny a take 
permit to livestock producers who experience wolf depredation after 
improper disposal of livestock carcasses. Other commenters recommended 
that the Service redefine ``problem wolf'' to exclude those involved 
with acts of human carelessness or negligence.
    Response: The Western DPS 4(d) rule states that wolves that attack 
livestock after being attracted to an area by artificial or intentional 
feeding, including livestock carcasses, may not be identified as 
problem wolves and may not be controlled, either by agencies or by 
permits to individuals. However, it would take an unusual situation to 
warrant withholding Service-authorized control of wolves that attacked 
livestock (that is, outside of the scope of traditional livestock 
management practices). In many instances, particularly in remote public 
land grazing allotments, it is nearly impossible to dispose of 
livestock carcasses. Wolves are very effective scavengers and will feed 
on livestock carcasses they discover. The fact that wolves feed on 
livestock carcasses does not mean that they will begin to depredate on 
livestock. Many biologists believe that the more familiar wolves become 
with livestock, even by feeding on carcasses, the greater the odds are 
that one could try to attack livestock. However, the bigger risk factor 
is that livestock carcasses may attract wolves to an areas near 
livestock which could increase the encounter rate and potential for 
depredation. The occasional discovery of a livestock carcass that would 
occur through traditional Western rangeland animal husbandry practices 
is unlikely to significantly increase the risk of wolf depredation on 
livestock. The Service does advise livestock producers of the potential 
for conflict that could occur when wolves are attracted to areas with 
livestock and, where possible, that livestock carcasses should be 
rendered or buried. The Service may determine not to control wolves 
until the attractants are removed.
    Issue 10: The Service should increase the issuance of take permits 
on private, State, and Federal public lands.
    Response: For the purposes of the Western DPS 4(d) rule, the 
Service considers State grazing leases to be treated the same as 
private property, unless a State management plan approved by the 
Service specifies otherwise (see issue U, ``State Wolf Management 
Plans''). For instance, a permittee on a State livestock grazing 
allotment could shoot a wolf in the act of physically attacking 
livestock without a permit from the Service, just as he or she could do 
on private land. The 4(d) rule allows wolves to be noninjuriously 
harassed without a permit, injuriously harassed under permit, and 
killed in the act of attacking livestock or herding and guarding 
animals. In chronic problem situations, wolves can be shot on sight 
under permit. Furthermore, Federal, State, and tribal agencies can 
harass, move, and/or kill wolves to reduce conflicts with livestock, 
other domestic animals, and pets, and even big game populations. The 
Service does not plan to implement even more liberal practices for 
dealing with problem wolves at this time. More liberal management--for 
example, management through regulations allowing defense of property 
and public hunting--might be a part of State-run wolf conservation 
programs once the wolf population is delisted.
    Issue 11: The Service should provide clear guidelines to residents 
regarding their rights under the 4(d) rule.
    Response: The Service will do many public information announcements 
on the 4(d) rule. After the experimental population rule was completed, 
the Service prepared a summary of the special rule and distributed it 
to local landowners, livestock organizations, and the media to clarify 
what kinds of activities were allowed. We will do the same for this 
special regulation. In addition, the Service routinely conducts 
presentations and interacts with the public to clarify its regulations.
    Issue 12: We should allow States and tribes outside a gray wolf 
recovery area to relocate wolves that are impacting ungulate 
    Response: The 4(d) rule does allow any State and tribe to define an 
unacceptable impact resulting from wolf depredation in its State and 
tribal wolf plan and relocate wolves that are causing that impact. If 
10 or more breeding pairs are in a State, the Service, in cooperation 
with the State or tribe, may decide to move wolves that are impacting 
State ungulate populations, even if the State or tribe does not have an 
approved wolf plan.
    Issue 13: The Service should drop the provision to translocate 
western wolves if they are causing ``unacceptable impacts'' to wild 
ungulate populations. There is no evidence that Rocky Mountain wolves 
pose any significant threat to the ungulate populations in the region.
    Response: In some situations, wolf predation, in combination with 
other factors, can contribute to dramatic localized declines in wild 
ungulate populations. Segments of the public and State fish and game 
agencies are very concerned that if these unusual conditions exist and 
wolf predation is contributing to dramatic declines in a localized 
ungulate population, then management of wolf predation, in addition to 
management of other factors, must be an available option. Moving wolves 
to resolve these types of situations can assist in ungulate management 
and ease local public and State game managers' fears about excessive 
unchecked wolf predation on native big game populations and hunter 
    Issue 14: The Service should define ``abnormal'' as it is used in 
the Western DPS 4(d) rule to allow taking of wild wolf-like canids that 
may be detrimental to gray wolf recovery.
    Response: The 4(d) rule allows the Service or designated agencies 
to take any wolf or wolf-like wild canid that the Service determines 
has abnormal physical or behavioral characteristics. The primary 
purpose of these provision is to allow for the removal of free-ranging 
privately owned captive wolves or wolf-dog hybrids. There are a wide 
variety of traits that could be considered abnormal by the Service and 
each situation will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. However, 
physical examples of abnormal would be wolf-like canids that have 
spotted pelt patterns or highly curled tails or otherwise appear to 
have dog-like traits. Behavioral abnormalities would include a high 
affinity to humans or human dwellings, aggressive behavior toward 
humans, or displaying prolonged courtship or breeding behaviors with 
domestic dogs.

[[Page 15831]]

    Issue 15: Provide expanded definitions of ``wolf conflicts,'' 
``wolf problems,'' ``persistent activity,'' and other related terms.
    Response: Terms such as these necessarily need case-by-case 
application and situational definitions. A wolf pack living in an area 
and occasionally moving through livestock is routine and generally 
would not be considered to be a conflict or problem. However, a pack 
that also ``tests'' or runs livestock has crossed the line into a 
different category that may involve ``wolf conflicts'' and a need for 
some type of aversive conditioning. A wolf closely associated with a 
particular ranch for a short period of time may raise no specific 
concerns, whereas the same situation in proximity to a residential 
subdivision would. The Service believes that, because management 
flexibility will be required, wolf behavior can vary with individuals, 
and the number of situational variables is limitless, more-specific 
definitions of these terms are not necessary and would be unreasonably 
    Issue 16: The Service should adhere to the Control Plan when 
targeting problem wolves.
    Response: The Western DPS 4(d) rule now provides the regulatory 
framework under which problem wolves will be managed. The 1988 and 1999 
Interim Wolf Control Plans have been replaced by the 4(d) rule.
    Issue 17: Clarify the criteria that constitute opportunistic 
    Response: The definition of opportunistic harassment is provided in 
the Definitions section of the Western DPS 4(d) rule.
    Issue 18: Clarify how wolf take rules apply to private land.
    Response: The 4(d) rule has been slightly modified and does clearly 
State how wolves may be taken on private land. In addition, the 
comparison chart has been revised to clarify provisions of the Western 
DPS 4(d) rule as they apply to private and public land.
    Issue 19: The Service should require verification of wolf 
depredation before allowing private control.
    Response: The Western DPS 4(d) rule requires agency confirmation of 
wolf depredation before agency control or lethal take permits can be 
issued. The taking of a wolf that is physically attacking livestock on 
private land is allowed without a permit, but such take must be 
reported within 24 hours and evidence of a depredation (such as wounded 
livestock) must be present. We believe that these stipulations prevent 
abuse and focus control on specific problem wolves.
    Issue 20: The Service should encourage ranchers to take measures to 
reduce the risk of wolf depredation.
    Response: The Service works with USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services, 
livestock organizations, and private groups to identify and publicize 
ways that livestock producers can reduce the risk of wolf depredation. 
In the past the Service and its cooperators have developed a host of 
tools that may help livestock producers prevent wolf-caused losses. The 
decision to utilize any of the tools offered is strictly voluntary on 
the part of the livestock producer, but in the past most of them have 
been very willing to voluntarily take steps to attempt to reduce the 
risk of wolf predation.
    Issue 21: The Service should allow for the intentional harassment 
of gray wolves depredating on livestock.
    Response: The Western DPS 4(d) rule allows all wolves on private 
land and those near livestock on public grazing allotments to be 
harassed at any time for any reason in a noninjurious manner. A permit 
to injuriously harass wolves can be issued on private and public lands. 
Wolves on private land that are actually seen depredating on livestock 
can be killed on private land without a permit, and on Federal grazing 
allotments a permit can be issued after a depredation has been 
    Issue 22: The Service should allow landowners with inholdings 
within Federal lands to take wolves prior to suspicious activity or 
    Response: Wolves are very susceptible to human-caused mortality and 
were exterminated by excessive human persecution. Wolf populations 
could not persist in the face of unregulated human-caused mortality. 
Allowing any wolf seen to be shot on sight could significantly reduce 
wolf populations and jeopardize recovery. The States do not allow other 
large predators or wild ungulates that are much more common to be shot 
on sight for the same reason. Most large wildlife species, because of 
their relatively low reproductive rates and naturally high survival 
rates, will disappear in the face of unregulated human-caused 
mortality. A wolf that is simply on private property is not normally a 
problem animal, but wolves that attack livestock are aggressively 
    Issue 23: The Service should allow the intentional harassment of 
wolves on public lands.
    Response: The Western DPS 4(d) rule allows any wolves near 
livestock to be harassed in a non-injurious manner on public lands.
    Issue 24: The incidental take language in the proposed rule may 
undermine support by traditional wildlife users in Oregon, because it 
is dissimilar to the current rules for the nonessential experimental 
    Response: The final special regulation for the Western DPS is 
intended to have similar incidental take provisions as those that have 
applied to the nonessential experimental populations, as specified in 
50 CFR 17.84(i)(3)(viii). This is a change from the provisions of the 
previous endangered status, under which no incidental take of wolves 
was allowed outside of the nonessential experimental area.
    Mistakenly shooting a wolf will not be classified as incidental 
take under the new special regulation; similarly, such an action has 
not been considered permissible as incidental take under the existing 
regulations for the nonessential experimental populations. One of the 
basic rules of hunter and gun safety is to be sure of your target. Just 
as is the case in current law in most States, a hunter who shoots a 
protected animal through mistaken identity is liable for that action. 
Both the new special regulation for the threatened Western DPS wolves 
and the existing regulation for the nonessential experimental 
populations stress the need for shooters to exercise reasonable due 
care to identify their target and avoid taking a gray wolf.
    Issue 25: Under the permitting provisions of section 10(a)(1)(A) of 
the Act, the Service already has all the management flexibility it 
needs to deal with problem wolves in northwest Montana, so there is no 
need to reclassify those wolves to threatened and create a special 
regulation. The Service has not identified any additional flexibility 
that these changes would provide.
    Response: We agree that the Service does have discretion to issue 
permits to manage wolves under the Act's 10(a)(1)(A) authority. 
However, that authority is not as broad or flexible as the provisions 
of this special 4(d) rule. The Service believes that the 4(d) rule 
clarifies the Service's intent and in some cases provides for the 
Service to allow management actions without the sometimes cumbersome 
process of issuing individual permits.

L. Nonessential Experimental Population Designations

    Issue 1: Several respondents commented that the Service should 
review, delete, add to, and/or modify the NEP designations in central 
Idaho and the greater Yellowstone area. One peer reviewer recommended 
the NEP designations be removed, because they

[[Page 15832]]

are ``no longer appropriate and create an overly complex regulatory 
    Response: One of the alternatives considered in the draft proposal, 
but not selected for further analysis in that proposal, was removing 
the NEP designation in the central Idaho and Yellowstone areas, making 
all the Western DPS threatened, and managing all wolves in the Western 
DPS under this 4(d) rule. We chose to leave the NEP designations as 
they are, because in the 1994 rulemaking for the NEPs we stated we did 
not envision changing them until recovery occurred. In addition, 
several Federal agencies expressed concern over the potential of having 
to do section 7 consultation again, and the NEP rules are working well 
and are understood by most local residents in those areas. Instead, we 
have tried to make this 4(d) rule very similar to the special rule for 
the NEPs, thereby standardizing proven successful wolf management 
strategies throughout the Western DPS. While the NEP rules and this 
4(d) rule are separate regulations, they are nearly identical, and they 
both address most public and agency concerns.
    Issue 2: The Service should maintain NEP status for wolves that 
stray beyond NEP borders.
    Response: Both the DPS and NEP designations are geographically 
based. Except for those wolves that are in captivity, gray wolves are 
listed and protected according to where they are located. However, the 
regulations for the three existing gray wolf NEPs do allow the Service 
to capture and return wolves known to be from the NEP areas if they 
move beyond the NEP boundaries. Thus, wolves that stray out of an NEP 
area can be moved back into the NEP area to further contribute to that 
recovery program.
    Broadly applying all of the provisions of the NEP regulations to 
wolves that disperse and remain outside the NEPs would be equivalent to 
expanding the boundaries of the NEP. In our regulations establishing 
the Rocky Mountain gray wolf NEPs we stated we did not envision 
changing them until those wolf populations were delisted. We will not 
make such changes at this time in the absence of biological need and 
strong public support for such a change. Evidence of such need or 
support was not forthcoming during the comment period, even though we 
specifically requested comments on the two northern Rocky Mountain NEP 
    However, this final 4(d) rule applies provisions similar to those 
of the two Rocky Mountain NEPs to wolves outside of the NEPs. Thus, 
many of the provisions of the two Rocky Mountain NEPs will now be 
applied to wolves in the larger Western DPS.

M. Lethal Control of Gray Wolves

    Issue 1: We received a number of comments that expressed varying 
degrees of opposition to the lethal control of gray wolves. Some 
commenters asked that we prohibit any form of lethal taking of wolves. 
Other comments supported killing of wolves only in defense of human 
life. Other viewpoints supported lethal control only if it is carried 
out by designated government agents, while some commenters feel that 
lethal control should not occur on public lands. The lethal control of 
wolves that kill only pets was opposed by some commenters.
    Response: Current regulations under the Act that apply to both 
endangered and threatened species (50 CFR 17.21(a)(c)(2), Sec.  
17.21(a)(c)(3), Sec.  17.31(a), and Sec.  17.31(b)) provide the 
authority to lethally take endangered and threatened wildlife under 
several different scenarios. Furthermore, section 4(d) of the Act 
allows the promulgation of special regulations for threatened species 
if we determine that those regulations are ``necessary and advisable to 
provide for the conservation of such species.'' These special 
regulations can include provisions for lethal taking of the species, if 
appropriate. In the case of experimental populations, special 
regulations can also be promulgated allowing lethal control. The common 
feature across these various regulations is that lethal take is allowed 
if it is necessary to protect human life and safety or is necessary for 
the conservation of the species.
    The Service has had gray wolf regulations that allow lethal take 
under various scenarios in different parts of the country. Those 
regulations were necessary for wolf conservation, and they were 
tailored to meet the needs of the differing situations in their 
respective areas. In all cases they have two purposes: reducing 
threats, and the perceptions of those threats, to human safety; and 
reducing conflicts between wolves and humans in order to lessen the 
likelihood that individuals would act on their own to reduce perceived 
conflicts, likely leading to the deaths of more wolves than would 
result from regulated lethal control actions.
    We believe the special regulations that have been used in Minnesota 
to control wolves depredating on livestock and other domestic animals 
have reduced wolf-human conflicts, have diminished the illegal killing 
of wolves, and thus have aided the continuing recovery of gray wolves 
in that State. The special regulations for Minnesota wolves provide for 
lethal control by designated government agents when wolf depredation 
has been verified and is likely to reoccur. These restrictions result 
in the control, including killing or permanent captivity, of those 
wolves that are taking domestic animals, but provide protection for 
wolves that are members of packs that hunt only wild prey. These 
regulations are biologically sound, and we believe they are consistent 
with wolf recovery in Minnesota. We have no information that would lead 
us to suspect that the similar regulations finalized in this rule will 
interfere with continued wolf recovery in Wisconsin and Michigan.
    We are not making any changes to the current lethal control 
regulations for Minnesota gray wolves. We are allowing similar 
depredation control activities in most other States in the Eastern DPS, 
and providing the authority for tribes to salvage wolf parts for 
spiritual and cultural use and to conduct depredation control actions 
on reservation land without a Federal endangered/threatened species 
    We have developed the two special regulations to provide the 
actions necessary to reduce human conflicts in the Western and Eastern 
DPSs. Each special regulation is designed to address the unique needs 
within the respective DPS, and to minimize adverse impacts on wolf 
recovery. Lethal depredation control is being authorized only to the 
extent that we believe is necessary to continue the recovery of the 
wolf populations to meet our recovery goals within those two DPSs.
    We are providing lethal depredation control authority to most of 
the States and tribes within the Eastern DPS, including those States 
outside of the core recovery States of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and 
Michigan. (This authority is not being provided to States and tribes 
east of Ohio). It will be the decision of the respective tribes and 
States as to whether they want to utilize this authority to kill 
depredating threatened wolves in those rare incidents of verified 
depredation in those noncore areas.
    In the Western DPS the 4(d) rule allows wolves that have been 
involved in livestock depredations to be killed by agencies and the 
public. This take will be highly regulated and is not expected to 
significantly impact the wolf population. To date about 6 percent of 
the wolf population in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming is affected by 
Service wolf control actions, including lethal control under the 
continuing authority of the nonessential experimental population 
regulations. This level of

[[Page 15833]]

human-caused mortality will not keep the northern Rocky Mountains wolf 
population from continuing its rapid expansion. As the wolf population 
has expanded rapidly, fewer areas of remote habitat remain for wolves 
to be moved to. Therefore, to resolve livestock depredations, the 
Service will be lethally controlling wolves in most situations.
    Issue 2: A number of comments stressed that we should emphasize 
nonlethal depredation control measures and increase research efforts 
aimed at improved nonlethal control measures.
    Response: The Service will continue to cooperate with USDA/APHIS-
Wildlife Services, State DNRs, universities, and special interest 
groups to investigate ways to reduce the level of conflict between 
people, livestock, and wolves. To date we and our partners in wolf 
recovery have investigated and implemented the use of fencing; guard 
animals; extra herders; light, siren, and other scare devices, 
including those activated by wolf radio-collars; shock aversion 
conditioning; flagging; less-than-lethal munitions; offensive and 
repelling scents; supplemental feeding; harassing wolves at dens and 
rendezvous sites to move the center of wolf pack activity away from 
livestock; trapping and moving individual pack members or the entire 
pack; moving livestock and providing alternative pasture; investigating 
the characteristics of livestock operations that experience higher 
depredation rates; and research into the type of livestock and rate of 
livestock loss that are confirmed in remote public grazing allotments. 
We also correspond with and maintain professional contact with 
researchers and wildlife managers throughout the world to discuss and 
learn how they are dealing with similar problems. As a result of these 
attempts at nonlethal methods, we have not yet discovered a reliable 
method of nonlethal control. It is apparent that lethal control will 
remain an important tool for managing wolves that learn to depredate on 
    Lethal depredation control in the Western DPS is further discussed 
under section K. Special Regulations under Section 4(d) for the Western 
DPS, above.

N. Comments Regarding the Eastern DPS (composed of the proposed Western 
Great Lakes DPS and the proposed Northeastern DPS, as well as 
additional States)

    Most comments regarding the Eastern DPS expressed opposition to 
delisting Midwestern wolves, addressed the proposed special regulation 
for the proposed Western Great Lakes DPS, or dealt with the proposed 
Northeastern DPS. Comments in the latter two categories are addressed 
in separate sections O and R, below. Other comments regarding the 
Eastern DPS follow:
    Issue 1: Numerous comments expressed opposition to reclassifying 
Midwestern wolves to threatened status.
    Response: Since our proposal was developed, we have received 2 
additional years of data showing that wolf numbers in the Midwest are 
continuing to expand. We have reviewed, and have included in this rule, 
that additional population data, as well as updated information 
regarding disease occurrence and human-caused mortality. The additional 
information supports the reclassification from endangered to 
    Issue 2: The Service should support monitoring of gray wolves in 
the Midwest, and should improve wolf monitoring in the Lower Peninsula 
of Michigan.
    Response: We have been partially funding wolf monitoring and 
research efforts by the Michigan and Wisconsin DNRs for many years. 
This support is expected to continue as long as the gray wolf is 
protected under the Act, and may continue to some extent for 5 years 
    Currently, we are not aware of any wild gray wolves in the Lower 
Peninsula of Michigan. While we understand the interest in identifying 
and protecting gray wolves that might occur in the Lower Peninsula, 
those wolves would be unnecessary to accomplishing gray wolf recovery 
under the Act. While we would provide technical assistance to initiate 
wolf monitoring and conservation in the Lower Peninsula if requested by 
the State and interested tribes, it is unlikely that we will be able to 
provide funding for wolf monitoring in the Lower Peninsula.
    Issue 3: We should consider the potential impacts of hybridization 
with coyotes in the Midwest.
    Response: We are concerned about gray wolf-coyote hybridization. 
There is mitochondrial DNA evidence that such hybridization may have 
occurred in the past (Lehman et al. 1991), but the nature of 
mitochondrial DNA provides little information on when, and how 
frequently, wolf-coyote hybridization may have occurred. There 
currently is no evidence that hybrid events have significantly changed 
the wolves in the Midwest. Morphologically, behaviorally, and 
ecologically they continue to look, act, and function as wolves, rather 
than like hybrids.
    Issue 4: The Service should delist gray wolves in the Midwest.
    Response: We recognize that wolf numbers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, 
and Michigan have surpassed the numerical goals of the Eastern Timber 
Wolf Recovery Plan. However, at the time our proposal was being 
prepared, we lacked reliable information on future wolf management in 
Minnesota, and we were therefore unable to evaluate the threats that 
might impact Minnesota wolves if they were delisted. See the Summary of 
Factors Affecting the Species section below under factor D., The 
adequacy or inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, for 
additional discussion of Eastern DPS gray wolves.
    The subsequent completion of the 2001 Minnesota Wolf Management 
Plan gives us the ability to better evaluate the extent of the threats 
that would likely be experienced by Minnesota gray wolves if they were 
delisted (see issue U, ``State Wolf Management Plans''). Therefore, now 
that we have completed this rulemaking, we intend to reevaluate the 
threats to wolves in the Midwest, in light of current data and expected 
future wolf management by the States and tribes, in order to determine 
if the Eastern DPS constitutes a recovered entity. If we conclude that 
recovery under the Act has occurred, we will promptly publish a 
delisting proposal and open a public comment period. As we develop the 
proposal and take final action, we will again evaluate information on 
gray wolf presence in the northeastern United States.

O. Special Regulations Under 4(d) for Parts of the Eastern DPS 
(formerly the Western Great Lakes and Northeastern DPSs)

    Issue 1: The government should not be involved in control of 
depredating wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. It should be 
the farmers' responsibility to keep their livestock out of the reach of 
    Response: Assisting farmers in reducing the adverse impacts of 
wildlife on agricultural activities has long been a program of the 
Federal Government, and currently is accomplished by the Wildlife 
Services program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, 
the Service has a policy that directs us to minimize the adverse 
economic effects of our endangered and threatened species recovery 
programs. Thus, reducing wolf depredation on livestock by removing the 
offending wolves and wolf packs is an appropriate part of our wolf 
recovery programs, as long as those activities are consistent with gray 
wolf recovery. We believe that

[[Page 15834]]

controlling depredating wolves is consistent with wolf recovery.
    Issue 2: Lethal control of depredating wolves on public lands 
should not be permitted.
    Response: Trapping for depredating wolves on public land generally 
has not been done under the ongoing wolf depredation control program in 
Minnesota, and we do not expect such trapping to be commonly carried 
out in either Wisconsin or Michigan under the new special regulation 
(50 CFR 17.40(o)). Such trapping is restricted to within 1 mile of the 
depredation site, and the trapping usually can be effectively carried 
out on private lands. In addition, most Federal lands (National Parks, 
Lakeshores, and Riverways, and National Forests) in these States will 
not allow wolf trapping on their lands. However, the special regulation 
will allow wolf trapping on State, tribal, county, or other publicly 
owned lands. We believe that if wolf depredation has been verified, it 
is in the best interests of wolf recovery to remove the problem wolves 
in the most effective manner, so we will not put unnecessary 
restrictions on the trapping locations.
    Issue 3: The Service should require evidence of conflict between 
livestock and wolves prior to initiating control measures.
    Response: We agree with this comment. The special regulation (both 
as proposed and as finalized) requires a determination that ``the 
depredation was likely to have been caused by a gray wolf'' and that 
``depredation at the site is likely to continue'' if the problem wolves 
are not removed.
    Issue 4: The special regulation should allow depredation control 
measures for wolf depredation of game farm animals.
    Response: The special regulation allows depredation control 
measures to be carried out in response to wolf depredations on 
``lawfully present livestock or domestic animals.'' The regulation does 
not specifically address game farm animals. However, if State or tribal 
wolf management plans (see issue U, ``State Wolf Management Plans'') 
define livestock to include game farm animals, our special regulation 
can be invoked in game farm depredation incidents. We expect such 
depredation control actions to occur in Wisconsin, because the 
Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan defines livestock to include ``pen-
raised animals raised on licensed game farm operations'' (WI DNR 
    Issue 5: We received a number of comments espousing various 
opinions on who should be allowed to conduct depredation control 
activities under the proposed special regulation that now applies to 
all midwestern States except for Minnesota. Opinions ranged from 
allowing private individuals, including farmers and animal owners, to 
take problem wolves, to allowing only qualified government agents to 
kill such wolves.
    Response: We believe the depredation control program, as operated 
in Minnesota since the mid-1980s, has been highly successful in 
removing depredating wolves and thus greatly reducing domestic animal 
losses, while not unnecessarily impacting the continued growth of the 
Minnesota wolf population. Those regulations allow employees or 
designated agents of the Service or MN DNR to take depredating wolves. 
We have chosen to apply the proven success of this program to the other 
midwestern States, with only two minor changes. The first of those 
changes allows tribes or their designated agents to undertake 
depredation control actions on reservation lands without needing a 
Federal permit. The other change increases the area in which trapping 
can occur from the one-half mile allowed in Minnesota to 1 mile in 
Wisconsin and Michigan and 4 miles throughout the remaining area 
covered by the special regulation. We believe this approach will 
provide sufficient ability to control problem wolves without 
significantly impacting the ongoing wolf recovery in Wisconsin and 
    Issue 6: The Service should require farmers to employ adequate 
animal husbandry practices in the Midwest as a prerequisite to being 
eligible for depredation control actions or compensation.
    Response: While there is some evidence that supports the theory 
that certain animal husbandry practices will reduce the likelihood that 
a farm will experience wolf depredation, the only quantitative study on 
the subject in the Midwest to date did not find any clear connections 
between farm layout, animal husbandry practices, and wolf depredation 
incidents (Mech et al. 2000). Furthermore, even the most careful and 
protective livestock producer can still fall victim to wolf 
depredations. Given the uncertainty of success from ``better'' animal 
husbandry practices, we will not require such practices, but will 
continue to advocate for their use. Similarly, USDA/APHIS-Wildlife 
Services also recommends such practices and provides livestock 
producers with information on these practices.
    Depredation compensation payments are made by State agencies or 
private organizations, not by the Service. The Service cannot dictate 
the criteria for such payments.
    Issue 7: The special regulation for Michigan is too subjective. 
Depredation by a wolf should be proven beyond doubt, the identity of 
the depredating wolf should be identified, and only that individual 
wolf should be trapped and removed.
    Response: The special regulation requires that ``the depredation 
was likely to have been caused by a gray wolf'' in order for trapping 
and removal operations to commence. Evidence, including tracks, 
location of bites, size and spacing of incisor punctures, and the 
presence and extent of subcutaneous hemorrhaging will usually allow 
trained depredation incident investigators to determine whether the 
predator was a wolf or coyote, and can even determine if a wolf killed 
the domestic animal or merely scavenged on it after it had died from 
other causes. If the evidence does not allow the investigator to 
conclude that a gray wolf likely was the cause of the mortality, then 
lethal depredation control actions cannot be carried out. The ``likely 
to have been caused'' standard has been used successfully in wolf 
depredation control activities in Minnesota for many years, and has 
allowed the wolf population in that State to continue to increase. We 
do not believe it will result in excessive wolf mortalities in 
Wisconsin and Michigan.
    We agree that an ideal depredation control program would remove 
only the wolf that killed the domestic animal, and the remainder of the 
pack would then pursue only wild prey. However, this scenario is 
unrealistic for two main reasons. First, it is not possible to 
determine which pack member or members attacked and killed the domestic 
animal, short of capturing the entire pack and doing stomach content 
analysis within a few days of the depredation incident. This is not 
practical and in most cases it is impossible. Second, the wolf pack 
functions as a hunting unit and in many cases the entire pack, not just 
one member, develops the practice of preying on domestic animals. Thus, 
trapping and removing a single pack member will usually not stop the 
depredation problem.
    Issue 8: The special regulations for Minnesota should be consistent 
with the special regulations for other areas of this DPS.
    Response: We agree that the special regulations would be slightly 
easier to understand if they were identical across all the areas 
included within the Eastern DPS. However, the Act allows special 
regulations under section 4(d) to vary with the conservation needs of 

[[Page 15835]]

species in that area. Therefore, we have established smaller lethal 
control distances (that is, the radius around the depredation site in 
which lethal control can be carried out) in Michigan and Wisconsin than 
in the other States covered by the same 4(d) rule, in order to reduce 
the likelihood that the wrong wolves might be trapped in those two 
States with high wolf population densities. In addition, this 4(d) rule 
does not apply to any of the States in the Eastern DPS that are east of 
    With respect to the differences between the continuing special 
regulation for Minnesota wolves (50 CFR 17.40(d)) and this new special 
regulation for most of the Eastern DPS (50 CFR 17.40(o)), we chose to 
propose no changes to the pre-existing Minnesota special regulation, 
because it was the product of a court order and has been functioning 
well and reducing wolf depredation problems for over 15 years. 
Modifying its language in any way could require Federal Court approval. 
Any modifications that might be seen as significant would likely result 
in litigation, or might otherwise delay the implementation of this 
final rule. Therefore, we have chosen to defer any changes to the 
special regulation for gray wolves in Minnesota.
    In order to minimize any confusion, we have made the special 
regulation for the Eastern DPS consistent within a State's boundaries, 
so that State agencies, or the designated agents of State agencies, 
will only have to be concerned with a single set of regulations for 
that State. Furthermore, where Native American reservation boundaries 
cross State boundaries, the gray wolf special regulations are identical 
on both sides of the State boundary, and thus are consistent within 
individual reservations. Thus, we believe the possibilities for 
confusion in complying with the 4(d) rule for the Eastern DPS have been 

P. Habitat Protection for Gray Wolves

    Issue: Numerous comments expressed the belief that suitable gray 
wolf habitat should receive additional protection prior to 
reclassification, or that we should reassess the threats of habitat 
destruction and modification. Most of these comments dealt with the 
proposed Western Great Lakes DPS and the proposed Northeastern DPS; 
some comments specifically suggested that we require additional 
protection of roadless habitat in Wisconsin.
    Response: From a review of gray wolf population data in western 
Great Lakes States and the northern U.S. Rockies, it is clear that wolf 
populations have increased dramatically under the habitat protections 
that have existed over the last several decades. Even in the two areas 
(Wisconsin and northwestern Montana) where wolf population growth had 
slowed or had been temporarily stalled, inadequate habitat protection 
was not the causative factor, and population growth has resumed in both 
areas in the absence of additional habitat protection measures.
    At such time as we consider the delisting of gray wolves, we will 
review changes in habitat protection that would result from the 
elimination of the protections of the Act. The impacts of those changes 
will be part of the threats analysis that will accompany any delisting 
proposal, and will be considered in any final decision on delisting. 
However, as the current action is a reclassification which retains the 
current habitat protections of the Act, we believe the concerns 
expressed for its adverse impacts on habitat protection are unfounded.

Q. Compensation for Depredation by Gray Wolves

    Issue: Several concerns were expressed regarding the payment of 
compensation to the owners of domestic animals, including pets and 
livestock, that are reported as killed or injured by gray wolves. Some 
commenters opposed such compensation and recommended that compensation 
funds should instead be used to reduce or prevent wolf depredation. 
Other commenters supported compensation for livestock losses caused by 
wolves; some commenters also would like compensation to be available in 
instances of wolf depredation on pets. There were comments both 
supporting and opposing a requirement for verification of wolf 
depredation in order for an owner to receive compensation. Other 
comments dealt with the amount of compensation.
    Response: The Service does not provide monetary compensation for 
damage caused by any wildlife, including financial losses resulting 
from domestic animals being killed or injured by gray wolves. All such 
compensation programs are run by State agencies or private 
organizations and are not funded in any way by the Service. In the 
northern Rockies and the Southwest, wolf depredation compensation 
payments are made by Defenders of Wildlife. In the Midwest, wolf 
depredation compensation payments are made by the Minnesota Department 
of Agriculture, WI DNR's Nongame Wildlife Fund, and MI DNR, with 
partial financial support from private conservation organizations.
    As we are not involved in wolf depredation compensation payments 
and do not envision becoming financially involved in these programs, we 
recommend that such comments be sent to the appropriate State agencies 
and Defenders of Wildlife.

R. Comments Regarding the Proposed Northeastern DPS

    Issue: We received a diverse array of comments dealing with various 
aspects of the proposed Northeastern DPS and the special regulation 
proposed for that DPS. The comments spanned a spectrum from strong 
support for establishing a Northeastern DPS and recovering gray wolves 
there, to intense opposition to any steps towards wolf restoration in 
the Northeast. Other issues include suggestions for changing the 
special regulation that was proposed for gray wolves in the 
Northeastern DPS (for example, the provisions for lethal take of 
wolves, wild ungulate impacts, and States' roles), comments on whether 
those wolves should be listed as threatened or endangered, the 
boundaries of the DPS, the taxonomy of the historically resident wolf 
and the potential of hybridization with coyotes, the use of an 
experimental population designation, threats to wolves from disease and 
human activity and development, the role of public versus private land, 
habitat suitability and protection, prey availability, fear of lawsuits 
resulting from the incidental take of gray wolves on private lands, the 
cost of wolf restoration, and the need for public education programs to 
promote wolf restoration in a Northeastern DPS.
    Response: As discussed elsewhere in this document, when we drafted 
our gray wolf reclassification proposal, we believed there may have 
been sufficient information to support the establishment of a gray wolf 
DPS in the northeastern States of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and 
Maine. If such a gray wolf DPS were to be established, we stated that 
we would initiate recovery planning to determine the feasibility of 
restoring a viable gray wolf population in that area and the best way 
to accomplish such a restoration. We proposed that gray wolves in the 
Northeastern DPS should be classified as threatened, and we also 
proposed special regulations under section 4(d) of the Act for gray 
wolves in this DPS. Both threatened classification and the special 
regulations were intended to increase the management flexibility for 
the States, tribes, and the Service in order to more effectively 
accomplish gray wolf recovery there.
    In our July 13, 2000, proposed rule, we specifically requested 
comments and

[[Page 15836]]

additional information on the proposed Northeastern DPS and the 
associated proposed special regulation. Since that time we have paid 
particular attention to two important issues--insufficient evidence of 
a resident population of wolves in the Northeast and the identity of 
any such wolves and the wolves that historically occupied the 
    Regarding the first issue, despite ongoing efforts by individuals 
and several conservation organizations, no reliable data support the 
contention that a population of wild wolves currently exists in the 
northeastern States. While there were three individual wolves or wolf-
like canids killed in Maine and Vermont within the last 10 years, their 
origins are unknown, and there have been no subsequent confirmed 
sightings of pairs or packs of wolves. Thus, in view of the lack of 
reliable data showing that a wolf population exists in this area, we 
are unable to designate a separate DPS there. We cannot list a DPS when 
we lack data showing that a population exists.
    We believe the second issue--the identity of the recent and 
historical wolf of eastern North America--remains unresolved. Until 
scientific data and analysis can conclusively determine which large 
canid historically occupied the Northeast, we are unable to determine 
which wolf, if any, would be considered for restoration there. We 
currently are unconvinced that the gray wolf was not the historical 
wolf in at least a portion of the Northeast, so we will not delist the 
gray wolf in that region on the basis of the assumption that it was 
listed in error. At this time we will maintain the Act's protection by 
including this geographic area in a threatened Eastern Gray Wolf DPS 
that also includes the proposed Western Great Lakes DPS and several 
other States.
    Because we are not finalizing a listing of the proposed 
Northeastern DPS and are not finalizing the proposed 4(d) rule that was 
intended to provide management flexibility in order to promote wolf 
restoration within that DPS, we will not further address the many 
comments that dealt with these issues. However, if we receive reliable 
information supporting the existence of a northeastern wolf population, 
or if we subsequently determine that the gray wolf was the historical 
resident wolf in the Northeast, we could again consider listing a 
separate gray wolf DPS in the Northeast. At that time we will review 
all the issues that were raised during this comment period and endeavor 
to address them in any DPS proposal that we might publish.

S. Use of Scientific Data

    Issue 1: A number of commenters stressed that our decision should 
be based on sound scientific data and analysis. Some of these comments 
accused us of improperly considering economic, political, or other 
factors when developing the proposal. We were accused of improperly 
favoring livestock interests as well as allowing undue influence from 
environmental organizations.
    Response: The commenters are correct in their assertion that our 
decision should be based on sound scientific data and analysis. The Act 
clearly requires us to use only scientific and commercial data that are 
relevant to the five categories of threats that might be affecting the 
    The Service has followed the requirements of the Act in coming to a 
decision on this final rule. We used the best scientific data available 
as we developed the proposal, and in this final rule we have updated 
(and corrected, as described in the Technical Corrections category, 
above) wolf population and mortality figures wherever appropriate. In 
addition, newly available scientific data resulted in our decision to 
not finalize the listing of a Northeastern DPS at this time and to make 
changes to the proposed special regulation for the Western DPS.
    Special interest groups have not had any undue or improper 
influence on this rulemaking, nor have we considered economic factors 
in our reclassification decision. Some commenters who expressed such a 
concern may have come to that conclusion as a result of a 
misunderstanding of the applicability of our ``Policy on Recovery Plan 
Participation and Implementation Under the Endangered Species Act'' (59 
FR 34272, July 1, 1994; available at http://endangered.fws.gov/policy/pol002.html
). That policy states that we will minimize the social and 
economic impacts of implementing recovery actions and will consider 
such impacts as we develop recovery plans. However, the Act prohibits 
such economic considerations during the rulemaking process for listing, 
reclassification, and delisting actions, and the Administrative 
Procedures Act prohibits Federal agencies from providing special 
interest groups any special access to the rulemaking process. This 
rulemaking has complied with those prohibitions.
    Issue 2: The Service should clarify the process by which wolf 
population estimates are determined.
    Response: In the northern Rocky Mountains the wolf population 
estimate is primarily derived by counting wolves in packs that contain 
radio-collared members. The breeding pair count is also estimated by 
radio telemetry and by counting the number of wolf groups that contain 
an adult male and an adult female wolf that raise at least two pups 
that survive until December 31.
    Descriptions of the methods used to estimate gray wolf populations 
in the midwestern States have been added to the sections that describe 
the recovery progress of gray wolves in that area.

T. Requests for Consideration of Factors Other Than Threats to the 

    Issue 1: We received comments that recommended that decisions on 
the Act's protections for gray wolves should be based on a wide variety 
of factors in addition to the threats to the species. These factors 
include economic considerations (depredation costs, funding for game 
habitat acquisition and restoration efforts, costs and benefits to 
local communities, agency budgets), threats (or the lack of threats) to 
human safety and to pets, impacts on the Carolina Dog, ecological 
impacts to all native wildlife (and specifically to wild ungulates), 
the intrinsic value of the species, the ecological benefits provided by 
wolves, the wolf's role as an indicator species, and ethical concerns.
    Response: We understand these concerns and the intensity with which 
they are felt by the commenters. Economic concerns, threats to humans 
and domestic animals, ecological effects, and impacts on other species 
(especially rare and declining species) are all taken into 
consideration as we develop and implement recovery programs for listed 
species. However, the Act clearly states that our decisions to list, 
reclassify, and/or delist a species can only be based on scientific and 
commercial data that deal with threats to the species and its habitat. 
These threats are broken into five factors by the Act (section 
4(a)(1)), which are individually addressed below. While we recognize 
that there are many direct and indirect benefits and costs that arise 
from the listing or delisting of a species, the Act prohibits us from 
considering any factors except the threats to the species.
    Issue 2: When we implement recovery programs for listed predator 
species, we should, or should not, consider the impact of wolf 
predation on wild ungulate populations.
    Response: When implementing recovery programs for the gray wolf, 
our 1994 Policy on Recovery Plan Participation and Implementation Under 
the Endangered Species Act (59 FR 34272) requires that we strive to

[[Page 15837]]

minimize unnecessary social and economic impacts of those recovery 
actions. The Service is aware that while generally wolf predation is 
not expected to cause significant negative consequences to wild prey 
populations, there are conditions where it may. The 4(d) rule for the 
Western DPS allows for those wolves to be relocated should they cause 
significant negative effects on wild ungulate populations. The Service 
has initiated, and cooperated on a multitude of, wolf-ungulate 
relationship studies in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming since the early 
1980s to assess or detect the potential impact that wolf predation may 
have on various ungulate populations. Most of these projects were done 
by local university graduate students and in cooperation with other 
State and Federal resource management agencies. We will use the best 
scientific data available in future decisions involving actions to 
reduce wolf impacts on wild ungulate populations.

U. State Wolf Management Plans

    Issue: A great deal of concern was expressed by a number of 
commenters about whether State protection and management of gray wolves 
would be adequate to ensure the continued viability of those wolf 
populations if Federal protections are reduced (via reclassification) 
or removed (via delisting). Some commenters stated that State 
protection will not be adequate or effective, and for that reason gray 
wolves cannot be delisted or reclassified to threatened. Other 
commenters want the Service to assist in the development of State wolf 
management plans, set minimum standards for such plans, and fund their 
implementation. Some commenters would like every State that has the 
potential for wolf recovery to be required to develop a management plan 
prior to delisting, even if no wolves currently reside in the State. 
The need for wolf management plans to be coordinated across State lines 
was another concern.
    Response: When a species is listed as threatened or endangered, we 
develop a Federal recovery plan that describes the actions believed to 
be necessary to ensure the long-term survival of the species. Other 
Federal agencies, States, tribes, conservation organizations, and other 
affected parties are encouraged to assist in implementing these 
recovery actions, and in some cases non-Service entities take the 
leading role in carrying out these actions. For the gray wolf, the 
active and vigorous involvement of numerous State and tribal agencies 
and private conservation organizations has been instrumental in 
achieving the degree of wolf recovery that has already occurred.
    States and other Federal agencies sometimes develop their own 
management plans that identify management actions they will take while 
the species is listed and/or after the species is delisted. If a State 
or other Federal agency is interested in assuming management 
responsibility for the species while the species is listed, the Service 
must approve the plan to ensure it is consistent with the recovery of 
the species and otherwise consistent with the Act prior to delegating 
management responsibility to that State or other Federal agency.
    Even if a State or other Federal agency does not assume management 
responsibility for the species while it is listed, delisting of the 
species will require that we evaluate State or other Federal agency 
management of the species following removal of the protections of the 
Act. Section 4(a)(1) of the Act requires the Secretary to determine 
whether any species is an endangered species or a threatened species 
because of any of five factors including the ``inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms.'' Section 4(b) establishes the basis for such 
determinations, which includes consideration of efforts being made by 
any State to protect the species. In the context of a delisting 
determination, the Service must show that a threat is no longer at a 
level warranting listing or, in the absence of the protections afforded 
by the Act, that other existing regulatory mechanisms will adequately 
remove or reduce the threat to the species. Such an analysis will often 
be greatly facilitated if there are approved State or tribal management 
plans that will be implemented following delisting.
    We are willing to assist States and tribes with the development of 
their wolf management plans. We will encourage States and tribes to 
develop plans that provide for coordinated actions across State and 
reservation boundaries to the extent possible. For example, we are 
currently working directly with the Bad River Band of Chippewa Indians 
and the WI DNR to develop special management practices for Reservation 
wolves that might become involved in depredation incidents while off 
the Reservation.
    Because management plans are not required by the Act or its 
implementing regulations, we cannot force States and tribes to develop 
them or to coordinate them across their boundaries. However, those 
States that are interested in gaining full management authority for 
gray wolves have already begun working on such plans. In most cases we 
have been involved to varying degrees in the development of these 
plans, and we are familiar with the level of the State's commitment to 
their implementation. For plans that have been completed and 
subsequently reviewed by the Service (MI DNR 1997, WI DNR 1999a, and MN 
DNR 2001), these plans will greatly assist our future evaluation of 
post-delisting threats to wolves in these States. However, because the 
Act overrides State laws, regulations, policies, and management plans, 
these State plans can only be implemented to the extent that they are 
consistent with the protections of the Act and any Federal regulations 
promulgated under the provisions of the Act. Therefore, many of the 
provisions of these State wolf management plans cannot be implemented 
while gray wolves are federally listed as threatened within the 
respective State. Specifically, this means that public hunting and 
trapping of wolves and preemptive lethal control of potentially 
depredating wolves without a Federal permit cannot be initiated by the 
States, nor will livestock producers or landowners be able to freely 
kill wolves while they are classified as threatened by the Service. The 
Act and the several NEP and 4(d) regulations will restrict take of gray 
wolves, regardless of the existence of State or tribal wolf management 
plans in the Midwest and West, until wolf populations are delisted.
    At such time as we consider a proposal to delist the gray wolf, we 
will fully evaluate the impacts of State plan implementation. Those 
impacts will be discussed in any delisting proposal that we develop, 
and will be considered in any final decision on delisting. Regardless 
of whether or not State and tribal wolf management plans have been 
completed or are being developed, we must conduct a threats analysis as 
required by the Act. If completed wolf management plans exist, we will 
use them to assist in the threats analysis. If completed management 
plans are lacking, we will complete the threats analysis using whatever 
information is available to us. However, the absence of one or more 
State management plans may impair our threats analysis to the extent 
that delisting consideration might be deferred.
    We have been funding, or partially funding, State and tribal wolf 
monitoring, research, and management planning efforts for gray wolves. 
Such funding has occurred in the Midwest, the northern Rockies, and the 
Southwest. We intend to continue such funding, as our annual budgets 
allow, for the reclassified wolf populations in the Midwest (Eastern 
DPS) and the

[[Page 15838]]

northern Rockies (Western DPS). However, the Service lacks any mandate 
to fund State and tribal management or monitoring actions for species 
that have been delisted.

V. Native American Concerns

    A number of comments were received from Native American tribes and 
organizations and from individuals who identified themselves as Native 
Americans. While many of these comments have been addressed in other 
issue categories, the comments from Native American interests that are 
not addressed elsewhere are covered in this category.
    Issue 1: The Service should consider the cultural value of wolves 
to Native Americans when making a reclassification or delisting 
decision for the gray wolf.
    Response: During the development of this regulation, we contacted 
many tribes and Native American organizations to ensure that they were 
aware of the regulations we proposed on July 13, 2000, and to learn of 
their concerns with those proposed regulations. We will continue this 
dialogue, and expand these contacts as we proceed with our wolf 
recovery programs and ultimately propose the delisting of one or more 
gray wolf DPSs. In addition, we will followup with specific requests by 
several tribes for assistance with developing management plans, 
negotiating wolf protection agreements with States, and training, as 
described in the following responses. However, the Act provides no 
authority to extend its protections beyond the point at which a species 
no longer warrants a threatened or endangered status, so we cannot 
unreasonably delay or forgo reclassifying or delisting the wolf for 
cultural or spiritual reasons.
    Issue 2: The Service should restrict or prohibit lethal take of 
wolves within treaty ceded areas and on and around certain 
    Response: We understand the desire of several tribes to retain 
strong protections for gray wolves both on reservations and on lands 
surrounding the reservations. While there is no provision within the 
Act to maintain such Federal protections for species which no longer 
warrant a classification as threatened or endangered, we will work with 
the interested tribes and the appropriate States and strive to develop 
protective agreements for gray wolves on or near reservations. These 
agreements would replace some or all of the protections currently 
provided by their current endangered or threatened listings. We are 
currently working with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa 
Indians of Wisconsin and the WI DNR to develop such an agreement that 
might serve as a prototype agreement for other reservations. This 
agreement potentially will provide protection to threatened, but 
depredating, Wisconsin gray wolves beyond that provided by the new 4(d) 
regulation, and could continue to apply after Wisconsin gray wolves are 
federally delisted.
    Issue 3: The Service should delay its reclassification and 
delisting decisions to allow time for the development of an intertribal 
management agreement among tribes in the 1836 Treaty Ceded Area.
    Response: We appreciate the interest in developing wolf management 
plans both on reservations and across the areas ceded by treaty to the 
United States Government. Such plans would facilitate sharing 
expertise, exchanging data, and implementing cooperative research 
efforts and would lead to more effective wolf management programs. 
However, the Act requires that we base a species' listing status on the 
threats affecting it, and on whether the species meets the Act's 
definitions of threatened and endangered. Developing such an agreement 
is likely to be a lengthy process, involving discussions and 
negotiations with a number of agencies that have wildlife management 
authority in ceded areas. Therefore, while we are interested in 
assisting with the development of such a management agreement, we 
cannot delay this reclassification decision until such an agreement is 
    Issue 4: The Service should provide depredation control training to 
the Mille Lacs Band (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe) conservation officers.
    Response: Our proposal contained no changes to the listing of the 
gray wolf in Minnesota, nor to the special regulation that allows for 
the lethal control of Minnesota gray wolves depredating domestic 
animals. Currently, all wolf depredation control actions in Minnesota 
are carried out by the USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services, but the special 
regulation allows us to designate agents to conduct depredation control 
activities. We will pursue this request by the Mille Lacs Band to 
become involved in depredation investigation and control activities to 
determine the extent of this interest and how any necessary training 
could be arranged.
    Issue 5: The Service should require Minnesota DNR to coordinate 
with tribal governments in gray wolf management efforts.
    Response: We agree that wolf management activities will be more 
effective and more efficient if they are coordinated across State and 
reservation boundaries. We will continue to encourage such cooperation, 
and will assist in the development of agreements to enhance this 
cooperative management.
    Issue 6: The special regulation for most of the Eastern DPS should 
extend to tribes the authority to take, under section 6 cooperative 
agreements, for scientific research or conservation purposes.
    Response: Section 6 of the Act gives us the authority for the 
development of endangered species cooperative agreements with any State 
that ``establishes and maintains an adequate and active program for the 
conservation of endangered species and threatened species.'' Once such 
an agreement is approved, the State is eligible for cooperative 
endangered species grants, and gains some additional take authorities 
under the regulations at 50 CFR 17.21(c)(5) and 17.31(b). Subparagraph 
(2)(v) of the new special regulation at 50 CFR 17.40(d) contains 
parallel language for States with conservation agreements developed 
pursuant to section 6. However, tribes are not eligible for cooperative 
agreements under section 6, so we cannot extend to them any of the 
other benefits or authorities that come from such agreements. However, 
tribes can receive permits to take threatened wolves for scientific 
research or conservation purposes under 50 CFR 17.32.
    However, the new special regulation for most of the Eastern DPS 
extends to tribes two significant new authorities. One provision allows 
them to salvage from within their area of jurisdiction, and without a 
permit from us, dead gray wolf specimens that may be useful for 
traditional, cultural, or spiritual purposes. The second provision 
allows a tribe to conduct lethal wolf depredation control activities 
within its area of coverage within reservation boundaries without a 
permit from us. Both of these provisions are available for the tribes 
to use at their discretion.
    Issue 7: The proposed tribal salvage regulation for parts of the 
Eastern DPS should be expanded to provide tribal governments with half 
of the salvageable species that are taken from the ceded territories.
    Response: While the gray wolf is listed as a threatened or 
endangered species under the Act, we are required to put salvaged 
wolves and wolf parts to those uses that best serve the species' 
conservation. However, due to the continuing recovery and increase in 
wolf numbers in the Midwest, we believe sufficient wolf carcasses are

[[Page 15839]]

available to meet all remaining recovery needs while also giving tribes 
the authority to salvage carcasses and wolf parts found on reservations 
for traditional, cultural, or spiritual purposes. As is the case for 
wolves salvaged by State and Federal agents, the new special regulation 
under Sec.  17.40(o) provides that these tribal-salvaged wolves will be 
reported to us and will be retained or disposed of ``only in accordance 
with directions from the Service.'' We will routinely allow the tribes 
to retain such wolves and wolf parts. However, if an overriding 
conservation need arises--such as a disease outbreak that requires 
conducting standardized necropsies of dead wolves--we may need to use 
parts or all of some of those wolves for conservation purposes. Tribal-
salvaged wolves not needed for such urgent conservation purposes will 
be retained by, or returned to, the tribes. During the time that the 
gray wolf remains protected by the Act, we cannot categorically provide 
salvaged wolves or wolf parts to non-conservation uses, but we will 
attempt to provide, and to allow the tribes to salvage and retain, 
sufficient wolf carcasses and wolf parts to meet their needs for 
traditional, cultural, or spiritual purposes.
    We previously have authorized APHIS-Wildlife Services in Minnesota 
to make 50 percent of wolves trapped by that Federal agency for 
depredation control available to tribes for cultural purposes. That 
practice for Minnesota wolves will not be changed by the new 
    Issue 8: The Service should consult with tribes in the Dakotas to 
ensure that they have a role in the management of wolves on-reservation 
and within their State.
    Response: We acknowledge the desire of many Native American tribes 
to have management authority for those wolves found on their 
reservations if the protections of the Act are removed in the future. 
The Department of the Interior (Department) will assist those tribes in 
this pursuit. The Department will also assist interested tribes in 
developing cooperative wolf management agreements with the appropriate 
State agencies for off-reservation wolves.

W. Captive Gray Wolves and Wolf-Dog Hybrids

    Issue 1: One peer reviewer questioned what role captive gray wolves 
might have in our ongoing wolf recovery programs, and if that role was 
sufficient to warrant that captive wolves retain the Act's protections 
for as long as their source population is listed as threatened or 
    Response: We acknowledge that where our wolf recovery programs are 
nearing completion there may be only minor and largely speculative 
recovery roles remaining for captive gray wolves. Such roles would 
likely be for research, and such studies might be DPS-specific (for 
example, genetic or taxonomic studies, or disease resistence 
investigations). However, for the Southwestern (Mexican) gray wolf 
recovery program, many of the wolves currently in captivity retain 
great importance as potential subjects for reintroduction. For these 
reasons, we have chosen to continue to protect captive gray wolves 
according to their original source location in the wild.
    Issue 2: Various respondents recommended that the Service address 
the potential problems associated with wolf-dog hybrids, regulate their 
breeding and commercialization, and provide public education on wolf-
dog hybrid concerns.
    Response: We are well aware of the potential problems that wolf-dog 
hybrids can cause for our various wolf recovery programs. This final 
rule does not extend the protections of the Act to wolf-dog hybrids, so 
such animals can be removed from the wild if their presence is 
detrimental to wolf recovery. However, the Act provides no authority 
for the Service to regulate their breeding and commercialization; these 
actions must be undertaken at the State and local level. We will 
continue to support State efforts that restrict or prohibit the release 
of wolf-dog hybrids in wolf recovery areas.

X. Other Comments Specific to Minnesota

    Issue: Our proposal contained no suggested changes for Federal wolf 
protections in Minnesota. The proposed rule was developed in part to 
bring consistency to the legal protections afforded by the Act to all 
midwestern wolves by listing them all as threatened (as Minnesota 
wolves have been listed since 1978) and by applying to them a special 
regulation that is very similar to the special regulation that has 
applied to Minnesota wolves since the mid-1980s. The proposal stated 
that the Minnesota special regulation (50 CFR 17.40(d)) would continue 
to apply to Minnesota gray wolves.
    However, we received numerous comments that either suggested 
changes or opposed any changes to the Act's current protections for 
Minnesota gray wolves. Minnesota-specific comments included 
recommendations to decrease, remove, or increase those Federal 
protections; opposition to lethal depredation control of Minnesota 
wolves; criticism of the MN DNR's wolf management plan (much of which 
cannot be implemented until the wolves are federally delisted); 
suggestions for wolf hunting in Minnesota; and recommendations for 
changes to the current special rule for Minnesota wolves.
    Response: Our final rule follows the proposed rule in making no 
changes to the Federal regulations that apply to the gray wolf in 
Minnesota. Because the proposed rule did not contain proposed changes 
that would affect the Act's protections for Minnesota wolves, we cannot 
consider making any such regulatory changes at this time. Therefore, we 
are not addressing any of these comments in this document. However, 
these comments will be considered as we subsequently consider proposing 
additional regulatory changes that might affect the Act's protections 
for Minnesota wolves.

Y. Suggestions for Changes to Gray Wolf Recovery Programs

    Issue: We received a large number of diverse comments which 
suggested changes to one or more gray wolf recovery programs. These 
comments included suggestions to maintain and expand recovery 
partnerships (for example, with Native American tribes, private wolf 
research centers, landowners, Canada, and Mexico), map wolf travel 
corridors, increase law enforcement and protection, and provide more 
public education, ideas for additional research, and ways to reduce 
conflicts with human activities.
    Response: Because these comments did not address the proposed 
regulatory changes, but instead dealt with recovery actions and 
recovery plan implementation, they will not be discussed here. However, 
they will be referred to the appropriate Service gray wolf recovery 
teams or recovery coordinators for their consideration. Recovery 
programs and recovery plans are flexible and are intended to adapt to 
new knowledge, ideas, methods, and technology. Several of our gray wolf 
recovery plans may be reviewed for possible revision as a result of 
this rulemaking, and these comments will be considered for 
incorporation into those plans if they are revised. It is our policy to 
make drafts of revised recovery plans available for public review and 
comment, so there will be additional opportunities for input into our 
continuing gray wolf recovery programs.

[[Page 15840]]

Z. Miscellaneous Comments

    Issue 1: Commenters suggested that we should reconsider 
alternatives that were discussed in our proposal but which were not our 
preferred alternative. The alternatives of keeping gray wolves listed 
as endangered wherever they are currently so listed, and retaining the 
endangered status only throughout the West, were specifically 
recommended for our reconsideration.
    Response: As we reviewed the comments and additional data that have 
become available since we drafted the proposed rule, we have 
reconsidered alternatives described in the proposal, as well as other 
alternatives that might be appropriate. With regard to the above two 
specific alternatives recommended for reconsideration, our evaluation 
of the current biological status and threats to gray wolves clearly 
indicates that both the Western and Eastern DPSs no longer warrant a 
classification as endangered, and are more appropriately classified 
under the Act as threatened species.
    Our final rule is a modification of the proposed rule that now 
includes components of several other alternatives that were discussed 
in the proposal. One of those alternatives dealt with various boundary 
configurations for a DPS in the eastern United States and another 
included larger DPSs that included all of the 48 States.
    Issue 2: How will the Service regulate wolf game farms and wolf 
pelt farms following reclassification?
    Response: We are unaware of any existing wolf game farms or wolf 
pelt farms that use wolves that originated from within the 48 States or 
Mexico. Wolves in such farms would have been subject to the protection 
of the Act since 1978, and they could not have been legally killed for 
commercial purposes nor transported across State lines for commercial 
activities unless those purposes and activities promoted the species' 
recovery and were allowed under a permit we issued under 50 CFR 17.22 
or Sec.  17.32. This is an unlikely scenario, and we doubt that such 
wolf game farms or pelt farms exist. This situation will not change due 
to this reclassification, as the same Federal regulations will continue 
to apply to commercial use of threatened gray wolves.
    Under this reclassification, gray wolves in captivity remain 
protected by the Act, on the basis of the locations at which they, or 
their ancestors, were removed from the wild, regardless of where they 
are being held. Thus, Mexican wolves that are in captivity in New 
Orleans remain endangered, while a wolf from Michigan held at the same 
New Orleans facility is classified as threatened. Captive wolves from 
Canada or Alaska remain unprotected by the Act, even if they are held 
in facilities in one of the gray wolf DPSs.
    Facilities that breed gray wolves for use as pets, for exhibition, 
or for other nonrecovery purposes remain subject to the same legal 
requirements as they were before this regulatory change. Interstate 
commerce in such captive raised wolves continues to be prohibited by 
the Act, except under a Federal permit, if those wolves or their 
ancestors originated from within one of the DPSs. Intrastate commerce 
in such wolves is not regulated by the Act.
    Issue 3: Several commenters expressed concern that wolf populations 
will decrease substantially if Federal protection is reduced or removed 
and recommended that we establish an expedited process to reclassify 
such wolves from threatened to endangered (or relist them if they had 
been delisted).
    Response: Our analysis of the threats that gray wolves in the two 
reclassified DPSs will experience after their reclassification 
indicates that wolf populations will not decline if they are 
reclassified as threatened. However, wolf numbers and range will 
continue to be monitored at the same level of intensity as before this 
reclassification, so we will have data that will alert us if a 
population decline is occurring; Thus, we can reclassify wolves back to 
endangered status if necessary.
    The Act clearly recognizes the possibility that the Service might 
reclassify or delist a species prematurely, or that unanticipated 
threats may cause a species to unexpectedly decline following a 
reclassification or a delisting. The Act directs the Service, in 
cooperation with the States, to monitor delisted recovered species for 
at least 5 years after they are delisted, and to relist them--including 
emergency relisting--if the monitoring indicates that such action is 
necessary. Thus, the Act already contains a process to relist a 
species, and to do so on an emergency basis, if necessary. Similarly, 
the Service also has the authority to reclassify a species from 
threatened to endangered if monitoring data indicate the need. An 
emergency reclassification from threatened to endangered is possible, 
if monitoring indicates this is necessary.
    The new special regulations for the Western and Eastern DPSs both 
have reporting requirements for all wolves taken under their 
provisions. Thus, we will have information on any increased level of 
take that occurs as a result of these new rules, and we can promptly 
evaluate that level and make changes to the regulations, if 
    In addition, the Act contains a provision (section 4(b)(3)) that 
allows an interested party to provide data to us and to petition to 
have a species listed, delisted, or reclassified. This petition process 
is a mechanism to direct our attention to species' data or to threats 
that we might otherwise overlook.
    Issue 4: All costs of wolf monitoring, depredation control, and 
depredation mitigation efforts in Idaho should be paid by the Federal 
    Response: The Federal government currently funds all wolf-related 
activities in the Western DPS except for wolf depredation compensation 
payments, which are paid by Defenders of Wildlife. When the wolf 
population is recovered and delisted, and managed solely by the 
respective States and tribes, other sources of funding may be 
necessary. The Service cannot use its endangered species funding on 
species that are no longer listed under the Act, except to conduct the 
post-delisting monitoring required by section 4(g) of the Act. The 
States of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming have stated that, if the wolf 
population is to be delisted and managed solely by the States, some 
form of Federal funding should be provided, or they would not support 
delisting. This issue still has to be resolved.
    Issue 5: The Service should be responsible for any experimental 
population wolves that enter Wallowa County, Oregon.
    Response: The Service can manage any wolves that leave the 
nonessential experimental population areas, including those that might 
disperse into Oregon. The experimental population rules allow us to 
retrieve or manage any wolf known to be an experimental population 
animal regardless of its location. The Service has stated that any wolf 
that disperses outside of the experimental population area and attacks 
livestock will be killed. A wolf that has not caused conflicts with 
people or livestock may be monitored, but it generally will not be 
captured or managed. The Service has no interest in spending time or 
funding on lone wolves that may have dispersed into other States and 
are not causing problems. The Service's only active recovery programs 
in the northern Rocky Mountains will be in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. 
The Service has no plans or interest in management for wolf restoration 
in adjacent States. After delisting, wolf populations and their 
management would be the ultimate responsibility of those respective 

[[Page 15841]]

and tribal governments and their natural resource agencies.
AA. Nonsubstantive Comments
    Comments Not Germane to this Rulemaking. We received numerous 
comments covering a broad spectrum of wolf-related issues that are not 
the subject of this rulemaking. Some of these merely are beyond the 
scope of this rulemaking, while others dealt with issues that are 
beyond the authority of Service and of the Act. These comments covered 
such subjects as support for the Conservation and Reinvestment Act and 
the Roadless Initiative; support for, and opposition to, grazing on 
public lands; wolf reintroduction in Scotland; listing Alaskan wolves 
as endangered; and the red wolf. Since these issues do not relate to 
the action we proposed, they will not be addressed here.
    Another set of nongermane comments dealt with delisting wolves in 
the western Great Lakes States (now included in the Eastern DPS), and 
the conditions (legal, biological, and social) that should occur before 
and after such a delisting. We again emphasize that we have not 
proposed the delisting of these gray wolves, and we are not taking such 
action at this time. Therefore, comments relating to delisting western 
Great Lakes States wolves will not be further discussed in this 
document. However, we appreciate the concerns expressed in those 
comments, and we will review those concerns at such time as we begin 
working on a delisting proposal for those wolves.
    Expressions of Support or Opposition. Finally, we received a large 
number of comments expressing support for, or opposition to, wolf 
recovery and the proposal (or parts of it) without further elaboration 
or explanation. Those comments, and the interest they represent, are 
appreciated; however, because they did not contain scientific data, 
information on threats, or any other substantive information, they will 
not be further addressed in this final rule.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act and regulations (50 CFR 
Part 424) promulgated to implement the listing provisions of the Act 
set forth the procedures for listing, reclassifying, and delisting 
species. Species may be listed as threatened or endangered if one or 
more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act 
threatens the continued existence of the species. A species may be 
delisted, according to 50 CFR 424.11(d), if the best scientific and 
commercial data available substantiate that the species is neither 
endangered nor threatened because of (1) extinction, (2) recovery, or 
(3) error in the original data used for classification of the species. 
This analysis must be based upon the same five categories of threats 
specified in section 4(a)(1).
    In a subsequent section of this rule, we describe the three DPSs 
that are now being given separate treatment under the Act (refer to the 
Designation of Distinct Population Segments section above). These DPSs 
are the Western DPS, the Eastern DPS, and the Southwestern DPS. 
Therefore, for consistency and clarity in discussing each threat, the 
following analysis of the five categories of threats contains separate 
discussions for wolves within the geographic areas encompassed within 
the three DPSs.
    (Note that the Eastern DPS includes those areas that were 
identified in our July 13, 2000, proposal as the Western Great Lakes 
DPS and the Northeastern DPS. Refer to the Designation of Distinct 
Population Segments section above for a discussion of the reasons for 
combining the two proposed DPSs.)
    For species that are already listed as threatened or endangered, 
this analysis of threats is primarily an evaluation of the threats that 
could potentially affect the species in the foreseeable future 
following the delisting or downlisting and the removal or reduction of 
the Act's protections. Our evaluation of the future threats to the gray 
wolf in the Eastern DPS-especially those threats to wolves in the 
Midwest that would occur after removal or reduction of the protections 
of the Act-is partially based upon the wolf management plans and 
assurances of the States and tribes in that area. If the gray wolf were 
to be federally delisted in the future, then State and tribal 
management plans will be the major determinants of wolf protection and 
prey availability, will set and enforce limits on human utilization and 
other forms of taking, and will determine the overall regulatory 
framework for conservation or exploitation of gray wolves.
    Even in those areas where the gray wolf is now reclassified to 
threatened status, many aspects of State and tribal management plans 
cannot yet be implemented because of the remaining and overriding 
prohibitions of the Act. However, State and tribal plans, to the extent 
that they have been developed, can serve as significant indicators of 
public attitudes and agency goals, which, in turn, are evidence of the 
probability of continued progress toward full recovery under the Act. 
Such indicators of attitudes and goals are especially important in 
assessing the future of a species that was officially persecuted by 
government agencies as recently as 40 years ago and still is reviled by 
some members of the public. Therefore, below we provide some details on 
the components of the wolf management plans that currently exist and 
analyze their impact on gray wolves in light of the changes in Federal 
protection that arise from this rule.
    After a thorough review of all available information and an 
evaluation of the following five factors specified in section 4(a)(1) 
of the Act, we are changing the Act's protections for the gray wolf 
across the conterminous 48 States, except for Minnesota, portions of 
several southwestern and southern Rocky Mountain States, Mexico, and 
the nonessential experimental populations in the northern U.S. Rocky 
Mountains and southwestern U.S. Significant gray wolf recovery has 
occurred, and continues as a result of the reduction of threats as 
described below.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    General. A popular perception is that wolves inhabit only remote 
portions of pristine forests or mountainous areas, where human 
developments and other activities have produced negligible change to 
the natural landscape. Their extirpation south of Canada and Alaska, 
except for the heavily forested portions of northeastern Minnesota, 
reinforced this popular belief. However, wolves survived in those areas 
not because those were the only places with the necessary habitat 
conditions, but because only in those remote areas were they 
sufficiently free of the human persecution that elsewhere killed wolves 
faster than the species could reproduce (Mech 1995).
    Wolf research, as well as the expansion of wolf range over the last 
2 decades, has shown that wolves can successfully occupy a wide range 
of habitats, and they are not dependent on wilderness areas for their 
survival. In the past, gray wolf populations occupied nearly every type 
of habitat north of mid-Mexico that contained large ungulate prey 
species, including bison, elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, and 
caribou. An inadequate prey density and a high level of human 
persecution apparently are the only factors that limit wolf 
distribution (Mech 1995). Virtually any area that has sufficient prey 
and adequate protection from human-caused mortality could be considered 
potential gray wolf habitat.
    Eastern DPS. In the western Great Lakes States, wolves in the 
densely forested northeastern corner of

[[Page 15842]]

Minnesota have expanded into the more agricultural portions of central 
and northwestern Minnesota, northern and central Wisconsin, and the 
entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Habitats currently being used by 
wolves span the broad range from the mixed hardwood-coniferous forest 
wilderness area of northern Minnesota; through sparsely settled, but 
similar habitats in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin; 
into more intensively cultivated and livestock-producing portions of 
central and northwestern Minnesota and central Wisconsin; and even 
approaching the fringes of the St. Paul, Minnesota, and Madison, 
Wisconsin, suburbs. Wolves are also dispersing from Minnesota into the 
agricultural landscape of North and South Dakota in increasing numbers 
(Licht and Fritts 1994, Straughan and Fain 2002). Similarly, a gray 
wolf that had been radio-collared in Michigan's Upper Peninsula was 
recently mistaken for a coyote and killed in north-central Missouri, 
presumably traveling through expanses of agricultural land along the 
way (Missouri Department of Conservation 2001).
    Based upon computer modeling, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of 
Michigan contain large tracts of wolf habitat, estimated at 15,052 sq 
km (5,812 sq mi) and 29,348 sq km (11,331 sq mi), respectively 
(Mladenoff et al. 1995; WI DNR 1999a). In Wisconsin, much of this 
suitable habitat is on public lands, with most of these public lands 
being National, State, and county forest lands.
    Wisconsin DNR biologists conducted a population viability analysis 
(PVA) using the computer simulation model VORTEX. The purpose of a PVA 
is to estimate extinction probabilities by modeling long-term species' 
population changes that result from multiple interacting factors. The 
resulting extinction probabilities may be able to provide some limited 
insight into the effects that management alternatives, environmental 
fluctuation, and biological factors may have on rare species' 
populations over many years.
    Under most of the scenarios that were modeled by WI DNR, the 
results of the PVA indicated that a wolf population of 300 to 500 
animals would have a low probability of extinction over a 100-year 
timeframe. However, the modeling indicated that the population might 
decline to a level that might trigger relisting under State law (fewer 
than 80 wolves for 3 years). ``[S]tate-relisting probabilities'' ranged 
from 10 to 40 percent for those scenarios which looked at a combination 
of moderate environmental variability and a 5 percent probability of 
catastrophic events. Within-State extinction probabilities were only 1 
percent for those same scenarios (WI DNR 1999a). However, at this stage 
of their development, PVA models must be used with great caution, and 
it would be unwise to base management decisions solely on their 
predictions. (Refer above to section Summary of Comments and 
Recommendations, section B, Compliance with Laws, Regulations and 
Policies, Issue #11 for additional discussion on the problems of 
population viability analysis.)
    The Wisconsin wolf population has increased at an average annual 
rate of 19 percent since 1985, and at 26 percent annually since 1993. 
Wisconsin had at least 320 wild gray wolves in early 2002 (WI DNR 2002, 
Wydeven et al. 2002). The Michigan wolf population (excluding Isle 
Royale) has increased at an average annual rate of about 24 percent in 
recent years and was at least 280 wolves in early 2002 (MI DNR 2002). 
Wolf survey methods in both States focus on wolf packs and may miss 
many lone individuals, thus underestimating the actual wolf 
populations. However, it is safe to say that the combined gray wolf 
population in the two States (excluding Isle Royale, MI) was at least 
600 animals in late winter 2001-2002.
    Final State wolf management plans for Michigan and Wisconsin, 
respectively, have identified habitat protection as one of their top 
priorities for maintaining a viable wolf population. Both State wolf 
management plans emphasize the need to manage human access to wolf 
areas by avoiding increasing road densities, protecting habitat 
corridors between larger tracts of wolf habitat, avoiding disturbance 
and habitat degradation in the immediate vicinity of den and rendezvous 
sites, and maintaining adequate prey species for wolves by suitable 
habitat and prey harvest regulations.
    Both the Michigan Plan and the Wisconsin Plan establish wolf 
population goals that exceed the viable population threshold identified 
in the Federal recovery plan for isolated wolf populations, that is, a 
population of 200 or more wolves for 5 consecutive years (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 1992a). Each State adopted this ``isolated 
population'' approach to ensure the continued existence of a viable 
wolf population within its borders regardless of the condition or 
existence of wolf populations in adjacent States or Canada.
    The Michigan Plan contains a long-term minimum goal of 200 wolves 
(excluding Isle Royale wolves) and identifies 800 wolves as the 
estimated carrying capacity of suitable areas on the Upper Peninsula 
(MI DNR 1997). (``Carrying capacity'' is the number of animals that an 
area is able to support over the long term; for wolves it is primarily 
based on the availability of prey animals and competition from other 
wolf packs.)
    The Wisconsin Plan identifies a management goal of 350 wolves, well 
above the 200 wolves specified in the Federal recovery plan for a 
viable isolated wolf population. After the Wisconsin wolf population 
reaches 250 (excluding wolves on Native American reservations), the 
species will be removed from the State's threatened and endangered 
species list (WI DNR 1999a). Wisconsin DNR is likely to begin the State 
delisting process in late 2002.
    Three comparable surveys of wolf numbers and range in Minnesota 
have been carried out in recent decades. The first survey estimated a 
State wolf population of 1,235 in 1979 (Berg and Kuehn 1982). In 1989, 
1,500 to 1,750 wolves were estimated in the State (Fuller et al. 1992). 
This represents an average annual increase of about 3 percent. The 1998 
survey (Berg and Benson 1999) estimated that the State's wolf 
population was 2,445 animals, indicating an average annual growth rate 
of 4 to 5 percent during the intervening 9 years. While estimates of 
the wolf population that are made at about 10-year intervals do not 
provide any insight into annual fluctuations in wolf numbers that might 
be due to winter conditions, prey availability and vulnerability, legal 
depredation control actions, and illegal killing, these 3 population 
estimates clearly indicate that the Minnesota wolf population has 
continued to increase. As of the 1998 survey, the State's wolf 
population was approximately twice the planning goal for Minnesota, as 
specified in the Eastern Plan. (Refer to the Recovery Progress of the 
Eastern Gray Wolf section above, for additional details on the increase 
in numbers and range of Minnesota wolves.)
    The MN DNR prepared a Wolf Management Plan and an accompanying 
legislative bill in early 1999 and submitted them to the Minnesota 
Legislature. However, the Legislature failed to approve the MN Plan in 
the 1999 session. In early 2000, the MN DNR released a second bill that 
would result in somewhat different wolf management and protection than 
would the 1999 bill. The Minnesota Legislature did not pass the 2000 
Minnesota wolf management bill, but instead passed separate legislation 
directing the DNR to

[[Page 15843]]

prepare a new management plan based upon various new wolf protection 
and wolf take provisions also contained in that bill. MN DNR, in 
cooperation with the MN Department of Agriculture, completed a Wolf 
Management Plan (MN Plan) in early 2001 (MN DNR 2001).
    The MN Plan's stated goal is ``to ensure the long-term survival of 
wolves in Minnesota while addressing wolf-human conflicts that 
inevitably result when wolves and people live in the same vicinity.'' 
It establishes a minimum goal of 1,600 wolves, with provisions to 
monitor the population and to take prompt corrective action if wolf 
numbers drop below that threshold. The MN Plan divides the State into 2 
wolf management zones, designated as Zones A and B. Zone A corresponds 
to wolf management zones 1 through 4 in the Federal Eastern Recovery 
Plan, while Zone B constitutes zone 5 in the Federal Eastern Recovery 
Plan. Within Zone A, wolves would receive strong State protection, 
unless involved in attacks on domestic animals. In Zone B, more-liberal 
taking regulations would allow wolves to be killed to protect domestic 
animals under a much broader set of circumstances. However, neither the 
Zone A nor the Zone B regulations can be implemented while Minnesota 
gray wolves are federally listed as a threatened species.
    When our July 13, 2000, proposed rule was being written, the 
Minnesota Legislature had not passed wolf management legislation, so we 
had little basis on which to evaluate the management and protection 
that Minnesota wolves would receive if we would remove their Federal 
protection. Therefore, we did not propose any change in Federal 
protection at that time. Because this final rule retains the Federal 
threatened listing and the associated protection for Minnesota gray 
wolves, and thus precludes the implementation of the MN Plan, we have 
not included a detailed review of the MN Plan in this rule. In the 
future, if and when we propose a change to the Federal protection of 
Minnesota gray wolves, we will evaluate and discuss the resulting 
affects of implementing the MN Plan in that proposed rule.
    The complete text of the Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota wolf 
management plans, as well as our summaries of those plans, can be found 
    On the basis of discussions and written communications with Native 
American tribes and organizations prior to our proposal, and further 
supported by the comments we received from those sources during the 
comment period, we expect wolf populations to continue to be conserved 
on most, and probably all, Native American reservations in the western 
Great Lakes area. Those practices will augment the wolf population 
goals described above for the State DNRs. While we are unable to 
perform a comprehensive analysis of the likely future management and 
protection afforded to wolves on Native American reservations, we 
believe their traditional respect for the wolf, and its importance in 
Native American culture, will secure the species' future existence on 
most land under Native American control. At the time we consider 
initiating work on a proposal to delist or otherwise further reduce the 
Federal protection of gray wolves, we will again consult with Native 
American tribes and organizations to further discuss and evaluate their 
wolf management and protection plans and preferences.
    The wolf retains great cultural significance and traditional value 
to many tribes and their members (Eli Hunt, Leech Lake Tribal Council, 
in litt. 1998; Mike Schrage, Fond du Lac Resource Management Division, 
in litt. 1998a). Some Native Americans view wolves as competitors for 
deer and moose, while others are interested in the harvest of the wolf 
as a furbearer (Schrage, in litt. 1998a). Many tribes intend to manage 
their natural resources, wolves among them, in a sustainable manner in 
order that they be available to their descendants. However, traditional 
natural resource harvest practices often include only a minimum amount 
of regulation by the tribal government (Hunt in litt. 1998).
    In order to retain and strengthen these cultural connections, some 
tribes are opposed to the unnecessary killing of wolves on reservations 
and on ceded lands, even if wolves were to be delisted in the future. 
For example, because of the strong cultural significance of the wolf to 
their culture, the Ojibwa people support its protection (James 
Schlender, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, in litt. 
1998). Additionally, the Tribal Council of the Leech Lake Band of 
Minnesota Ojibwe recently has adopted a resolution that describes the 
sport and recreational harvest of gray wolves as an inappropriate use 
of the animal. The resolution supports the limited harvest of wolves to 
be used for traditional or spiritual purposes by enrolled tribal 
members. This limited harvest would only be allowed by the tribe if it 
does not negatively affect the wolf population. Based on the Council's 
request, we will assist the Council with obtaining wolf pelts and parts 
that become available from other sources, such as depredation control 
activities. The Leech Lake Reservation is home to an estimated 75 to 
100 gray wolves, the largest population of wolves on a Native American 
reservation in the 48 conterminous States (Hunt in litt. 1998).
    The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians (Minnesota) has indicated 
that it is likely to develop a wolf management plan that will probably 
be very similar in scope and content to the plan developed by the MN 
DNR. The Band's position on wolf management is ``wolf preservation 
through effective management,'' and the Band is confident that wolves 
will continue to thrive on their lands (Lawrence Bedeau, Red Lake Band 
of Chippewa Indians, in litt. 1998).
    The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (Michigan) has at least one wolf 
pack of four animals on its lands. They will continue to list the gray 
wolf as a protected animal under the Tribal Code even if federally 
delisted, with hunting and trapping prohibited (Mike Donofrio, 
Biological Services, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, pers. comm. 1998). 
Other tribes, such as the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, 
have requested a slower pace to any wolf delisting process to allow 
more time for the preparation of tribal wolf management plans. The Fond 
du Lac Band has passed a resolution opposing Federal delisting and any 
other measure that would permit trapping, hunting, or poisoning of the 
gray wolf (Schrage in litt. 1998b).
    Several Midwestern tribes (e.g., the Bad River Band of Lake 
Superior Chippewa Indians and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa 
Indians) have expressed concern regarding the possibility of the 
reclassification (and a potential future delisting) resulting in 
increased mortality of gray wolves on reservation lands, in the areas 
immediately surrounding the reservations, and in lands ceded by treaty 
to the Federal government by the tribes (Kiogama in litt. 2000). 
Interest has also been expressed in having our assistance in developing 
tribal and intertribal wolf management plans prior to delisting.
    The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) has 
Stated its intent to work closely with the States to cooperatively 
manage wolves in the ceded territories in the Upper Midwest, and will 
not develop a separate wolf management plan. The Commission intends to 
work with us to ensure that State plans will adequately protect the 
wolf (Schlender in litt. 1998).
    The tribes are very concerned with the details of any change in 

[[Page 15844]]

protection for the gray wolf. However, the GLIFWC's Voigt Task Force, 
representing the off-reservation treaty-reserved fish, wildlife, and 
gathering rights of 11 tribes in the Midwest, supports the 
reclassification to threatened status and the accompanying increased 
flexibility provided by the special regulation that will now apply to 
the growing wolf populations in Michigan and Wisconsin. Although few if 
any tribes are likely to take depredating wolves under the new 
regulations, they appreciate being granted these authorities (Schlender 
in litt. 2000).
    The lands of national forests, and the prey species found in their 
various habitats, are important to wolf conservation and recovery in 
the western Great Lakes States. There are six national forests in that 
area that have resident wolves. Their wolf populations range from 3 on 
the Nicolet National Forest in northeastern Wisconsin to an estimated 
300-400 on the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. The 
land base of the Chequamegon National Forest currently is used by 
nearly half of the wolves in Wisconsin. All of these national forests 
are operated in conformance with standards and guidelines in their 
management plans that follow the recommendations of the 1992 Recovery 
Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf (Service 1992a). Reclassification to 
threatened status is not expected to change these standards and 
guidelines; in fact, the gray wolf is expected to remain classified as 
a sensitive species by the Regional Forester for U.S. Forest Service 
Region 9 at least for 5 years even after Federal delisting (Steve 
Mighton, U.S. Forest Service, pers. comm. 1998). This continuation of 
current national forest management practices will be an important 
factor in ensuring the long-term viability of gray wolf populations in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
    Gray wolves regularly use four units of the National Park System in 
the western Great Lakes States and may occasionally use three or four 
other units. Although the National Park Service (NPS) has participated 
in the development of some of the State wolf management plans in this 
area, NPS is not bound by those plans. Instead, the NPS Organic Act and 
the NPS Management Policy on Wildlife give the agency a separate 
responsibility to conserve natural and cultural resources and the 
wildlife present within the parks. National Park Service management 
policies require that native species be protected against harvest, 
removal, destruction, harassment, or harm through human action, so 
management emphasis will continue to minimize the human impacts on wolf 
populations. Thus, because of their responsibility to preserve all 
wildlife, units of the National Park System can be more protective of 
wildlife than are State plans and regulations. In the case of the gray 
wolf, the NPS Organic Act and NPS policies will continue to provide 
protection to the wolf even after Federal delisting has occurred.
    Voyageurs National Park, along Minnesota's northern border, has a 
land base of nearly 882 sq km (340 sq mi). Unpublished data from a 4-
year wolf study indicate that there are a minimum of 6 to 9 packs that 
have at least a portion of their territory within the park. Management 
and protection of wolves within the park is not expected to change 
significantly after they are reclassified to threatened or even if 
delisted. Temporary closures around wolf denning and rendezvous sites 
will be enacted whenever they are discovered in Voyageurs National Park 
to reduce human disturbance. Sport harvest of wolves within the park 
will be prohibited, regardless of what may be allowed beyond park 
boundaries in future years. If there is a need to control depredating 
wolves (unlikely due to the current absence of agricultural activities 
adjacent to the park) the park will work with the State to conduct 
control activities outside the park to resolve the problem (Barbara 
West, Voyageurs National Park, in litt. 1999).
    The wolf population in Isle Royale National Park is described above 
(see the Recovery Progress of the Eastern Gray Wolf section above). The 
NPS has indicated that it will continue to closely monitor and study 
these wolves, but at this time it does not plan to take any special 
measures to ensure their continued existence, regardless of their 
status under the Act. This wolf population is very small and isolated 
from the remainder of the western Great Lakes population; it is not 
considered to be significant to the recovery or long-term viability of 
the gray wolf (Service 1992a).
    Two other units of the National Park System-Pictured Rocks National 
Lakeshore and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway--are regularly used by 
wolf packs. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a narrow strip of land 
along Michigan's Lake Superior Shoreline; it contains wolves during the 
nonwinter months when deer populations are high. The Lakeshore intends 
to protect denning and rendezvous sites at least as strictly as the MI 
DNR Plan recommends (Brian Kenner, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 
in litt. 1998). The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, in Wisconsin 
and Minnesota, is also a mostly linear ownership, and it makes up 
portions of the territories of 3 to 5 packs of 10 to 40 wolves. The 
Riverway is likely to limit public access to denning and rendezvous 
sites, and to follow other management and protective practices outlined 
in the respective State wolf management plans (Robin Maercklein, St. 
Croix National Scenic Riverway, in litt. 1998).
    In the western Great Lakes area, we currently manage seven units 
within the National Wildlife Refuge System with wolf activity. Primary 
among these are Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Tamarac NWR 
in Minnesota, as well as Seney NWR in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 
Agassiz NWR has had as many as 20 wolves in 2 or 3 packs in recent 
years. Mange and illegal shootings reduced them to 5 wolves in a single 
pack and a separate single wolf in 1999, but in 2001, 2 packs with an 
estimated 11 members were using the refuge. Tamarac NWR has 2 packs, 
with approximately 18 wolves, using that refuge. Seney NWR currently 
has two packs, with a total of 4 wolves in the packs, plus several lone 
wolves also frequenting the refuge. Rice Lake NWR, in Minnesota, had 1 
or 2 packs using the refuge in 2001. Late in the winter of 1998-99 a 
pair of gray wolves were located on Necedah NWR. By winter 2001-2002, 
there were 2 packs on the Refuge, with a total of at least 7 wolves in 
the packs. Sherburne NWR and Crane Meadows NWR, also in Minnesota, each 
have several individual wolves, but probably lack established wolf 
    Gray wolves occurring on National Wildlife Refuges in the western 
Great Lakes States will be monitored, and refuge habitat management 
actions will maintain the current prey base for them while they are 
listed as threatened, and for a minimum of 5 years following any future 
delisting. Trapping or hunting by government trappers in response to 
depredation complaints will not be authorized on these refuges. 
However, because of the relatively small size of these NWRs, most, 
perhaps all, of these packs and individual wolves spend significant 
amounts of time off of these NWRs.
    The extra protection afforded to resident and transient wolves, 
their den and rendezvous sites, and their prey by six national forests, 
two National Parks, and numerous National Wildlife Refuges in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will further ensure the continuing 
recovery of wolves in the three States.

[[Page 15845]]

    In summary, we believe that habitat or range destruction or 
degradation, or related factors that may affect gray wolf numbers, do 
not by themselves or in combination with other factors place the 
Eastern DPS of the gray wolf in danger of extinction. Recovery efforts 
over the past decade, as well as State, tribal, and Federal land 
management agency wolf management plans and practices will provide 
adequate protection for wolf populations, maintain their prey base, 
preserve denning sites and dispersal corridors, and are likely to keep 
wolf populations well above the numerical recovery criteria established 
in the Federal Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf (Service 
    Western DPS. The Recovery Plan (Service 1987) and the EIS for wolf 
reintroduction into Yellowstone and central Idaho (Service 1994a) 
recommended that wolf recovery efforts in the northern U.S. Rocky 
Mountains focus on areas that contained large blocks of public land, 
abundant wild ungulates, and minimal livestock to cause potential 
conflicts between people and wolves. Three primary recovery areas were 
identified: northwestern Montana, central Idaho, and the Greater 
Yellowstone Area (Service 1987). The northwestern Montana recovery area 
(more than 50,000 sq km (19,200 sq mi) is the area north of Interstate 
90 and west of Interstate 15, and is a mixture of public land, 
primarily administrated by the USDA Forest Service, and private land. 
The economy and local culture is diverse and not as agriculturally 
based as in other parts of Montana (Bangs et al. 1995). The Greater 
Yellowstone Area and central Idaho areas, 64,000 sq km (24,600 sq mi) 
and 53,900 sq km (20,700 sq mi) respectively, are primarily composed of 
public lands (Service 1994a). These areas of potential wolf habitat are 
secure, and no foreseeable habitat-related threats prevent them from 
supporting a wolf population that exceeds recovery levels. There is 
already a demonstrated connectivity between occupied wolf habitat in 
Canada, northwestern Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming to ensure routine 
interchange of sufficient numbers of dispersing wolves to maintain 
demographic and genetic diversity in the wolf metapopulation. To date, 
natural connectivity between Idaho and northwestern Montana into the 
Greater Yellowstone Area appears to be more limited than that between 
Canada, northwestern Montana, and Idaho, but it does not appear to be a 
significant issue that would threaten wolf population viability in the 
Yellowstone segment of the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population. In 
addition, management actions have relocated about 120 wolves in and 
between Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, including relocations between the 
various recovery areas. Wolf relocations will be used less often at 
higher wolf population levels because much of the most suitable wolf 
habitat is already occupied by resident wolf packs, but it will still 
occur and can further lessen the probability that genetic isolation 
could impact wolf population viability.
    Wild ungulate populations in these three areas are composed mainly 
of elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, and (only in the Greater 
Yellowstone Area) bison. The States of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming have 
managed resident ungulate populations for decades and maintain them at 
densities that would support a recovered wolf population. There is no 
foreseeable condition that would cause a decline in ungulate 
populations significant enough to affect a recovered wolf population. 
While 100,000 to 250,000 wild ungulates are estimated in each State, 
domestic ungulates, primarily cattle and sheep, are typically at least 
twice as numerous even on public lands (Service 1994a). The only areas 
large enough to support wolf packs, but lacking livestock grazing, are 
Yellowstone National Park and some adjacent USDA Forest Service 
Wilderness and parts of wilderness areas in central Idaho and 
northwestern Montana. Consequently, many wolf pack territories have 
included areas used by livestock, primarily cattle. While there is no 
livestock grazing in Glacier National Park, every wolf pack in 
northwestern Montana has interacted with some livestock, primarily 
cattle. Conflict between wolves and livestock has resulted in the 
annual removal of less than 6 percent of the wolf population (Bangs et 
al. 1995, Service et al. 2002). This level of removal by itself is not 
believed to cause declines in wolf populations.
    In summary, we do not believe that habitat loss or deterioration, 
habitat fragmentation, or a decline in the abundance of wild prey will 
occur at levels that will affect wolf recovery and long-term population 
viability in the Western DPS.
    Southwestern DPS. Sufficient suitable habitat exists in the 
Southwestern United States to support current recovery plan objectives 
for the Southwestern (Mexican) gray wolf. These habitats occur 
primarily on national forests and Native American reservations. Current 
and reasonably foreseeable management practices on these areas are 
expected to support ungulate populations at levels that will sustain 
wolf populations which meet or exceed recovery plan objectives. Habitat 
destruction or modification is not currently considered a threat or 
deterrent for restoration of Southwestern (Mexican) gray wolves.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    General. Since their listing under the Act, no gray wolves have 
been legally killed or removed from the wild in the conterminous 48 
States for either commercial or recreational purposes. We acknowledge 
that some wolves may have been illegally killed for commercial use of 
the pelts and other parts, but illegal commercial trafficking in wolf 
pelts or wolf parts is believed to be rare. Illegal capture of wolves 
for commercial breeding purposes is also possible, but is believed to 
be rare. The large fines and prison sentences provided for by the Act 
for criminal violations are believed to substantially discourage and 
minimize the illegal killing of wolves for commercial or recreational 
purposes. These penalties will remain following the reclassification to 
threatened status, although the maximum fines and prison sentences are 
reduced to $25,000 and 6 months for the wolves reclassified to 
    The intentional or incidental killing, or capture and permanent 
confinement, of endangered or threatened gray wolves for scientific 
purposes can only legally occur under permits issued by us (for 
example, under section 10(a)(1)(A) and 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act), under 
an incidental take statement issued by us as part of a biological 
opinion evaluating the effects of an action by a Federal agency, under 
an incidental take permit issued by us pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B), 
or by a State agency operating under a cooperative agreement with us 
pursuant to section 6 of the Act (50 CFR 17.21(c)(5) and 17.31(b)). 
Although exact figures are not available rangewide, such removals of 
wolves from the wild have been very limited and probably comprised an 
average of fewer than 2 animals per year since the species was first 
listed as endangered. These animals were either taken from the 
Minnesota wolf population during long-term research activities (about 
15 gray wolves); were accidental takings as a result of research 
activities in Wisconsin (4-5 mortalities and 1 long-term confinement); 
were accidentally killed during routine capture, monitoring, and 
research efforts in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, or Arizona (fewer than 6 
wolves); were

[[Page 15846]]

removed from the endangered population in Mexico (5 wolves) to be used 
as breeding stock for reintroduction programs in the United States; or 
were previously released Canis lupus baileyi that were recaptured for 
probable permanent confinement after being judged unsuitable for the 
reintroduction program (9 wolves) (William Berg, MN DNR, in litt. 1998; 
Mech, in litt. 1998; Brian T. Kelly, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
pers. comm. 2002; Wydeven 1998).
    We believe that no wolves have been legally removed from the wild 
for educational purposes in recent years. Wolves that are used for such 
purposes are the captive-reared offspring of wolves that were already 
in captivity for other reasons.
    Refer to the Depredation Control Programs in the Midwestern States 
and Depredation Control Programs in the Western DPS sections under the 
Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section, factor D. The 
adequacy or inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, below, for 
discussions of additional wolf mortalities associated with wolf 
depredation control programs.
    Eastern DPS. The taking of gray wolves that are now classified as 
threatened for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational 
purposes remains generally prohibited under the Act, but can be 
authorized by Federal permit. In addition, the taking of threatened 
wolves for conservation purposes can be done without an authorizing 
permit, if that taking is done by an employee or agent of a State 
conservation agency having an approved conservation agreement under the 
provisions of section 6(c) of the Act. The wildlife management agencies 
of the States of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, and 
South Dakota each have such an approved conservation agreement, and 
therefore will be able to take gray wolves for conservation purposes. 
The amount of such take must be reported to us annually.
    This reclassification to threatened status for the Eastern DPS will 
not result in any decrease in protection for gray wolves in Minnesota, 
because they already are classified as threatened there. Therefore, 
there will be no increase in the taking of Minnesota wolves for these 
purposes. The extremely small current level of such take has not 
affected the recovery of Minnesota wolves, and is not expected to do so 
in the future.
    Gray wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and 
any other State where they may occur in the Eastern DPS are now subject 
to a possible increase in take, due to this reclassification, by 
employees or agents of these States. However, this take must be for 
conservation purposes, and is thus likely to be either for research 
purposes or part of a wolf depredation control program. (Depredation 
control programs, and the take expected to result from them under the 
new section 4(d) special regulation that now applies to parts of the 
Eastern DPS, are discussed in the Depredation Control Programs in the 
Midwestern States section under the Summary of Factors Affecting the 
Species section, factor D, The adequacy or inadequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms, below.) Therefore, we believe that such take 
will be minimal and that exempting such take is consistent with the 
recovery of the wolf in the Eastern DPS. To date, there has been no 
take of wolves for conservation purposes in, and we do not anticipate 
such take unless one or more packs becomes established in, the Dakotas 
or other States within this DPS, except for Minnesota, Wisconsin, and 
Michigan. Existing regulations require that the take must be for 
conservation purposes, and must be consistent with gray wolf recovery.
    In summary, the taking of wolves by tribes, Federal agencies, 
organizations, or private citizens for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes may increase slightly, because the 
Act allows us to issue take permits for zoological exhibition, 
educational purposes, and ``special purposes consistent with the Act'' 
for threatened but not for endangered wildlife. However, the 
requirement that such take must be consistent with the conservation of 
the threatened species means that the magnitude of the take will be 
small and cannot inhibit gray wolf recovery. In addition, any 
additional take, under the new 4(d) regulation, of threatened wolves by 
State conservation agency employees must be for scientific research or 
conservation programs, and therefore must be consistent with continued 
wolf recovery.
    Western DPS. Since western gray wolves were listed as endangered 
and experimental, no legal commercial, recreational, or educational 
utilization or take of them has occurred. In the States where wolves 
are now reclassified to threatened status and are now covered by the 
new 4(d) special regulation, no legal take would be allowed for these 
purposes under the threatened classification or under the new special 
    We believe some wolf mortalities associated with the ongoing 
scientific studies of wolves will continue to occur. Some of these 
studies involve capturing and radio-collaring wolves. Wolf capture by 
trapping, helicopter netgunning, and darting has the potential to 
seriously injure or kill wolves. Rare, these unintentional mortalities 
generally average less than 2 percent of the wolves handled (Service 
1994a). During the reintroduction of wolves from Canada, nearly 100 
wolves were handled and 2 died. Since then, there have been fewer than 
6 wolf mortalities out of over 400 wolves captured as part of routine 
trapping and radio-collaring for monitoring purposes in Montana, Idaho, 
and Wyoming.
    Southwestern DPS. In Arizona, New Mexico, the southern half of Utah 
and Colorado, the western half of Oklahoma and Texas, and Mexico, gray 
wolves continue to be protected by section 9 of the Act under their 
endangered or nonessential experimental population classifications. 
These classifications prohibit any commercial or recreational take of 
gray wolves, and we are unaware of any such take of southwestern wolves 
since their reintroduction. Enforcement by us will continue to keep 
such take to minimal levels.
    Take for scientific or recovery purposes, including educational 
purposes, will be available in these States, but such take can be 
authorized only by a permit from us, and it must promote the 
conservation of the species. Thus, in all cases, gray wolf take for 
scientific, educational, and conservation purposes must benefit the 
gray wolf and must promote its recovery. Therefore, any take of this 
nature will not negatively impact continuing wolf recovery.
    We do not believe that these forms of intentional take comprise a 
threat to the southwestern gray wolves, nor will they significantly 
impede recovery progress.

C. Disease or Predation

    Disease. Many diseases and parasites have been reported for the 
gray wolf, and several of them have had significant impacts during the 
recovery of the species in the 48 conterminous States (Brand et al. 
1995). These diseases and parasites, and perhaps others, must be 
considered to be significant potential threats to gray wolf populations 
in the future. Thus, in order to avoid a disease/parasite-related 
decline in the gray wolf population, their presence and impacts require 
diligent monitoring and appropriate follow-up for the foreseeable 
    Eastern DPS. Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a relatively new disease 
that infects wolves, domestic dogs, foxes, coyotes, skunks, and 
raccoons. Recognized in the United States in 1977 in domestic dogs,

[[Page 15847]]

it appeared in Minnesota wolves (based upon retrospective serologic 
evidence) live-trapped as early as 1977 (Mech et al. 1986). However, 
Minnesota wolves may have been exposed to the virus as early as 1973 
(Mech and Goyal 1995). Serologic evidence of gray wolf exposure to CPV 
peaked at 95 percent of a group of Minnesota wolves live-trapped in 
1989 (Mech and Goyal 1993). In a captive colony of Minnesota wolves, 
pup and yearling mortality from CPV was 92 percent of the animals that 
showed indications of active CPV infections in 1983 (Mech and Fritts 
1987), demonstrating the substantial impacts this disease can have on 
young wolves. It is believed that the population impacts of CPV occur 
via diarrhea-induced dehydration leading to abnormally high pup 
mortality (WI DNR 1999a).
    There is no evidence that CPV has caused a population decline or 
has had a significant impact on the recovery of the Minnesota gray wolf 
population. However, Mech and Goyal (1995) found that high CPV 
prevalence in the wolves of the Superior National Forest in Minnesota 
occurred during the same years in which wolf pup numbers were low. 
Because the wolf population did not decline during the study period, 
they concluded that CPV-caused pup mortality was compensatory, that is, 
it replaced deaths that would have occurred from other causes, 
especially starvation of pups. They theorized that CPV prevalence 
affects the amount of population increase, and that a wolf population 
will decline when 76 percent of the adult wolves consistently test 
positive for CPV exposure. Their data indicate that CPV prevalence in 
adult wolves in their study area increased by an annual average of 4 
percent during 1979-93 and was at least 80 percent during the last 5 
years of their study (Mech and Goyal 1995). Additional unpublished data 
gathered since 1995 indicate that CPV reduced wolf population growth in 
that area from 1979 to 1989, but not since that period (Mech in litt. 
1999). These data provide strong justification for continuing 
population and disease monitoring.
    The disease probably stalled wolf population growth in Wisconsin 
during the early and mid-1980s. During those years, the Wisconsin wolf 
population declined or was static, and 75 percent of 32 wolves tested 
by the same method were positive for CPV. During the following years 
(1988-96) of population increase, only 35 percent of the 63 wolves 
tested positive for CPV (WI DNR 1999a. CPV exposure rates were at 50 
percent in live-captured Wisconsin wolves in 1995-96 (WI DNR 1999a, but 
no necropsy evidence of CPV mortalities from Wisconsin wolves exists 
(Nancy Thomas, National Wildlife Health Laboratory, in litt. 1998). Of 
13 Wisconsin wolves that died and were examined in 2000, none of the 
deaths were attributed to CPV (Wydeven et al. 2001a). Similarly, CPV is 
not a suspected cause of death for the 22 wolves with a suspected cause 
of death identified in 2001 (WI DNR unpublished data). However, the 
difficulty of discovering CPV-killed pups must be considered.
    Canine parvovirus is considered to have been a major cause of the 
decline of the isolated Isle Royale, Michigan, population in the mid 
and late 1980s. The Isle Royale gray wolf population decreased from 23 
and 24 wolves in 1983 and 1984, respectively, to 12 and 11 wolves in 
1988 and 1989, respectively. The wolf population remained in the low to 
mid-teens through 1995. However, factors other than disease may be 
causing, or contributing to, a low level of reproductive success, 
including a low level of genetic diversity and a prey population 
composed of young healthy moose that may make it difficult to secure 
sufficient prey for pups. There are no data showing any CPV-caused 
population impacts to the larger gray wolf population on the Upper 
Peninsula of Michigan (Peterson et al. 1998, Hammill pers. comm. 2002).
    Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite infection of the skin. The 
irritation caused by the feeding and burrowing mites results in 
scratching and then severe fur loss, which in turn can lead to 
mortality from exposure during severe winter weather.
    From 1991 to 1996, 27 percent of live-trapped Wisconsin wolves 
exhibited symptoms of mange. During the winter of 1992-93, 58 percent 
showed symptoms, and a concurrent decline in the Wisconsin wolf 
population was attributed to mange-induced mortality (WI DNR 1999a). 
Seven Wisconsin wolves died of mange from 1993 through October 15, 
1998, and severe fur loss affected five other wolves that died from 
other causes. During that period, mange was the third largest cause of 
death in Wisconsin wolves, behind trauma (usually vehicle collisions) 
and shooting (Nancy Thomas in litt. 1998).
    The prevalence of mange and its impacts on the wolf population have 
increased in Wisconsin. During the 12-month period from April 2000 
through March of 2001, mange appeared to be the second-most common 
cause of mortality in 23 Wisconsin wolves that were found dead; mange-
induced hypothermia caused the death of 4 wolves and contributed to the 
death of a fifth wolf. (Motor vehicle collisions caused the death of 10 
Wisconsin wolves during this same period, while 2 were shot and 2 were 
killed by other wolves.) Wolves nearing death from mange generally 
crawl into dense cover and are difficult to discover if they are not 
radio-tracked. During the winter of 2000-2001, approximately 14 percent 
of the radio-collared wolves being tracked by WI DNR died from mange. 
Other observations showed that some mangy wolves are able to survive 
the winter (Wydeven et al. 2000b, 2001a).
    Pup survival during their first winter is believed to be strongly 
affected by mange. However, estimated survival of Wisconsin pups from 
2000 until late winter 2000-2001 was 28 percent, only slightly lower 
than the previous year's 31 percent pup survival, yet the State's wolf 
population increased by 21 percent from 1999 to 2000 and only 4 percent 
from 2000 to 2001 (Wydeven et al. 2000a, 2001a). This indicates that 
mange mortality may not be the primary determinant of wolf population 
growth in the State, yet the impacts of mange in Wisconsin need to be 
closely monitored. So far, mange has not caused a sustained decline in 
the State's wolf population, and the wolf population increased by about 
26 percent from late winter 2000-2001 to 2001-2002 despite the 
continued prevalence of mange in Wisconsin wolves (Wydeven et al. 
    In a long-term Alberta wolf study, higher wolf densities were 
correlated with increased incidence of mange, and pup survival 
decreased as the incidence of mange increased (Brand et al. 1995). At 
least 7 wild Michigan wolves died from mange during 1993-97, making it 
the most common disease of Michigan wolves. From 1999-2001, mange-
induced hypothermia was the cause of death for all 7 Michigan wolves 
whose cause of death was attributed to disease (Hammill in litt. 2002). 
The Michigan Wolf Management Plan acknowledges that mange may be 
slowing wolf population growth and specifies that captured wolves be 
treated with Ivermectin to combat the mites (MI DNR 1997). MI DNR 
currently treats all captured wolves with Ivermectin if they show signs 
of mange. In addition, MI DNR vaccinates all captured wolves against 
CPV and canine distemper virus (CDV), and administers antibiotics to 
combat potential leptospirosis infections.
    Wisconsin wolves similarly had been treated with Ivermectin and 
vaccinated for CPV and CDV when captured, but

[[Page 15848]]

the practice was stopped in 1995 to allow the wolf population to 
experience more natural biotic conditions. Since that time, Ivermectin 
has been administered only to captured wolves with severe cases of 
mange. In the future, Ivermectin and vaccines will be used sparingly on 
Wisconsin wolves, but will be used to counter significant disease 
outbreaks (Wydeven in litt. 1998).
    Mange has not been documented to be a significant disease problem 
in Minnesota. Several packs in the Ely and Park Rapids areas are known 
to suffer from mange, and a pack at Agassiz NWR in northwestern 
Minnesota was reduced from at least five wolves (the pack may have 
numbered six to eight in the early 1990s) to a single animal over the 
last few years, primarily resulting from mange.
    Lyme disease, caused by a spirochete, is another relatively 
recently recognized disease, first documented in New England in 1975; 
it may have occurred in Wisconsin as early as 1969. It is spread by 
ticks, that pass along the infection to their various hosts during 
feeding episodes. Host species include humans, horses, dogs, white-
tailed deer, white-footed mice, eastern chipmunks, coyotes, and wolves. 
The prevalence of Lyme disease in Wisconsin wolves averaged 70 percent 
of live-trapped animals in 1988-91, but dropped to 37 percent during 
1992-97. While there are no data showing wolf mortalities from Lyme 
disease, it may be suppressing population growth through decreased wolf 
pup survival. Lyme disease has not been reported from wolves beyond the 
Great Lakes regions (WI DNR 1999a).
    Other diseases and parasites, including rabies, canine distemper, 
canine heartworm, blastomycosis, brucellosis, leptospirosis, bovine 
tuberculosis, hookworm, dog lice, coccidiosis, and canine hepatitis, 
have been documented in wild gray wolves, but their impacts on future 
wild wolf populations are not likely to be significant (Brand et al. 
1995, Johnson 1995, Mech and Kurtz 1999, Thomas in litt. 1998, WI DNR 
1999a). However, continuing wolf range expansion likely will provide 
new avenues for exposure to several of these diseases, especially 
canine heartworm, rabies, and bovine tuberculosis (Thomas in litt. 
2000), further emphasizing the need for vigilant disease monitoring 
    In aggregate, diseases and parasites were the cause of 25 percent 
of the diagnosed wolf deaths from 1960 through 1997 in Michigan (MI DNR 
1997) and 19 percent of the diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared 
wolves in Wisconsin from 1979 through 1998 (Wydeven 1998).
    Since several of the diseases and parasites are known to be spread 
by wolf to wolf contact, their incidence may increase as wolf densities 
increase in newly colonized areas. However, because wolf densities 
generally are relatively stable following the first few years of 
colonization, wolf to wolf contacts will not likely lead to a 
continuing increase in disease prevalence (Mech in litt. 1998).
    Disease and parasite impacts may increase because several wolf 
diseases are carried and spread by domestic dogs. This transfer of 
diseases and parasites from domestic dogs to wild wolves may increase 
as gray wolves continue to colonize non-wilderness areas (Mech in litt. 
1998). Heartworm, CPV, and rabies are the main concerns (Thomas in 
litt. 1998).
    Disease and parasite impacts are a recognized concern of the State 
DNRs. The Michigan Gray Wolf Recovery and Management Plan states that 
necropsies will be conducted on all dead wolves, and that all live 
wolves that are handled will be examined, with blood, skin, and fecal 
samples taken to provide disease information. All handled wolves will 
be vaccinated for CDV and CPV and treated for parasites before release 
(MI DNR 1997).
    Similarly, the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan has a section on wolf 
health monitoring. It states that as long as the wolf is State listed 
as a threatened or endangered species, the WI DNR will conduct 
necropsies of dead wolves and test a sample of live-captured wolves for 
diseases and parasites. The goal will be to capture and screen 10 
percent of the State wolf population for diseases annually. Following 
State delisting (after the State wolf population grows to 250 animals), 
disease monitoring will be scaled back because the percentage of the 
wolf population that is live-trapped each year will decline, but 
periodic necropsy and scat analyses will continue to test for disease 
and parasite loads. The plan also recommends that all wolves live-
trapped for other studies should have their health monitored and 
reported to the WI DNR wildlife health specialists (WI DNR 1999a).
    In summary, several diseases have had significant impacts on wolf 
population growth in the Great Lakes region in the past. These impacts 
have been both direct, resulting in mortality of individual wolves, and 
indirect, by reducing longevity and fecundity of individuals or entire 
packs or populations. Canine parvovirus stalled wolf population growth 
in Wisconsin in the early and mid-1980s, and it has been implicated as 
a contributing factor in declines of the isolated Isle Royale 
population in Michigan. Sarcoptic mange has impacted wolf recovery in 
both Michigan's Upper Peninsula and in Wisconsin in this decade, and is 
recognized as a continuing problem. However, despite these and other 
diseases and parasites, the overall trend for wolf populations in the 
western Great Lakes States is upward. The wolf management plans of 
Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin include monitoring components that 
are expected to identify future disease and parasite problems in time 
to allow corrective action to be taken to avoid a significant decline 
in overall population viability. We do not believe disease impacts will 
prevent the continuation of wolf recovery in these States. The 
reclassification of Wisconsin and Michigan wolves from endangered to 
threatened will not change the incidence or impacts of disease on these 
    Western DPS. Wolves in the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains are 
exposed to a wide variety of canid diseases, common throughout North 
America. Some of these diseases and parasites have been documented to 
significantly affect wolf populations, usually temporarily, in other 
areas of North America. To date, canine parvovirus, canine distemper, 
and mange have been documented in wolves from the northern Rocky 
Mountains. Wolves in the Yellowstone area have almost certainly been 
exposed to brucellosis. However, in the studies of wolves in Montana, 
Idaho, and Wyoming to date, disease and parasites have not appeared to 
be a significant factor affecting wolf population dynamics. Just like 
wolves in all other parts of North America, wolves, usually pups, in 
the northern Rocky Mountains will occasionally die from a wide variety 
of canid diseases. However, it is doubtful that wolf populations in the 
northern Rocky Mountains could be significantly impacted, because wolf 
exposure to these diseases has been occurring for decades. The EIS on 
gray wolf reintroduction identified disease impact as an issue but did 
not evaluate it further, because it appeared not to be significant 
(Service 1994a). Likewise, in the ``Wolves for Yellowstone?'' reports 
to Congress in 1992, Johnson (1992a and 1992b) reviewed the 
relationship between wolves and rabies, brucellosis, and tuberculosis 
and found canids were not likely to be a reservoir for those diseases.
    Southwestern DPS. There is no evidence suggesting that disease was 
a significant factor in the decline of the Mexican wolf. Likewise, 
there is no

[[Page 15849]]

reason to believe that disease will be a significant impediment to 
recovery of the Mexican wolf in the wild. Because the potential for 
disease and parasite transmission is much greater in captivity, 
especially in zoos, all captive Mexican wolves are vaccinated or 
treated for potential canine diseases and parasites that may exist in 
the captive environment.
    As a result of captive disease and parasite prevention and 
treatment protocols, released wolves are in good health and physical 
condition when they enter the wild. Re-established Southwestern 
(Mexican) wolves will be monitored for disease or parasite-related 
problems, and all wild wolves captured for monitoring or management 
purposes will continue to be vaccinated indefinitely. To date, three 
Mexican wolf pups born in the wild have died from canine parvovirus. 
These pups were recaptured due to their parents killing livestock, and 
the pups subsequently died in captivity. This appears to be a limited 
occurrence and may have been associated with the pups being captured 
and placed in captivity.
    Predation. There are no wild animals that habitually prey on gray 
wolves. Occasionally wolves will be killed by large prey such as deer 
or moose (Mech and Nelson 1989) or by a competing predator such as a 
mountain lion, but this has only been documented on rare occasions and 
is not believed to be a significant mortality factor. However, humans 
are highly effective predators of gray wolves.
    Eastern DPS. Wolves are killed by other wolves, most commonly when 
a dispersing wolf encounters another pack and is attacked as an 
intruder, or when two packs encounter each other along their common 
territorial boundary. This form of mortality is likely to increase as 
more of the available wolf habitat becomes saturated with wolf pack 
territories, as is the case in northeastern Minnesota. Over the period 
from October 1979 through June 1998, 7 (13 percent) of the diagnosed 
mortalities of radio-collared Wisconsin wolves resulted from wolves 
being killed by other wolves (Wydeven 1998). However, this behavior is 
a normal part of the species' behavioral repertoire and should not be a 
cause for concern in healthy wolf populations, as it normally indicates 
that the wolf population is at, or approaching, the carrying capacity 
of the area.
    Humans have functioned as highly effective predators of the gray 
wolf. We attempted to eliminate them from the landscape in earlier 
times: the United States Congress passed a wolf bounty that covered the 
Northwest Territories in 1817. Bounties on wolves subsequently became 
the norm for States across the species' range. In Michigan, an 1838 
wolf bounty became the ninth law passed by the First Michigan 
Legislature; this bounty remained in place until 1960. A Wisconsin 
bounty was instituted in 1865 and then repealed about the time wolves 
were extirpated from the State in 1957. Minnesota maintained a wolf 
bounty until 1965.
    Subsequent to the gray wolf's listing as a federally endangered 
species, the Act and State endangered species statutes prohibited the 
killing of wolves except under extenuating circumstances, such as in 
defense of human life, for scientific or conservation purposes, or 
under several special regulations intended to reduce wolf depredations 
of livestock. This reduction in human-caused mortality is the main 
cause of the wolf's comeback in parts of its historical range. However, 
it is clear that illegal killing of wolves continues.
    Illegal killing of wolves occurs for a number of reasons. Some of 
these killings are accidental (e.g., wolves are hit by vehicles, 
mistaken for coyotes and shot, or caught in traps set for other 
animals), and some of these accidental killings are reported to State, 
tribal, and Federal authorities. However, it is likely that most 
illegal wolf killings are intentional and are never reported to 
authorities. Such killings may be done because of frustration over wolf 
depredations of livestock or pets, fear for the safety of pets or 
children, hatred of the species, opposition to wolf recovery, a desire 
to protest against the government, or for other reasons. The number of 
illegal killings is difficult to estimate and impossible to accurately 
determine, because they generally occur in isolated areas and the 
evidence is quickly concealed.
    Two Minnesota studies provide insight into the extent of human-
caused wolf mortality before and after the species' listing. On the 
basis of bounty data from a period that predated wolf protection under 
the Act by 20 years, Stenlund (1955) found an annual human-caused 
mortality rate of 41 percent. Fuller (1989) provided 1980-86 data from 
a north-central Minnesota study area and found an annual human-caused 
mortality rate of 29 percent, a figure which includes 2 percent 
mortality from legal depredation control actions. However, drawing 
conclusions from these two data sets is difficult due to the 
confounding effects of habitat quality, exposure to humans, prey 
density, differing time periods, and vast differences in study design. 
While these figures provide support for the contention that human-
caused mortality decreased subsequent to the wolf's protection under 
the Act, it is not possible at this time to determine if human-caused 
mortality (apart from mortalities from depredation control) has 
significantly changed over the 25-year period that the gray wolf has 
been listed as threatened or endangered.
    Interestingly, when compared to his 1985 survey, Kellert's 1999 
public attitudes survey showed an overall increase in the number of 
northern Minnesota residents who reported having killed, or knowing 
someone who had killed, a wolf. However, members of groups that are 
more likely to encounter wolves-farmers, hunters, and trappers-reported 
a decrease in the number of such incidents (Kellert 1985, 1999). 
Because of these apparently conflicting results, and differences in the 
methodology of the two surveys, drawing any clear conclusions on this 
issue is difficult.
    It is important to note that despite the difficulty in measuring 
the extent of illegal killing of wolves, their population and range in 
the western Great Lakes States has continued to increase. During recent 
decades, all sources of wolf mortality, including legal (takings for 
research and depredation control activities) and illegal human-caused 
mortality, have not been of sufficient magnitude to stop the continuing 
growth of the wolf population, estimated at about 4 percent average 
annual increase in Minnesota, and about a 28 percent average annual 
increase in Wisconsin and Michigan since 1992-1993. This indicates that 
total gray wolf mortality continues to be exceeded by wolf recruitment 
(that is, reproduction and immigration) in these areas.
    As the wolf population in Wisconsin and Michigan saturates the 
habitat or as the cultural carrying capacity is approached, the rapid 
population growth rates are expected to slow, and it is likely that 
growth will eventually stop. (``Cultural carrying capacity'' differs 
from the biological or habitat carrying capacity in that it also 
incorporates the limits that will likely be imposed on the wolf 
population by human society, including both legal and illegal limiting 
measures.) At that time we should expect to see negative growth rates 
(that is, wolf population declines) in some years, due to short-term 
fluctuations in birth and mortality rates. However, adequate wolf 
monitoring programs, as identified in the Michigan, Wisconsin, and 
Minnesota wolf management plans, should be able to identify excessively 
high mortality rates

[[Page 15850]]

and/or low birth rates and to trigger timely corrective action when 
necessary. Michigan and Wisconsin DNRs are currently monitoring their 
wolf populations in this manner, and this level of monitoring will 
continue following this reclassification. The goals of all three State 
wolf management plans are to maintain a within-State wolf population 
that is well above the 200 animals identified in the Federal Eastern 
Recovery Plan as needed for viable isolated wolf populations.
    In Wisconsin, human-caused mortalities accounted for 58 percent of 
the diagnosed mortalities on radio-collared wolves from October 1979 
through June 1998. One-third of all the diagnosed mortalities, and 55 
percent of the human-caused mortalities, were from shooting. Another 12 
percent of all the diagnosed mortalities resulted from vehicle 
collisions. Vehicle collisions have increased as a percentage of radio-
collared wolf mortalities. During the October 1979 through June 1995 
period, only 1 of 27 known mortalities was from that cause; but from 
July 1995 through June 1998, 5 of the 26 known mortalities resulted 
from vehicle collisions (WI DNR 1999a, Wydeven 1998); and from April 
2000 through March 2001, 10 of 23 known mortalities were from that 
cause (Wydeven et al. 2000b, 2001a). Only 2 of those 23 mortalities 
were from shootings, but an additional 4 Wisconsin wolves were shot 
during the State's 2001 deer hunting season (WI DNR 2001).
    In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, human-caused mortalities 
accounted for 75 percent of the diagnosed mortalities, based upon 34 
wolves recovered from 1960 to 1997. Twenty-eight percent of all the 
diagnosed mortalities and 38 percent of the human-caused mortalities 
were from shooting. In the Upper Peninsula during that period, about 
one-third of all the known mortalities were from vehicle collisions (MI 
DNR 1997). During the 1998 Michigan deer hunting season, 3 radio-
collared wolves were shot and killed, resulting in one arrest and 
conviction (Hammill in litt. 1999, Michigan DNR 1999b). During the 
subsequent 3 years, 8 additional wolves were killed in Michigan by 
gunshot, and the cut-off radio-collar from a ninth animal was located, 
but the animal was never found. These incidents resulted in 6 guilty 
pleas, with 3 cases remaining open. Data from that 1999-2001 period 
show that human-caused mortalities still account for the vast majority 
of the diagnosed mortalities (79 percent) in Michigan. However, deaths 
from vehicular collisions now greatly outnumber shootings. Twenty-seven 
percent of the diagnosed mortalities were from shootings (35 percent of 
the human-caused mortalities), while 48 percent of the diagnosed 
Michigan mortalities were from vehicular collisions (Hammill in litt. 
2002). When viewing these figures it is important to remember that 
there is a much greater likelihood of finding a vehicle-killed wolf 
than there is of finding a wolf that has been illegally shot, unless 
the animal was being radio-tracked.
    A continuing increase in wolf mortalities from vehicle collisions, 
both in actual numbers and as a percent of total diagnosed mortalities, 
is expected as wolves continue their colonization of areas with more 
human developments and a denser network of roads and vehicle traffic.
    A significant portion of the intentional illegal mortalities may 
arise as a protest against the Federal government or from frustration 
arising from a perception of inadequate Federal or State depredation 
control programs or inadequate State compensation for depredated 
livestock and dogs. The application of this final rule in the Midwest--
reclassifying Wisconsin and Michigan wolves to threatened and 
implementing a special regulation for lethal depredation control, with 
no change in the nearly identical protection currently provided to 
threatened Minnesota wolves--is expected to have both positive and 
negative impacts on illegal wolf mortality.
    In Wisconsin and Michigan, the rapidly expanding wolf population is 
beginning to cause more depredation problems. For example, from 1991 
through 1996 only 1 Wisconsin wolf was captured for depredation 
control. In 1997, 2 wolves were trapped and moved to eliminate 
depredation problems. In 1998, 4 wolves had to be captured as a result 
of verified depredation problems, and 8 were trapped (7 moved) in the 
first 9 months of 2001 (Wydeven et al. 2001b) in response to verified 
depredation incidents. Data from Michigan show a similar, but smaller, 
increase in confirmed wolf depredations on calves, cows, sheep, and 
dogs: 2 in 1996, 3 in 1998, 4 in 1999, 3 in 2000, and 6 in 2001 
(Hammill in litt. 2002).
    For Wisconsin and Michigan, the new special management regulations 
under section 4(d) of the Act provide increased flexibility and 
efficiency in dealing with these problem wolves (see the Special 
Regulations Under Section 4(d) for Threatened Species section below). 
This may result in greater public satisfaction with the States' 
abilities to promptly and effectively deal with depredation incidents, 
and may reduce the perception that wolves are out of control. Thus, the 
regulations may counter the viewpoint that vigilante action is needed 
to reduce their numbers. Such vigilante action is likely to result in 
the death of nondepredating wolves, and may impede recovery progress, 
at least locally.
    Wolves were largely eliminated from the Dakotas in the 1920s and 
1930s and were rarely reported from the mid-1940s through the late 
1970s. Ten wolves were killed in these two States from 1981 to 1992; 5 
of the mortalities were in 1991 and 1992 (Licht and Fritts 1994). Two 
more were killed in North Dakota since 1992, and in Harding County in 
extreme northwestern South Dakota, a wolf was killed in 2001. There 
have been other recent reported sightings of gray wolves, including a 
confirmed sighting by USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services personnel in 1996 
near Gary, South Dakota, (near the Minnesota border), and a 1994 
confirmation of a den with pups in extreme north-central North Dakota 
near the Canadian border. Several other unconfirmed sightings have been 
reported from extreme northeastern and southeastern South Dakota. 
Wolves killed in North and South Dakota are most often shot by hunters 
after being mistaken for coyotes, or else they are killed by vehicles. 
The 2001 mortality in South Dakota was caused by an M-44 ``coyote 
getter'' device that had been properly set in response to complaints 
about coyotes. Genetic analysis of the Harding County mortality showed 
it to be a wolf from the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan area (Straughan 
and Fain 2002).
    Additional discussion of past and future wolf mortalities in the 
Eastern DPS arising from depredation control actions is found under the 
Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section, factor D, The 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.
    Despite human-caused mortalities of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, 
and Michigan, it is clear that these wolf populations have continued to 
increase in both numbers and range. Under these new regulations, as 
long as other mortality factors do not increase significantly, and the 
wolf populations receive adequate and timely monitoring to document 
(and counteract, if necessary) the effects of excessive human-caused 
mortality, we believe the Minnesota and Wisconsin-Michigan wolf 
populations will not decline to nonviable levels, nor will recovery 
slow, in the foreseeable future resulting from human-caused killing or 
other forms of predation.
    Western DPS. Since wolves have been monitored in Montana, Idaho, 
and Wyoming, only two wolves been confirmed to have been killed by

[[Page 15851]]

another predator. They were both lone wolves killed by mountain lions. 
Wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains inhabit the same areas as 
mountain lions, grizzly bears, and black bears, but conflicts rarely 
result in the death of either species. Wolves are occasionally killed 
by prey that they are attacking, but those instances are rare. Since 
1987, wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains have apparently died from 
wounds they received while attacking prey on about 6 occasions. This 
level of mortality will not significantly affect wolf recovery. Other 
wolves are the largest cause of natural predation among wolves. About a 
dozen mortalities have resulted from territorial conflicts. Wherever 
wolves occur, including Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, some low level of 
mortality resulting from territorial conflict between wolves is common. 
Those incidents occur but are so infrequent that they do not cause a 
level of mortality that would significantly affect a wolf population 
that is at or above recovery levels.
    Humans are the largest cause of wolf mortality and the only cause 
that can significantly affect wolf populations at recovery levels. The 
annual survival rate of immature wolves in northwestern Montana and 
adjacent Canada from 1984 to 1995 was 80 percent (Pletscher et al. 
1997); 84 percent for resident wolves and 66 percent for dispersers. 
That study found 84 percent of immature wolf mortality to be human-
caused. Fifty-eight wolves from northwestern Montana with functioning 
radio-collars have died between 1987 and 1996, and humans caused the 
death of 49 (84 percent). Trends in causes of wolf mortality seem to be 
similar since 1996. Wolves are more likely to be radio-collared if they 
come into conflict with people, so the proportion of mortality caused 
by agency depredation control actions could be overestimated by this 
study. People who illegally kill wolves may destroy the radio-collar so 
the proportion of illegal mortality could be under-estimated. However, 
the wolf population has continued to expand rapidly in the face of 
human-caused mortality.
    As was typically the case elsewhere in North America, humans were 
the largest cause of wolf mortality in northwestern Montana. Wolf 
control was the leading cause of death for wolves since their return to 
northwestern Montana.
    The EIS (Service 1994a) predicted that 10 percent of the 
reintroduced wolves would be removed annually for depredation control 
with an additional 10 percent dying annually from other causes. Known 
annual mortality has been below the 20 percent annual level that was 
predicted in the EIS. Compared to naturally colonizing wolves, 
reintroduced wolves had a lower proportion of human-caused mortality 
because they were released in remote areas where contact and conflicts 
with people were less likely. Relocated depredating wolves in 
northwestern Montana had a higher proportion of human-caused mortality 
(96 percent) than either reintroduced (61 percent) or naturally 
colonizing wolves in northwestern Montana (71 percent excluding legal 
harvest in Canada). In northwestern Montana, relocated depredating 
wolves traveled widely and often resettled in places similar to the 
areas that they had been removed from, typically private ranch land. 
Consequently they continued to come into conflict with people and 
livestock (Bangs et al. 1998).
    The levels of documented human-caused mortality among wolves in the 
northern Rocky Mountains have not, at this time, been significant 
enough to cause declines in wolf populations or to slow overall wolf 
population growth. The protection of wolves under the Act appears 
sufficient to promote wolf population growth. Under the provisions of 
the experimental population rules for the central Idaho and Yellowstone 
areas, wolf population growth has been high. Although the new special 
management regulations under section 4(d) of the Act will allow some 
expanded take of problem wolves outside the experimental population 
areas, such regulations will still sufficiently protect wolves from 
human persecution. Continued steady growth towards recovery levels is 
therefore expected, and recovery targets should be achieved by the end 
of 2002 (see the Special Regulations Under Section 4(d) for Threatened 
Species section below).
    Enforcement of the Act's prohibitions on taking wolves listed as 
``experimental'' and ``endangered'' has been successful to date. Twelve 
wolves have been illegally killed in the experimental areas, and 6 
cases have been resolved. In northwestern Montana, 9 wolves were known 
to have been illegally killed, and 4 cases have been resolved. Fines 
have ranged from $500 to $10,000, with jail sentences of up to 8 months 
incarceration and 1 year supervised release being imposed for some 
violators. The legal or illegal killing documented to date has not been 
at a level that could affect wolf population growth to recovery levels.
    To date, 3 experimental wolves were legally killed (one in Montana 
and in Idaho) under the provisions of the experimental population 
special regulation by livestock producers who saw the wolves attacking 
livestock. They reported the shooting of the wolves to authorities 
within 24 hours as required. Investigations confirmed compliance with 
the experimental rules, and no further action was taken. Fewer than a 
dozen other wolves have been unintentionally killed in the northern 
Rockies by vehicles, coyote cyanide (M-44) devices, and traps, and 
during control and management actions, but investigations of these 
incidents concluded that prosecution was not warranted. These types of 
mortalities are relatively rare and will not affect wolf population 
growth to recovery levels.
    Special management regulations under section 4(d) of the Act will 
allow for the legal take of wolves under more circumstances than the 
existing special regulation. The previous special management 
regulations under section 10(j) of the Act will continue to apply to 
the two nonessential experimental populations in the northern U.S. 
Rocky Mountains (see the Special Regulations Under Section 4(d) for 
Threatened Species section below). Therefore, we do not expect wolf 
mortality rates to change significantly as a result.
    Southwestern DPS. Through January 2003, illegal killing has been 
confirmed as the cause of death of 11 of the 74 Mexican wolves that 
have been released to the wild. Two of the 74 wolves released died due 
to injuries sustained from other predators. However, there are now 8 
packs in the wild, of which 7 appear to have produced pups in 2002, and 
4 of those 7 litters were conceived and born in the wild. In addition, 
we continue to release additional gray wolves into the Blue Range Wolf 
Recovery Area (BRWRA) of New Mexico and Arizona. However, based on the 
current growth of the BRWRA population, releases will likely be scaled 
back or eliminated in the next few years. The rate of natural wolf 
population increase, combined with our continuing release of captive-
raised wolves, is such that population growth is expected to continue 
despite these losses from human and animal-caused mortalities. 
Therefore, although predation may initially slow recovery, we do not 
believe that predation or illegal killing will preclude recovery of the 
Mexican wolf. Killing or capture and permanent confinement of gray 
wolves for scientific and educational purposes is discussed under 
Factor B, above.

D. The Adequacy or Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Upon being listed under the Act, the gray wolf immediately 
benefitted from a

[[Page 15852]]

Federal regulatory framework that includes prohibition of take, which 
is defined broadly under the Act to include killing, injuring, or 
attempting to kill or injure; prohibition of habitat destruction or 
degradation if such activities harm individuals of the species; the 
requirement that Federal agencies ensure their actions will not likely 
jeopardize the continued existence of the species; and the requirement 
that we develop and implement a recovery program for the species. In 
addition, the 1978 designation of critical habitat in Minnesota and 
Michigan (43 FR 9607) further requires Federal agencies to ensure that 
their actions do not result in the destruction or adverse modification 
of the primary constituent elements of the habitat in those designated 
areas. Many of these protective regulations and conservation measures 
have substantially improved the status of the gray wolf.
    Eastern DPS. A June 29, 1998, announcement by then Secretary of 
Interior Bruce Babbitt and then Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark 
described, in part, our intention to propose a delisting of gray wolves 
in the Western Great Lakes. That intention was based upon our belief 
that State wolf management plans for Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan 
would either be completed, or would be sufficiently close to 
completion, so that our delisting and reclassification proposal could 
be based on an analysis of the protective mechanisms and management 
strategies and actions described in those three plans.
    In late 1997 the Michigan wolf management plan was completed and 
received the necessary State approvals. The Wisconsin Natural Resources 
Board approved the Wisconsin wolf management plan in October of 1999. 
Our biologists have participated on the teams that developed these two 
State plans, so we are familiar with their evolution and likely future 
direction. We believe that these plans provide sufficient information 
for us to analyze the future threats to the gray wolf population in 
Wisconsin and Michigan after Federal delisting.
    During the 1999 legislative session, the Minnesota Legislature 
failed to approve a State wolf management plan and regulatory bill that 
would have allowed us to evaluate the future of the Minnesota wolf 
population in the event it would be delisted and removed from the 
protections of the Act. Furthermore, as we finished work on our 
proposal in mid-February 2000, the Minnesota Legislature had not 
considered the wolf management bill produced by the MN DNR in early 
2000. Therefore, in contrast to the June 1998 announcement by Babbitt 
and Clark, we did not propose to delist wolves in the Western Great 
Lakes. Rather we proposed to reclassify wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan, 
North Dakota, and South Dakota to threatened, bringing them to the same 
status that wolves in Minnesota were given in 1978.
    The Minnesota Legislature subsequently passed wolf legislation and 
directed the MN DNR to complete a management plan in conformance with 
that legislation. MN DNR completed the Minnesota Wolf Management Plan 
(MN Plan) in early 2001. Although the Minnesota legislation and the MN 
Plan were not available in time to play a role in our July 2000 
reclassification proposal, they will be carefully evaluated as we 
review all relevant information in preparation for a future proposal to 
delist gray wolves in the Eastern DPS.
    Under this final rule, gray wolves will continue to be protected by 
the provisions of the Act throughout the Eastern DPS. The regulatory 
changes in that protection that will take place are twofold: (1) The 
recovering wolf populations in Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as wild 
wolves anywhere in the Eastern DPS, now will be protected as a 
threatened species, rather than as an endangered species; and (2) for 
the first time wolves in all but the eastern quarter of the DPS will be 
subject to routine, but limited, lethal depredation control measures 
under the terms of a special regulation under section 4(d) of the Act.
    One change in protection that will result from a reclassification 
from endangered to threatened was discussed above, under the Summary of 
Factors Affecting the Species section, factor B, Overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes above. 
The change stems from the broader authority of Service or State 
employees, or their designated agents, to take a member of a threatened 
species without a need to obtain a permit from us. Furthermore, we can 
issue permits to take threatened species for a wider variety of 
purposes than for endangered species. The impact of this increased take 
authority on wolf recovery is believed to be insignificant; additional 
discussion is found in that earlier section.
    The second impact of this reclassification is indirect, and it 
stems from our ability to implement special regulations under section 
4(d) of the Act for threatened, but not endangered, species. We have 
used that authority to finalize a special regulation for the lethal 
control of depredating wolves in much of the Eastern DPS that is very 
similar to the lethal control currently authorized by the special 
regulation that has been in effect for Minnesota wolves since December 
12, 1985 (50 FR 50792; see also 50 CFR 17.40(d)). That special 
regulation allows the killing of depredating wolves by certain 
government employees or agents, subject to several restrictions.
    Depredation Control Programs in the Midwestern States. Wolves that 
are injuring and/or killing domestic animals in the Midwest have been 
controlled in different ways, depending upon their listing status under 
the Act and their importance to our gray wolf recovery programs. In 
Minnesota depredating wolves have been lethally controlled under a 
special regulation, because they are listed as threatened. Section 4(d) 
of the Act allows lethal take of threatened animals under a special 
regulation. (Details on the Minnesota depredation control program are 
provided later in this subsection.)
    Depredating wolves in Wisconsin and Michigan, previously listed as 
endangered and therefore previously not eligible for a section 4(d) 
special regulation, have been trapped and released in a suitable and 
unoccupied area at some distance from the depredation location. The 
goal of this approach was to eliminate future depredations by moving 
the wolf or wolves to a suitable but vacant area at a location with 
adequate wild prey, and with minimal or no exposure to domestic 
animals. However, the results of this approach vary widely. In some 
cases the wolf will become resident at the new site and will not resume 
its previous habit of preying on domestic animals. In other cases the 
wolf attempts to return to its previous territory, continues its 
depredations of domestic animals at the new site, or is killed by 
nearby resident wolves. This approach has a greater chance of 
succeeding if there are several areas of suitable unoccupied habitat 
from which to choose for release of the wolf, so that a release 
location can be selected that is very remote from the wolf's previous 
    However, the rapidly growing wolf populations in both Wisconsin and 
Michigan make it increasingly difficult to find suitable, but 
unoccupied, areas into which a depredating wolf can be successfully 
released. In one recent incident of the capture and translocation of a 
depredating wolf in Wisconsin, the animal left the release site and had 
traveled half of the distance back to its capture site before being 
mistaken for a coyote and shot

[[Page 15853]]

(Wydeven in litt. 1999). There is also growing opposition to the 
translocation of depredating wolves, and at least one county board has 
passed a resolution opposing the relocation of additional wolves to 
that county. Residents in the area to where these wolves are moved are 
concerned that the depredation problem will recur in their area.
    Due to the decreasing effectiveness of, and increasing opposition 
to, translocation of depredating wolves, as well as the high monetary 
and labor costs of such attempts, the States of Wisconsin and Michigan 
have requested the authority to carry out lethal depredation control 
measures, similar to what has been done by USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services 
in Minnesota. As the wolf population grows in number and expands in 
range in those two States, those wolves will increasingly occupy 
agricultural areas and will be exposed to additional domestic animals 
as potential prey. We believe that the new special management 
regulations under section 4(d) of the Act will provide increased 
flexibility and efficiency in managing wolves and are consistent with 
conservation of the gray wolf (see the Special Regulations under 
Section 4(d) for Threatened Species section below).
    Based upon depredation control statistics from Minnesota, we expect 
the lethal control of depredating Wisconsin and Michigan wolves to be 
very small during the next few years. Data from Minnesota show that an 
expanding wolf population's increasing exposure to domestic animals 
will likely lead to increased depredation incidents, and the need for 
additional lethal control of those wolves. From 1980 to 1984, with a 
late winter wolf population of about 1,350 animals, an annual average 
of 2.2 percent of the Minnesota wolf population was killed by USDA/
APHIS-Wildlife Services to reduce depredation problems. From 1985 to 
1989, with a late winter wolf population averaging about 1,600 wolves, 
the annual average of wolves killed for depredation control increased 
to 3.0 percent. Additional increases have occurred in the 1990s.
    With the Wisconsin and Michigan (Upper Peninsula) late winter wolf 
populations at about 250-350 in each State, we estimate that an average 
of about 2 to 3 percent of those wolves will be taken annually through 
lethal depredation control actions in response to attacks on livestock. 
This will be about 6 to 10 wolves in each State. Given the average 
annual population increases of 19 to 24 percent over recent years in 
each of these States, the effect of such levels of lethal depredation 
control will not prevent the continued growth of the wolf population in 
either State, and will probably be so small that it does not noticeably 
slow that growth over the next few years. Wolf recovery will not be 
affected in either State. Reporting (within 15 days) and monitoring 
requirements will ensure that the level of lethal depredation control 
is evaluated promptly and can be curtailed if necessary. Therefore, we 
do not believe that lethal livestock depredation control will be a 
significant threat to the future of wolves in either Michigan or 
Wisconsin, or that it will result in a need to reclassify those wolves 
back to endangered status in the foreseeable future.
    In recent years there has been an increase in the number of dogs 
attacked by gray wolves in Wisconsin, with 17 killed and 1 injured in 
2001. In almost all cases, these have been hunting dogs that were being 
used for, or being trained for, hunting bears and bobcats at the time 
they were attacked. It is believed that the dogs entered the territory 
of a wolf pack and may have been close to a den, rendezvous site, or 
feeding location, thus triggering an attack by wolves defending their 
territory or pups. As many as 7 or 8 wolf packs may have been involved 
in the 2001 attacks on hunting dogs (WI DNR unpublished data). The 
Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan States that ``generally only wolves that 
are habitual depredators on livestock will be euthanized'' (WI DNR 
1999a). Furthermore, the State's draft guidelines for conducting 
depredation control actions on wolves that retain a Federal threatened 
status say that no control trapping will be conducted on wolves that 
kill ``dogs that are free-roaming or roaming at large.'' Lethal control 
will only be conducted on wolves that kill dogs that are ``leashed, 
confined, or under the owner's control on the owner's land'' (Wisconsin 
Wolf Technical Committee 2002). Because of these State-imposed 
limitations, we do not believe that lethal control of wolves 
depredating on hunting dogs will be a significant additional source of 
mortality in Wisconsin.
    Michigan has not experienced as high a level of dog attacks by 
wolves, although a slight increase in such attacks has occurred over 
the last decade. The number of verified attacks was one dog killed in 
1996, three (two injured, one killed) in 1999, and three killed in 
2001. Similar to Wisconsin, MI DNR does not intend to trap and move 
wolves that depredate on free-ranging dogs. However, trapping and 
relocation of wolves would be considered if wolves have killed confined 
pets and remain in the area where more pets are being held (Hammill in 
litt. 2002).
    The new special regulation that authorizes depredation control in 
Wisconsin and Michigan requires that wolves killed for depredation 
control purposes be reported to us within 15 days. Thus, we will be 
promptly alerted if an unexpected number of depredating wolves are 
killed under the new special regulation, and we can initiate corrective 
action, if necessary.
    Since wolves were protected under the Act, only one wolf has been 
killed for depredation control purposes in Wisconsin and Michigan. That 
adult wolf was killed by the WI DNR in 1999, under the provisions of a 
permit that we issued to deal with that specific instance. This was 
done to end a chronic depredation problem at a private deer farm after 
the failure of extensive efforts to live-trap and remove the wolf (WI 
DNR 1999b).
    For both North Dakota and South Dakota we had anticipated potential 
wolf depredation problems associated with mostly single, dispersing 
wolves from the Minnesota and Manitoba populations. To cope with these 
anticipated depredations we have had a ``Contingency Plan for 
Responding to Gray Wolf Depredations of Livestock'' in place for each 
State for several years (Service 1992b, 1994b). In partnership with 
USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services and State animal damage control agencies, 
the contingency plans provide for the capture and permanent transfer to 
American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA)-approved holding 
facilities, such as zoos, captive breeding centers, or research 
facilities, of all depredating or injured/sick wolves in North Dakota 
and South Dakota. The lethal control of depredating and injured/sick 
wolves is authorized by the plans only if no AZA-approved holding 
facilities could be identified. Verified wolf depredations occur 
approximately once every other year in North Dakota, with the most 
recent occurring in June of 1999; there have been no verified wolf 
depredations in South Dakota in recent decades. To date, in neither 
State has it been necessary to implement either the nonlethal or lethal 
control measures authorized under the contingency plans, although 
confirmed wolf sightings and some incidents of wolf depredation 
continue to occur.
    North Dakota and South Dakota are recognized as lacking significant 
potential for restoration of the gray wolf, and neither our Eastern 
Recovery Plan nor our Northern Rockies Plan includes those States in 
its list of possible locations for restoration of gray wolf populations 
(Service 1987, 1992a). Therefore, lethal control of depredating wolves 
in these two States will not

[[Page 15854]]

adversely affect the Eastern DPS recovery program. We believe that the 
new special regulations finalized with this rule to allow lethal 
control of depredating wolves will help to promote greater public 
acceptance of the gray wolf recovery programs (see the Special 
Regulations under Section 4(d) for Threatened Species section below). 
Furthermore, such regulations will allow Federal, State, and tribal 
agencies in the Dakotas to be more responsive to depredation incidents, 
thus, minimizing conflicts between wolves and livestock production. In 
addition, such regulations will eliminate the costs, time, and 
facilities needed to capture, transport, and house live gray wolves.
    We expect a much higher proportion of North Dakota and South Dakota 
wolves to become involved in depredation on domestic animals than the 
approximately 2 to 3 percent we expect in Wisconsin and Michigan. Thus, 
if the Minnesota wolf population continues to expand and provide 
additional dispersing wolves, lethal depredation control activities in 
North Dakota and South Dakota may also kill on the order of 4 or 5 
wolves annually in each of these 2 States. These mortalities will 
neither slow the recovery of the Minnesota and Michigan-Wisconsin wolf 
populations nor delay the eventual delisting of the Eastern DPS, 
because the Eastern Plan does not rely on wolves in North Dakota or 
South Dakota to achieve any of its recovery criteria. If wolves in the 
Dakotas are not involved in depredations on domestic animals they 
retain all the normal protections of a threatened species. If they 
return to Minnesota or to the Wisconsin-Michigan population, they may 
contribute to the continuing growth of the core wolf populations in the 
    Our proposal would have applied the special regulation for lethal 
depredation control to all States within the proposed Western Great 
Lakes DPS, except Minnesota, which already is subject to a very similar 
special regulation. Because this final rule geographically expands the 
relevant DPS to additional States and retains the Act's protections for 
wolves as threatened throughout much of the eastern United States, we 
are also providing coverage of the special regulation to most, but not 
all, of those additional States.
    The special regulation provides the authority for lethal control of 
depredating wolves to all parts of the Eastern DPS that are west of 
Pennsylvania. Except for Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of 
Michigan, gray wolves that occur in the areas covered by the new 
special regulation are not necessary for the recovery of the Eastern 
DPS, and if they attack domestic animals State and tribal authorities 
will have authority for lethal control.
    The special regulation for the Eastern DPS and its provision for 
lethal control of depredating wolves do not apply to wolves in 
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, 
Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. No wolves are 
currently known to occur in this area, nor are these States within 
anticipated dispersal distance of the gray wolf population recovering 
in the western Great Lakes area, so there is a low probability of gray 
wolf depredation in these States. Furthermore, several State wildlife 
agencies in the Northeast have expressed support for natural wolf 
recovery and indicated a willingness to protect wolves that disperse 
into this region from Canada. In addition, as described above, the 
species identity of wolves that might naturally appear in northeastern 
States is uncertain at this time, and each individual wolf might be 
important to future wolf recovery efforts that might be undertaken 
    This final rule will not affect the current section 4(d) special 
regulation for wolf depredation control in Minnesota, and we expect 
that program will continue unchanged as long as those wolves are listed 
as threatened under the Act. During the period from 1980-1998, the 
Federal Minnesota wolf depredation control program has annually 
euthanized from 20 (in 1982) to 216 (in 1997) gray wolves. The annual 
average was 30 wolves killed from 1980 to 1984, 49 from 1985 to 1989, 
115 from 1990 to 1994, and 152 from 1995 to 1999. Based upon estimates 
of the Minnesota wolf population during these periods, these numbers 
represent an average annual removal of approximately 2.2 percent, 3.0 
percent, 6.0 percent, and 6.7 percent of the total population during 
those four 5-year periods, respectively. The lowest annual percentage 
of Minnesota wolves destroyed by USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services was 1.5 
percent in 1982; the highest percentage was 9.4 in 1997 (Paul 2001).
    There is no evidence that this level of wolf removal for 
depredation control purposes has halted the increase in wolf numbers or 
range in Minnesota, although it is quite possible that the depredation 
control program may have slowed wolf population growth, especially 
since the late-1980s. Because the Minnesota wolf population has 
continued to grow at an average annual rate of nearly 4 percent since 
1989, we believe that it is highly likely that a viable wolf population 
will continue to exist in Minnesota if a lethal depredation control 
program of this magnitude is continued. However, monitoring of the wolf 
population will become increasingly important if the percentage of 
wolves killed for depredation control continues to increase, or if 
other mortality factors increase in magnitude. Annual monitoring may 
become necessary to enable timely corrective action, including 
reduction of lethal depredation control activities, if the Minnesota 
wolf population begins to decrease or to contract in geographic range. 
At this time, however, it appears that continuing the current magnitude 
of lethal depredation control under the existing special regulation 
will not suppress the Minnesota wolf population.
    State and Tribal Management and Protection of Wolves. The Wisconsin 
Wolf Management Plan recommended immediate reclassification from State-
endangered to State-threatened status because the State's wolf 
population has already exceeded the State reclassification criterion of 
80 wolves for 3 years; that State reclassification has already 
occurred. The Plan further recommends the State manage for a gray wolf 
population of 350 wolves outside of Native American reservations, and 
states that the species should be delisted by the State once the 
population reaches 250 animals outside of reservations. Upon State 
delisting, the species would be classified as a ``protected nongame 
species,'' a designation that would continue State prohibitions on 
sport hunting and trapping of the species. The Wisconsin Plan includes 
criteria that would trigger State relisting as threatened (a decline to 
fewer than 250 wolves for 3 years) or endangered (a decline to fewer 
than 80 wolves for 1 year). State delisting can occur while the wolf is 
still federally listed as either threatened or endangered, but the 
remaining stricter Federal protections would prevent the implementation 
of weaker State protections. Public taking of wolves will not occur 
while the wolf remains federally listed as threatened. The Wisconsin 
Plan will be reviewed annually by the Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee 
and will be reviewed by the public every 5 years.
    Both the Wisconsin and Michigan Wolf Management Plans recommend 
managing wolf populations within each State as isolated populations 
that are not dependent upon frequent immigration of wolves from an 
adjacent State or Canada. Thus, even after Federal wolf delisting, each 
State will be managing for a wolf population at, or in excess of,

[[Page 15855]]

the 200 wolves identified in the Federal Recovery Plan for the Eastern 
Timber Wolf as necessary for an isolated wolf population to be viable. 
We support this approach and believe it provides further assurance that 
the gray wolf will remain a viable component of the western Great Lakes 
ecosystem in the foreseeable future.
    The Wisconsin and Michigan wolf management plans recommend similar 
high levels of protection for wolf den and rendezvous sites, whether on 
public or private land. Both State plans recommend that most land uses 
be prohibited at all times within 100 meters (330 feet) of active 
sites. Seasonal restrictions (March through July) should be enforced 
within 0.8 km (0.5 mi) of these sites, to prevent high-disturbance 
activities such as logging from disrupting pup-rearing activities. 
These restrictions should remain in effect even after State delisting 
    While the tribes do not yet have management plans specific to the 
gray wolf, several tribes have informed us that they have no plans or 
intentions to allow commercial or recreational hunting or trapping of 
the species on their lands even if gray wolves were to be federally 
delisted. As previously discussed in the Summary of Factors Affecting 
the Species section, factor B, Overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes, tribes are expected 
to continue to provide sufficient protection to gray wolves on 
reservation lands to preserve the species' long-term viability in the 
western Great Lakes area.
    At the request of the Bad River Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa 
Indians, we are currently working with their Natural Resource Division 
and WI DNR to develop a wolf management agreement for lands adjacent to 
the Bad River Reservation. The tribe's intent is to reduce the threats 
to reservation wolf packs when they are temporarily off the 
reservation. Under the draft agreement, the WI DNR would consult with 
the tribe before using lethal depredation control methods in those 
areas, and would defer to the tribe's recommendations for wolves known 
to be part of a reservation pack. However, this agreement is still 
being developed, so its protective measures must be considered 
speculative. Other tribes have expressed interest in such an agreement, 
and if this and similar agreements are implemented they will provide 
additional protection to certain wolf packs in the Midwest.
    On the basis of information received from other Federal land 
management agencies in the western Great Lakes area, we expect National 
Forests, units of the National Park System, and National Wildlife 
Refuges will provide additional protections to threatened gray wolves 
beyond the protections that will be provided by the Act and its 
regulations, State wolf management plans, and State protective 
regulations. For details, refer to the discussion above under the 
Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section, factor A, The present 
or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat 
or range.
    Western DPS. Previous to this new regulation, wolves in these 
States had two different listings under the Act: (1) Those wolves 
within the two nonessential experimental populations (all of Wyoming 
and most of Idaho and Montana) were, and continue to be, treated as 
threatened wolves for take purposes. However, for purposes of 
interagency cooperation (section 7 of the Act), those wolves are 
treated as species proposed for listing and receive limited 
consideration in the planning and implementation of Federal agency 
actions, unless those actions occur on units of the National Park 
System or the National Wildlife Refuge System, in which case the wolves 
are treated as a threatened species and are subject to the full 
protections of section 7. These wolves also were, and continue to be, 
subject to two special regulations that modify the normal protections 
of the Act for threatened species (under the nonessential experimental 
population designations in 59 FR 60252 and 60266; November 22, 1994). 
(2) Those wolves outside of the nonessential experimental populations 
were listed as endangered and were subject to the strictest protections 
afforded by the Act. This endangered status no longer applies to these 
wolves, and they are now classified as threatened.
    The new special regulations finalized in this rule (see the Special 
Regulations under Section 4(d) for Threatened Species section below) 
will increase management flexibility for wolves in the Western DPS in 
areas outside of the experimental population areas, because they will 
allow take under additional circumstances. Wolves near livestock could 
be harassed in a noninjurious manner at any time on private land or on 
public land by the livestock permittee. Intentional or potentially 
injurious harassment could occur by permit on private land and public 
land. Wolves attacking not only livestock, but also dogs and guard 
animals, on private land could be taken without a permit if they are in 
the act of attacking such animals; on public land a permit will be 
required for such take. Permits could be issued by the Service to take 
wolves on private land if they are a risk to livestock, herding and 
guard animals, or dogs.
    The increased management flexibility for take is expected to reduce 
and more quickly resolve conflicts between livestock producers and 
wolves by providing additional methods by which individual problem 
wolves can be removed from the wild population. We do not expect the 
take under these new special regulations finalized in this rule (see 
the Special Regulations under Section 4(d) for Threatened Species 
section below) to result in a significant increase in the removal of 
problem wolves.
    Depredation Control Programs in the Western DPS. In the northern 
U.S. Rocky Mountain wolf recovery area, reports of suspected wolf-
caused damage to livestock are investigated by USDA/APHIS-Wildlife 
Services specialists using standard techniques (Roy and Dorrance 1976, 
Fritts et al. 1992, Paul and Gipson 1994). If the investigation 
confirms wolf involvement, Wildlife Services specialists contact us and 
subsequently conduct the wolf control measures that we specify. If the 
incident occurred in Idaho, Wildlife Services also coordinates with Nez 
Perce Tribal personnel. The established process is for Wildlife 
Services to investigate the incident, we decide what control measures 
are appropriate, and then Wildlife Services personnel carry out those 
    In 1988, the Service developed an interim wolf control plan that 
was based on the assumption that wolves which chronically attack 
livestock would not be tolerated by the local residents. The control 
plan initially applied to northwestern Montana and northern Idaho, and 
was later amended to include Washington State. Evidence showed that 
most wolves do not attack livestock, especially larger livestock, such 
as horses and cattle. We do not intend for our wolf recovery program to 
be based in part on wolves that have developed the practice of 
livestock depredation, because that would likely erode local tolerance 
for wolf recovery, possibly to the degree that recovery would be 
impossible. Therefore, we developed a set of guidelines under which 
depredating wolves could be harassed, moved, or even killed by agency 
officials to prevent a significant level of chronic livestock 
depredation from occurring. This interim control plan was based on the 
premise that agency wolf control actions would affect only a small 
number of wolves, while it would increase public tolerance for wolf 
recovery and enhance recovery success.

[[Page 15856]]

To date, our assumptions have been shown to be correct, as wolf 
depredation on livestock and subsequent agency control actions have 
remained at low levels, while the wolf population has expanded its 
distribution and numbers and is approaching recovery goals. Using this 
experience, we developed special regulations for the experimental 
population areas that would also promote wolf recovery while reducing 
wolf conflicts with livestock. Thus, we have incorporated important 
aspects of the interim control plan and the experimental population 
rules in the new 4(d) regulation that replaces the interim control 
    In the areas that were covered by the interim wolf control plan and 
experimental population rules, control measures were continued until 
livestock depredations cease, even if all wolves in an area or a pack 
eventually had to be removed. When five or fewer breeding pairs are in 
a recovery area, wolves were relocated on their first offense. When at 
least six breeding pairs are present, wolves were killed after their 
first offense. Wolves that repeatedly depredated on livestock were 
    In experimental areas, the more flexible special regulations allow 
landowners on private land and livestock producers on public land to 
harass wolves at any time. In the experimental areas, wolves attacking 
livestock on private land can be shot by landowners with a permit, and, 
after six breeding pairs are established, our permit can allow 
permittees to shoot wolves attacking livestock on public land. Special 
permits can be issued in areas of chronic livestock-wolf conflict that 
allow qualifying landowners and their adjacent neighbors to shoot a 
wolf on sight. In addition, other special permits can be issued to take 
wolves and approved State management plans can liberalize the 
conditions under which wolves may be taken. A private program has 
compensated ranchers full market value for confirmed and one-half 
market value for probable wolf-kills of livestock and livestock guard 
animals (Defenders of Wildlife 2002, Fischer 1989).
    In northwestern Montana, and while wolves were listed as 
endangered, wolf control under a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit was 
conducted only when livestock were attacked. In the experimental areas, 
wolf control could also occur when other domestic animals, such as 
dogs, are attacked on private land more than once in a calendar year. 
Control in both of these situations consisted of the minimum actions 
believed necessary to reduce further depredations. The spectrum of 
control measures used included intensive monitoring of the wolves and 
livestock (including providing a telemetry receiver to the affected 
rancher), aversive conditioning (i.e., capturing, radio-collaring, and 
releasing wolves on site or harassing wolves with noise-makers such as 
cracker shells), relocating or killing some wolves, or some combination 
of these approaches.
    In northwestern Montana, agency wolf control removed 53 wolves from 
1987 through 2002. Control actions removed an average of 6 percent of 
the population annually, with a range of 0 to 29 percent. In only 3 of 
those 15 years (1987: 29 percent, 1997: 20 percent, and 1999: 12 
percent) did agency control actions remove more than 10 percent of the 
estimated wolf population in that area (Service et al. 2002). At no 
time did agency wolf control remove more than one-third of the wolf 
population annually, the human-caused mortality level that must be 
exceeded to prevent wolf population growth. The percentage of removal 
by agency control in northwestern Montana has been higher than in 
either the Idaho or Yellowstone areas, because northwestern Montana 
does not have similar large areas of refugia (millions of acres of 
contiguous public lands with year-round resident big game populations). 
This results in an overall lower wolf habitat and social carrying 
capacity and a higher level of conflicts than in either the Idaho or 
Yellowstone areas. We expect that under threatened status and the 
accompanying 4(d) rule, which replaces the interim wolf depredation 
control plan, the level of wolf mortality caused by agency and public 
control will be similar to that occurring (less than 10 percent 
annually) under the experimental population regulations in central 
Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone Area.
    The control of problem wolves depredating livestock resulted in the 
removal of less than 5 percent of the wolf population in the northern 
Rocky Mountains from 1987 through 2002 (Service et al. 2002). During 
that period, a total of 148 wolves were killed by agency control 
because of chronic livestock depredation. Only in 1987 did wolf control 
remove more than 9 percent of the wolf population. Only 3 of the 150 
wolves that have been removed were legally killed by landowners who saw 
them attacking their livestock on private land; the rest were removed 
by agency actions. Three wolves were also killed under permits to shoot 
wolves attacking livestock on public grazing allotments or under the 
permits that allow landowners to shoot a wolf on sight in areas of 
chronic wolf-livestock conflict. Human-caused mortality below 10 
percent annually has not been shown to prevent a wolf population from 
growing. The EIS on wolf reintroduction predicated that about 10 
percent of the wolf population would be removed by agency control 
actions annually. To date, agency control has been about half of the 
expected level, but that percentage may increase as the wolf population 
expands into areas where conflicts with domestic livestock are more 
    At the end of 2002, nearly all of the most suitable wolf habitat in 
the northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming was 
occupied by resident wolf packs. As the wolf population continues to 
expand, wolves will increasingly attempt to settle in areas intensively 
used for livestock production, a higher percentage of those wolves 
likely will become involved in conflicts with livestock, and a higher 
percentage will need to be removed. For the wolf population to become 
stabilized, human-caused mortality would have to remove 30 percent or 
more of the wolf population annually.
    This final rule replaces the interim wolf control plan with the 
wolf control actions specified in the 4(d) rule for the Western DPS. 
While wolf control actions will continue to remove wolves that attack 
livestock in the Western DPS, we still expect that wolf population 
recovery was achieved by the end of 2002. Management of wolves under 
the management regulations finalized in this rule (see the Special 
Regulations under Section 4(d) for Threatened Species section below) is 
not expected to significantly increase wolf mortality rates, because 
relatively few wolves attack livestock.
    The only significant difference in the management of problem wolves 
between the previous management under the interim control plan and the 
new management of wolves under the 4(d) rule once they have been 
reclassified from endangered to threatened outside the experimental 
population areas will be the taking of wolves in the act of attacking 
livestock or domestic animals on private land by private landowners. In 
the past 6 years in Idaho and Wyoming, only 3 nonessential experimental 
wolves have been legally taken under such circumstances by landowners, 
and we believe the level of take of nonexperimental threatened wolves 
under the new regulations will be similar. That level of take could not 
significantly increase wolf mortality rates or decrease the rate of 
wolf population recovery. Through the end of 2002, 15 lambs (in Utah), 
but no other

[[Page 15857]]

livestock or pets, have been confirmed killed by a wolf in the Western 
DPS outside of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, and consequently, no wolves 
were removed from these areas by agency control actions.
    During depredation control actions for problem wolves in Montana, 
Idaho, and Wyoming, individual wolves have incurred injuries from 
capture that ultimately resulted in their death or removal from the 
wild (four in Idaho and two in Montana). Mortality from capture is rare 
and not a significant portion of total mortality in the wolf 
    We have determined that effective control of problem wolves 
benefits the conservation of the species in the northern Rocky 
Mountains (Service 1999).
    Southwestern DPS. The protection provided by the Act and the 
special regulation for the southwestern nonessential experimental 
population have been the most important factors in the successful 
reintroduction of gray wolves to the Southwest, and in the slow but 
steady growth of the wild wolf population there. The listing status of 
gray wolves in the Southwestern DPS does not change with this final 
regulation. They will remain endangered, except for the reintroduced 
population which retains its status as a nonessential experimental 
population, and they will continue their recovery as a result of the 
ongoing protection provided by these regulations.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Public Attitudes Toward the Gray Wolf. The primary determinant of 
the long-term status of gray wolf populations in the United States will 
be human attitudes toward this large predator. These attitudes are 
based on the conflicts between human activities and wolves, concern 
with the perceived danger the species may pose to humans, its symbolic 
representation of wilderness, the economic effect of livestock losses, 
the emotions regarding the threat to pets, the conviction that the 
species should never be a target of sport hunting or trapping, and the 
wolf traditions of Native American tribes.
    We have seen a change in public attitudes toward the wolf over the 
last few decades. Public attitudes surveys in Minnesota and Michigan 
(Kellert 1985, 1990, 1999), as well as the citizen input into the wolf 
management plans of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, have indicated 
strong public support for wolf recovery if the adverse impacts on 
recreational activities and livestock producers can be minimized (MI 
DNR 1997, MN DNR 1998, WI DNR 1999a). This increased public acceptance 
of wolves during the last 25 years also has reduced illegal persecution 
and killing of wolves. Another public attitudes survey is being planned 
to assess whether attitudes have changed in Michigan as the State's 
wolf population has expanded (Hammill, pers. comm. 2002).
    Similar national support is evident for wolf recovery and 
reintroduction in the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains. With the continued 
help of private conservation organizations, States, and tribes, we can 
continue to foster public support to maintain viable wolf populations 
in the western Great Lakes area and the West, as well as for recovery 
of wolves in the Southwest. We believe that the special management 
regulations finalized in this rule (see the Special Regulations under 
Section 4(d) for Threatened Species section below) will further enhance 
public support for wolf recovery by providing more effective means for 
dealing with wolf--human conflicts as these conflicts-both real and 
imagined--increase along with expanding wolf populations.


    We recognize that large portions of the historic range, including 
potentially still-suitable habitat within the DPSs, are not currently 
occupied by gray wolves. We emphasize that our determinations are based 
on the current status of, and threats faced by, the existing wolf 
populations within these DPSs. This approach is consistent with the 9th 
Circuit Court's decision in Defenders of Wildlife et al. v. Norton et 
al., where the Court noted that ``[a] species with an exceptionally 
large historical range may continue to enjoy healthy population levels 
despite the loss of a substantial amount of suitable habitat.'' 
Similarly, we believe that when an endangered species has recovered to 
the point where it is no longer in danger of extinction throughout all 
or a significant portion of its current range, it is appropriate to 
downlist the listed species to threatened even if a substantial amount 
of the historical range remains unoccupied. When it is not likely to 
become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its current range, it should be delisted.
    The wolf's progress toward recovery in the Eastern DPS, together 
with the threats that remain to the wolf within the DPS, indicates that 
the gray wolf is not in danger of extinction in its entire range within 
the DPS. Moreover, the progress towards recovery of each of the two 
populations that comprise the metapopulation within the western Great 
Lakes States demonstrates that the species is not in danger of 
extinction in any significant portion of the range of the species 
within the DPS. We therefore conclude that gray wolves are no longer 
properly classified as endangered in the Eastern DPS. Accordingly, we 
have determined that the Eastern DPS deserves status as a threatened 
species under the Act.
    We also conclude, based both on the wolf's recovery progress in the 
Western DPS, and on our assessment of the threats that will remain to 
the wolf within the DPS once the wolf is reclassified as threatened 
(including the continuation of the nonessential experimental population 
designation and its special regulations), that the gray wolf is not in 
danger of extinction throughout its range within the Western DPS. 
Because the three initially isolated populations in the Western DPS now 
function as a single large metapopulation, and because there is no 
other population of wolves within the DPS, this conclusion applies to 
all parts of the wolf's range in the DPS, and so we also conclude that 
the wolf is not in danger of extinction within any significant portion 
of its range in the DPS. The gray wolf therefore is no longer 
endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range in the 
Western DPS. Accordingly, we have determined that the Western DPS 
deserves status as a threatened species under the Act.
    In contrast, the gray wolves in the Southwest are still in the 
initial stage of recovery. The population's growth rate is low in 
comparison to the growth rates shown by the gray wolf populations in 
the Western Great Lakes and the Northern U.S. Rocky Mountains. However, 
this is expected when establishing a wild population from captive-born 
animals. Recent data indicate that the population growth rate will 
increase in the near future. Nonetheless, even with the protections of 
the Act, the currently small population of Mexican wolves, combined 
with the lack of a recovery goal or measure of sustainability, is still 
threatened with extinction throughout all or a significant portion of 
its range. Therefore, we have not reduced the protections for these 
wolves, and we have retained their designation as a nonessential 
experimental population in portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, 
and as endangered in those parts of the Southwestern DPS that are 
outside the experimental population area.

[[Page 15858]]

    The Service intends to continue and complete its Eastern, Northern 
Rockies, and Southwestern gray wolf recovery programs. Furthermore, we 
will continue to focus our recovery activities in the current core 
recovery areas (i.e., Minnesota, Wisconsin, Upper Peninsula of 
Michigan, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arizona). Once wolf 
recovery goals are achieved in the recovery areas of any one of the 
DPSs, we will proceed to delist the entire DPS that contains that 
respective recovery area, even if some of the States within the DPS 
lack wild gray wolves. The presence of gray wolves outside of the 
recovery areas is not required for the Service to reclassify or delist 
the entire DPS pursuant to the requirements of the Act.

Need for Immediate Implementation

    The wolf population in Wisconsin and Michigan has increased by 30 
percent since the publication of our July 2000 proposed rule. The 
number of wolves captured and translocated after depredating on 
domestic animals has similarly increased; finding suitable locations to 
release these depredating wolves has become extremely challenging in 
Wisconsin. The Board of Supervisors of Forest County, where WI DNR has 
previously translocated most of their depredating wolves, has recently 
passed a resolution opposing any additional WI DNR releases of known 
depredating wolves in that county. Local residents and officials from 
several other Wisconsin counties have expressed similar opposition. WI 
DNR has been negotiating with the Menominee Indian Reservation to 
release several known depredating wolves on the reservation, but a 
single multi-wolf release will likely exhaust the wolf carrying 
capacity of the reservation. Another problem is the opposition of local 
officials from the areas surrounding the reservation; they are 
concerned that the wolves will move beyond the reservation into the 
surrounding dairy farm area and resume their attacks on livestock.
    The WI DNR has run out of suitable places to release depredating 
wolves, and is now having to release them in less than ideal locations 
(that is, too close to the capture point, too close to other livestock 
operations, or in areas with low deer densities from which wolf 
dispersal is more likely), and repeat depredations are expected to 
occur from these releases. Two suspected instances of depredations 
following translocation have already occurred. Repeat depredations 
following capture and translocation of known depredating wolves is not 
likely to be tolerated by some local residents, and State and Federal 
agencies may be perceived as not taking wolf-human conflicts seriously. 
To date, wolf recovery efforts in Wisconsin have benefitted from strong 
public support, and we do not want to further strain that support.
    An immediate effective date for the reclassification to threatened 
status for the Eastern DPS, and the associated special regulations 
under section 4(d) of the Act, maximizes the ability of WI and MI DNRs 
to promptly and efficiently remove depredating wolves. Such timely and 
effective response will reduce the incentive for vigilante wolf 
killings and should help to foster public support for continuing wolf 
population growth.
    In the Western DPS, the special rule should be made effective 
immediately because the wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains 
is continuing to rapidly expand its numbers and distribution. The peak 
of wolf dispersal is in fall and early winter so immediate 
implementation of the rule can provide important benefits for wolf 
conflict reduction and conservation in northwestern Montana and in 
areas surrounding the two NEPs. Wolves in northwestern Montana are 
becoming more numerous and many of those wolves will continue to live 
in and around people. The special rule provides the Service with 
additional management tools and flexibility as additional conflicts 
with people develop. Continued wolf population growth will also result 
in an increased probability that individual wolves will disperse into 
neighboring States from the northern Rockies recovery areas. Those 
wolves may need management by the Service if they become involved in 
conflicts with people. The finalization of this rule took much longer 
than anticipated, and its conservation measures are urgently needed to 
help with wolf restoration efforts and should not be delayed any 
    Therefore, we find there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to 
implement these rules immediately.

Gray Wolves in Captivity

    We recognize that there are many gray wolves being held in 
captivity for a variety of reasons. Some of these are being held for 
research, propagation, or educational projects that are part of gray 
wolf recovery programs; many others are considered pets or are held for 
other reasons. Those captive wolves potentially can be a valuable part 
of the recovery program for the areas from which they originated. For 
example, they may become useful in genetic or taxonomic studies, or 
serve as a potential source of wolves that could be released into the 
wild. This is especially true for our gray wolf recovery program in the 
Southwest. Captive-rearing facilities for this recovery program exist 
within the geographic boundaries of all three DPSs, as well as in the 
area that we have now delisted. We believe those captive wolves have 
sufficient potential importance in our future recovery efforts so that 
they warrant the continued protections of the Act at the same level as 
their wild counterparts, regardless of the location of their captivity.
    Therefore, we are linking the listing status of captive gray wolves 
to the listing status of their geographic origin. We have defined the 
three DPSs to include wild gray wolves living within the boundaries of 
the DPSs, as well as those captive wolves that were removed from the 
wild, or whose ancestors were removed from the wild, from within the 
geographic boundaries of a DPS, regardless of where the captive wolves 
may be held. If a DPS is delisted in the future, those captive wolves 
that originated, or whose ancestors originated, from within that DPS 
will also be delisted at that time.

Other Alternatives Considered

    Our proposal contained discussion of several other alternative 
actions that we considered as we developed the proposal. Among those 
other alternatives were creating larger or smaller DPSs in the eastern 
half of the United States and including more or all States within the 
DPSs. In the discussion of the latter alternative, we specifically 
mentioned examples such as including California, Nevada, New Jersey, 
Massachusetts, and Kansas in a DPS, in which case they would have the 
same threatened or endangered classification as the rest of the DPS. We 
described why those alternatives were not our proposed action; however, 
we requested comments and other information on those alternatives, as 
well as on other alternatives that we might not have considered at all. 
We received many comments on some of these alternatives, and we have 
reconsidered their implementation. We will not provide further 
discussion of those other alternatives in this final rule, except for 
the aspects of those alternatives that we have incorporated into this 
final rule. Those discussions are found within the appropriate parts of 
this document.

Changes From the Proposed Rule

    As a result of comments or additional data received during the 

[[Page 15859]]

period, or due to additional analysis on our part, several changes were 
made to the DPSs and the special regulations that we proposed on July 
13, 2000 (refer to Maps 2 and 3 below). Some of these changes 
incorporate components of several of the alternatives that were 
discussed in our proposal and for which we requested comments. In 
addition, combining two DPSs and adopting alternate DPS boundaries 
necessarily resulted in our consideration of including the additional 
areas under the coverage of the special regulations we proposed under 
section 4(d) of the Act. The following paragraphs discuss these 
    Overall, this final rule results in smaller changes in the 
previously provided protections of the Act than we had recommended in 
our July 2000 proposal. The final rule contains no changes to the Act's 
protection of the gray wolf that are more extensive than what we had 
    Combining Proposed Western Great Lakes DPS and Proposed 
Northeastern DPS--These two proposed DPSs have been combined into a 
larger DPS called the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS.
    At the time we proposed the listing of a Northeastern Gray Wolf 
DPS, we were well aware that the taxonomy of wolves in eastern North 
America was under scrutiny and was potentially subject to revision. We 
were also aware that evidence for the existence of a wolf population in 
the Northeast--while increasing in the 1990s--was still insufficient to 
conclude that a resident gray wolf population existed there. However, 
at that time we believed the gray wolf likely was the historical wolf 
in the Northeast, and we expected to receive additional information 
supporting its continued existence there during the comment period.
    Since our proposal was developed, we have received insufficient 
information to substantiate that a wolf population exists in the area 
we proposed for a Northeastern DPS. Furthermore, recent molecular 
genetics work (Wilson et al. 2000) advances the view that the wolf 
currently occurring in nearby southeastern Ontario and eastward into 
part of Quebec is the purported new canid species Canis lycaon and not 
a gray wolf (C. lupus).
    Given these two factors--the lack of a current wolf population and 
the continuing uncertainty about the identity of the historical wolf--
at this time, we cannot list a separate gray wolf DPS in the 
Northeastern States. Because the identity of the historical wolf in the 
Northeast is still unresolved and the gray wolf has not been ruled out 
as that entity, we are taking the conservative approach and are 
retaining protection for any gray wolves that might remain in, or move 
to, the Northeastern States by combining this geographic area with the 
proposed Great Lakes DPS and calling it the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS. The 
entire Eastern DPS is listed as threatened in recognition of the 
ongoing successful recovery progress shown by the Midwestern wolf 
    We will reconsider this issue when we consider any listing, 
reclassification, or delisting action that affects the Eastern DPS.
    Delisting Only in Areas Where Previously Listed in Error--The final 
rule delists the gray wolf in parts or all of 16 eastern and southern 
States, rather than parts or all of 30 States, as proposed.
    We had proposed to delist the gray wolf in parts or all of 30 
States, because we believed that gray wolf restoration is not necessary 
and not feasible in those areas. Therefore, we believed it would be 
appropriate to remove the Federal regulations pertaining to gray wolves 
in those areas. Such a change would have no impact on our current gray 
wolf recovery programs, and it seemed reasonable to remove regulations 
from those geographic areas where they provided no foreseeable benefits 
to the species.
    However, neither the Act nor its implementing regulations allow the 
delisting of a portion of a listed species' historical range because 
restoration is not necessary and not feasible in that area. Delisting 
can only occur if the listed species is recovered, if the listed 
species is extinct, or if the original listing was based on data, or 
data interpretation, that were in error (50 CFR 424.11(d)).
    As described in the Historical Range of the Gray Wolf section 
above, the species' historical range did not extend into many southern 
and eastern States. Therefore, our 1978 listing of the gray wolf 
throughout the 48 States and Mexico was partially in error. This final 
rule corrects the 1978 error by delisting the gray wolf in all or parts 
of 16 southern and eastern States that were not within the species' 
historical range. The remaining conterminous States and Mexico will 
remain in one of the listed DPSs until gray wolves in that DPS are 
recovered, the species becomes extinct, or the area is shown to have 
been listed in error.
    Retaining Listings for Areas Previously Proposed for Delisting--
California and Nevada have been added to the Western DPS. Nebraska, 
Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New 
Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts have been added to 
the Eastern DPS (formerly the Western Great Lakes and Northeastern 
DPSs). Oklahoma west of Interstate 35 and Texas north of Interstate 40 
have been added to the endangered Southwestern DPS that includes parts 
of the United States and Mexico.
    Because we are delisting the gray wolf in 14 fewer States than we 
proposed, those 14 States must remain part of a listed entity. In 
general, we have added individual States to the DPS containing the core 
wolf population from which those States are most likely to receive 
dispersing gray wolves. For example, on the basis of several cases of 
probable Minnesota wolves dispersing into the Dakotas (including 
extreme western south Dakota (Licht and Fritts 1994; Straughan and Fain 
2002)), and an absence of any evidence of Rocky Mountain wolves 
dispersing into those States, we have placed the western boundary of 
the Eastern DPS at the western borders of the Great Plains States.
    Similarly, because of their great distance from core Midwestern 
wolf populations and their relative proximity to active Southwestern 
gray wolf recovery areas, western Oklahoma and northern Texas are 
included in the endangered Southwestern DPS instead of the threatened 
Eastern DPS. Thus, they retain their previous listing as endangered, as 
do those gray wolves in the Southwest United States and Mexico. While 
we believe there is only a low likelihood that wolves from New Mexico 
or Arizona will disperse to northern Texas or western Oklahoma, it is 
even less likely that Midwestern wolves will disperse there.
    The entire States of California and Nevada have been added to the 
Western DPS. The northern portions of these States are a relatively 
short distance from the existing and expanding gray wolf populations in 
Idaho and Wyoming, and wolves dispersing from those populations have 
already moved to locations only a short distance from the California 
and Nevada State lines. Dispersal into California and Nevada may have 
already occurred, but has not yet been verified. Thus, the northern 
portions of these two States clearly belong in the Western DPS. While 
it may appear from a superficial consideration of a map and the known 
dispersal distances of wolves in other areas (refer to the following 
section for additional discussion) that Southwestern (Mexican) wolves 
are more likely to disperse to southern California and Nevada than are 
northern U.S. Rockies wolves, we do not believe this is necessarily 
correct. The Colorado

[[Page 15860]]

River will be a substantial obstacle to any wolves attempting to 
disperse westward from the reintroduced wolf population in Arizona, and 
the potential for wolves to disperse long distances across desert 
habitat is unknown. Therefore, we believe wolf dispersal to southern 
California and southern Nevada is similarly unlikely from either 
Arizona or the northern U.S. Rockies. Therefore, in the absence of 
clear biological support for either the inclusion or exclusion of 
southern California/Nevada in the Western DPS, we have decided to 
include these two States in the Western DPS for the sake of 
administrative convenience and to facilitate public understanding of 
the boundaries applicable to our new gray wolf regulations.
    Therefore, as we have delineated them, the boundaries of these 
three gray wolf DPSs not only completely encompass the core gray wolf 
recovery populations and their recovery areas, but also include the 
known locations of all documented dispersers and the most likely 
locations for future dispersers from those core populations. While our 
Vertebrate Population Policy does not require the complete isolation of 
DPSs, it does require that they be ``markedly separated'' from each 
other and from other populations of the species. Based on documented 
wolf movements to date, these DPS boundary locations exceed that 
    Change to the Boundary Between the Western DPS and the Southwestern 
DPS--We proposed that the boundary between the Western DPS and the 
Southwestern DPS would be in northern Arizona and New Mexico, along the 
northern border of the experimental population area established for the 
nonessential experimental population of gray wolves in Arizona and New 
Mexico. This would have resulted in a large portion of the boundary 
between the Western DPS and the Southwestern DPS being less than 160 km 
(100 mi) from areas currently occupied by wolves in the Southwestern 
(Mexican) wolf recovery program, but being nearly 800 km (500 mi) from 
the southernmost wolf packs in the northern U.S. Rockies.
    To date we have verified records of two northern U.S. Rocky 
Mountain wolves dispersing into northern Utah and no verified records 
of wolves dispersing into Colorado. Similarly, we have no verified 
records of Southwestern wolves dispersing into extreme northern Arizona 
or New Mexico, or into the southern half of Utah or Colorado. However, 
dispersal distance data from the Midwest and from other areas of the 
Rockies (Fritts 1983, Missouri Dept. of Conservation 2001, Ream et al. 
1991) show that gray wolves disperse as far as 800 km (500 mi) from 
existing wolf populations. More routine long-distance movements 
probably are on the order of 400-480 km (250-300 mi).
    Therefore, we have concluded that, in the final rule that 
establishes the Southwestern and Western DPSs, we should use a boundary 
that is more consistent with known and expected dispersal distances 
than was the boundary recommended in our July 13, 2000, proposed rule. 
U.S. Highway 50 in Utah and Interstate 70 in Colorado represent such a 
boundary. Furthermore, these highways are clear and convenient features 
on maps and on the landscape, and should facilitate implementing and 
enforcing these regulations on the ground. For these reasons, we are 
using these highways in Utah and Colorado to delineate a portion of the 
boundary between the Western Gray Wolf DPS and the Southwestern Gray 
Wolf DPS.
    This boundary change also results in a larger area in which wolves 
will retain an endangered listing than was shown in our July 13, 2000, 
proposal. Gray wolves that disperse into the southern half of Utah and 
Colorado or into the portions of Arizona and New Mexico north of the 
nonessential experimental area will have entered the Southwestern DPS 
and will be protected as endangered wolves. However, if they are 
identifiable as having originated from one of the NEPs, they will be 
subject to the provisions for managing dispersing wolves as described 
in the appropriate experimental population rule at 50 CFR 17.84(i) or 
    Changes to Proposed 4(d) Rule for the Western DPS--The conditions 
under which a private citizen can take a wolf in this final rule for 
the Western DPS are slightly more restrictive than those we proposed in 
July 2000. Under the proposal, a person could take a gray wolf on 
private land if it were seen physically attacking any domestic animal, 
if there was evidence of a wolf attack such as wounded domestic 
animals, and such taking was reported within 24 hours. In this final 
rule, such taking is allowed by a landowner, and without a permit, when 
a wolf is seen attacking any livestock (cattle, sheep, horses, or 
mules), livestock guarding or herding animals, or dogs on private land; 
such taking also can be done by permit on Federal grazing allotments. 
Some people commented that allowing wolves to be taken for attacking 
any domestic animal was too liberal and, in the case of small domestic 
animals, we would lack the type of documentation (physical evidence of 
wounds made by wolves) that would be needed to prevent abuse of this 
provision. Some types of domestic animals, such as rabbits or small 
fowl, are too small for us to be able to determine if they were 
attacked by wolves. In addition, since 1987, when the first wolf 
depredation on livestock occurred, until December 2001, only cattle 
(n=188), sheep (n=494), horses (n=3), llamas (n=4), and dogs (n=43) 
have been confirmed to have been attacked by wolves in the northern 
Rockies. Other types of domestic animals are extremely rare in the 
parts of the western United States where wolves may occur, and wolf 
depredation on those types of smaller animals is unlikely because they 
are usually kept in pens. This final rule gives private landowners or 
Federal grazing permittees the ability to protect the types of domestic 
animals that might be vulnerable to wolf depredation. The conditions 
under which wolves may be legally taken would minimize the number of 
wolves that would be killed by private citizens without reasonable 
    Injurious harassment (that is, by using nonlethal ammunition, such 
as rubber bullets or bean bag projectiles issued by the Service after 
appropriate training) is also being allowed under Service-issued 
permits on public livestock grazing allotments to reduce the incidence 
of bold wolf behavior. Aversively conditioning wolves that have become 
bold or begin to closely associate with livestock could help reduce 
wolf-livestock conflicts and the need for subsequent agency lethal wolf 
control. Providing this management tool under permit for livestock 
producers on public land grazing allotments would allow its selective 
use, would prevent abuse, and is not expected to increase wolf 
mortality, and may decrease it.
    The Service has also eliminated the 10 breeding pair per State 
requirement prior to allowing lethal take permits for private 
landowners. This was changed to increase the potential to implement 
this type of important wolf management tool on private lands that in 
the future might experience chronic depredation by wolves, especially 
in States adjacent to Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. It is highly 
unlikely that any area or State outside of the experimental populations 
areas, other than Montana, will have 10 or more breeding pairs before 
wolves are delisted. The overall wolf reclassification and recovery 
goal is based upon the overall number of breeding pairs in the northern 
U.S. Rocky Mountains, rather than those in each State. Eliminating the 
10 breeding pairs requirement will eliminate confusion over the number 
of wolves

[[Page 15861]]

per State and how wolf breeding pairs that have home ranges across 
State or experimental population borders might be counted.
    The requirement that previously confirmed wolf-caused domestic 
animal depredations have occurred in the current year as well as at 
least one previous year within the last 10 years, or twice in the 
current year, has been added to demonstrate a pattern of chronic wolf 
depredation on that area of private property. This additional 
requirement will also clarify that this provision of the special rule 
contains the same conditions as must be satisfied for us to grant the 
take permits that are currently authorized in the experimental 
population rules for Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming at 50 CFR 
    Wider Geographic Application of Proposed 4(d) Rule for the Formerly 
Proposed Western Great Lakes DPS--The special regulation that we 
proposed for the States of Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, and South 
Dakota now applies to all States within the Eastern DPS that are west 
of Pennsylvania, excluding Minnesota. It does not apply to Pennsylvania 
and other Eastern DPS States that are east of Ohio. Individual gray 
wolves that might appear in these area may be important to future wolf 
recovery efforts in the Northeast. Minnesota wolves continue to be 
covered by a preexisting special regulation at 50 CFR 17.40(d).
    Our proposed special regulation for the proposed Western Great 
Lakes DPS was primarily intended to enable States and tribes outside of 
Minnesota to use lethal control measures, at their discretion, in a 
manner that would efficiently and effectively reduce wolf depredations 
on domestic animals. We believe this approach is consistent with the 
recovery of the wolf population in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
    We are now applying these regulations to most States within the 
Eastern DPS, on the basis of our conclusion that very few, if any, 
wolves will be taken in these additional States, and that such take is 
consistent with recovery of the wolf in the Eastern DPS.
    Northeastern wild wolves should not be subject to lethal 
depredation control until their origin and identity has been 
determined, or their potential recovery role is otherwise evaluated. 
Therefore, we are not including the States and tribes east of Ohio in 
the coverage of this special regulation. However, if such wolves are 
determined not to be important to wolf recovery in the Northeastern 
United States or elsewhere, we will take appropriate action to address 
the depredation problem.
    We have also added wording to this 4(d) rule to clarify that wolves 
that threaten human safety may be taken, not only by employees of 
certain Federal, State, and tribal agencies, but also by agents of 
those agencies who have been designated in writing for that purpose. 
The phrase ``demonstrable but nonimmediate'' has been added to further 
specify the form of threat to human safety that could trigger such a 
taking. These additions ensure consistency with the similar regulation 
for endangered species at 50 CFR 17.21(c)(3)(iv).

[[Page 15862]]



[[Page 15863]]

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as: (i) The 
specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species at 
the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found 
those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation 
of the species and (II) that may require special management 
considerations or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon 
a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of 
the species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and 
procedures needed to bring the species to the point at which listing 
under the Act is no longer necessary. Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as 
amended, and implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to 
the maximum extent prudent and determinable, we designate critical 
habitat at the time we list a species.
    Critical habitat was designated for the gray wolf in 1978 (43 FR 
9607, March 9, 1978). That rule (50 CFR 17.95(a)) identifies Isle 
Royale National Park, Michigan, and Minnesota wolf management zones 1, 
2, and 3, as delineated in 50 CFR 17.40(d)(1), as critical habitat. 
Wolf management zones 1, 2, and 3 comprise approximately 3,800 sq km 
(9,800 sq mi) in northeastern and north-central Minnesota. This rule 
does not affect those existing critical habitat designations.
    The Endangered Species Act amendments of 1982 specified that, for 
any critical habitat designation for a species already listed as 
threatened or endangered at the time of enactment of the 1982 
amendments, the procedures for revisions to critical habitat would 
apply (Pub. L. 97-304, section 2(b)(2)). Consequently, designation of 
critical habitat for the gray wolf is subject to the procedures for 
revisions to critical habitat. As such, it is not mandatory for the 
Service to designate critical habitat for the gray wolf. Section 
4(a)(3)(B) provides that the Service ``may'' make revisions to critical 
habitat ``from time-to-time * * * as appropriate'' (16 U.S.C. 
1533(a)(3)(B)). The Service has determined that there currently are no 
likely benefits to be derived from additional critical habitat 
designations, and it therefore is not appropriate to designate 
additional critical habitat. Wolf populations in both the Eastern and 
Western DPSs are at their numerical recovery goals as a result of past 
and current protections, but the currently designated critical habitat 
played a negligible role in wolf recovery. This is attributable to the 
fact that gray wolves are habitat generalists, and their numbers and 
range are not limited by a lack of suitable habitat or by any 
degradation of any essential habitat features. Designating critical 
habitat would be an inappropriate use of our limited listing funds if 
done for a species that is successfully recovering without such 
designation, and at a time when we have determined that it is more 
appropriate to reduce, rather than increase, the Federal protections 
for the species.
    It should also be noted that the Act (section 10(j)(2)(C)(ii)) 
prohibits us from designating critical habitat for the nonessential 
experimental populations established in the Western and Southwestern 
DPSs. Furthermore, 50 CFR 424.12(h) prohibits the designation of 
critical habitat in foreign countries.

Special Regulations Under Section 4(d) for Threatened Species

    The Act and its implementing regulations found at 50 CFR 17.21 set 
forth a series of general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all 
endangered wildlife. These prohibitions, in part, make it illegal for 
any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take 
(includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture, or collect; or to attempt any of these), import, export, ship 
in interstate commerce in the course of commercial activity, or sell or 
offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce any endangered 
wildlife species. It is also illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, 
transport, or ship any such wildlife that has been taken illegally. 
Certain exceptions apply to our agents and agents of State conservation 
    Section 4(d) of the Act provides that whenever a species is listed 
as a threatened species, we shall issue regulations deemed necessary 
and advisable to provide for the conservation of the species. Section 
4(d) also states that we may, by regulation, extend to threatened 
species the prohibitions provided for endangered species under section 
9. The implementing regulations for threatened wildlife under the Act 
incorporate the section 9 prohibitions for endangered wildlife (50 CFR 
17.31), except when a special regulation promulgated pursuant to 
section 4(d) applies (50 CFR 17.31(c)).
    With this final rule we are retaining the special regulation under 
section 4(d) of the Act that has been crucial to conserving the gray 
wolf in Minnesota, and we are implementing a similar special regulation 
to provide similar authority for lethal control of depredating wolves 
in most of the Eastern DPS.
    We are also implementing a special regulation to assist in managing 
the rapidly expanding gray wolf population in the Western DPS. It 
applies to wolves outside the boundaries of the currently designated 
nonessential experimental population areas. The existing 10(j) special 
regulations for the currently designated nonessential experimental 
populations in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming will remain in effect.
    The existing special regulation for the gray wolf nonessential 
experimental population in portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas 
also remains unchanged.

Continuation of Existing Special Regulations for Minnesota Gray Wolves

    In 1978 we developed special regulations under section 4(d) of the 
Act for gray wolves in Minnesota in order to reduce the conflicts 
between gray wolves and livestock producers. These regulations were 
modified in 1985 (50 FR 50792; December 12, 1985; 50 CFR 17.40(d)) and 
remain unchanged. The regulations divided the State into five 
management zones and established the conditions under which certain 
State or Federal employees or agents may trap and kill wolves that are 
likely to continue preying on lawfully present domestic animals. The 
intent of these regulations was to provide an effective means to reduce 
the economic impact of livestock losses due to wolves. We believed that 
by reducing these impacts, private citizens would have less incentive 
to resort to illegal and excessive killing of problem wolves, and that 
consequently the recovery of the wolf would be hastened in Minnesota.
    We operated this Minnesota Wolf Depredation Control Program from 
1976 into 1986. Congressional action in 1986 transferred the Animal 
Damage Control Program to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal 
and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS). In 1997 the Animal 
Damage Control program was renamed ``Wildlife Services.'' USDA/APHIS-
Wildlife Services continues to operate the Wolf Depredation Control 
Program in Minnesota. This final rule will not change the special 
regulations that authorize these wolf depredation control activities in 

New Special Regulations

    Special regulations are being implemented for the gray wolf 
populations in the Western DPS and in much of the Eastern DPS 
(excluding Minnesota and States east of Ohio).

[[Page 15864]]

These special regulations are intended to be consistent with the 
conservation of the gray wolf in those areas by reducing actual and 
perceived conflicts with human activities, thus reducing the likelihood 
and extent of illegal killing of wolves.
    In the case of the Western Gray Wolf DPS, the new section 4(d) 
regulation will apply only to wolves outside of the nonessential 
experimental population areas. The existing 1994 special regulations 
that apply to the two nonessential experimental population areas (50 
CFR 17.84(i)) will remain in effect. The new special regulations 
finalized in this rule will allow similar, but increased, management 
flexibility for problem wolves in all areas of the Western DPS that are 
outside of the boundaries of the two experimental population areas. The 
existing experimental population special regulations will remain in 
    New Western Gray Wolf DPS Special Regulations Under 4(d) (Refer to 
the following table for a comparison of these new regulations with the 
continuing regulations for the experimental population areas.)
    The new 4(d) rule will expand the situations in which wolves that 
are in conflict with human activities may be taken by the Service or by 
private individuals. The Service is doing this to increase human 
tolerance of wolves in order to enhance the survival and recovery of 
the wolf population. The special rule for managing the threatened wolf 
population allows wolf control and management in a very similar manner 
to that allowed under the special regulations for the two nonessential 
experimental population areas in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Those 
regulations have been in place since 1995, and have helped the wolf 
population grow rapidly to recovery levels with a low level of conflict 
with humans.
    Any wolf that poses an immediate threat to human safety may be 
taken by anyone at that time and without any special permit. Any wolf 
that is a demonstrable but nonimmediate threat to human safety may be 
taken by us, by a Federal land management agency, by a State or tribal 
conservation agency, or by agents designated by these agencies. These 
types of taking are already generally permitted under 50 CFR 17.21(c) 
and 17.31(a) of the regulations implementing the Act, but are 
specifically mentioned again as being permitted by this rule for 
clarification. Such taking must be reported immediately (within 24 
hours), and the wolf carcass must not be disturbed.
    The new 4(d) rule allows private landowners and livestock grazing 
permittees to harass wolves in a noninjurious manner at any time and 
for any reason. In addition, landowners and grazing permittees on 
Federal lands, in certain conditions, may receive permits and training 
from the Service (or Service-authorized agencies or individuals) to 
intentionally harass wolves in a nonlethal but injurious manner, such 
as by rubber bullets or other Service-issued projectiles designed to be 
less-than-lethal to large mammals.
    Under the final 4(d) rule, landowners on their private land may 
take a wolf that is observed in the act of physically attacking 
(biting, grasping, etc.) livestock (defined to include cattle, sheep, 
horses, mules, and livestock guarding or herding animals) and dogs. 
Such takings must be reported immediately, and evidence of a wolf 
attack must be present. Grazing permittees on Federal leases may 
receive a permit from us to take wolves in the act of attacking 
livestock or livestock herding or guarding animals after we have 
confirmed wolf depredation on their allotment.
    In situations on private land where there have been repeated 
confirmed wolf depredations on livestock and dogs, private landowners 
may receive a permit from the Service to shoot a wolf or wolves on 
sight. The Service or Service-authorized agencies may remove wolves 
that attack livestock or other domestic animals.
    In cases where the State or tribal wildlife management agency or 
the Service can reasonably demonstrate that wolf predation is having an 
unacceptable effect on big game herds, the Service can authorize wolf 
relocation to reduce predation by wolves.
    The Service may also issue written permits for take of wolves as 
specified under 50 CFR 17.32, and we may also designate other agencies 
to take wolves under a variety of specific circumstances and conditions 
including for scientific purposes; to avoid conflict with human 
activities; to improve wolf survival and recovery; to aid or euthanize 
sick, injured, or orphaned individuals; to salvage specimens; and to 
aid law enforcement. The Service may also authorize agencies to take 
any wolf or wolf-like canid it determines is showing abnormal 
behavioral or physical characteristics.

 Table 1.--Comparison of the New Special Rule for the Western Gray Wolf
      DPS and the Continuing Experimental Population Special Rules
    [Refer to the regulations in 50 CFR for the complete wording and
                        reporting requirements.]
                               Populations Special    New Section 4(d)
         Provision:               Rules 50 CFR       Special Rule 50 CFR
                                    17.40(n):             17.40(n):
Geographic area.............  This special rule     This special rule
                               applies only to       will apply to any
                               wolves within the     gray wolves that
                               areas of two          occur in those
                               Nonessential          parts of the
                               Experimental          Western DPS (WDPS)
                               Populations (NEP),    that are outside of
                               which together        the NEP areas:
                               include Wyoming,      Washington, Oregon,
                               the southern          California, Nevada,
                               portion of Montana,   northern Idaho,
                               and Idaho south of    northern Montana,
                               Interstate 90.        northern Utah, and
                                                     northern Colorado.
Interagency Coordination      Federal agency        Federal agency
 (Sec. 7 consultation).        consultation with     consultation with
                               the U.S. Fish and     the Service on
                               Wildlife Service on   agency actions that
                               agency actions that   may affect gray
                               may affect gray       wolves is required,
                               wolves is not         but will not result
                               required within the   in land-use
                               two NEPs, unless      restrictions on
                               those actions are     Federal land unless
                               on lands of the       needed to avoid
                               National Park         take at active den
                               System or the         sites between April
                               National Wildlife     1 and June 30,
                               Refuge System.        except in National
                                                     Parks or National
                                                     Wildlife Refuges
                                                     where other
                                                     restrictions may be
Take in self defense........  Any person may take   Same as the current
                               a wolf in self        experimental
                               defense or in         population special
                               defense of others.    rules.
Protection of human life and  The Service, or       Similar to the
 safety.                       agencies authorized   current
                               by the Service, may   experimental
                               promptly remove       population special
                               (that is, place in    rules, but applies
                               captivity or kill)    to the Service,
                               any wolf determined   other Federal land
                               by the Service or     management
                               authorized agency     agencies, and State
                               to be a threat to     or tribal
                               human life or         conservation
                               safety.               agencies.

[[Page 15865]]

Opportunistic harassment....  Landowners and        Same as the current
                               grazing allotment     experimental
                               holders can           population special
                               opportunistically     rules.
                               harass gray wolves
                               in a noninjurious
                               manner without a
                               Service permit.
Intentional harassment        No specific           The Service can
 Permits.                      provision for         issue a 90-day
                               intentional           permit to private
                               harassment permits.   landowners or to
                                                     livestock producers
                                                     for use on public
                                                     grazing allotments
                                                     after verified
                                                     persistent wolf
                                                     activity on their
                                                     private land or
                                                     public grazing
                                                     allotment; permit
                                                     would allow
                                                     intentional and
                                                     injurious, but
                                                     harassment of
Taking wolves ``in the act''  Livestock producers   Similar to the
 on PRIVATE land.              on their private      current
                               land may take a       experimental
                               gray wolf in the      population special
                               act of killing,       rules, but this
                               wounding, or biting   provision is
                               livestock. Injured    broadened to also
                               or dead livestock     apply to gray
                               must be in evidence   wolves attacking
                               to verify the wolf    dogs and livestock
                               attack.               herding and
                                                     guarding animals.
Permits for taking            If six breeding       Same permits are
 persistent problem wolves     pairs of wolves are   available, but they
 ``in the act'' on PUBLIC      established in an     can be issued
 land.                         NEP area, livestock   regardless of the
                               producers and         wolf population
                               permittees with       level.
                               current valid        ``Livestock'' is
                               livestock grazing     defined to also
                               allotments on         include herding or
                               public land can get   guard animals.
                               a 45-day permit      ``Public land'' is
                               from the Service or   defined to include
                               other agencies        Federal land and
                               designated by the     any other public
                               Service, to take      land designated in
                               gray wolves in the    State and tribal
                               act of killing,       wolf management
                               wounding, or biting   plans.
                               livestock. The
                               Service must have
                               verified previous
                               attacks by wolves,
                               and must have
                               completed agency
                               efforts to resolve
                               the problem.
Permits for additional        No specific           If we confirm two
 taking by private citizens    provision for such    separate
 on their PRIVATE land for     permits. However,     depredation
 chronic wolf depredation.     see provision below   incidents on
                               for ``Permits for     livestock or dogs
                               recovery actions      on the subject
                               that include take     private property or
                               of gray wolves''.     on an adjacent
                                                     private property
                                                     and we have
                                                     confirmed that
                                                     wolves are
                                                     routinely present
                                                     on the subject
                                                     property and
                                                     present a
                                                     significant risk to
                                                     livestock or dogs,
                                                     a private landowner
                                                     may receive a
                                                     permit from the
                                                     Service to take
                                                     those wolves, under
Government take of PROBLEM    The Service or        ``Problem wolves''
 WOLVES.                       agencies designated   is defined to have
                               by the Service may    the same meaning:
                               take wolves that      wolves that (1)
                               attack livestock or   attack livestock or
                               that twice in a       (2) twice in a
                               calendar year         calendar year
                               attack domestic       attack domestic
                               animals other than    animals other than
                               livestock. When six   livestock.
                               or more breeding     Criteria to
                               pairs are             determine when take
                               established in an     will be initiated
                               NEP, lethal control   are similar to
                               of problem wolves     those for the NEP:
                               or permanent          (1) evidence of the
                               placement in          attack, (2) reason
                               captivity may be      to believe that
                               authorized by the     additional attacks
                               Service or agency     will occur, (3) no
                               designated by the     evidence of unusual
                               Service. When five    wolf attractants,
                               or fewer breeding     and (4) any
                               pairs are             previously
                               established in an     specified animal
                               NEP, taking may be    husbandry practices
                               limited to            have been
                               nonlethal measures    implemented, if on
                               such as aversive      public lands.
                               conditioning,        No numerical
                               nonlethal control,    threshold applies,
                               and/or                so all control
                               translocating         measures, including
                               wolves.               lethal control, can
                              If during              be used regardless
                               depredation control   of the number of
                               activities on         breeding pairs in a
                               Federal or other      State.
                               public lands, prior  No upper threshold
                               to six breeding       of six breeding
                               pairs becoming        pairs limiting
                               established in an     protection of
                               NEP and prior to      females and their
                               October 1, a female   pups applies. Thus,
                               wolf having pups is   females and their
                               captured, the         pups will be
                               female and her pups   released if
                               will be released at   captured on public
                               or near the site of   lands as defined
                               capture. All          above, prior to
                               problem wolves on     October 1, unless
                               private land,         depredation
                               including female      continues. [Note:
                               wolves with pups,     This is more
                               may be removed        restrictive than
                               (including lethal     the experimental
                               control) if           population
                               continued             regulations.]
                               depredation occurs.. All problem wolves
                              All chronic problem    that attack
                               wolves (wolves that   domestic animals
                               depredate on          more than twice in
                               domestic animals      a calendar year may
                               after being moved     be moved or removed
                               once for previous     from the wild,
                               domestic animal       including females
                               depredations) will    with pups.
                               be removed from the
                               wild (killed or
                               placed in
Govt. translocation (capture  States and tribes     Similar to the
 and moving) of wolves to      may capture and       current
 reduce impacts on wild        translocate wolves    experimental
 ungulates.                    to other areas        population special
                               within the same NEP   rules, but moved
                               area, if the gray     wolves may be
                               wolf predation is     released to other
                               negatively            areas within the
                               impacting localized   Western DPS.
                               wild ungulate        Additionally: After
                               populations at an     10 breeding pairs
                               unacceptable level,   are established in
                               as defined by the     the State, we, in
                               States and tribes.    cooperation with
                               State/tribal wolf     the States and
                               management plans      tribes, may move
                               must be approved by   wolves that we
                               the Service before    determine are
                               such movement of      impacting localized
                               wolves may be         wild ungulate
                               conducted, and the    populations at
                               Service must          unacceptable
                               determine that such   levels.
                               translocations will
                               not inhibit wolf
                               population growth
                               toward recovery
Incidental take.............  Any person may take   Similar to the
                               a gray wolf if the    current
                               take is incidental    experimental
                               to an otherwise       population special
                               lawful activity,      rules.
                               and is accidental,
                               unintentional, and
                               not resulting from
                               negligent conduct
                               lacking reasonable
                               due care, and due
                               care was exercised
                               to avoid taking the

[[Page 15866]]

Permits for recovery actions  Available for         Same as the current
 that include take of gray     scientific            experimental
 wolves.                       purposes,             population special
                               enhancement of        rules.
                               propagation or
                               purposes, or other
                               purposes consistent
                               with the Act (50
                               CFR 17.32).
Additional taking provisions  Any employee or       Similar to the
 for agency employees.         agent of the          current
                               Service or            experimental
                               appropriate           population special
                               Federal, State, or    rules, except it
                               tribal agency, who    has additional
                               is designated in      provisions that
                               writing for such      allow such take of
                               purposes by the       wolves for
                               Service, when         ``disposing of a
                               acting in the         dead specimen'';
                               course of official    and for
                               duties, may take a    ``preventing wolves
                               wolf from the wild,   with abnormal
                               if such action is     physical or
                               for: (A) Scientific   behavioral
                               purposes; (B) to      characteristics, as
                               avoid conflict with   determined by the
                               human activities;     Service, from
                               (C) to relocate a     passing on those
                               wolf within the NEP   traits to other
                               areas to improve      wolves.''
                               its survival and
                               recovery prospects;
                               (D) to return
                               wolves that have
                               wandered outside of
                               the NEP areas; (E)
                               to aid or euthanize
                               sick, injured, or
                               orphaned wolves;
                               (F) to salvage a
                               dead specimen which
                               may be used for
                               scientific study;
                               or (G) to aid in
                               law enforcement
                               involving wolves.
Land-use restrictions on      When five or fewer    Land-use
 Federal lands.                breeding pairs of     restrictions may be
                               wolves are in an      employed for wolf
                               experimental          recovery purposes
                               population area,      on National Parks
                               temporary land-use    and National
                               restrictions may be   Wildlife Refuges.
                               employed on Federal  Between April 1 and
                               public lands to       June 30 land-use
                               control human         restrictions may be
                               disturbance around    employed to prevent
                               active wolf den       take of wolves at
                               sites. These          active den sites on
                               restrictions may be   Federal lands.
                               required between
                               April 1 and June
                               30, within 1 mile
                               of active wolf den
                               or rendezvous
                               sites, and would
                               only apply to
                               Federal public
                               lands or other such
                               lands designated in
                               State and tribal
                               wolf management
                               plans. When six or
                               more breeding pairs
                               are established in
                               an experimental
                               population area, no
                               restrictions may be
                               employed on Federal
                               public lands
                               outside of National
                               Parks or National
                               Wildlife Refuges,
                               unless that wolf
                               population fails to
                               maintain positive
                               growth rates for
                               two consecutive

    Under the new section 4(d) rule, landowners will be allowed to 
harass wolves from areas where potential conflicts are of greatest 
concern, such as private property and near grazing livestock. In 
addition to the authority for landowners and livestock producers to 
opportunistically harass gray wolves in a noninjurious manner (as 
already allowed by the current special regulations within the two 
experimental populations), the new 4(d) rule will allow us to issue 
temporary permits for deliberate harassment of wolves in an injurious 
manner under certain situations, as is also allowed under the 
experimental population rules. Harassment methods that will be allowed 
under this provision include rubber bullets and other specially 
designed less-than-lethal munitions. Since all such harassment would be 
nonlethal, and most is expected to be noninjurious to wolves, no effect 
on wolf population growth is expected to occur. This provision could 
make wolves more wary around people and human activity areas, reducing 
the potential for livestock depredations and subsequent agency control 
actions. Increased wariness and avoidance of humans could also possibly 
preclude the opportunity for people to illegally kill wolves. Fewer 
wolf depredations on livestock and pets should result from more focused 
and more unpleasant harassment of the problem wolves. Fewer 
depredations will result in fewer control actions, and consequently 
fewer wolves will be killed by management agencies. This provision 
allows us to work closely with the public to avoid conflicts between 
wolves and livestock or dogs, thereby reducing the need for wolf 
control. Because we will have to confirm persistent wolf activity, and 
each intentional harassment permit will contain the conditions under 
which such harassment could occur, there should be little potential for 
abuse of this management flexibility.
    Under the new special regulation for the Western DPS, landowners 
will be allowed to take (kill or injure) wolves actually seen attacking 
their livestock on private land (as currently allowed by the existing 
special regulations for the two experimental populations). The new 
special regulation will also expand this provision so that it applies 
to wolves attacking livestock herding or guard animals or dogs on 
private land outside of the experimental areas. Furthermore, the new 
special regulation will allow us to issue permits to take wolves seen 
attacking livestock and livestock guard or herding animals on federally 
managed land. (The special regulations that will continue to apply to 
the two experimental population areas do not allow such permits to be 
issued for attacks on guard or herding animals, and do not allow such 
permits to be issued if there are fewer than six breeding pairs of 
wolves in the experimental population area.) Because such take has to 
be reported and confirmation of livestock attacks must be made by 
agency investigators, we anticipate that no additional significant wolf 
mortality will result from this provision. However, those few wolves 
that are killed will be animals with behavioral traits that were not 
conducive to the long-term survival and recovery of the wolf in the 
northern Rocky Mountains. The required confirmation process will 
greatly reduce the chances that wolves that have not attacked these 
types of domestic

[[Page 15867]]

animals will be killed under this provision. Once a depredating wolf is 
shot, no further control on the pack will be implemented by the 
agencies unless additional livestock are attacked. This could result in 
even fewer wolves being taken in agency control actions, because the 
wolf that is killed will be the individual most likely to have been 
involved in the actual attack on livestock.
    The new special regulation will allow us or other agencies and the 
public to continue to take wolves in the rare event that they threaten 
human life or safety. While this is a highly unlikely situation, and 
one that is already addressed by the Act and the current special 
regulation, emphasizing the Act's provision to defend human life and 
safety should reduce the public's concern about human safety.
    The new special regulation will allow government agencies to remove 
problem wolves (wolves that attack livestock or twice in a year attack 
other domestic animals) outside the experimental areas using lethal 
methods regardless of the number of breeding pairs present in the area. 
(The previous special regulations that will continue to apply within 
the two experimental population areas allow lethal methods only if 
there are six or more breeding pairs present in that experimental 
population area.)
    Prior to October 1 of each year, the new special regulation will 
require the release of trapped female wolves with pups that are 
involved in livestock depredations for the first time, regardless of 
the number of breeding pairs on federally managed land. (The previous 
special regulations that will continue to apply within the two 
experimental population areas require the release of such female wolves 
with pups only if there are fewer than six breeding pairs present in 
that experimental population area.)
    The new special regulation will allow us to issue permits for 
private landowners to take wolves on their private lands if we have 
determined that wolves are routinely present on that land and present a 
significant risk to livestock, herding or guard animals, and dogs. (The 
previous special regulations that will continue to apply within the two 
experimental areas have no specific provision for this type of permit 
to take wolves, but such permits can potentially be issued under 50 CFR 
    The new special regulation addresses public concerns about the 
presence of wolves disrupting traditional human uses of Federal land. 
Except for within National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges, the 
only potential restrictions on federally managed lands may be seasonal 
restrictions to avoid the take of wolves at active den sites. These 
seasonal restrictions will likely run from April 1 to June 30 of each 
year and apply to land within one mile of the active den site. Our 
experience since 1987 with managing wolves in the northern Rocky 
Mountains has shown that successful wolf recovery does not depend upon 
land-use restrictions due to the wolves' ability to thrive in a variety 
of land uses. We believe there is little, if any, need for land-use 
restrictions to protect wolves in most situations, with the possible 
exception of temporary restrictions around active den sites on 

federally managed lands. Additionally, the public is much more tolerant 
of wolves if restrictive government regulations do not result from the 
presence of wolves. While the threatened status of wolves will require 
Federal agencies to consult under section 7, the new special regulation 
will simplify that process by stating that no land-use restrictions are 
likely to be required except to protect wolves at active den sites on 
federally managed lands, as described above.
    Other provisions of the new section 4(d) special regulation for the 
Western DPS are identical or very similar to the previous special 
regulations that will continue to apply to the two nonessential 
experimental populations in the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains.
    Prior to this rule, any western gray wolves that lived outside of, 
or dispersed beyond, those experimental areas were protected under the 
Act as endangered gray wolves; thus, wolves in and around Glacier 
National Park in northwestern Montana were endangered wolves. In 
contrast, the new reclassification to threatened status and the new 
section 4(d) special regulation will apply a degree of greater 
management flexibility across the rest of the area defined as the 
Western DPS, which includes all of seven States and portions of two 
    In conclusion, the new 4(d) rule for the Western Gray Wolf DPS will 
continue to protect wolves from human persecution outside of the two 
experimental population areas, but will improve and expand the 
management options for problem wolves. By focusing management efforts 
on the occasional problem wolf, we believe that the public will become 
more tolerant of nondepredating wolves. On the basis of our experience 
with wolf recovery in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho, 
and Wyoming, we expect this increased public tolerance to result in 
fewer illegal killings of Western DPS wolves and more opportunity for 
us to work with local agencies and the public to find innovative 
solutions to potential conflicts between wolves and humans. Overall, we 
believe that this new special regulation is consistent with the 
conservation of the gray wolf and that it will speed the species' 
recovery in the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains. Therefore, we find that 
this special rule is necessary and advisable to provide for the 
conservation of the Western DPS of the gray wolf.

New Special Regulations for Most of the Eastern DPS

    The former endangered status of gray wolves restricted depredation 
control activities throughout the eastern half of the United States 
(except Minnesota) to capturing depredating wolves and releasing them 
at another location in the respective State. Wolves released in this 
manner may return to the vicinity of their capture and resume their 
depredating habits, begin pursuing domestic animals at their new 
location, or be killed by resident wolf packs in the release area. 
Thus, in order for translocation to have a reasonable probability of 
assisting wolf recovery, there must be unoccupied wolf habitat 
available within the State, but at a great distance from the 
depredation incident site, in order for the translocated wolf to 
survive and reproduce without causing additional depredation problems.
    As the Michigan and Wisconsin wolf populations expand in number and 
range, the frequency of depredation incidents is increasing, yet there 
are fewer suitable release sites available. Releases of depredating 
wolves at marginal locations (that is, near existing wolf packs or too 
close to their capture site) are likely to fail. For example, a 
depredating wolf recently released into the Nicolet National Forest in 
Wisconsin at a location 46 miles from his initial capture had returned 
to within 23 miles of his capture location where he was mistaken for a 
coyote and shot only 13 days after his release. Further compounding the 
problem of successfully moving and releasing depredating wolves is the 
local opposition that has recently arisen to such releases in some 
Wisconsin counties, with at least one county board passing a resolution 
opposing releases by the DNR.
    Similar problems with relocating depredating wolves have occurred 
in northwestern Montana. Between 1987 and the end of 2001, 117 wolves 
were relocated because of conflicts with livestock. Few of these wolves 
contributed toward wolf recovery and many often caused additional 
livestock depredations or did not survive long

[[Page 15868]]

enough to reproduce. A review of wolf relocation as a means of reducing 
depredations on livestock in northwestern Montana concluded that 
relocation should be discontinued and that both livestock losses and 
depredation control costs could be reduced by killing, instead of 
relocating, depredating wolves (63 FR 20212, April 23, 1998; Bangs 
1998; Bangs et al. 1998).
    This new special regulation allows us, the Michigan and Wisconsin 
DNRs, the wildlife management agencies of North Dakota, South Dakota, 
Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, or 
tribes within these States, or the designated agents of these agencies 
and tribes to carry out the full spectrum of depredation control 
actions, from nonlethal opportunistic harassment to lethal control of 
depredating wolves. The restrictions for lethal depredation control 
actions will be similar to those used for the Minnesota wolf 
depredation control program since 1985: (1) Wolf depredation on 
lawfully present domestic animals must be verified, (2) the depredation 
is likely to be repeated, (3) the taking must occur within one mile of 
the depredation site in Michigan and Wisconsin, and within 4 miles of 
the depredation site in other area of the Eastern DPS that are west of 
Pennsylvania, (4) taking, wolf handling, and euthanizing must be 
carried out in a humane manner, which includes the use of steel leghold 
traps, and (5) any young of the year trapped before August 1 must be 
    Lethal depredation control has been successful in reducing 
conflicts between the recovering wolf population and domestic animals 
in Minnesota. It resolves the immediate depredation problem without the 
removal of excessive numbers of wolves, and avoids removing any wolves 
when the depredation was not verified as being caused by wolves or is 
not likely to be repeated. It is significantly less expensive, less 
labor-intensive, and more effective than translocating such problem 
wolves, and thus is more appropriate for the rapidly expanding wolf 
populations that now exist in Michigan and Wisconsin.
    Based upon Minnesota wolf depredation control data from the early 
1980s when the wolf population was probably less than 1,500 animals, we 
estimate that a maximum of about 2 to 3 percent of Wisconsin and 
Michigan wolves will be taken annually under the provisions of this 
special regulation. At current population levels this will be about 6 
to 9 wolves per State. This level of take should not appreciably affect 
the wolf population or its continued expansion in either of these 
States. As their wolf populations already exceed the Federal numerical 
delisting criterion, this take will have no effect on the recovery of 
wolves in the Eastern DPS. The level and effects of this take will be 
closely monitored by continuing the annual monitoring of wolf 
populations in these States and the required reporting of the lethal 
take within 15 days under this special regulation.
    These new depredation control activities will be limited to an area 
within one mile of the depredation site in Wisconsin and Michigan. 
Because wolf pack territories are large (in Wisconsin and Michigan they 
range from 52 to 518 sq km (20 to 200 sq mi), and the locations of 
Wisconsin and Michigan wolf packs are much more precisely known (due 
primarily to the high percentage of radio-tracked packs in these 
States) than is the case for Minnesota wolf packs, it will be possible 
for depredation control actions to be directed at only the depredating 
pack. Thus, the one-mile limit is sufficiently large to enable 
depredation control trappers to focus their trapping within the 
activity areas of the target pack without being so large that it 
results in a significant risk of accidentally trapping wolves from 
nearby nondepredating packs.
    The situation in North Dakota and South Dakota is quite different 
from that in Michigan or Wisconsin. Wolves that appear in North Dakota 
and South Dakota are dispersing individuals from Minnesota and Canada, 
or rarely may be from a pair or small pack along North Dakota's border 
with Canada. None of our recovery plans or recovery programs recommends 
actions to promote gray wolf restoration in either of these two States, 
and we do not believe the Act requires or encourages such recovery 
actions. We also recognize that, due to the more open landscape of 
these States, and the high likelihood that dispersing wolves will 
encounter livestock, wolves are more likely to become involved in 
depredations on domestic animals. Therefore, we believe we should 
provide a mechanism for prompt control of depredating wolves in these 
States. Because there are very few or no established wolf packs in 
these States, and there are very few wolves dispersing into these 
States, we believe there is minimal risk, when taking control actions 
under this special regulation, of accidentally trapping or shooting 
wolves from a nearby nondepredating pack or dispersers that are not 
involved in the depredation. For this reason, as well as recognition 
that the much more open landscape of North Dakota and South Dakota 
means that depredating wolves are likely to travel a greater distance 
from the depredation site to secure cover, we will allow lethal 
depredation control actions to be undertaken up to 4 miles from the 
depredation site.
    The other Eastern DPS States that are west of Pennsylvania, and 
thus are subject to this special regulation, have had few reports of 
wolves in the last 100 years. The number of gray wolves that will be 
taken under its provisions will be very small, and will be of no 
consequence to ongoing wolf recovery programs. In the event that a gray 
wolf disperses into one of these States and attacks domestic animals, 
it will be important for the State or tribe to have this lethal control 
authority, because most of these areas have no suitable locations to 
release a depredating wolf. Due to the extremely low probability that a 
nondepredating wolf will be mistakenly taken instead of the depredating 
wolf, we are applying the 4-mile limit in these States, as well.
    Therefore, because of the anticipated low level of additional 
mortality that will result from this special regulation, and the likely 
larger increase in illegal wolf killing and loss of public support for 
wolf recovery that we expect to be prevented by this 4(d) rule, we find 
that this special rule is necessary and advisable to provide for the 
conservation of the Eastern DPS of the gray wolf.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing encourages and results in 
conservation actions by Federal, State, and private agencies, groups, 
and individuals. The Act provides for possible land acquisition and 
cooperation with the States and requires that recovery actions be 
carried out for all listed species. Most of these measures have already 
been successfully applied to gray wolves in the conterminous 48 States.
    Under this final rule, the protections of the Act will continue to 
apply to the gray wolves in the endangered Southwestern Gray Wolf DPS, 
to the threatened Eastern and Western Gray Wolf DPSs, and to the gray 
wolves in the three nonessential experimental populations. The 
protections of the Act are removed only from parts or all of 16 States 
where gray wolves did not historically occur. This final rule does not 
modify or withdraw the existing

[[Page 15869]]

special regulations or the nonessential experimental population 
designations for the reintroduced gray wolf populations in Idaho, 
Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, nor does it make any 
changes to the threatened classification and existing section 4(d) 
special regulation for gray wolves in Minnesota. Similarly, the 
existing critical habitat designations for portions of Minnesota and 
Michigan will remain unchanged, and will continue to be considered 
during consultations with other Federal agencies under section 7 of the 
Act. This final rule does not affect the listing or protection of the 
red wolf (Canis rufus).
    The protection required of Federal agencies and the prohibitions 
against taking and harm are discussed in the Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Species section, factor D, The adequacy or inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms, above.
    Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their 
actions with respect to any species that is listed as endangered or 
threatened and with respect to its critical habitat, if any is being 
designated. Regulations implementing this interagency cooperation 
provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR part 402. Section 7(a)(2) 
requires Federal agencies to ensure that activities they authorize, 
fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence 
of any species listed as endangered or threatened, or to destroy or 
adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a 
listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency 
must enter into consultation with us. If a Federal action is likely to 
jeopardize a species proposed to be listed as threatened or endangered 
or destroy or adversely modify proposed critical habitat, the 
responsible Federal agency must confer with us.
    Federal agency actions that may require consultation or 
conferencing, as described in the preceding paragraph, include 
activities by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the 
U.S. Geological Survey, USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services, the Bureau of 
Land Management, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency, and activities that we may undertake.
    However, under section 10(j)(2)(C) of the Act, for those three 
areas currently designated as nonessential experimental populations in 
Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, for the 
purpose of interagency consultation under section 7 of the Act the gray 
wolf will continue to be considered a species proposed for listing 
under the Act, except where the species occurs on an area within the 
National Wildlife Refuge System or the National Park System. For all 
other purposes of the Act, gray wolves that are currently designated as 
experimental populations shall continue to be treated as a threatened 
species. Furthermore, the existing special regulations found in 50 CFR 
17.84(i) and 17.84(k) regarding the taking of wolves depredating on 
livestock in these experimental population areas continue to apply.
    The Act and implementing regulations set forth a series of general 
prohibitions and exceptions that apply to endangered and threatened 
wildlife. The prohibitions codified at 50 CFR 17.21 and 17.31 in part 
make it illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the 
United States to take (including harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, or collect; or to attempt any of these), import or 
export, ship in interstate commerce in the course of commercial 
activity, or sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce, 
any listed species. It also is illegal to possess, sell, deliver, 
carry, transport, or ship any such wildlife that has been taken 
illegally. Certain exceptions apply to agents of the Service and State 
conservation agencies. Additionally, as discussed above, special 
regulations promulgated under sections 4(d) and 10(j) of the Act 
provide additional exceptions to these general prohibitions for the 
gray wolf.
    It is our policy (59 FR 34272; July 1, 1994) to identify, to the 
maximum extent practicable at the time a species is listed, those 
activities that would or would not constitute a violation of section 9 
of the Act. The intent of this policy is to increase public awareness 
of the effect of the listing on proposed and ongoing activities within 
a species' range. Activities that we believe could potentially harm or 
kill the gray wolf in the area where it will remain listed as 
threatened or endangered and may result in a violation of section 9 
include, but are not limited to:
    (1) Taking of gray wolves by any means or manner not authorized 
under the provisions of the existing special regulation established for 
the designated nonessential experimental population in Arizona, New 
Mexico, and Texas as long as that designation and special regulation 
remain in effect;
    (2) Taking captive Southwestern (Mexican) gray wolves unless such 
taking results from implementation of husbandry protocols approved 
under the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan or are otherwise approved 
or permitted by the Service;
    (3) Taking of gray wolves within the Western DPS in a manner not 
authorized under the provisions of the 4(d) special regulations 
finalized by this document, or in a manner not authorized under the 
existing experimental population regulations which will continue to 
apply to gray wolves in Wyoming and in parts of Idaho and Montana;
    (4) Taking of gray wolves within the Eastern DPS in a manner not 
authorized in the existing section 4(d) special regulation for 
Minnesota, in the section 4(d) special regulation finalized by this 
document for other States in this DPS that are west of Pennsylvania, or 
in 50 CFR 17.31 for the Eastern DPS States east of Ohio;
    (5) Intentional killing of a live-trapped wild canid that is 
demonstrably too large to be a coyote (that is, greater than 27 kg (60 
lb)) in the Northeastern States that are included in the Eastern DPS; 
    (6) Killing or injuring of, or engaging in the interstate commerce 
of, captive gray wolves which originated from, or whose ancestors 
originated from, the areas included within the Western, Eastern, or 
Southwestern DPSs, unless authorized in a Service permit.
    We believe, based on the best available information, that the 
following actions will not result in a violation of section 9:
    (1) Taking of a gray wolf in defense of human life, or a taking by 
designated agency personnel in response to a demonstrable, but 
nonimmediate threat to human safety;
    (2) Taking of wild gray wolves in the 16-State area where we have 
delisted the gray wolf;
    (3) Taking of gray wolves under the provisions of the existing 
special regulations established for the three designated nonessential 
experimental populations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, Idaho, 
and Montana as long as those designations and special regulations 
remain in effect;
    (4) Taking of gray wolves under the provisions of the special 
regulations under section 4(d) of the Act, as finalized at this time 
for threatened gray wolves in the Western DPS or the Eastern Gray Wolf 
DPS States which are west of Pennsylvania and excluding Minnesota;
    (5) Taking of gray wolves under the provisions of the existing 
special regulation at 50 CFR 17.40(d) for Minnesota wolves; or
    (6) taking of captive Southwestern (Mexican) gray wolves in 
accordance with husbandry protocols approved under the Mexican Wolf 
Species Survival Plan or other approvals or permits issued by the 

[[Page 15870]]

    Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered and threatened wildlife under certain 
circumstances. Regulations governing permits are at 50 CFR 13, 17.22, 
17.23, and 17.32. For endangered species such permits are available for 
scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation or survival of the 
species, for incidental take in connection with otherwise lawful 
activities, and/or for economic hardship. For threatened species such 
permits are also available for zoological exhibition, educational 
purposes, and/or for special purposes consistent with the purposes of 
the Act, but not for economic hardship.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities may constitute a 
violation of section 9 should be directed to the nearest regional or 
Ecological Services field office of the Service. Requests for copies of 
the regulations regarding listed species and inquiries about 
prohibitions and permits may be addressed to any Service Regional 
Office or to the Washington headquarters office. The location, address, 
and phone number of the nearest regional or Ecological Services field 
office may be obtained by calling us at 703-358-2171 or by using our 
World Wide Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/where/index.html.
    This final rule is not an irreversible action on our part. 
Reclassifying either or both of the Eastern and Western DPSs back to 
endangered status is possible, and will be considered, should changes 
occur that alter the species' status or significantly increase the 
threats to the survival of either of these DPSs. Because changes in 
status or increases in threats might occur in a number of ways, it is 
unwise at this point to specify criteria that would trigger a 
reclassification proposal.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review, Regulatory Flexibility Act, and Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness

    This rule was subject to Office of Management and Budget review 
under Executive Order 12866. Because this regulation is not expected to 
have a significant economic effect, only a qualitative assessment of 
the potential costs and benefits is included. Because of the added 
management flexibility provided by the 4(d) regulations, this 
regulation is expected to result in a small economic gain to some 
livestock producers within the wolf range.
    Currently the vast majority of wolves that occur in the western 
Great Lakes area are found in the State of Minnesota where they are 
listed as threatened. A special regulation exists for Minnesota wolves 
that allows the Service, the MN DNR, other designated agencies, and 
their agents to manage wolves to ensure minimal economic impact. That 
current special regulation allows some direct ``take'' of wolves. A 
State program compensates livestock producers up to full market value 
if they suffer confirmed livestock losses by wolves. The value of the 
confirmed livestock losses amounted to an annual average of about 
$64,000 over the last five years (Paul 2001). Because this new 
regulation does not affect the existing special regulations for 
Minnesota wolves, there will be no resulting economic effect on 
livestock producers or other economic activities in Minnesota.
    This regulation reclassifies wolves in Michigan and Wisconsin from 
endangered to threatened and provides special regulations similar to 
those already existing for Minnesota, as described above. Thus, 
specified State, tribal, and Federal agencies and their designated 
agents will be allowed to kill wolves that have been verified as 
killing or attacking domestic animals. Under the normal protections of 
the Act, that is, without the benefit of these special regulations for 
Michigan and Wisconsin, permits would be required. This special 
regulation benefits the small percentage of livestock producers in wolf 
range in Michigan and Wisconsin that experience wolf attacks on their 
animals. Since only about 1.2 percent of livestock producers in nearby 
Minnesota, where the wolf population is much greater (Minnesota 
contains more than 2,500 wolves, while Wisconsin and Michigan have 323 
and 278 wolves, respectively), are adversely affected annually by 
wolves, the potential beneficial effect to livestock producers in 
Michigan and Wisconsin is small, but it may be important to a few 
producers. In addition, State programs in Michigan and Wisconsin 
compensate livestock producers if they suffer confirmed livestock 
losses by wolves. In Wisconsin, compensation is paid at full market 
value. Until recently, MI DNR provided partial compensation, but now is 
paying full compensation with the assistance of the International Wolf 
Center, Defenders of Wildlife, and other private funding sources. The 
net effect of the reclassification and 4(d) rule to livestock producers 
in Michigan and Wisconsin is that the control of depredating wolves 
will become more efficient and effective, thus reducing the economic 
burden of livestock producers resulting from wolf recovery in those 
States. Similar positive, but geographically scattered and minor, 
economic benefits will occur for livestock producers in the other 
Eastern DPS States west of Pennsylvania where this new 4(d) rule will 
also apply.
    The majority of wolves in the West are protected under nonessential 
experimental population designations that cover Wyoming, most of Idaho, 
and southern Montana and that treat wolves as threatened species. A 
smaller, but naturally occurring population of about 84 wolves is found 
in northwestern Montana. The wolves with the nonessential experimental 
population designations were reintroduced into these States from 
Canada. Special regulations exist for these experimental populations 
that allow government employees and designated agents, as well as 
livestock producers, to take problem wolves. Because this final rule 
does not change the nonessential experimental designation or associated 
special regulations, it will have no economic impact on livestock 
producers or other entities in these areas. However, the naturally 
occurring wolves in northwestern Montana (outside of the nonessential 
experimental population areas) and wolves that may occur in other 
western States are now reclassified from endangered to threatened 
status. Under normal protections of the Act, that is, without the 
benefit of special regulations hereby put into place for the western 
States not included in the nonessential experimental designation, 
permits would be required for nearly all forms of take of these wolves. 
For example, prior to this final rule a private landowner on his or her 
own land in northwestern Montana could not take a wolf in the act of 
attacking livestock. This final rule allows such take without a permit. 
The reduction of the restrictions on taking problem wolves will make 
their control easier and more effective, thus reducing the economic 
losses that result from wolf depredation on livestock and guard animals 
and dogs. Furthermore, a private program compensates livestock 
producers if they suffer confirmed livestock losses by wolves. Since 
1996, average compensation for livestock losses has been slightly over 
$10,000 in each recovery area per year. The potential effect on 
livestock producers in western States outside of the experimental 
population is small, but more flexible wolf management will be entirely 
beneficial to their operation.
    We have delisted the gray wolf in all or parts of 16 States in this 
final rule, because this area is outside of the historical range of the 
gray wolf. These areas currently contain no wolves, and

[[Page 15871]]

they should not have been included in the original listing of the 
species. Current regulations that protect wolves there are unnecessary 
and inappropriate. Livestock producers and other economic activities in 
these States have not been affected by the gray wolf and will not be 
affected by the actions in this final rule, because we are simply 
removing the current regulations which have no effect on landowners.
    a. This regulation does not have an annual economic effect of $100 
million or adversely affect an economic sector, productivity, jobs, the 
environment, or other units of government. As explained above, this 
regulation will result in only minor positive economic effects for a 
small percentage of livestock producers.
    b. This regulation will not create inconsistencies with other 
agencies' actions. This regulation reflects continuing success in 
recovering the gray wolf through long-standing cooperative and 
complementary programs by a number of Federal, State, and tribal 
    c. This regulation will not materially affect entitlements, grants, 
user fees, loan programs, or the rights and obligations of their 
    d. This regulation raises novel legal or policy issues, and for 
this reason, OMB has reviewed this rule.
    This regulation will not have a significant economic effect on a 
substantial number of small entities as defined under the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). As stated above, this 
regulation will result in minor positive economic effects for a very 
small percentage of livestock producers. Only 1.2 percent of the 
livestock producers are affected annually in Minnesota by the 
preexisting regulations, and a smaller number are expected to be 
affected by these new regulations in the other States.
    This regulation will not be a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 801 et 
seq., the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.
    a. This regulation will not produce an annual economic effect of 
$100 million. The majority of livestock producers within the range of 
the wolf are small family-owned dairies or ranches and the total number 
of livestock producers that may be affected by wolves is small. (For 
example, only about 1.2 percent of livestock producers in Minnesota is 
affected annually by wolves where the largest wolf population, by far, 
exists.) The finalized take regulations will further reduce the effect 
that wolves will have on individual livestock producers by reducing or 
eliminating permit requirements. Compensation programs are also in 
place to offset losses to individual livestock producers. Thus, even if 
livestock producers affected are small businesses, their combined 
economic effects will be minimal and the effects are a benefit to small 
    b. This regulation will not cause a major increase in costs or 
prices for consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local 
government agencies, or geographic regions.
    c. This regulation will not have a significant adverse effect on 
competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the 
ability of U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based 

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501, 
et seq.):
    a. The Service has determined and certifies pursuant to the 
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, 2 U.S.C. 1502 et seq., that this 
rulemaking will not impose a cost of $100 million or more in any given 
year on local or State governments or private entities. As stated 
above, this regulation will result in only minor positive economic 
effects for a very small percentage of livestock producers.
    b. This regulation will not produce a Federal mandate of $100 
million or greater in any year; that is, it is not a ``significant 
regulatory action'' under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. This 
regulation will not impose any additional wolf management or protection 
requirements on the States or other entities.

Takings Implications Assessment

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630, this regulation will not 
have significant implications concerning taking of private property by 
the Federal Government. This regulation will reduce regulatory 
restrictions on private lands and, as stated above, will result in 
minor positive economic effects for a small percentage of livestock 

Federalism Assessment

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, this regulation will not 
have significant Federalism effects. This regulation will not have a 
substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between 
the States and the Federal Government, or on the distribution of power 
and responsibilities among the various levels of government.

Government-to-Government Relationship with Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175, and 512 DM 2, we 
have coordinated this rule with the affected tribes. Throughout 
development of this rule, we endeavored to consult with Native American 
tribes and Native American organizations in order both to provide them 
with a complete understanding of the proposed changes and also to 
enable ourselves to gain an appreciation of their concerns with those 
changes. We fully considered all of their comments on the proposed gray 
wolf reclassification and delisting submitted during the public comment 
period and have tried to address those concerns to the extent allowed 
by the Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and other Federal 

Civil Justice Reform

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988, this regulation does not 
unduly burden the judicial system.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This regulation does not contain any new collections of information 
other than those permit application forms already approved under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq., and assigned Office of 
Management and Budget clearance number 1018-0094.

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 on 
regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and 
use. Executive Order 13211 requires Federal agencies to prepare 
Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. This 
rule is not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, 
distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a significant 
energy action, and no Statement of Energy Effects is required.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have analyzed this rulemaking in accordance with the criteria of 
the National Environmental Policy Act and 318 DM 2.2(g) and 6.3(D). We 
have determined that Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact 
Statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in connection 
with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. A notice 
outlining our reasons for this determination was published in the

[[Page 15872]]

Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Section 7 Consultation

    We do not need to complete a consultation under section 7 of the 
Act for this rulemaking. The actions of listing, delisting, or 
reclassifying species under the Act are not subject to the requirements 
of section 7 of the Act. An intra-Service consultation is completed 
prior to the implementation of recovery or permitting actions for 
listed species.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this document is 
available upon request from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 3 
Office at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT 


    The primary author of this rule is Ronald Refsnider, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Ft. Snelling, Minnesota Regional Office (see 
ADDRESSES section). Substantial contributions were also made by Service 
employees Michael Amaral (Concord, New Hampshire), Ed Bangs (Helena, 
Montana), Brian Kelly (Albuquerque, New Mexico), and Paul Nickerson 
(Hadley, Massachusetts).

Regulation Promulgation

Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of 
the Code of Federal Regulation, as set forth below:


1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

2. Section 17.11(h) is amended by removing the first two entries for 
the gray wolf (Canis lupus) under MAMMALS in the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and adding in their place the following three 
entries, while retaining the current final two entries for the gray 
wolf, which designate nonessential experimental populations in Wyoming, 
Idaho, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas:

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                    Species                                        Vertebrate population
------------------------------------------------  Historic range    where endangered or      Status       When listed        Critical      Special rules
         Common name            Scientific name                          threatened                                           habitat

                                                                      * * * * * * *
Wolf, gray...................  Canis lupus.....  Holarctic.......  Southwestern Distinct  E            1, 6, 13, 15, 35,  NA              NA
                                                                    Population Segment-                 631, 735.
                                                                    U.S.A. (AZ, NM, CO
                                                                    south of Interstate
                                                                    Highway 70, UT south
                                                                    of U.S. Highway 50,
                                                                    OK and TX, except
                                                                    those parts of OK
                                                                    and TX east of
                                                                    Interstate Highway
                                                                    35; except where
                                                                    listed as an
                                                                    population); Mexico.
 Do..........................  . . . . . . do..  . . . . . . do..  Eastern Distinct       T            1, 6, 13, 15,      17.95(a)        17.40(d)
                                                                    Population Segment--                35,735.                           17.40(o)
                                                                    U.S.A. (CT, IA, IL,
                                                                    IN, KS, MA, ME, MI,
                                                                    MN, MO, ND, NE, NH,
                                                                    NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI,
                                                                    SD, VT, and WI)
 Do..........................  . . . . . . do..  . . . . . . do..  Western Distinct       T            1, 6, 13, 15, 35,  NA              17.40(n)
                                                                    Population Segment--                561, 562, 735.
                                                                    U.S.A. (CA, ID, MT,
                                                                    NV, OR, WA, WY, UT
                                                                    north of U.S.
                                                                    Highway 50, and CO
                                                                    north of Interstate
                                                                    Highway 70, except
                                                                    where listed as an

                                                                      * * * * * * *

3. The Service amends Sec.  17.40 by adding new paragraphs (n) and (o) 
to read as follows:

Sec.  17.40  Special rules--mammals.

* * * * *
    (n) Gray wolf (Canis lupus) in Washington, Oregon, California, 
Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Utah north of U.S. Highway 50, and Colorado 
north of Interstate Highway 70, except where listed as an experimental 
    (1) Application of this special rule to the experimental 
populations located in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Paragraphs (n) (2) 
through (6) of this section do not apply to gray wolves within the 
experimental populations areas in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming 
established under section 10(j) of the Act and delineated in Sec.  
    (2) Definitions of terms used in paragraph (n) of this section.
    (i) Active den site. A den or a specific aboveground site that is 
being used on a daily basis by wolves to raise newborn pups during the 
period April 1 to June 30.
    (ii) Breeding pair. An adult male and an adult female wolf that, 
during the previous breeding season, have produced at least two pups 
that survived until December 31 of the year of their birth.
    (iii) Domestic animals. Animals that have been selectively bred 
over many generations to enhance specific traits for their use by 
humans, including use as pets. This includes livestock (as defined 
below) and dogs.
    (iv) Livestock. Cattle, sheep, horses, mules, and herding or guard 
animals (llamas, donkeys, and certain special-use breeds of dogs 
commonly used for guarding or herding livestock) or as otherwise 
defined in State and tribal wolf management plans as approved by the 
Service. This excludes dogs that are

[[Page 15873]]

not being used for livestock guarding or herding.
    (v) Noninjurious. Does not cause either temporary or permanent 
physical damage or death.
    (vi) Opportunistic harassment. Harassment without the conduct of 
prior purposeful actions to attract, track, wait for, or search out the 
    (vii) Problem wolves. Wolves that attack livestock, or wolves that 
twice in a calendar year attack domestic animals other than livestock.
    (viii) Public land. Federal land and any other public land 
designated in State and tribal wolf management plans as approved by the 
    (ix) Remove. Place in captivity or kill or release in another 
    (x) Wounded. Exhibiting torn flesh and bleeding or other evidence 
of physical damage caused by a wolf bite.
    (3) Allowable forms of take of gray wolves. The following 
activities, only in the specific circumstances described in paragraph 
(n) of this section, are allowed: opportunistic harassment; intentional 
harassment; taking on private land; taking on public land; taking in 
response to impacts on wild ungulates; taking in defense of human life; 
taking to protect human safety; taking by government agents to remove 
problem wolves; incidental take; taking under permits; and taking per 
authorizations for agency employees. Other than as expressly provided 
in this rule, all the prohibitions of Sec.  17.31(a) and (b) apply, and 
all other take activities are considered a violation of section 9 of 
the Act. Any wolf, or wolf part, taken legally must be turned over to 
the Service unless otherwise specified in paragraph (n) of this 
section. Any taking of wolves must be reported to the Service as 
outlined in paragraph (n)(6) of this section.
    (i) Opportunistic harassment. Landowners on their own land and 
livestock producers or permittees who are legally using public land 
under valid livestock grazing allotments may conduct opportunistic 
harassment of any gray wolf in a noninjurious manner at any time. 
Opportunistic harassment must be reported to the Service within 7 days 
as outlined in paragraph (n)(6) of this section.
    (ii) Intentional harassment. After we or our designated agent have 
confirmed persistent wolf activity on privately owned land or on a 
public land grazing allotment, we may, pursuant to Sec.  17.32, issue a 
90-day permit, with appropriate conditions, to any landowner to harass 
wolves in a potentially injurious manner (such as by projectiles 
designed to be nonlethal to larger mammals). The harassment must occur 
as specifically identified in the Service permit.
    (iii) Taking by landowners on private land. Landowners may take 
wolves on privately owned land in the following two additional 
    (A) Any landowner may take a gray wolf that is in the act of 
biting, wounding, or killing livestock or dogs, provided that the 
landowner provides evidence of animal(s) freshly (less than 24 hours) 
wounded or killed by wolves, and we or our designated agent are able to 
confirm that the animal(s) were wounded or killed by wolves. The taking 
of any wolf without such evidence may be referred to the appropriate 
authorities for prosecution.
    (B) A private landowner may be issued a limited duration permit 
pursuant to Sec.  17.32 to take a gray wolf on the landowner's private 
land if:
    (1) This private property or an adjacent private property has had 
at least two depredations by wolves on livestock or dogs that have been 
confirmed by us or our designated agent; and
    (2) We or our designated agent have determined that wolves are 
routinely present on that private property and present a significant 
risk to the health and safety of livestock or dogs. The landowner must 
conduct the take in compliance with the permit issued by the Service.
    (iv) Take on public land. Under the authority of Sec.  17.32, we 
may issue permits to take gray wolves under certain circumstances to 
livestock producers or permittees who are legally using public land 
under valid livestock grazing allotments. The permits, which may be 
valid for up to 45 days, can allow the take of a gray wolf that is in 
the act of killing, wounding, or biting livestock, after we or our 
designated agent have confirmed that wolves have previously wounded or 
killed livestock, and agency efforts to resolve the problem have been 
completed and were ineffective. We or our designated agent will 
investigate and determine if the previously wounded or killed livestock 
were wounded or killed by wolves. There must be evidence of livestock 
freshly wounded or killed by wolves. The taking of any wolf without 
such evidence may be referred to the appropriate authorities for 
    (v) Take in response to wild ungulate impacts. If wolves are 
causing unacceptable impacts to wild ungulate populations, a State or 
tribe may capture and move wolves to other areas within the States 
identified in paragraph (n) of this section or experimental populations 
areas in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming established under section 10(j) of 
the Act and delineated in Sec.  17.84(i). In order for this provision 
to apply, the States or tribes must define in their wolf management 
plan such unacceptable impacts, describe how they will be measured, and 
identify possible mitigation measures. Before wolves can be captured 
and moved, we must approve these plans and determine that such actions 
will not inhibit wolf population growth toward recovery levels. In 
addition, if, after 10 breeding pairs are established in the State, we 
determine that wolves are causing unacceptable impacts to wild ungulate 
populations, we may, in cooperation with the appropriate State fish and 
game agencies or tribes, capture and move wolves to other areas within 
the States identified in paragraph (n) of this section or experimental 
populations areas in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
    (vi) Take in defense of human life. Any person may take a gray wolf 
in defense of the individual's life or the life of another person. The 
unauthorized taking of a wolf without an immediate and direct threat to 
human life may be referred to the appropriate authorities for 
    (vii) Take to protect human safety. We or a Federal land management 
agency or a State or tribal conservation agency may promptly remove any 
wolf that we or our designated agent determines to be a demonstrable 
but nonimmediate threat to human life or safety.
    (viii) Take of problem wolves by Service personnel or our 
designated agent. We or our designated agent may carry out aversive 
conditioning, nonlethal control, relocation, permanent placement in 
captivity, or lethal control of problem wolves. If nonlethal 
depredation control activities occurring on public lands result in the 
capture, prior to October 1, of a female wolf showing signs that she is 
still raising pups of the year (e.g., evidence of lactation, recent 
sightings with pups), whether or not she is captured with her pups, 
then she and her pups may be released at or near the site of capture. 
Female wolves with pups may be removed if continued depredation occurs. 
Problem wolves that depredate on domestic animals more than twice in a 
calendar year, including female wolves with pups regardless of whether 
on public or private lands, may be moved or removed from the wild. To 
determine the presence of problem wolves, we or our agents will 
consider all of the following:
    (A) Evidence of wounded livestock or other domestic animals or 
remains of a carcass that shows that the injury or death was caused by 

[[Page 15874]]

    (B) The likelihood that additional losses may occur if no control 
action is taken;
    (C) Any evidence of unusual attractants or artificial or 
intentional feeding of wolves; and
    (D) Evidence that, on public lands, if animal husbandry practices 
were previously identified in existing approved allotment plans and 
annual operating plans for allotments, they were followed.
    (ix) Incidental take. Take of a gray wolf is allowed if the take 
was accidental and incidental to an otherwise lawful activity and if 
reasonable due care was practiced to avoid such taking. Incidental take 
is not allowed if the take is not accidental or if reasonable due care 
was not practiced to avoid such taking; we may refer such taking to the 
appropriate authorities for prosecution. Shooters have the 
responsibility to identify their target before shooting. Shooting a 
wolf as a result of mistaking it for another species is not considered 
accidental and may be referred to the appropriate authorities for 
    (x) Take under permits. Any person with a valid permit issued by 
the Service under Sec.  17.32 may take wolves in the wild, pursuant to 
terms of the permit.
    (xi) Additional taking authorizations for agency employees. When 
acting in the course of official duties, any employee of the Service or 
appropriate Federal, State, or tribal agency, who is designated as an 
agent in writing for such purposes by the Service, may take a wolf or 
wolf-like canid for the following purposes; such take must be reported 
to the Service within 15 days as outlined in paragraph (n)(6) of this 
section and specimens may be retained or disposed of only in accordance 
with directions from the Service:
    (A) Scientific purposes;
    (B) Avoiding conflict with human activities;
    (C) Improving wolf survival and recovery prospects;
    (D) Aiding or euthanizing sick, injured, or orphaned wolves;
    (E) Disposing of a dead specimen;
    (F) Salvaging a dead specimen that may be used for scientific 
    (G) Aiding in law enforcement investigations involving wolves; or
    (H) Preventing wolves with abnormal physical or behavioral 
characteristics, as determined by the Service, from passing on those 
traits to other wolves.
    (4) Prohibited take of gray wolves.
    (i) Any manner of take not described under paragraph (n)(3) of this 
    (ii) No person may possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, ship, 
import, or export by any means whatsoever, any wolf or wolf part from 
the State of origin taken in violation of the regulations in paragraph 
(n) of this section or in violation of applicable State or tribal fish 
and wildlife laws or regulations or the Act.
    (iii) In addition to the offenses defined in paragraph (n) of this 
section, we consider any attempts to commit, solicitations of another 
to commit, or actions that cause to be committed any such offenses to 
be unlawful.
    (iv) Use of unlawfully taken wolves. No person, except for an 
authorized person, may possess, deliver, carry, transport, or ship a 
gray wolf taken unlawfully.
    (5) Federal land use. Restrictions on the use of any Federal lands 
may be put in place to prevent the take of wolves at active den sites 
between April 1 and June 30. Otherwise, no additional land-use 
restrictions on Federal lands, except for National Parks or National 
Wildlife Refuges, will be necessary to reduce or prevent take of wolves 
solely to benefit gray wolf recovery under the Act. This prohibition 
does not preclude restricting land use when necessary to reduce 
negative impacts of wolf restoration efforts on other endangered or 
threatened species.
    (6) Reporting requirements. Except as otherwise specified in 
paragraph (n) of this section or in a permit issued under Sec.  17.32, 
any taking of a gray wolf must be reported to the Service within 24 
hours. We will allow additional reasonable time if access to the site 
is limited. Report wolf takings, including opportunistic harassment, to 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator 
(100 N. Park, 320, Helena, MT 59601; 406-449-5225 extension 
204; facsimile 406-449-5339), or a Service-designated representative of 
another Federal, State, or tribal agency. Unless otherwise specified in 
paragraph (n) of this section, any wolf or wolf part, taken legally 
must be turned over to the Service, which will determine the 
disposition of any live or dead wolves.
    (o) Gray wolf (Canis lupus) in North Dakota, South Dakota, 
Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, 
Indiana, and Ohio.
    (1) Definitions of terms used in paragraph (o) of this section.
    (i) Domestic animals. Animals that have been selectively bred over 
many generations to enhance specific traits for their use by humans, 
including use as pets.
    (ii) Livestock. Cattle, sheep, horses, and mules or as otherwise 
defined in State and tribal wolf management plans.
    (2) Allowable forms of take of gray wolves. The following 
activities, in certain circumstances as described below, are allowed: 
Take in defense of human life; take to protect human safety; take to 
aid, salvage, or dispose; take for depredation control; take under 
cooperative agreements; and take under permit. As stated in Sec.  
17.31(c), the provisions of this paragraph (o) contain all the 
applicable take prohibitions and exceptions; all other take activities 
in these States are considered a violation of section 9 of the Act. Any 
wolf, or wolf part, taken legally must be turned over to the Service 
unless otherwise specified in paragraph (o) of this section. Any taking 
of wolves must be reported to the Service as outlined in paragraph 
(o)(4) of this section.
    (i) Take in defense of human life. Any person may take a gray wolf 
in defense of the individual's life or the life of another person. The 
unauthorized taking of a wolf without an immediate and direct threat to 
human life may be referred to the appropriate authorities for 
    (ii) Take to protect human safety. We or a Federal land management 
agency or a State or tribal conservation agency, or an agent of one of 
these agencies who is designated in writing for such purpose, may 
promptly remove any wolf that the agency determines to be a 
demonstrable but nonimmediate threat to human life or safety.
    (iii) Allowable take for aiding, salvaging, or disposing of 
specimens. When acting in the course of official duties, any authorized 
employee or agent of the Service, any other Federal land management 
agency or the wildlife conservation agency of a State or of a federally 
recognized Native American tribe, who is designated by his/her agency 
for such purposes, may take a gray wolf in the person's area of 
jurisdiction without a Federal permit if such action is necessary for 
the following purposes; such take must be reported to the Service 
within 15 days as outlined in paragraph (o)(4) of this section, and 
specimens may be retained or disposed of only in accordance with 
directions from the Service:
    (A) Aiding a sick, injured, or orphaned specimen;
    (B) Disposing of a dead specimen; or
    (C) Salvaging a dead specimen that may be useful for scientific 
study or for traditional cultural purposes by Native American tribes.
    (iv) Allowable take for depredation control. When acting in the 
course of official duties, any authorized employee or agent of the 
Service, of the wildlife conservation agency of a State, or of a 
federally recognized Native American

[[Page 15875]]

tribe, who is designated by his/her agency for such purposes, may take 
a gray wolf or wolves within the person's State or, in the case of a 
tribal employee, within that person's Reservation boundaries, in 
response to depredation by a gray wolf on lawfully present livestock or 
domestic animals. However, such taking must be preceded by a 
determination by one of the agencies listed in paragraph (o) of this 
section that the depredation was likely to have been caused by a gray 
wolf and depredation at the site is likely to continue in the absence 
of a taking. In addition, such taking must be performed in a humane 
manner and occur within 1 mile of the place where the depredation 
occurred if in Michigan or Wisconsin, and within 4 miles of the place 
where the depredation occurred if in the remaining area covered by 
paragraph (o) of this section. Any young of the year taken by trapping 
on or before August 1 of that year must be released. Any take for 
depredation control must reported to the Service within 15 days as 
outlined in paragraph (o)(4) of this section. The specimen may be 
retained or disposed of only in accordance with directions from the 
    (v) Take under section 6 cooperative agreements. When acting in the 
course of official duties, any authorized employee or agent of the 
State wildlife conservation agencies in the area covered by paragraph 
(o) of this section, who is designated by his/her agency for such 
purposes under a cooperative agreement under section 6 of the Act, may 
take a gray wolf in his/her respective State to carry out scientific 
research or conservation programs. Such takings must be reported to the 
Service as specified in the reporting provisions of the cooperative 
    (vi) Take under permit. Any person who has a permit under Sec.  
17.32 may carry out activities as specified by the permit with regard 
to gray wolves in the area covered by paragraph (o) of this section.
    (3) Prohibited take of gray wolves.
    (i) Any form of taking not described in paragraph (o)(2) of this 
section is prohibited.
    (ii) Export and commercial transactions. Except as may be 
authorized by a permit issued underSec.  17.32, no person may sell or 
offer for sale in interstate commerce, import or export, or, in the 
course of a commercial activity, transport or receive any gray wolves 
from the States, or portions thereof, covered by paragraph (o) of this 
    (iii) In addition to the offenses defined in paragraph (o) of this 
section, we consider any attempts to commit, solicitations of another 
to commit, or actions that cause to be committed any such offenses to 
be unlawful.
    (iv) Use of unlawfully taken wolves. No person, except for an 
authorized person, may possess, deliver, carry, transport, or ship a 
gray wolf taken unlawfully in the area covered by paragraph (o) of this 
    (4) Reporting requirements. Except as otherwise specified in 
paragraph (o) of this section or in a permit issued under Sec.  17.32, 
any taking must be reported to the Service within 24 hours. Report wolf 
takings in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas to 303-236-
7540, and in Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, 
and Ohio to 612-713-5320, or a Service-designated representative of 
another Federal, State, or tribal agency. (Individuals who are hearing-
impaired or speech-impaired may call the Federal Relay Service at 1-
800-877-8337.) Unless otherwise specified in paragraph (n) of this 
section, any wolf or wolf part, taken legally must be turned over to 
the Service, which will determine the disposition of any live or dead 
    (5) Take regulations for States in the Eastern Gray Wolf Distinct 
Population Segment (DPS) not covered by this paragraph (o). This 
special rule does not apply to the States of Minnesota, Pennsylvania, 
New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, 
Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. While these States are included in 
the Eastern DPS, this special regulation does not apply to the entire 
DPS, and it specifically does not apply to these 10 States. Gray wolves 
in these States, other than Minnesota, are covered by the prohibitions 
of Sec.  17.31(a) and (b), which apply to all threatened species that 
are not subject to a special regulation. Gray wolves in Minnesota are 
covered by a separate special regulation in paragraph (d) of this 

    Dated: March 17, 2003.
Steve Williams,
[FR Doc. 03-7018 Filed 3-31-03; 8:45 am]