[Federal Register: March 27, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 58)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 15265-15305]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 15265]]


Part II

Department of the Interior


Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants--Western Great Lakes 
Population of Gray Wolves; Proposed Rule

[[Page 15266]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AU54

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designating the 
Western Great Lakes Population of Gray Wolves as a Distinct Population 
Segment; Removing the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment 
of the Gray Wolf From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) propose to 
establish the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment (WGL DPS) 
of the gray wolf (Canis lupus). This DPS includes all of Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, and Michigan; the eastern half of North Dakota and South 
Dakota; the northern half of Iowa; the northern portions of Illinois 
and Iowa; and the northwestern portion of Ohio. We further propose to 
remove the WGL DPS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
established under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
We propose these actions because available data indicate that this DPS 
no longer meets the definitions of threatened or endangered under the 
Act. The threats have been reduced or eliminated as evidenced by a 
population that is stable or increasing in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and 
Michigan, and greatly exceeds the numerical recovery criteria 
established in its recovery plan. Completed State wolf management plans 
will provide adequate protection and management of the species if 
delisted in the WGL DPS. The proposed rule, if finalized, would remove 
this DPS from the protections of the Act. This proposed rule would also 
remove the currently designated critical habitat for the gray wolf in 
Minnesota and Michigan and remove the current special regulations for 
gray wolves in Minnesota.

DATES: We request that comments be received by June 26, 2006 in order 
to ensure their consideration in our final decision. We have scheduled 
four informational meetings followed by public hearings for May 8, 10, 
16, and 17, 2006. At each location the informational meeting will be 
held from 6 to 7:15 p.m., followed by a public hearing from 7:30 to 9 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments and other information, identified by 
``RIN 1018-AU54,'' by any of the following methods:
     Fish and Wildlife Service Region 3 Web Site: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/
 Follow the instructions found there.     E-mail: WGLwolfdelist@fws.gov

     Fax: 612-713-5292. Put ``WGL Wolf Delisting; RIN 1018-
AU54'' in the subject line.
     Mail: WGL Wolf Delisting, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Whipple Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-
     Hand Delivery/Courier: WGL Wolf Delisting, Ecological 
Services--Room 646, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Whipple Federal 
Building, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056.
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 

Follow the instructions found there for submitting comments.
    All submissions received must include the agency name and 
Regulatory Information Number (RIN) for this rulemaking. For detailed 
instructions on submitting comments and additional information on the 
rulemaking process, see the ``Public Comments Solicited'' heading of 
the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.
    Hearings: We have scheduled informational meetings followed by 
public hearings at the following four locations:
     May 8, 2006--Duluth, Minnesota. Meeting and hearing will 
be in the Northern Lights I Room at the Inn on Lake Superior, 350 Canal 
Park Drive.
     May 10, 2006--Wausau, Wisconsin. Meeting and hearing will 
be at the Westwood Conference Room of the Westwood Center, 1800 West 
Bridge Street.
     May 16, 2006--Marquette, Michigan. Meeting and hearing 
will be in the Michigan Room of the Don H. Bottum University Center, 
Northern Michigan University, 540 West Kaye Avenue. (Use parking lot 
     May 17, 2006--Grayling, Michigan. Meeting and hearing will 
be held in the Evergreen Room of the Holiday Inn, 2650 Business Loop 
South I-75.
    Additional details on the hearings, including maps, will be 
provided on our Web site (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    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 receive during the comment 
period also will be made available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours following the close of the 
comment period. See the ``Public Comments Solicited'' section of 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for location information.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron Ressnider, 612-713-5350. 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 mail address_GRAYWOLFMAIL@FWS.GOV, or 
write to: GRAY WOLF QUESTIONS, 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://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf.
 In the event that our internet connection is 

not functional, please contact the Service by the alternative methods 
mentioned above. Individuals who are hearing-impaired or speech-
impaired may call the Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8337 for TTY 
assistance. Do not submit comments or other information by the methods 
described in this paragraph.



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) 1999). 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. lupus familiaris). 
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 elaphus), woodland caribou (Rangifer caribou) and barren ground 
caribou (R. arcticus), bison (Bison bison), muskox (Ovibos

[[Page 15267]]

moschatus), bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) and Dall sheep (O. dalli), 
mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus), beaver (Castor canadensis), 
snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), and muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), 
with small mammals, birds, and large invertebrates sometimes being 
taken (Chavez and Gese 2005, Mech 1974, Stebler 1944, WI DNR 1999, 
Huntzinger et al. 2005). In the WGLDPS, during the last 25 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.), 
guinea fowl (Numida meleagris), pheasants (Phasianus colchicus), dogs, 
cats (Felis catus), and captive white-tailed deer (Paul 2004, 2005; 
Wydeven 1998; Wydeven et al. 2001; Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 1999, 2000, 
2001, 2005).
    Wolves are social animals, normally living in packs of 2 to 12 
wolves. Winter pack size in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP) averaged 
from 2.7 to 4.6 wolves during the 1995 through 2005 period and ranged 
from 2 to 14 wolves per pack (Huntzinger et al. 2005). Pack size in 
Wisconsin is similar, averaging 3.8 to 4.1 wolves per pack, and ranging 
from 2 to 11 wolves in winter 2004-2005 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2005). 
In Minnesota the average pack size found in the 1988-89, 1997-98, and 
2003-2004 winter surveys was higher--5.55, 5.4, and 5.3 wolves per 
pack, respectively (Erb and Benson 2004).
    Packs are primarily family groups consisting of a breeding pair, 
their pups from the current year, offspring from one or two previous 
years, and occasionally an unrelated wolf. Packs typically occupy, and 
defend from other packs and individual wolves, a territory of 50 to 550 
square kilometers (km\2\) (20 to 214 square miles (mi\2\)). Midwest 
wolf packs tend to occupy territories on the lower end of this size 
range. Michigan Upper Peninsula territories averaged 267 km\2\ in 2000-
2001 (Drummer et al. 2002), Wisconsin territories 37 mi\2\ in 2004-2005 
(Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2005), and Minnesota territory size averaged 
102 km\2\ in 2003-2004 (Erb and Benson 2004). 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 range from 1 to 
11 pups, but generally include 4 to 6 pups (Michigan Department of 
Natural Resources (MI DNR) 1997; USFWS 1992; USFWS et al. 2001). 
Normally a pack has a single litter annually, but the production of 2 
or 3 litters in one year has been routinely documented in Yellowstone 
National Park (USFWS et al. 2002; Smith et al. 2005).
    Yearling wolves frequently disperse from their natal packs, 
although some remain with their natal pack. Adult wolves and pups older 
than 5 months also may disperse but at much lower frequencies (Fuller 
1989). Dispersers may range over large areas as lone animals after 
leaving their natal pack or they may locate suitable unoccupied habitat 
and a member of the opposite sex and begin their own pack. These 
dispersal movements allow a wolf population to quickly expand and 
colonize areas of suitable habitat that are nearby or even those that 
are isolated by a broad area of unsuitable habitat. Additional details 
on extraterritorial movements are found in Delineating the Midwestern 
Gray Wolf Population DPS, below.


    Background--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 ice age are parts of California 
(but some authorities question the reported historical absence of gray 
wolves from parts of California (Carbyn in litt. 2000; Mech, U.S. 
Geological Survey, in litt. 2000)) and portions of the eastern and 
southeastern United States (areas occupied by the red wolf or a 
recently suggested eastern wolf, C. lycaon (Wilson et al. 2000; Grewal 
et al. 2004; White et al. 2001)). In addition, wolves were generally 
absent from the deserts and mountaintop areas of the western United 
States (Young and Goldman 1944; Hall 1981; Mech 1974; Nowak 2000).
    European settlers in North America and their cultures often had 
superstitions and fears of wolves and a unified desire to eliminate 
them (Boitani 1995). Their attitudes, coupled with perceived and real 
conflicts between wolves and human activities along the western 
frontier, led to widespread persecution of wolves. Poison, trapping, 
snaring, and shooting spurred by Federal, State, and local government 
bounties extirpated this once widespread species from nearly all of its 
historical range in the 48 conterminous States.
    Recovery Planning--Gray wolf populations in the United States are 
currently protected under the Act as a threatened species in Minnesota 
and endangered in the remaining 47 conterminous states and Mexico (50 
CFR 17.11(h)), by separate regulations establishing three non-essential 
experimental populations (50 CFR 17.84(i), (k), and (n)), and by 
special regulations for Minnesota wolves (50 CFR 17.40(d)). The current 
status of wolves is discussed below under Previous Federal Action. At 
the time the Act was passed, only several hundred wolves occurred in 
northeastern Minnesota and on Isle Royale, Michigan, and a few 
scattered wolves may have occurred in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, 
Montana, the American Southwest, and Mexico.
    We approved the 1978 Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf 
(Recovery Plan) on May 2, 1978 (USFWS 1978). We subsequently approved 
an updated and revised version on January 31, 1992 (USFWS 1992), which 
replaced the 1978 Recovery Plan. The 1978 Recovery Plan and its 1992 
revision were intended to apply to the eastern timber wolf, Canis lupus 
lycaon, thought at that time to be the wolf subspecies that 
historically inhabited the United States east of the Great Plains 
(Young and Goldman 1944; Hall 1981; Mech 1974). Thus, these Recovery 
Plans cover a geographic triangle extending from Minnesota to Maine and 
into northeastern Florida. The Recovery Plan was based on the best 
available information on wolf taxonomy at the time of its original 
publication and subsequent revision. Since the publication of those 
Recovery Plans, several studies have produced conflicting results 
regarding the taxonomic identity of the wolf that historically occupied 
the eastern States. While this issue remains unresolved, this recovery 
program has continued to focus on recovering the wolf population that 
survived in, and has expanded outward from, northeastern Minnesota, 
regardless of its taxonomic identity.
    The 1978 Recovery Plan and the 1992 revised plan contain the same 
two delisting criteria. The first delisting 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), have concluded that this 
first delisting criterion remains valid. It addresses a need for 
reasonable assurances that future State, Tribal, and Federal wolf 
management and protection will maintain a viable recovered population 
of gray wolves

[[Page 15268]]

within the borders of Minnesota for the foreseeable future.
    Maintenance of the Minnesota wolf population is vital because the 
remaining genetic diversity of gray wolves in the eastern United States 
was carried by the several hundred wolves that survived in the State 
into the early 1970s. The Recovery Team insisted that the remnant 
Minnesota wolf population be maintained and protected to achieve wolf 
recovery in the eastern United States. The successful growth of that 
remnant population has maintained and maximized the representation of 
that genetic diversity among gray wolves in the WGL DPS. Furthermore, 
the Recovery Team established a planning goal of 1,250-1,400 animals 
for the Minnesota wolf population (USFWS 1992), which would increase 
the likelihood of maintaining its genetic diversity over the long term. 
This large Minnesota wolf population also provides the resiliency to 
reduce the adverse impacts of unpredictable demographic and 
environmental events. Furthermore, the Recovery Plan promotes a wolf 
population across 4 of 5 wolf management zones, encompassing about 40 
percent of the State, further adding to the resiliency of the Minnesota 
wolf population. The State's wolf population currently is estimated to 
be more than double that numerical goal, and occupies all 4 management 
    The second delisting criterion in the Recovery 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 Recovery Plan provides two options for 
reestablishing this second viable wolf population. If it is an isolated 
population, that is, located more than 100 miles from the Minnesota 
wolf population, the second population 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 not isolated, that is, located within 100 miles of a 
self-sustaining wolf population (for example, the Minnesota wolf 
population), a reestablished second population having a minimum of 100 
wolves for at least 5 years would be considered viable.
    The Recovery 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 area covered by the Recovery Plan, except on 
Isle Royale (Michigan) or within Minnesota. The 1978 Recovery Plan 
identified potential gray wolf restoration areas throughout the eastern 
United States, including northern Wisconsin and Michigan and areas as 
far south as the Great Smoky Mountains and adjacent areas in Tennessee, 
North Carolina, and Georgia. The revised 1992 Recovery Plan dropped 
from consideration the more southern potential restoration areas, 
because recovery efforts for the red wolf were being initiated in those 
areas. The 1992 revision retained potential gray wolf re-establishment 
areas in northern Wisconsin, the UP of Michigan, the Adirondack Forest 
Preserve of New York, a small area in eastern Maine, and a larger area 
of northwestern Maine and adjacent northern New Hampshire (USFWS 1992). 
Neither the 1978 nor the 1992 recovery criteria suggest that the 
restoration of the gray wolf throughout all or most of its historical 
range in the eastern United States, or to all of these potential re-
establishment areas, is necessary to achieve recovery under the Act.
    In 1998, the Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team clarified the 
delisting criterion for the second population (i.e., the wolf 
population that had developed in northern Wisconsin and the adjacent 
Upper Peninsula of Michigan). It stated that the numerical delisting 
criterion for the Wisconsin-Michigan population will be achieved when 6 
consecutive late-winter wolf surveys documented that the population 
equaled or exceeded 100 wolves (excluding Isle Royale wolves) for the 5 
consecutive years between the 6 surveys (Rolf Peterson, Eastern Timber 
Wolf Recovery Team, in litt. 1998). 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, and exceeding 200 
animals since 1996, thus the recovery goals have been met.
    The Recovery Plan has no goals or criteria for the gray wolf 
population on 546 sq km (210 sq mi) of Isle Royale, Michigan. The wolf 
population of Isle Royale is not considered to be an important factor 
in the recovery or long-term survival of wolves in the WGL DPS. This 
wolf population is small, varying from 12 to 30 animals in 2 or 3 packs 
over the last 20 years (Peterson and Vucetich 2005). Due to its small 
insular nature, it is almost completely isolated from other wolf 
populations and has never exceeded 50 animals. For these reasons, the 
Recovery Plan does not include these wolves in its recovery criteria, 
but recommends the continuation of research and complete protection for 
these wolves that is assured by National Park Service management (USFWS 
1992). Unless stated otherwise in this proposal, subsequent discussions 
of Michigan wolves do not refer to wolves on Isle Royale.
    The Recovery Plan recognizes the potential for wolves to come into 
conflict with human activities, and that such conflicts are likely to 
impede wolf recovery unless they can be reduced to socially tolerated 
levels. Among major recovery actions identified in the 1992 Recovery 
Plan is the need to ``minimize losses of domestic animals due to wolf 
predation.'' [p.6] The Recovery Plan recommends measures to avoid such 
conflicts and to reduce conflicts when they develop. These measures 
include promoting the re-establishment of wolf populations only in 
areas where such conflicts are likely to be relatively infrequent, a 
recommendation that wolf density in peripheral wolf range in Minnesota 
(Zone 4, 26 percent of the State) be limited to an average of one wolf 
per 50 square miles (128 sq km) [p.15], and a recommendation that 
wolves that move into Minnesota Zone 5 (about 61 percent of the State) 
``should be eliminated by any legal means'' because livestock 
production and other human activities make that area ``not suitable for 
wolves.'' [p.20]
    When wolves kill domestic animals, the Recovery Plan recommends 
that government agents remove those wolves. In Minnesota Zone 1 (4,462 
sq mi in northeastern Minnesota), wolf removal should be by 
livetrapping and translocation, whereas in Zones 2 and 3 (1,864 and 
3,501 sq mi in northeastern and north central Minnesota, respectively), 
those wolves may be removed by any means including lethal take. In 
Zones 4 and 5, the Recovery Plan recommends preventive depredation 
control be conducted by trapping wolves in the vicinity of previous 
depredation sites. Similarly, the Recovery Plan recommends management 
practices ``including the potential taking of problem animals'' for 
wolf populations that develop in Wisconsin and Michigan. [p.34] 
(Service 1992). Neither the trapping and translocations (Minnesota Zone 
1) nor the preventive depredation control (Zones 4 and 5) have been 
implemented. Lethal taking of depredating wolves in Wisconsin and 
Michigan has occurred only on a very limited basis. More detailed 
discussion of wolf depredation control activities in the Midwest is 
found in Factor D.

[[Page 15269]]

Recovery of the Gray Wolf in the Western Great Lakes


    During the pre-1965 period of wolf bounties and legal public 
trapping, wolves persisted in the remote northeastern portion of 
Minnesota, but were eliminated from the rest of the State. Estimated 
numbers of Minnesota wolves before their 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). Although these estimates were based upon different 
methodologies and are not directly comparable, each puts the pre-
listing abundance of wolves in Minnesota at 1,000 or less. This was the 
only significant wolf population in the United States outside Alaska 
during those time-periods.
    After the wolf was listed as endangered under the Act, Minnesota 
population estimates increased (see Table 1 below). Mech estimated the 
population to be 1,000 to 1,200 in 1976 (USFWS 1978), and Berg and 
Kuehn (1982) estimated that there were 1,235 wolves in 138 packs in the 
winter of 1978-79. 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 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 wolf and pack numbers in the 
occupied range, with single (non-pack) wolves factored into the 
estimate (Berg and Benson 1999).

 Table 1.--Gray wolf winter populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (excluding Isle Royale) from 1976
                through 2005. Note that there are several years between the first four estimates
                      Year                           Minnesota       Wisconsin       Michigan      WI & MI Total
1976............................................     1,000-1,200
1978-79.........................................           1,235
1988-89.........................................     1,500-1,750              31               3              34
1993-94.........................................                              57              57             114
1994-95.........................................                              83              80             163
1995-96.........................................                              99             116             215
1996-97.........................................                             148             112             260
1997-98.........................................           2,445             180             140             320
1998-99.........................................                             205             174             379
1999-2000.......................................                             248             216             464
2000-01.........................................                             257             249             506
2001-02.........................................                             327             278             604
2002-03.........................................                             335             321             656
2003-04.........................................           3,020             373             360             733
2004-05.........................................                             425             405             830

    The 1997-98 survey concluded that approximately 2,445 wolves 
existed in about 385 packs in Minnesota during that winter period (90 
percent confidence interval from 1,995 to 2,905 wolves) (Berg and 
Benson 1999). This figure indicated the continued growth of the 
Minnesota wolf population at an average rate of about 3.7 percent 
annually from 1970 through 1997-98. Between 1979 and 1989 the annual 
growth rate was about 3 percent, and it increased to between 4 and 5 
percent in the next decade (Berg and Benson 1999; Fuller et al. 1992). 
As of the 1998 survey, the number of Minnesota wolves was approximately 
twice the planning goal for Minnesota, as specified in the Eastern 
Recovery Plan (USFWS 1992).
    Minnesota DNR conducted another survey of the State's wolf 
population and range during the winter of 2003-04, again using similar 
methodology. That survey concluded that an estimated 3,020 wolves in 
485 packs occurred in Minnesota at that time (90 percent confidence 
interval for this estimate is 2,301 to 3,708 wolves). Due to the wide 
overlap in the confidence intervals for the 1997-98 and 2003-04 
surveys, the authors conclude that, although the population point 
estimate increased by about 24 percent over the 6 years between the 
surveys (about 3.5 percent annually), there was no statistically 
significant increase in the State's wolf population during that period 
(Erb and Benson 2004).
    As wolves increased in abundance in Minnesota, they also expanded 
their distribution. During 1948-53, the major wolf range was estimated 
to be about 11,954 sq mi (31,080 sq km) (Stenlund 1955). A 1970 
questionnaire survey resulted in an estimated wolf range of 14,769 sq 
mi (38,400 sq km) (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 14,038 sq mi 
(36,500 sq km) during winter 1978-79. By 1982-83, pairs or breeding 
packs of wolves were estimated to occupy an area of 22,000 sq mi 
(57,050 sq km) in northern Minnesota (Mech et al. 1988). That study 
also identified an additional 15,577 sq mi (40,500 sq km of peripheral 
range, where habitat appeared suitable but no wolves or only lone 
wolves existed. The 1988-89 study produced an estimate of 23,165 sq mi 
(60,200 sq km) 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 33,971 sq mi (88,325 sq km), a 47 percent 
increase in 9 years (Berg and Benson 1999). By that time the Minnesota 
wolf population was using most of the occupied and peripheral range 
identified by Mech et al. (1988). The wolf population in Minnesota had 
recovered to the point that its contiguous range covered approximately 
40 percent of the State

[[Page 15270]]

during 1997-98. In contrast, the 2003-04 survey failed to show a 
continuing expansion of wolf range in Minnesota, and any actual 
increase in wolf numbers since 1997-98 was attributed to increased wolf 
density within a stabilized range (Erb and Benson 2004).
    Although Minnesota DNR does not conduct a formal wolf population 
survey annually, it includes the species in its annual carnivore track 
survey. This survey, standardized and operational since 1994, provides 
an annual index of abundance for several species of large carnivores by 
counting their tracks along 51 standardized survey routes in the 
northern portion of Minnesota. Based on these surveys, the wolf track 
indices for winter 2004-05 showed little change from the previous 
winter, and no statistically significant trends are apparent since 
1994. However, the data show some indication of an increase in wolf 
density (Erb 2005). Thus, the winter track survey results are 
consistent with a stable or slowly increasing wolf population in 
northern Minnesota over this 11-year period.


    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. There is no 
documentation, however, of any wolf reproduction occurring in 
Wisconsin, and the wolves that were reported may have been dispersing 
animals from Minnesota.
    Wolves are believed to have returned to Wisconsin in more 
substantial numbers in about 1975, and the WI DNR began wolf population 
monitoring in 1979-80 and estimated a statewide population of 25 wolves 
at that time (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2001). 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 has continued into 
2005 (Wydeven et al. 2005).
    Wisconsin DNR intensively surveys its wolf population annually 
using a combination of aerial, ground, and satellite radio telemetry, 
complemented by snow tracking and wolf sign surveys (Wydeven et al. 
1995, 2005). Wolves are trapped from May through September and fitted 
with radio collars, with a goal of having at least one radio-collared 
wolf in about half of the wolf packs in Wisconsin. Aerial locations are 
obtained from each functioning radio-collar about once per week, and 
pack territories are estimated and mapped from the movements of the 
individuals who exhibit localized patterns. From December through 
March, the pilots make special efforts to visually locate and count the 
individual wolves in each radio-tracked pack. Snow tracking is used to 
supplement the information gained from aerial sightings and to provide 
pack size estimates for packs lacking a radio-collared wolf. Tracking 
is done by assigning survey blocks to trained trackers who then drive 
snow-covered roads in their blocks and follow all wolf tracks they 
encounter. Snowmobiles are used to locate wolf tracks in more remote 
areas with few roads. The results of the aerial and ground surveys are 
carefully compared to properly separate packs and to avoid over-
counting (Wydeven et al. 2003). The number of wolves in each pack is 
estimated based on the aerial and ground observations made of the 
individual wolves in each pack over the winter.
    Because the monitoring methods focus on wolf packs, lone wolves are 
likely undercounted in Wisconsin. As a result, the annual population 
estimates are probably slight underestimates of the actual wolf 
population within the State during the late-winter period. Fuller 
(1989) noted that lone wolves are estimated to compose from 2 to 29 
percent. Also, these estimates are made at the low point of the annual 
wolf population cycle; the late-winter surveys produce an estimate of 
the wolf population at a time when most winter mortality has already 
occurred and before the birth of pups. Thus, Wisconsin wolf population 
estimates are conservative in two respects: they undercount lone wolves 
and the count is made at the annual low point of the population. This 
methodology is consistent with the recovery criteria established in the 
1992 Recovery Plan, which established numerical criteria to be measured 
with data obtained by late-winter surveys.
    During the July 2004 through June 2005 period, 63 radio collars 
were active on Wisconsin wolves, including 7 dispersers. At the 
beginning of the winter of 2004-05 radio collars were functioning in at 
least 39 packs. An estimated 425 to 455 wolves in 108 packs, including 
11 to 13 wolves on Native American reservations, were in the State in 
early 2005, representing a 14 percent increase from 2004 (Wydeven et 
al. 2005a).
    Wisconsin population estimates for 1985 through 2005 increased from 
15 to 425-455 wolves (see Table 1 above) and from 4 to 108 packs 
(Wydeven et al. 2005a). This represents an annual increase of 21 
percent through 2000, and an average annual increase of 11 percent for 
the most recent five years. This declining rate of increase may 
indicate that the Wisconsin wolf population is nearing the carrying 
capacity in the State.
    In 1995, wolves were first documented in Jackson County, Wisconsin, 
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 increased since that time. During the winter of 
2004-05, there were 42-44 wolves in 11 packs in the central forest wolf 
range (Zone 2 in the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan) and an additional 
19 wolves in 6 packs in the marginal habitat in Zone 3, located between 
Zone 1 (northern forest wolf range) and Zone 2 (Wisconsin DNR 1999, 
Wydeven et al. 2005a) (see Figure 3).
    During the winter of 2002-03, 7 wolves were believed to be 
primarily occupying Native American reservation lands in Wisconsin 
(Wydeven et al. 2003); this increased to 11 to 13 wolves in the winter 
of 2004-05 (Wydeven in litt. 2005). The 2004-05 animals consisted of 2 
packs totaling 7 to 9 wolves on the Bad River Chippewa Reservation and 
a pack of 4 wolves on the Lac Courtes Oreilles Chippewa Reservation, 
both in northern Wisconsin. There were an additional 24 to 26 wolves 
that spent some time on reservation lands in the winter of 2004-05, 
including the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa Reservation, the Red Cliff 
Chippewa Reservation, the St. Croix Chippewa Reservation, the Menominee 
Reservation, and the Ho Chunk Reservation. It is likely that the 
Potowatomi Reservation lands will also host wolves in the near future 
(Wydeven in litt. 2005). Of these reservations the Ho-Chunk, St. Croix 
Chippewa, and Potowatomi are composed mostly of scattered parcels of 
land, and are not likely to provide significant amounts of wolf 
    In 2002, wolf numbers in Wisconsin alone surpassed the Federal 
criterion for a second population, as identified in the 1992 Recovery 
Plan (i.e., 100 wolves for a minimum of 5 consecutive years, as 
measured by 6 consecutive late-winter counts). Furthermore, in 2004 
Wisconsin wolf numbers exceeded the Recovery Plan criterion of 200 
animals for 6 successive late-winter surveys for an isolated wolf 
population. The Wisconsin wolf population continues to increase, 
although the slower rates of increase seen since 2000 may be the first

[[Page 15271]]

indications that the State's wolf population growth and geographic 
expansion are beginning to level off. Mladenoff et al. (1997) and 
Wydeven et al. (1997) estimated that occupancy of primary wolf habitat 
in Wisconsin would produce a wolf population of about 380 animals in 
the northern forest area of the State plus an additional 20-40 wolves 
in the central forest area. If wolves occupy secondary habitat (areas 
with a 10-50 percent probability of supporting a wolf pack) in the 
State, their estimated population could be 50 percent higher or more 
(Wydeven et al. 1997) resulting in a statewide population of 600 or 
more wolves.


    Wolves were extirpated from Michigan as a reproducing species 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. However, as wolves began to 
reoccupy northern Wisconsin, the MI DNR began noting single wolves at 
various locations in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In 1989, a wolf 
pair was verified in the central Upper Peninsula, and it produced pups 
in 1991. Since that time, wolf packs have spread throughout the Upper 
Peninsula, with immigration occurring from Wisconsin on the west and 
possibly from Ontario on the east. They now are found in every county 
of the Upper Peninsula, with the possible exception of Keweenaw County 
(Huntzinger et al. 2005).
    The MI DNR annually monitors the wolf population in the Upper 
Peninsula by intensive late-winter tracking surveys that focus on each 
pack. The Upper Peninsula is divided into seven monitoring zones, and 
specific surveyors are assigned to each zone. Pack locations are 
derived from previous surveys, citizen reports, and extensive ground 
and aerial tracking of radio-collared wolves. During the winter of 
2004-05 at least 87 wolf packs were resident in the Upper Peninsula 
(Huntzinger et al. 2005). A minimum of 40 percent of these packs had 
members with active radio-tracking collars during the winter of 2004-05 
(Huntzinger et al. 2005). Care is taken to avoid double-counting packs 
and individual wolves, and a variety of evidence is used to distinguish 
adjacent packs and accurately count their members. Surveys along the 
border of adjacent monitoring zones are coordinated to avoid double-
counting of wolves and packs occupying those border areas. In areas 
with a high density of wolves, ground surveys by 4 to 6 surveyors with 
concurrent aerial tracking are used to accurately delineate territories 
of adjacent packs and count their members (Beyer et al. 2004, 
Huntzinger et al. 2005, Potvin et al. in press). As with Wisconsin, the 
Michigan surveys likely miss many lone wolves, thus underestimating the 
actual population.
    Annual surveys have documented minimum late-winter estimates of 
wolves occurring in the Upper Peninsula as increasing from 57 wolves in 
1994 to 405 in 87 packs in 2005 (see Table 1 above). Over the last 10 
years the annualized rate of increase has been about 18 percent (MI DNR 
1997, 1999, 2001, 2003; Beyer et al. 2003, 2004; Huntzinger et al. 
2005). The rate of annual increase has varied from year to year during 
this period, but there appears to be two distinct phases of population 
growth, with relatively rapid growth (about 25 percent per year from 
1997 through 2000) and slower growth (about 14 percent from 2000 to the 
present time). Similar to Wisconsin, this may indicate a slowing growth 
rate as the population increases. The 2005 late-winter population was 
up 13 percent from the previous year's estimated population (Huntzinger 
et al. 2005). As with the Wisconsin wolves, the number of wolves in the 
Michigan Upper Peninsula wolf population by itself has surpassed the 
recovery criterion for a second population in the eastern United States 
(i.e., 100 wolves for a minimum of 5 consecutive years, based on 6 
late-winter estimates), as specified in the Federal Recovery Plan, 
since 2001. In addition, the Upper Peninsula numbers have now surpassed 
the Federal criterion for an isolated wolf population of 200 animals 
for 6 successive late-winter surveys (FWS 1992).
    In 2004-05, no wolf packs were known to be primarily using tribal-
owned lands in Michigan (Beyer pers comm. 2005). Native American tribes 
in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan own small, scattered parcels of 
land. As such, no one tribal property would likely support a wolf pack. 
However, as wolves occur in all counties in the Upper Peninsula and 
range widely, tribal land is likely utilized periodically by wolves.
    As mentioned previously, 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 WGL DPS. This small 
and isolated wolf population cannot 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. 
The wolf population on Isle Royale has ranged from 12 to 50 wolves 
since 1959, and was 30 wolves in the winter of 2004-05 (Peterson and 
Vucetich 2005).
    Although there have been verified reports of wolf sightings in the 
Lower Peninsula of Michigan, resident breeding packs have not been 
confirmed there. In October 2004 the first gray wolf since 1910 was 
documented in the Lower Peninsula (LP). This wolf had been trapped and 
radio-collared by the MI DNR while it was a member of a central UP pack 
in late 2003. At some point it had moved to the LP and ultimately was 
killed by a trapper who believed it was a coyote (MI DNR 2004a). 
Shortly after that, MI DNR biologists and conservation officers 
confirmed that two additional wolves were traveling together in Presque 
Isle County in the northern Lower Peninsula (NLP). A subsequent two-
week survey was conducted in that area, but no additional evidence of 
wolf presence was found (Huntzinger et al. 2005). Recognizing the 
likelihood that small numbers of gray wolves will eventually move into 
the Lower Peninsula and form persistent packs (Potvin 2003, Gehring and 
Potter 2005 in press), MI DNR has begun a revision of its Wolf 
Management Plan in part to incorporate provisions for wolf management 

Summary for Wisconsin and Michigan

    The two-State wolf population, excluding Isle Royale wolves, has 
exceeded 100 wolves since late-winter 1993-94 and has exceeded 200 
wolves since late-winter 1995-96. Therefore, the combined wolf 
population for Wisconsin and Michigan has exceeded the second 
population recovery goal of the 1992 Recovery Plan for a non-isolated 
wolf population since 1999. Furthermore, the two-state population has 
exceeded the recovery goal for an isolated second population since 

Other Areas in the Western Great Lakes DPS

    As described earlier, the increasing wolf population in Minnesota 
and the accompanying expansion of wolf range westward and southwestward 
in the State have led to an increase in dispersing wolves that have 
been documented in North and South Dakota in recent years. No surveys 
have been conducted to document the number of wolves present in North 
Dakota or South Dakota. However, biologists who are familiar with 
wolves there generally agree that there are only occasional lone 
dispersers that appear primarily in the eastern portion of these 
States. There were reports of pups being seen in the Turtle Mountains 
of North Dakota in

[[Page 15272]]

1994, but there have been no reports in the last few years (Roger 
Collins, USFWS, in litt. 1998; Phil Mastrangelo, USDA-APHIS-Wildlife 
Services, Bismarck, ND, pers. comm. 2005).
    An examination of eight skulls from North and South Dakota wolves 
indicates that seven likely had dispersed from Minnesota; the eighth 
probably came from Manitoba, Canada (Licht and Fritts 1994). Genetic 
analyses of an additional gray wolf killed in 2001 in extreme 
northwestern South Dakota and another killed in central Nebraska in 
2002 (both outside of this proposed WGL DPS) indicate that they, too, 
originated from the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population 
(Straughan and Fain 2002, Steve Anschutz, USFWS, Lincoln, NE, in litt. 
    Additionally, some wolves from the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan 
population have traveled to other portions of the WGL DPS. In October 
2001, a wolf was killed in north-central Missouri by a farmer who 
stated that he thought 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 1999. A 
wolf, presumably from the Wisconsin or possibly Minnesota wolf 
population, was shot and killed in Marshall County, in north-central 
Illinois, in December 2002. A second wolf was killed by a vehicle 
strike in northeastern Illinois in February 2005, and a third (verified 
as originating from the Western Great Lakes wolf population) was killed 
in Pike County, Illinois, (near Quincy) in December 2005. Another Great 
Lakes wolf was found dead in Randolph County in east-central Indiana 
(about 12 miles from the Ohio border) in June 2003. That wolf 
originated in Jackson County, Wisconsin, based on a Wisconsin DNR ear 
tag that it carried (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2003b).
    Wolf dispersal is expected to continue as wolves travel away from 
the more saturated habitats in the core recovery areas into areas where 
wolves are extremely sparse or absent. Unless they return to a core 
recovery population and join or start a pack there, they are unlikely 
to contribute to long-term maintenance of recovered wolf populations. 
Although it is possible for them to encounter a mature wolf of the 
opposite sex, to mate, and to reproduce outside the core wolf areas, 
the lack of large expanses of unfragmented public land make it unlikely 
that any wolf packs will persist in these areas. The only exception is 
the NLP of Michigan, where several studies indicate a persistent wolf 
population may develop (Gehring and Potter in press, Potvin 2003), 
perhaps dependent on occasional to frequent immigration of UP wolves. 
However, currently existing wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, 
and the UP of Michigan have already greatly exceeded the Federal 
recovery criteria, and maintaining viable recovered wolf populations in 
these areas will not be dependent in any way on wolves or wolf 
populations in other areas of the WGL DPS.

Previous Federal Action

    On April 1, 2003, we published a final rule (68 FR 15804) that 
reclassified and delisted gray wolves, as appropriate, across their 
range in the 48 conterminous United States and Mexico. Within that 
rule, we established three DPSs for the gray wolf. Gray wolves in the 
Western DPS and the Eastern DPS were reclassified from endangered to 
threatened, except where already classified as threatened or as an 
experimental population. Gray wolves in the Southwestern DPS retained 
their previous endangered or experimental population status. Three 
existing gray wolf experimental population designations were not 
affected by the April 1, 2003, final rule. We removed gray wolves from 
the protections of the Act in all or parts of 16 southern and eastern 
States where the species historically did not occur. We also 
established a new special rule under section 4(d) of the Act for the 
threatened Western DPS to increase our ability to effectively manage 
wolf-human conflicts outside the two experimental population areas in 
the Western DPS. In addition, we established a second section 4(d) rule 
that applied provisions similar to those previously in effect in 
Minnesota to most of the Eastern DPS. These two special rules were 
codified in 50 CFR 17.40(n) and (o), respectively. In that final rule 
(on page 15806), we included a detailed summary of the previous Federal 
actions completed prior to publication of that final rule. The final 
rule is available at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/esa-status/Reclass-final-fr.PDF.
 Therefore, we will not repeat the details of that 

history in this proposal.
    On January 31, 2005, and August 19, 2005, the U.S. District Courts 
in Oregon and Vermont, respectively, concluded that the 2003 final rule 
was ``arbitrary and capricious'' and violated the ESA (Defenders of 
Wildlife v. Norton, 03-1348-JO, D. OR 2005; National Wildlife 
Federation v. Norton, 1:03-CV-340, D. VT. 2005). The courts' rulings 
invalidated the April 2003 changes to the ESA listing for the gray 
wolf. These rulings had the effect of eliminating the three DPS 
listings and reverting all gray wolves south of Canada to endangered 
status, except those wolves in Minnesota retained their threatened 
status and the experimental population wolves in the northern U.S. 
Rockies and the Southwest retained their ``nonessential experimental'' 
status. These rulings also vacated the 2003 special rules under section 
4(d) that authorized lethal control of problem wolves in the Eastern 
and Western DPSs. Because we had subsequently used the Eastern DPS as 
the basis for a July 21, 2004, gray wolf delisting proposal (69 FR 
43664), that proposal could not be finalized.
    On March 1, 2000, we received a petition from Mr. Lawrence Krak of 
Gilman, Wisconsin, and on June 28, 2000, we received a petition 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 a Western Great Lakes DPS. Because the data reviews resulting 
from the processing of these petitions would be a subset of the review 
begun by our July 13, 2000, proposal (65 FR 43450) to revise the 
current listing of the gray wolf across most of the conterminous United 
States, we did not initiate separate reviews in response to those two 
petitions. While we addressed these petitions in our July 21, 2004, 
proposed rule (69 FR 43664), this rule was mooted by the Court rulings. 
Therefore, this delisting proposal restates our 90-day findings that 
the action requested by each of the petitions may be warranted, as well 
as our 12-month finding that the action requested by each petition is 

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment Policy Overview

    Pursuant to the ESA, we consider for listing any species, 
subspecies, or, for vertebrates, any DPS of these taxa if there is 
sufficient information to indicate that such action may be warranted. 
To interpret and implement the DPS provision of the ESA and 
Congressional guidance, the Service and the National Marine Fisheries 
Service (NMFS) published, on December 21, 1994, a draft Policy 
Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments 
under the ESA and invited public comments on it (59 FR 65884). After 
review of comments and further consideration, the Service and NMFS 
adopted the interagency policy as issued in draft form, and published 
it in the Federal Register on February 7, 1996 (61 FR 4722). This 
policy addresses the recognition of a

[[Page 15273]]

DPS for potential listing, reclassification, and delisting actions.
    Under our DPS policy, three factors are considered in a decision 
regarding the establishment and classification of a possible DPS. These 
are applied similarly for additions to the list of endangered and 
threatened species, reclassification of already listed species, and 
removals from the list. The first two factors--discreteness of the 
population segment in relation to the remainder of the taxon (i.e., 
Canis lupus) and the significance of the population segment to the 
taxon to which it belongs (i.e., Canis lupus)--bear on whether the 
population segment is a valid DPS. If a population meets both tests, it 
is a DPS and then the third factor is applied--the population segment's 
conservation status in relation to the ESA's standards for listing, 
delisting, or reclassification (i.e., is the population segment 
endangered or threatened).

Analysis for Discreteness

    Under our Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate 
Population Segments, a population segment of a vertebrate taxon may be 
considered discrete if it satisfies either one of the following 
conditions--(1) It is markedly separated from other populations of the 
same taxon (i.e., Canis lupus) as a consequence of physical, 
physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors (quantitative measures 
of genetic or morphological discontinuity may provide evidence of this 
separation); or (2) it is delimited by international governmental 
boundaries within which differences in control of exploitation, 
management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms 
exist that are significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the ESA.
    Markedly Separated From Other Populations of the Taxon--The western 
edge of the proposed Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment is 
approximately 400 mi (644 km) from the nearest known wolf packs in 
Wyoming and Montana. The distance between those western packs and the 
nearest packs within the proposed WGL DPS is nearly 600 miles (966 km). 
The area between Minnesota packs and Northern Rocky Mountain packs 
largely consists of unsuitable habitat, with only scattered islands of 
possibly suitable habitat, such as the Black Hills of eastern Wyoming 
and western South Dakota. There are no known gray wolf populations to 
the south or east of this proposed WGL DPS.
    As discussed in the previous section, gray wolves are known to 
disperse over vast distances, but straight line documented dispersals 
of 400 mi (644 km) or more are very rare. Wolf dispersal is expected to 
continue but unless they return to a core recovery population and join 
or start a pack there, they are unlikely to contribute to long-term 
maintenance of recovered wolf populations. Dispersing wolves may 
encounter a mature wolf of the opposite sex outside the core wolf 
areas, but the lack of large expanses of unfragmented public land make 
it unlikely that any wolf packs will persist in these areas. While we 
cannot rule out the possibility of a Midwest wolf traveling 600 miles 
or more and joining or establishing a pack in the Northern Rockies, 
such a movement has not been documented and is expected to happen very 
infrequently, if at all. As the discreteness criterion requires that 
the DPS be ``markedly separated'' from other populations of the taxon 
rather than requiring complete isolation, this high degree of physical 
separation satisfies the discreteness criterion.
    Delimited by International Boundaries with Significant Management 
Differences Between the United States and Canada--This border has been 
used as the northern boundary of the listed entity since gray wolves 
were reclassified in the 48 states and Mexico in 1978. There remain 
significant cross-border differences in exploitation, management, 
conservation status, and regulatory mechanisms. More than 50,000 wolves 
exist in Canada, where suitable habitat is abundant, human harvest of 
wolves is common, Federal protection is absent, and provincial 
regulations provide widely varying levels of protection. In general, 
Canadian wolf populations are sufficiently large and healthy so that 
harvest and population regulation, rather than protection and close 
monitoring, is the management focus. There are an estimated 4,000 
wolves in Manitoba (Manitoba Conservation undated). Hunting is allowed 
nearly province-wide, including in those provincial hunting zones 
adjoining northwestern Minnesota, with a current season that runs from 
August 29, 2005, through March 31, 2006 (Manitoba Conservation 2005a). 
Trapping wolves is allowed province-wide except in and immediately 
around Riding Mountain Provincial Park (southwestern Manitoba), with a 
current season running from October 14, 2005, through February 28 or 
March 31, 2006 (varies with trapping zone) (Manitoba Conservation 
2005b). The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources estimates there are 
8,850 wolves in the province, based on prey composition and abundance, 
topography, and climate. Wolf numbers in most parts of the province are 
believed to be stable or increasing since about 1993 (Ontario Ministry 
of Natural Resources (MNR) 2005a). In 2005 Ontario limited hunting and 
trapping of wolves by closing the season from April 1 through September 
14 in central and northern Ontario (Ontario MNR 2005b). In southern 
Ontario (the portion of the province that is adjacent to the proposed 
WGL DPS), wolf hunting and trapping is permitted year around except 
within, and immediately around, Algonquin Provincial Park in 
southeastern Ontario (north of Lake Ontario) where seasons are closed 
all year (Ontario MNR 2005c).
    We, therefore, conclude that the above described proposed WGL DPS 
boundary would satisfy both conditions that can be used to demonstrate 
discreteness of a potential DPS.

Analysis for Significance

    If we determine a population segment is discrete, we next consider 
available scientific evidence of its significance to the taxon (i.e., 
Canis lupus) to which it belongs. Our DPS policy states that this 
consideration may include, but is not limited to, the following--(1) 
Persistence of the discrete population segment in an ecological setting 
unusual or unique for the taxon; (2) evidence that loss of the discrete 
population segment would result in a significant gap in the range of 
the taxon; (3) evidence that the discrete population segment represents 
the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more 
abundant elsewhere as an introduced population outside its historic 
range; and/or (4) evidence that the discrete population segment differs 
markedly from other populations of the species in its genetic 
characteristics. Below we address Factors 1 and 2. Factors 3 and 4 do 
not apply to the proposed WGL wolf DPS and thus are not included in our 
analysis for significance.
    Unusual or Unique Ecological Setting--Wolves within the proposed 
WGL DPS occupy the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, a biotic province 
that is transitional between the boreal forest and the broadleaf 
deciduous forest. Laurentian Mixed Forest consists of mixed conifer-
deciduous stands, pure deciduous forest on favorable sites, and pure 
coniferous forest on less favorable sites. Within the United States 
this biotic province occurs across northeastern Minnesota, northern 
Wisconsin, the UP, and the NLP, as well as the eastern half of Maine, 
and portions of New York and Pennsylvania (Bailey 1995). In the 
Midwest, current wolf distribution closely matches this

[[Page 15274]]

province, except for the NLP and the Door Peninsula of Wisconsin, where 
wolf packs currently are absent. To the best of our knowledge, wolf 
packs currently do not inhabit the New England portions of the 
Laurentian Mixed Forest Province. Therefore, WGL wolves represent the 
only wolves in the United States occupying this province. Furthermore, 
WGL wolves represent the only use by gray wolves of any form of eastern 
coniferous or eastern mixed coniferous-broadleaf forest in the United 
    Significant Gap in the Range of the Taxon--This factor may be 
primarily of value when considering the initial listing of a taxon 
under the Act to prevent the development of a major gap in a taxon's 
range (``* * * loss * * * would result in a significant gap in the 
range of the taxon'' (71 FR 6641)). However, this successful 
restoration of a viable wolf metapopulation to large parts of 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan has filled a significant gap in the 
historical range of the wolf in the United States, and it provides an 
important extension of the range of the North American gray wolf 
population. Without the recovered Western Great Lakes wolf 
metapopulation, there would not be a wolf population in the 
conterminous States east of the Rocky Mountains except for the red 
wolves being restored along the Atlantic Coast.


    We conclude, based on our review of the best available scientific 
information, that the proposed WGL DPS is discrete from other wolf 
populations as a result of physical separation and the international 
border with Canada. The proposed DPS is significant to the taxon to 
which it belongs because it is the only occurrence of the species in 
the Laurentian Mixed Forest Biotic Province in the United States, it 
contains a wolf metapopulation that fills a large gap in the historical 
range of the taxon, and it contains the majority of the wolves in the 
conterminous States. Therefore, we have determined that this population 
of wolves satisfies the discreteness and significance criteria required 
to designate it as a DPS. The evaluation of the appropriate 
conservation status for the WGL DPS is found below.
Delineating the WGL Gray Wolf Population DPS
    To delineate the boundary of the WGL DPS, we considered the current 
distribution of the wolves in those areas we consider significant in 
the population and the potential dispersal distance wolves may travel 
from those core population areas. The WGL DPS boundary includes all of 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan; the part of North Dakota that is 
north and east of the Missouri River upstream as far as Lake Sakakawea 
and east of Highway 83 from Lake Sakakawea to the Canadian border; the 
part of South Dakota that is north and east of the Missouri River; the 
parts of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana that are north of Interstate 
Highway 80; and the part of Ohio north of Interstate Highway 80 and 
west of the Maumee River (at Toledo). (See Figure 1.) As discussed 
below, this DPS has been delineated to include the core recovered wolf 
population plus a zone around the core wolf populations. This 
geographic delineation is not intended to include all areas where 
wolves have dispersed from. Rather, it includes the area currently 
occupied by wolf packs in MN, WI, and MI; the nearby areas in these 
States, including the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, in which 
wolf packs may become established in the foreseeable future; and a 
surrounding area into which MN, WI, and MI wolves disperse but where 
persistent packs are not expected to be established. The area 
surrounding the core wolf populations includes the locations of most 
known dispersers from the core populations, especially the shorter and 
medium-distance dispersers that are most likely to survive and 
potentially return to the core areas.

[[Page 15275]]


    The WGL areas that are regularly occupied by wolf packs are well 
documented in Minnesota (Erb and Benson 2004), Wisconsin (Wydeven et 
al. 2006), and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Huntzinger et al 2005). 
Wolves have successfully colonized most, perhaps all, suitable habitat 
in Minnesota. Minnesota data from the winter of 2003-2004 indicate that 
wolf numbers and density either have

[[Page 15276]]

continued to increase slowly or have stabilized since 1997-1998, and 
there was no expansion of occupied range in the State (Erb and Benson 
2004). Wisconsin wolves now occupy most habitat areas believed to have 
a high probability of wolf occurrence except for some areas of 
northeastern Wisconsin, and the State's wolf population continues to 
annually increase in numbers and, to a lesser degree, in area (Wydeven 
and Wiedenhoeft 2005). The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has wolf packs 
throughout, although current population remains well below the 
estimated biological carrying capacity and will likely continue to 
increase in numbers in the UP for at least several more years 
(Mladenoff et al. 1997).
    When delineating the WGL DPS, we had to consider the high degree of 
mobility shown by wolves. The dispersal of wolves from their natal 
packs and territories is a normal and important behavioral attribute of 
the species that facilitates the formation of new packs, the occupancy 
of vacant territories, and the expansion of occupied range by the 
``colonization'' of vacant habitat. Data on wolf dispersal rates from 
numerous North American studies (Fuller et al. 2003, Boyd and Pletscher 
1991) shows dispersal rates of 13 to 48 percent of the individuals in a 
pack. Sometimes the dispersal is temporary, and the wolf ends its 
extra-territorial movement by returning to a location in or near its 
natal territory. In some cases a wolf may continue its movement for 
scores or even hundreds of miles until it locates suitable habitat, 
where it may establish a territory or join an existing pack. In other 
cases, a wolf may die while apparently continuing its dispersal 
movement, leaving unanswered the questions of how far it would have 
gone and whether it eventually would have returned to its natal area or 
    Published and unpublished scientific data provide a great deal of 
insight into the magnitude of extra-territorial movements, and document 
the following:
    Minnesota--The current record for a documented extra-territorial 
movement by a gray wolf in North America is held by a Minnesota wolf 
that moved a straight line distance of at least 550 mi. (886 km) 
northwest into Saskatchewan (Fritts 1983). Nineteen other primarily MN 
movements summarized by Mech (2005 in litt.) averaged 154 mi (248 km). 
Their straight-line distance of travel (i.e., from known starting 
location to most distant known location) ranged from 32-532 mi (53-886 
km) with the straight-line maximum dispersal distance shown by known 
returning wolves ranging from 54 mi (90 km) to 307 mi (494 km).
    Michigan--Drummer et al. (2002) reported 10 instances involving UP 
wolves. One of these wolves moved to northcentral Missouri and another 
to southeastern Wisconsin, both beyond the core wolf areas in the WGL. 
The average straight-line distance traveled by those two wolves was 377 
mi (608 km), while the average straight-line distance for all 10 of 
these wolves was 232 mi. (373 km). Their straight-line distances ranged 
from 41 to 468 mi. (66 to 753 km).
    Wisconsin--In 2004 a wolf tagged in Michigan was killed by a 
vehicle in Rusk County in northwestern Wisconsin, 295 miles (475 km) 
west of his original capture location in the eastern UP (Wydeven et al. 
2005). A similar distance (298 mi, 480 km) was traveled by a north-
central Wisconsin yearling female wolf that moved to the Rainy Lake 
region of Ontario during 1988-1989 (Wydeven et al. 1995).
    In December 2002 a wolf was shot and killed in Marshall County, 
Illinois. This wolf likely dispersed from the Wisconsin wolf 
population, nearly 200 miles (322 km) to the north (Great Lakes 
Directory 2003). Another wolf known to have come from a central 
Wisconsin wolf pack was found shot in Randolph County in east central 
Indiana about 12 miles from the Ohio border in June 2003. It had 
traveled a minimum distance of at least 420 miles (676 km) to get 
around Lake Michigan; it likely traveled much father than that unless 
it went through the city or suburbs of Chicago (Wydeven et al. 2004). 
Another likely Wisconsin wolf was shot in Pike County, Illinois, in 
late 2005. This animal was about 300 mi (180 km) from the nearest wolf 
packs in central Wisconsin.
    North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska--Licht and Fritts (1994) 
tabulated 10 gray wolves found dead in ND and SD from 1981 through 
1992. Seven of these are believed to have originated from Minnesota, 
based on skull morphometrics. (Another probably originated in Manitoba 
and the likely origins of the other two wolves are unknown.) Although 
none of these wolves were marked or radio-tracked, making it impossible 
to determine the point of initiation of their journey, a minimum 
straight-line travel distance can be determined from the nearest wolf 
breeding range in MN. For the seven, the average distance to the 
nearest wolf breeding range was 160 mi (257 km) and ranged from 29 to 
329 mi (46 to 530 km). One of these seven wolves moved west of the 
Missouri River before it died.
    Genetic analysis of a wolf killed in Harding County, in extreme 
northwestern South Dakota, in 2001 indicated that it originated from 
the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population (Straughan and Fain 
2002). The straight-line travel distance to the nearest Minnesota wolf 
pack is nearly 400 miles (644 km).
    A wolf illegally killed near Spalding, Nebraska, in December of 
2002 also originated from the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan wolf 
population, as determined by genetic analysis (Anschutz, in litt. 
2003). The nearest Minnesota wolf pack is nearly 350 miles (563 km) 
from this location.
    Other notable extra-territorial movements--Notable are several 
wolves whose extra-territorial movements were radio-tracked in 
sufficient detail to provide insight into their actual travel routes 
and total travel distances for each trek, rather than only documenting 
straight-line distance from beginning to end-point. Merrill and Mech 
(2000) reported on four such Minnesota wolves with a documented travel 
distance ranging from 305 to 2641 mi (490 to 4251 km) and an average 
travel route length of 988 mi (1590 km). Wydeven (1994) described a WI 
wolf that moved from northwestern WI to the northern suburbs of St. 
Paul, Minnesota, for 2 weeks (apparently not seen or reported to 
authorities by the local residents), then moved back to north-central 
WI. The total travel distance was 278 mi (447 km) from her natal pack 
to the north-central WI location where she settled down.
    From these extra-territorial movement records we conclude that gray 
wolf movements of over 200 miles (320 km) straight-line distance have 
been documented on numerous occasions, while shorter distance movements 
are more frequent. Movements of 300 miles (480 km) straight-line 
distance or more are less common, but include one Minnesota wolf that 
journeyed a straight-line distance of 300 mi (480 km) and a known 
minimum distance of 2,550 mi (4251 km) before it reversed direction, as 
determined by its satellite-tracked collar. This wolf returned to a 
spot only 24 mi (40 km) from its natal territory (Merrill and Mech 
2000). While much longer movements have been documented, including some 
by WGL wolves, return movements to the vicinity of natal territories 
have not been documented for extra-territorial movements beyond 300 mi 
(480 km).
    Based on extra-territorial movement data, we conclude that 
affiliation with the midwestern wolf population has

[[Page 15277]]

diminished and is essentially lost at a distance of 250 to 300 miles 
(400 to 480 km) beyond the outer edge of the areas of the WGL that are 
largely continuously occupied by wolf packs. Although some WGL wolves 
will move beyond this distance, available data indicate that longer 
distance dispersers are unlikely to return to their natal population. 
Furthermore, wolves moving this distance outward from the core areas of 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will encounter landscape features 
that not only provide clear borders to delineate a DPS, but which are 
also at least partial barriers to further wolf movement, and that may--
if crossed--impede attempts of wolves to return toward the WGL core 
areas. These landscape features are the Missouri River in North Dakota 
and downstream to Omaha, Nebraska, and Interstate Highway 80 from Omaha 
eastward through Illinois, Indiana, and into Ohio, ending where this 
highway crosses the Maumee River in Toledo, Ohio. Although there is 
evidence that two Minnesota wolves have crossed the Missouri River and 
some wolves have crossed interstate highways, there is also evidence 
that some wolves are hesitant to cross highways (Kohn et al. 2000, 
Licht and Fritts 1994, Merrill and Mech 2000, Whittington et al. 2004, 
Wydeven et al. 2005a, but see Blanco et al. 2005). Interstate highways 
and smaller roads are a known mortality factor for wolves, adding to 
their function as a partial barrier to wolf movements (Blanco et al. 

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the ESA and regulations (50 CFR Part 424) promulgated 
to implement the listing provisions of the ESA 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 ESA threaten 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.
    A recovered population is one that no longer meets the ESA's 
definition of threatened or endangered. The ESA defines an endangered 
species as one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. A threatened species is one that is 
likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or 
a significant portion of its range. Determining whether a species is 
recovered requires consolidation of the same five categories of threats 
specified in section 4(a)(1). For species that are being considered for 
delisting, this analysis of threats is an evaluation of both the 
threats currently facing the species and the threats that could 
potentially affect the species in the foreseeable future after its 
delisting and the consequent removal of the Act's protections.
    For the purposes of this notice, we consider ``foreseeable future'' 
to be 30 years. This is a period for which we can make reasonable 
assumptions, based on recent and current observations, regarding the 
continuation of current trends in human attitudes and behaviors, 
regulatory mechanisms, and environmental factors that will be the 
primary determinants of threats to wolf populations in the future.
    For the purposes of this notice, the ``range'' of wolves in this 
WGL DPS is the area within the DPS boundaries where viable populations 
of the species now exist. However, a species' historical range is also 
considered because it helps inform decisions on the species' status in 
its current range. While wolves historically occurred throughout the 
geographic area of the DPS, large portions of its historical range are 
no longer able to support viable wolf populations.
    Significance of a portion of the range is viewed in terms of 
biological significance rather than in quantitative terms. A portion of 
a species' range that is so important to the continued existence of the 
species that threats to the species in that area can threaten the 
viability of the species, subspecies, or DPS as a whole is considered 
to be a significant portion of the range. In regard to the WGL DPS, the 
significant portions of the gray wolf's range are those areas that are 
important or necessary for maintaining a viable, self-sustaining, and 
evolving representative meta-population or multiple separate 
populations in order for the WGL DPS to persist into the foreseeable 
    The following analysis examines all significant factors currently 
affecting wolf populations or likely to affect wolf populations within 
the foreseeable future. Factor A considers all factors affecting both 
currently occupied and potentially suitable habitat (defined below in 
Factor A). The issues discussed under Factors B, C, and E are analyzed 
throughout the entire DPS. Adequate regulatory mechanisms (Factor D) 
are discussed for each of the States within the DPS, with an emphasis 
on the three States with enough suitable habitat to sustain viable wolf 
populations (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan).

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

    A common misperception 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. Wolves, however, 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).
    In the western Great Lakes region, wolves in the densely forested 
northeastern corner of 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, and into more intensively cultivated 
and livestock-producing portions of central and northwestern Minnesota 
and central Wisconsin.
    Wolf research and the expansion of wolf range over the last three 
decades have shown that wolves can successfully occupy a wide range of 
habitats, and they are not dependent on wilderness areas for their 
survival (Mech 1995). 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 woodland caribou; thus, wolves historically occupied 
the entire Midwest. An inadequate prey density and a high level of 
human persecution appear to be the only factors that limit wolf 
distribution (Mech 1995).
    An indication of the availability of suitable habitat in portions 
of historical range is the increase in Midwest wolf population levels. 
In Minnesota, four comparable surveys of wolf numbers and range have 
been carried out since 1979. These surveys estimated that there

[[Page 15278]]

were 1,235, 1,500-1,750, 2,445, and 3020 wolves in Minnesota in 1979, 
1989, 1998, and 2004 respectively (Berg and Kuehn 1982, Fuller et al. 
1992, Berg and Benson 1999, Erb and Benson 2004) (see ``Recovery in the 
Western Great Lakes DPS,'' above, for additional details on the 
increase in numbers and range of Minnesota wolves).
    Hearne et al. (2003), determined that a viable wolf population 
(that is, having less than 10 percent chance of extinction over 100 
years) should consist of at least 175 to 225 wolves, and they modeled 
various likely scenarios of habitat conditions in the Upper Peninsula 
of Michigan and northern Wisconsin through the year 2020 to determine 
whether future conditions would support a wolf population of that size. 
Most scenarios of future habitat conditions resulted in viable wolf 
populations in each State through 2020. When the model analyzed the 
future conditions in the two States combined, all scenarios produced a 
viable wolf population through 2020. Their scenarios included increases 
in human population density, changes in land ownership that may result 
in decreased habitat suitability, and increased road density.
Federal Lands
    National forests, and the prey species found in their various 
habitats, have been important to wolf conservation and recovery in the 
core areas of the WGL DPS. There are five national forests with 
resident wolves (Superior, Chippewa, Chequamegon-Nicolet, Ottawa, and 
Hiawatha National Forests) in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Their 
wolf populations range from approximately 20 on the Nicolet portion of 
the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northeastern Wisconsin, to 
160-170 on the UP's Ottawa National Forest, to an estimated 465 (in 
winter of 2003-04) on the Superior National Forest in northeastern 
Minnesota (Lindquist in litt. 2005). Nearly half of the wolves in 
Wisconsin currently use the Chequamegon portion of the Chequamegon-
Nicolet National Forest.
    Voyageurs National Park, along Minnesota's northern border, has a 
land base of nearly 882 km\2\ (340 mi\2\). There are 40 to 55 wolves 
within 7 to 11 packs that exclusively or partially reside within the 
park, and at least 4 packs are located wholly inside the Park 
boundaries (Holbeck, Voyageurs NP, in litt. 2005, based on 2000-2001 
    In the WGL DPS, we currently manage seven units within the National 
Wildlife Refuge System with significant wolf activity. Primary among 
these are Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Tamarac NWR, and Rice 
Lake NWR in Minnesota; Seney NWR in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; 
and Necedah NWR in central Wisconsin. Agassiz NWR has had as many as 20 
wolves in 2 to 3 packs in recent years. In 1999, mange and illegal 
shootings reduced them to a single pack of five wolves and a separate 
lone wolf. Since 2001, however, two packs with a total of 10 to 12 
wolves have been using the refuge. About 60 percent of the packs' 
territories are located on the Refuge or on adjacent State-owned 
wildlife management area (Gary Huschle, USFWS, in litt. 2005). Tamarac 
NWR has 2 packs, with a 15-year average of 12 wolves in one pack; 
adults and an unknown number of pups comprise the second pack (Barbara 
Boyle, USFWS, in litt. 2005). Rice Lake NWR, in Minnesota, has one pack 
of nine animals using the refuge in 2004; in 2005, the pack had at 
least 6 individuals. Other single or paired wolves pass through the 
refuge frequently (Mary Stefanski, USFWS, pers. comm. 2004; Michelle 
McDowell, USFWS, in litt. 2005). In 2003, Seney NWR had one pack with 
two adults and two pups; in 2005 there were two pairs of wolves and 
several lone individuals using the Refuge (Dave Olson, USFWS, in litt. 
2005). Necedah NWR currently has 2 packs with at least 13 wolves in the 
packs (Joel Trick, USFWS, in litt. 2005). Over the past 10 years, 
Sherburne and Crane Meadows NWRs in central Minnesota have had 
intermittent, but reliable, observations and signs of individual wolves 
each year. To date, no established packs have been documented on either 
of those refuges. The closest established packs are within 15 miles of 
Crane Meadows NWR at Camp Ripley Military Installation and 30 miles 
north of Sherburne NWR at Mille Lacs State Wildlife Management Area 
(Jeanne Holler, USFWS, in litt. 2005).
Suitable Habitat Within the Western Great Lakes Gray Wolf DPS
    Various researchers have investigated habitat suitability for 
wolves in the eastern portion of the United States. In recent years, 
most of these efforts have focused on using human density, deer density 
or deer biomass, and road density, or have used road density alone to 
identify areas where wolf populations are likely to persist or become 
established (Mladenoff et al. 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999; Harrison and 
Chapin 1998; Wydeven et al. 2001; Potvin et al. in press).
    Road density has largely been adopted as the best predictor of 
habitat suitability in the Northeast and Midwest due to the connection 
between roads and human-related wolf mortality. Several studies 
demonstrated that wolves generally did not maintain breeding packs in 
areas with a road density greater than about 0.9 to 1.1 linear miles 
per square mile (0.6 to 0.7 km/km\2\) (Thiel 1985; Jensen et al. 1986; 
Mech et al. 1988; Fuller et al. 1992). Work by Mladenoff and associates 
indicated that colonizing wolves in Wisconsin preferred areas where 
road densities were less than 0.7 mi/sq mi (0.45 km/sq km) (Mladenoff 
et al. 1995). However, recent work in the UP of Michigan indicates that 
in some areas with low road densities, low deer density appears to 
separately limit wolf occupancy (Potvin et al. in press) and may 
prevent recolonization of portions of the UP.
    Road density increases various forms of other human-related wolf 
mortality factors. A rural area with more roads generally has a greater 
human density, more vehicular traffic, greater access by hunters and 
trappers, more farms and residences, and more domestic animals. As a 
result, there is a greater likelihood that wolves in such an area will 
encounter humans, domestic animals, and various human activities. These 
encounters may result in wolves being hit by motor vehicles, being 
controlled by government agents after becoming involved in depredations 
on domestic animals, being shot intentionally by unauthorized 
individuals, being trapped or shot accidentally, or contracting 
diseases from domestic dogs (Mech et al. 1988; Mech and Goyal 1983; 
Mladenoff et al. 1995). Based on mortality data from radio-collared 
Wisconsin wolves from 1979 to 1999, natural causes of death predominate 
(57 percent of mortalities) in areas with road densities below 1.35 mi/
sq mi (0.84 km/sq km), but human-related factors produced 71 percent of 
the wolf deaths in areas with higher road densities (Wydeven et al. 
    Some researchers have used a road density of 1 mi/sq mi (0.6 km/sq 
km) of land area as an upper threshold for suitable wolf habitat. 
However, the common practice in more recent studies is to use road 
density to predict probabilities of persistent wolf pack presence in an 
area. Areas with road densities less than 0.7 mi/sq mi (0.45 km/sq km) 
are estimated to have a greater than 50 percent probability of wolf 
pack colonization, and areas where road density exceeded 1 mi/sq mi 
(0.6 km/sq km) have less than a 10 percent probability of occupancy 
(Mladenoff et al 1995; Mladenoff and Sickley 1998; Mladenoff et al. 
1999; Wydeven et al. 2001). The territories of packs that do

[[Page 15279]]

occur in areas of high road density, and hence with low expected 
probabilities of occupancy, are generally near broad areas of more 
suitable areas that are likely serving as a source of wolves, thereby 
assisting in maintaining wolf presence in the higher road density, less 
suitable, areas (Mech 1989; Wydeven et al. 2001).
    Recent surveys for Wisconsin wolves and wolf packs show that wolves 
have now recolonized the areas predicted by habitat models to have high 
and moderate probability of occupancy (primary and secondary wolf 
habitat) (Wisconsin DNR 1999). The late winter 2004-05 Wisconsin wolf 
survey identified packs occurring throughout the central Wisconsin 
forest area and across the northern forest zone, with highest pack 
densities in the northwest and north central forest; pack densities are 
lower, but increasing, in the northeastern corner of the State (Wydeven 
and Wiedenhoeft 2005b). Michigan wolf surveys in winter 2003-04 and 
2004-05 continue to show wolf pairs or packs (defined by Michigan DNR 
as three or more wolves traveling together) in every UP county except 
Keweenaw County, which probably lacks a suitable ungulate prey base 
during winter months (Huntzinger et al. 2005).
    Habitat suitability studies in the Upper Midwest indicate that the 
only large areas of suitable or potentially suitable habitat areas that 
are currently unoccupied by wolves are located in the Northern Lower 
Peninsula (NLP) of Michigan (Mladenoff et al. 1997; Mladenoff et al 
1999; Potvin 2003; Gehring and Potter, in press, Wildlife Soc. Bull.). 
One Michigan study (Gehring and Potter, in press) estimates that these 
areas could host 46 to 89 wolves; a masters degree thesis investigation 
(Potvin 2003) estimates that 110-480 wolves could exist in the NLP. The 
NLP is separated from the UP by the Straits of Mackinac, whose 4-mile 
width freezes during mid- and late-winter during some years. In recent 
years there have been two documented occurrences of wolves in the NLP 
(the last recorded wolf in the LP was in 1910). In the first instance a 
radio-collared female wolf from the central UP was trapped and killed 
by a coyote trapper in Presque Isle County in late October 2004. In 
late November 2004, tracks from two wolves were verified in the same 
NLP county. Follow-up winter surveys by the DNR in early 2005 failed to 
find additional wolf tracks in the NLP (Huntzinger et al. 2005); 
additional surveys are being conducted in February and March 2006. 
However, it probably is only a matter of several years before wolf pup 
production is documented in the NLP.
    These NLP patches of suitable habitat contain a great deal of 
private land, are small in comparison to the occupied habitat on the UP 
and in MN and WI, and are intermixed with agricultural and higher road 
density areas (Gehring and Potter in press). Therefore, continuing wolf 
immigration from the UP may be necessary to maintain an NLP population. 
The Gehring and Potter study concludes that NLP suitable habitat (i.e., 
areas with greater than a 50 percent probability of wolf occupancy) 
amounts to 850 sq mi (2,198 sq km). Potvin, using deer density in 
addition to road density, believes there are about 3,090 sq mi (8,000 
sq km) of suitable habitat in the NLP. Gehring and Potter exclude from 
their calculations those NLP low road density patches that are less 
than 19 sq mi (50 sq km), while Potvin does not limit habitat patch 
size in his calculations (Gehring and Potter in press; Potvin 2003). 
Both of these area estimates are well below the minimum area described 
in the Federal Recovery Plan, which states that 10,000 sq mi (25,600 sq 
km) of contiguous suitable habitat is needed for a viable isolated gray 
wolf population, and half that area (5,000 sq mi or 12,800 sq km) is 
needed to maintain a viable wolf population that is subject to wolf 
immigration from a nearby population (USFWS 1992).
    It is generally recognized that Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, 
provide the only sufficiently large areas with adequate wild ungulate 
prey base and low road and human density within this proposed DPS 
(USFWS 1992). The only other area within the proposed WGL DPS that 
potentially might hold wolves on a frequent or possibly constant basis 
is the Turtle Mountain region that straddles the international border 
in north central North Dakota. Road densities within the Turtle 
Mountains are below the thresholds believed to limit colonization by 
wolves. However, this habitat area is only on the order of 579 sq mi 
(1,500 sq km), with approximately 394 sq mi (1,020 sq km) in North 
Dakota, and roughly 185 sq mi (480 sq km) in Manitoba (Licht and 
Huffman 1996). This area is far less than the recommendation in the 
Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf as the minimum area of 
habitat necessary to support a wolf population (FWS 1992). Furthermore, 
the Manitoba portion of the Turtle Mountains is outside the currently 
listed area for the gray wolf and outside this proposed WGL DPS. While 
this area may provide a small area of marginal wolf habitat and may 
support limited and occasional wolf reproduction, the Turtle Mountain 
area within the United States is not a significant portion of the range 
of gray wolves within the WGL DPS, because of its very small area and 
its setting as an island of forest surrounded by a landscape largely 
modified for agriculture and grazing (Licht and Huffman 1996).
    It appears that essentially all suitable habitat in Minnesota is 
now occupied, and the wolf population within the State may have slowed 
its increase or has stabilized (Erb and Benson 2004). In Wisconsin, 
suitable habitat is largely occupied, but there are some gaps in the 
northeastern part of the State where there appears to be room for 
additional packs to occupy areas between existing packs (Wydeven et al. 
2005a). Similarly, in the UP of Michigan, wolf pairs or packs occur 
throughout the area identified as suitable (i.e., a high probability of 
wolf pack occupancy; Mladenoff et al. 1995, Potvin et al. in press), 
including every county of the UP except possibly Keweenaw. Wolf density 
is lower in the northern and eastern portions of the UP where lower 
deer numbers may prevent establishment of packs in some areas (Potvin 
et al. in press), but over the next several years packs may be able to 
fill in some of the currently unoccupied areas. The NLP of Michigan 
appears to have the only unoccupied, but potentially suitable, wolf 
habitat in the Midwest that is of sufficient size to maintain wolf 
packs (Gehring and Potter in press; Potvin 2000), although its small 
size and fragmented nature may mean that NLP wolf population viability 
may be dependent upon continuing immigration from the UP. Other 
potentially suitable wolf habitat areas within the proposed DPS 
boundary, including the Turtle Mountains in North Dakota, are too small 
to consistently support a viable resident wolf population, and cannot 
be considered a significant portion of wolf range in the WGL DPS.
    Based on the biology of the gray wolf and conservation biology 
principles, the Recovery Plan (USFWS 1992) specifies that two 
populations (or a single metapopulation) are needed to ensure long-term 
viability. The Recovery Plan indicates the importance of a large wolf 
population in Minnesota Wolf Management Zones 1 through 4 (identical to 
Zone A in the 2001 Minnesota Wolf Management Plan) and the need for a 
second wolf population occupying 10,000 mi2 or 5,000 
mi2 elsewhere in the eastern United States (depending on its 
isolation from the Minnesota wolf population. Based on

[[Page 15280]]

these recovery criteria, the portions of the range that support these 
two wolf populations are a Significant Portion of the Range (SPR) in 
the WGL DPS.
    The Recovery Plan also discusses the importance of low road density 
areas, the importance of minimizing wolf-human conflicts, and the 
maintenance of an adequate natural prey base in the areas hosting these 
two necessary wolf populations. The Recovery Plan, along with numerous 
other scientific publications, supports the need to manage and reduce 
wolf-human conflicts. The Recovery Plan specifically recommends 
managing against wolves in large areas of unsuitable habitat, stating 
that Minnesota Zone 5 should be managed with a goal of zero wolves 
there, because ``Zone 5 is not suitable for wolves. Wolves found there 
should be eliminated by any legal means.'' (USFWS 1992, p 20). 
Therefore, the Recovery Plan views Zone 5's roughly 60 percent of the 
State as not an important part of the range of the gray wolf.
    Similarly, other portions of the WGL DPS that lack suitable 
habitat, or only have areas of suitable habitat that are below the 
areal thresholds specified in the Recovery Plan and/or are highly 
fragmented, cannot be considered a significant portion of the range of 
the gray wolf in the WGL DPS. These areas include North Dakota, South 
Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin Wolf Management Zones 
3 and 4 (WI DNR 1999), and most of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
    The only part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula that warrants any 
consideration for inclusion in the SPR for the WGL DPS is composed of 
those areas of fragmented habitat studied by Gehring and Potter (in 
press) and Potvin (2003). However, this amounts to less than half of 
the areal thresholds identified by the Recovery Plan for the 
establishment of viable populations, so these NLP areas may have 
difficulty maintaining wolf populations even with the help of 
occasional immigration of wolves from the UP (see F. Suitable Habitat 
Within the WGL DPS for additional discussion). These potentially 
suitable habitat areas are not likely to substantially contribute to 
maintaining a viable wolf population in Michigan, and they are not 
necessary to maintain a second viable wolf population in the WGL DPS. 
In fact, while the UP wolves will be significant to any NLP wolf 
population that may develop, the reverse will not be true. Thus, we 
conclude that the NLP is not a significant part of the range of the 
gray wolf in the WGL DPS.
    Based on three decades of wolf research and implementing wolf 
recovery actions, the Recovery Plan, our analysis of five categories of 
threats and potential threats to the species, and the numerical growth 
and geographic expansion of the Midwest's wolf population, we have 
concluded that the wolf population has expanded to the extent that it 
now occupies the SPR within the DPS. The species has expanded to the 
extent that the currently occupied range in the WGL DPS exceeds that 
portion of the species' historical range in the DPS that is necessary 
to avoid the likelihood of extinction in the DPS for the foreseeable 
    While there are large areas of historical range within the DPS that 
are unoccupied by the species, these areas are almost completely 
lacking suitable habitat, and there is little likelihood that they can 
play a meaningful role in ensuring the persistence of a viable wolf 
population in the WGL DPS. We have assessed the threats to wolves 
throughout the DPS, and we have determined that the existing and likely 
future threats to wolves outside the currently occupied areas, and 
especially to wolves outside of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the UP, do 
not rise to the level that they threaten the long-term viability of 
wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of 
Michigan. Therefore, the large areas of unsuitable habitat in the 
eastern Dakotas; the northern portions of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and 
Ohio; and the southern areas of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan; as 
well as the relatively small areas of unoccupied potentially suitable 
habitat, do not constitute a significant portion of the range for the 
    In summary, wolves currently occupy the vast majority of the 
suitable habitat in the WGL DPS. Unoccupied potentially suitable 
habitat exists in small and fragmented parcels and would neither make a 
substantial contribution to wolf population viability in the DPS nor 
constitute a biologically significant portion of gray wolf range in the 
WGL DPS. Furthermore, threats to wolves in the unoccupied portions of 
the DPS are inconsequential to the long-term viability of wolf 
populations in the DPS. Therefore, within the WGL DPS, gray wolves are 
not in danger of extinction now, nor are they likely to be so in the 
foreseeable future, in all or in a significant portion of their range 
due to inadequate or threatened suitable habitat or contraction of 
their range.
    Wolf density is heavily dependent on prey availability (e.g., 
expressed as ungulate biomass, Fuller 1989), but prey availability is 
not likely to threaten wolves in the WGL DPS. Conservation of primary 
wolf prey in the WGL DPS, white-tailed deer and moose, is clearly a 
high priority for State conservation agencies. As Minnesota DNR points 
out in its wolf management plan (MN DNR 2001:25), it manages ungulates 
to ensure a harvestable surplus for hunters, nonconsumptive users, and 
to minimize conflicts with humans. To ensure a harvestable surplus for 
hunters, MN DNR must account for all sources of natural mortality, 
including loss to wolves, and adjust hunter harvest levels when 
necessary. For example, after severe winters in the 1990's, MN DNR 
modified hunter harvest levels to allow for the recovery of the local 
deer population (MN DNR 2001). In addition to regulation of human 
harvest of deer and moose, MN DNR also plans to continue to monitor and 
improve habitat for these species. Land management carried out by other 
public agencies and by private land owners in Minnesota's wolf range, 
including timber harvest and prescribed fire, incidentally and 
significantly improves habitat for deer, the primary prey for wolves in 
the State. The success of these measures is apparent from the 
continuing high deer densities in the Forest Zone of Minnesota, and the 
fact that the State's three largest deer harvests have occurred in the 
last three years. Approximately one-half of the MN deer harvest is in 
the Forest Zone, which encompasses most of the occupied wolf range in 
the State (Lennarz 2005). There is no indication that harvest of deer 
and moose or management of their habitat will significantly depress 
abundance of these species in Minnesota's core wolf range. Therefore, 
prey availability is not likely to endanger gray wolves in the 
foreseeable future in the State.
    Similarly, the deer populations in Wisconsin and the Upper 
Peninsula of Michigan are at historically high levels. Wisconsin's pre-
season deer population has exceeded 1 million animals since 1984, and 
hunter harvest has exceeded 400,000 deer in 7 of the last 10 years. A 
record harvest of 517,169 deer occurred in the 2004 deer season (WI DNR 
web site, accessed Jan. 27, 2006). Michigan's pre-season deer 
population was approximately 1.7 million deer, with about 336,000 
residing in the UP. Currently MI DNR is proposing revised deer 
management goals to guide management of the deer population

[[Page 15281]]

through 2010. The proposed UP goal range is 323,000 to 411,000 (MI DNR 
2005 web site accessed Jan. 31, 2006), which would maintain, or 
possibly increase, the current ungulate prey base for UP wolves. Short 
of a major, and unlikely, shift in deer management and harvest 
strategies, there will be no shortage of prey for Wisconsin and 
Michigan wolves for the foreseeable future.
    Summary of Factor A--The wolf population in the WGL DPS currently 
occupies all the suitable habitat area identified for recovery in the 
Midwest in the 1978 and 1992 Recovery Plans and most of the suitable 
habitat in the WGL DPS. Unsuitable habitat, and small, fragmented areas 
of suitable habitat away from these core areas, largely represent 
geographic locations where wolf packs cannot persist. Although they may 
have been historical habitat, many of these areas are no longer 
suitable; none of them are important or necessary for maintaining a 
viable, self-sustaining, and evolving representative wolf population in 
the WGL DPS into the foreseeable future, and they are not a significant 
portion of the range of the WGL DPS.
    The WGL DPS wolf population exceeds its numerical, temporal, and 
distributional goals for recovery. A delisted wolf population would be 
safely maintained above recovery levels for the foreseeable future, 
because much important wolf habitat is in public ownership, the states 
will continue to manage for high ungulate populations, and the States, 
Tribes, and Federal land management agencies will adequately regulate 
human-caused mortality of wolves and wolf prey. This will allow these 
three States to easily support a recovered and viable wolf 
metapopulation into the foreseeable future

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

    Since their listing under the Act, no gray wolves have been legally 
killed or removed from the wild in any of the nine States included in 
the WGL DPS for either commercial or recreational purposes. Some wolves 
may have been illegally killed for commercial use of the pelts and 
other parts, but we think that illegal commercial trafficking in wolf 
pelts or parts and illegal capture of wolves for commercial breeding 
purposes is rare. State wolf management plans for Minnesota, Wisconsin, 
and Michigan ensure that wolves will not be killed for these purposes 
for at least several years following Federal delisting, so these forms 
of mortality will not emerge as new threats upon delisting. See Factor 
D for a detailed discussion of State wolf management plans, and for 
applicable regulations in States lacking wolf management plans.
    We do not expect the use of wolves for scientific purposes to 
increase in proportion to total wolf numbers in the WGL DPS after 
delisting. Prior to delisting, the intentional or incidental killing, 
or capture and permanent confinement, of endangered or threatened gray 
wolves for scientific purposes has only legally occurred under permits 
or subpermits issued by the Service (under section 10(a)(1)(A)) or by a 
State agency operating under a cooperative agreement with the Service 
pursuant to section 6 of the Act (50 CFR 17.21(c)(5) and 17.31(b)). 
Although exact figures are not available, throughout the coterminous 48 
States, such removals of wolves from the wild have been very limited 
and probably comprise an average of not more than two animals per year 
since the species was first listed as endangered. In the WGL DPS, these 
animals were either taken from the Minnesota wolf population during 
long-term research activities (about 15 gray wolves) or were accidental 
takings as a result of research activities in Wisconsin (4 to 5 
mortalities and 1 long-term confinement) and in Michigan (2 
mortalities) (William Berg, MN DNR, in litt. 1998; Mech, in litt. 1998; 
Wydeven 1998; Roell, in litt. June 22, 2004 & July 19, 2005).
    The Minnesota DNR plans to encourage the study of wolves with 
radio-telemetry after delisting, with an emphasis on areas where they 
expect wolf-human conflicts and where wolves are expanding their range 
(MN DNR 2001). Similarly, Wisconsin and Michigan DNRs will continue to 
trap wolves for radio-collaring, examination, and health monitoring for 
the foreseeable future (WI DNR 1999, WI DNR 1997). The continued 
handling of wild wolves for research, including the administration of 
drugs, may result in some accidental deaths of wolves. We believe that 
capture and radio-telemetry-related injuries or mortalities will not 
increase significantly above the level observed before delisting in 
proportion to wolf abundance; adverse effects to wolves associated with 
such activities has been minimal (see below) and would not constitute a 
threat to the WGL DPS.
    No wolves have been legally removed from the wild for educational 
purposes in recent years. Wolves that have been used for such purposes 
are the captive-reared offspring of wolves that were already in 
captivity for other reasons, and this is not likely to change as a 
result of Federal delisting. We do not expect taking for educational 
purposes to constitute any threat to Midwest wolf populations for the 
foreseeable future.
    See Factor E for a discussion of taking of gray wolves by Native 
Americans for religious, spiritual, or traditional cultural purposes. 
See the Depredation Control Programs sections under Factor D for 
discussion of other past, current, and potential future forms of 
intentional and accidental take by humans, including depredation 
control, public safety, and under public harvest. While public harvest 
may include recreational harvest, it is likely that public harvest will 
also serve as a management tool, so it is discussed in Factor D.
    Summary of Factor B--Threats to wolves resulting from scientific or 
educational purposes are not likely to increase substantially following 
delisting of the DPS, and any increased use for these purposes will be 
regulated and monitored by the States and Tribes in the core recovery 
areas. Taking wolves for scientific or educational purposes in the 
other WGL DPS States may not be regulated or closely monitored in the 
future, but the threat to wolves in those States will not be 
significant to the long-term viability of the wolf population in the 
WGL DPS. The potential limited commercial and recreational harvest that 
may occur in the DPS will be regulated by State and/or Tribal 
conservation agencies and is discussed under Factor D.

C. Disease or predation

    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 United States (Brand et al. 1995, WI 
DNR 1999). If not monitored and controlled by States, these diseases 
and parasites, and perhaps others, may threaten gray wolf populations 
in the future. Thus, to avoid a future decline caused by diseases or 
parasites, States and their partners will have to diligently monitor 
the prevalence of these pathogens in order to effectively respond to 
significant outbreaks.
    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, it appeared in Minnesota 
wolves (based upon retrospective serologic evidence) live-trapped as 
early as 1977 (Mech et al. 1986). Minnesota wolves, however, may have 
been exposed to the virus as

[[Page 15282]]

early as 1973 (Mech and Goyal 1995). Serologic evidence of gray wolf 
exposure to CPV peaked at 95 percent for 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 1999). CPV has been detected in 
nearly every wolf population in North America including Alaska (Bailey 
et al. 1995) and exposure in wolves is now believed to be almost 
    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. Mech and Goyal (1995), however, 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 had 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.
    Wisconsin DNR, in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey 
National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, (formerly the 
National Wildlife Health Laboratory) has an extensive dataset on the 
incidence of wolf diseases, beginning in 1981. Canine parvovirus 
exposure was evident in 5 of 6 wolves tested in 1981, and probably 
stalled wolf population growth in Wisconsin during the early and mid-
1980s when numbers there declined or were static; at that time 75 
percent of 32 wolves tested positive for CPV. During the following 
years of population increase (1988-96) only 35 percent of the 63 wolves 
tested positive for CPV (WI DNR 1999). More recent exposure rates for 
CPV continue to be high in Wisconsin wolves, with annual rates ranging 
from 60 to 100 percent among wild wolves handled from 2001 through mid-
2005. Part of the reason for high exposure percentages is likely an 
increased emphasis in sampling pups and Central Forest wolves starting 
in 2001, so comparisons of post- and pre-2001 data are of limited 
value. CPV appears not to be a significant cause of mortality, as only 
a single wolf (male pup) is known to have died from CPV during this 
period (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2002a, 2003a, 2004a, 2005). While the 
difficulty of discovering CPV-killed pups must be considered, and it is 
possible that CPV-caused pup mortality is being underestimated, the 
continuing increase of the Wisconsin wolf population indicates that CPV 
mortality is no longer impeding wolf population growth in the State. It 
may be that many Wisconsin wolves have developed some degree of 
resistance to CPV, and this disease is no longer a significant threat 
in the State.
    Canine parvovirus, hypothesized to have been introduced to the 
island by a dog whose owners visited the island over the Fourth of July 
holiday, is considered to have been the cause of the precipitous 
decline of the isolated Isle Royale, Michigan, population in 1981-82. 
The island's gray wolf population dropped from 30 wolves in 1981 to 
only 14 in 1982, due in large part to 100 percent pup mortality (at 
least 9 pups) in 1981 (Peterson and Vucetich 2002). CPV appears to have 
disappeared from the island by 1989, but the wolf population remained 
low through 1995, before commencing an increase that continued into 
2005 (Peterson and Vucetich 2005). Factors other than disease, however, 
may have caused, or contributed to, high mortality and a low level of 
reproductive success post-CPV decline, 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 (Peterson et 
al. 1998).
    Similar to Wisconsin wolves, serological testing of Michigan wolves 
captured from 1992 through 2001 (most recent available data) shows that 
the majority of Upper Peninsula wolves have been exposed to CPV. Fifty-
six percent of 16 wolves captured from 1992 to 1999 and 83 percent of 
23 wolves captured in 2001 showed antibody titers at levels established 
as indicative of previous CPV exposure that may provide protection from 
future infection from CPV (Kerry Beheler, WI DNR Wildlife Health 
Specialist, in litt. undated and April 14, 2004). There are no data 
showing any CPV-caused wolf mortality or population impacts to the gray 
wolf population on the Upper Peninsula, but few wolf pups are handled 
in the UP (Peterson et al. 1998, Hammill pers. comm. 2002, Beyer in 
litt. 2006), so low levels of CPV-caused pup mortality may go 
undetected there. Mortality data are primarily collected from collared 
wolves, which until recently received CPV inoculations. Therefore, 
mortality data for the Upper Peninsula should be interpreted 
    Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite (Sarcoptes scabiei) 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. The mites are 
spread from wolf to wolf by direct body contact or by common use of 
``rubs'' by infested and uninfested animals. Thus, mange is frequently 
passed from infested females to their young pups, and from older pack 
members to their pack mates. In a long-term Alberta, Canada, 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).
    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 1999). 
Seven Wisconsin wolves died from 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). Largely as a result of 
mange, pup survival was only 16 percent in 1993, compared to a normal 
30 percent survival rate from birth to one year of age.
    Mange continues to be prevalent in Wisconsin, especially in the 
central Wisconsin wolf population. Mortality data from closely 
monitored radio-collared wolves provides a relatively unbiased estimate 
of mortality factors, especially those linked to disease or illegal 
actions, because nearly all carcasses are located within a few days of 
deaths. (Diseased wolves suffering from hypothermia or nearing death

[[Page 15283]]

generally crawl into dense cover and may go undiscovered if they are 
not radio-tracked (Shelley and Gehring 2002).) Such data show that over 
the last six years mange has killed as many wolves as were killed by 
illegal shooting, making them the two highest causes of wolf mortality 
in the State. Based on mortality data from closely monitored radio-
collared wolves, mange mortality ranged from 14 percent of deaths in 
2002 to 30 percent of deaths in 2003, totaling 27 percent of radio-
collared wolf deaths for this period. Illegal shootings resulted in the 
death of an identical percentage of wolves (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 
2001, 2002a, 2003a, 2004a, 2005). Mange mortality does not appear to be 
declining in Wisconsin, and the incidence of mange may be on the 
increase among central Wisconsin wolf packs (Wydeven et al. 2005b). 
However, not all mangy wolves succumb; other observations showed that 
some mangy wolves are able to survive the winter (Wydeven et al. 2000, 
    The survival of pups during their first winter is believed to be 
strongly affected by mange. The highest to date wolf mortality (30 
percent of radio-collared wolves) from mange in Wisconsin in 2003 may 
have had more severe effects on pup survival than in previous years 
(Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2004). The prevalence of the disease may have 
contributed to the relatively small population increase in 2003 (2.4 
percent in 2003 as compared to the average 18 percent to that point 
since 1985). However, mange has not caused a decline in the State's 
wolf population, and even though the rate of population increase has 
slowed in recent years, the wolf population continues to increase 
despite the continued prevalence of mange in Wisconsin wolves. Although 
mange mortality may not be the primary determinant of wolf population 
growth in the State, the impacts of mange in Wisconsin need to be 
closely monitored as identified and addressed in the Wisconsin wolf 
management plan (WI DNR 1999).
    Seven wild Michigan wolves died from mange during 1993-97, making 
it responsible for 21 percent of all mortalities, and all disease-
caused deaths, during that period (MI DNR 1997). During bioyears (mid-
April to mid-April) 1999-04, mange-induced hypothermia killed 9 of the 
11 radio-collared Michigan wolves whose cause of death was attributed 
to disease, and it represented 17 percent of the total mortality during 
those years. Mange caused the death of 31 percent of radio-collared 
wolves during the 1999-2001 bioyears, but that rate decreased to 11 
percent during the 2001-2004 bioyears. However, the sample sizes are 
too small to reliably detect a trend (MI DNR, unpublished data). Before 
2004, MI DNR treated all captured wolves with Ivermectin if they showed 
signs of mange. In addition, MI DNR vaccinated all captured wolves 
against CPV and canine distemper virus (CDV) and administered 
antibiotics to combat potential leptospirosis infections. These 
inoculations were discontinued in 2004 to provide more natural biotic 
conditions and to provide biologists with an unbiased estimate of 
disease-caused mortality rates in the population (Roell in litt. 2005).
    Wisconsin wolves similarly had been treated with Ivermectin and 
vaccinated for CPV and CDV when captured, but 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).
    Among Minnesota wolves, mange may always have been present at low 
levels. However, based on observations of wolves trapped under the 
Federal wolf depredation control program, mange appears to have become 
more widespread in the State during the 1999-2005 period. Data from 
Wildlife Services trapping efforts showed only wolves showing symptoms 
of mange were trapped during a 22-month period in 1994-96; in contrast, 
Wildlife Services trapped 10, 6, and 19 mangy wolves in 2003, 2004, and 
2005, respectively (2005 data run through November 22 only). These data 
indicate that 12.6 percent of Minnesota wolves were showing symptoms of 
mange in 2005, (Paul 2005 in litt.). However, the thoroughness of these 
observations may not have been consistent over this 11-year period. In 
a separate study, mortality data from 12 years (1994-2005) of 
monitoring radio-collared wolves in 7-9 packs in north-central 
Minnesota show that 11 percent died from mange (DelGiudice, MN DNR in 
litt. 2005). However, the sample size (17 total mortalities, 2 from 
mange in 1998 and 2004) is far too small to deduce trends in mange 
mortality over time. Furthermore, these data are from mange 
mortalities, while the Wildlife Services' data are based on mange 
symptoms, not mortalities.
    It is hypothesized that the current incidence of mange is more 
widespread than it would have otherwise been, because the WGL wolf 
range has experienced a series of mild winters beginning with the 
winter of 1997-1998 (Van Deelen 2005). Mange-induced mortality is 
chiefly a result of winter hypothermia, thus the less severe winters 
resulted in higher survival of mangy wolves, and increased spread of 
mange to additional wolves during the following spring and summer. The 
high wolf population, and especially higher wolf density on the 
landscape, may also be contributing to the increasing occurrence of 
mange in the WGL wolf population. There has been speculation that 500 
or more Minnesota wolves died as a result of mange over the last 5 to 6 
years, causing a slowing or cessation of previous wolf population 
increase in the State (Paul, in litt. 2005).
    Lyme disease, caused by the spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi), is 
another relatively recently recognized disease, first documented in New 
England in 1975; although it may have occurred in Wisconsin as early as 
1969. It is spread by ticks that pass the infection to their hosts when 
feeding. Host species include humans, horses, dogs, white-tailed deer, 
white-footed mice, eastern chipmunks, coyotes, and wolves. The 
prevalence of Lyme disease exposure in Wisconsin wolves averaged 70 
percent of live-trapped animals in 1988-91, dropped to 37 percent 
during 1992-97 and was back up to 56 percent (32 of 57 tested) in 2002-
04 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2004b, 2005). Clinical symptoms have not 
been reported in wolves, but infected dogs can experience debilitating 
conditions, and abortion and fetal mortality have been reported in 
infected humans and horses (Kreeger 2003). It is possible that 
individual wolves may be debilitated by Lyme disease, perhaps 
contributing to their mortality; however, Lyme disease is not believed 
to be a significant factor affecting wolf populations.
    The dog louse (Trichodectes canis) has been detected in wolves in 
Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alaska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (Mech et al. 
1985, Kreeger 2003, Paul in litt. 2005). Dogs are probably the source 
of the initial infections, and subsequently wild canids transfer lice 
by direct contact with other wolves, particularly between females and 
pups (Brand et al. 1995). Severe infestations result in irritated and 
raw skin, substantial hair loss, particularly in the groin. However, in 
contrast to mange, lice infestations generally result in loss of guard 
hairs but not the insulating under fur, thus, hypothermia is less 
likely to occur and much less likely to be fatal. Even though observed 
in nearly 4 percent in a sample of 391 Minnesota wolves in 2003-05

[[Page 15284]]

(Paul 2005 in litt.), dog lice infestations have not been confirmed as 
a cause of wolf mortality, and are not expected to have a significant 
impact even at a local scale.
    Canine distemper virus (CDV) is an acute disease of carnivores that 
has been known in Europe since the sixteenth century and is now 
infecting dogs worldwide (Kreeger 2003). CDV generally infects dog pups 
when they are only a few months old, so mortality in wild wolf 
populations might be difficult to detect (Brand et al. 1995). CDV 
mortality among wild wolves has been documented only in two littermate 
pups in Manitoba (Carbyn 1982), in two Alaskan yearling wolves 
(Peterson et al. 1984), and in a single Wisconsin pup (Wydeven and 
Wiedenhoeft 2003b). Carbyn (1982) concluded that CDV was a contributor 
to a 50 percent decline of the wolf population in Riding Mountain 
National Park (Manitoba, Canada) in the mid-1970s. Serological evidence 
indicates that exposure to CDV is high among some Midwest wolves--29 
percent in northern Wisconsin wolves and 79 percent in central 
Wisconsin wolves in 2002-2004 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2004b, 2005). 
However, there has been only a single CDV mortality documented among 
Midwestern wolves (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2003b), and continued strong 
recruitment in Wisconsin and elsewhere in North American wolf 
populations indicates that distemper is not likely a significant cause 
of mortality (Brand 1995).
    Other diseases and parasites, including rabies, canine heartworm, 
blastomycosis, bacterial myocarditis, granulomatous pneumonia, 
brucellosis, leptospirosis, bovine tuberculosis, hookworm, 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, Hassett in litt. 2003, Johnson 1995, 
Mech and Kurtz 1999, Mech et al. 1985, Thomas in litt. 1998, WI DNR 
1999, Kreeger 2003). Continuing wolf range expansion, however, 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 disease monitoring 
programs. In addition, the possibility of new diseases developing and 
existing diseases, such as chronic wasting disease, West Nile Virus and 
canine influenza (Crawford et al. 2005), moving across species barriers 
or spreading from domestic dogs to wolves must all be taken into 
account, and monitoring programs will need to address such threats.
    In aggregate, diseases and parasites were the cause of 21 percent 
of the diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared wolves in Michigan from 
1999 through 2004 (MI DNR unpublished data 2005) and 27 percent of the 
diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared wolves in Wisconsin and 
adjacent Minnesota from October 1979 through June 2005 (Wydeven and 
Wiedenhoeft 2005).
    Many of the diseases and parasites are known to be spread by wolf-
to-wolf contact. Therefore, their incidence may increase as wolf 
densities increase in the more recently colonized areas. 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 in areas that have been 
occupied for several years or more and are largely saturated with wolf 
packs (Mech in litt. 1998).
    Disease and parasite impacts may increase because several wolf 
diseases and parasites are carried and spread by domestic dogs. This 
transfer of pathogens 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) but dogs may become significant vectors for other diseases 
with potentially serious impacts on wolves in the future (Crawford et 
al. 2005). However, to date wolf populations in Wisconsin and Michigan 
have continued their expansion into areas with increased contacts with 
dogs and have shown no adverse pathogen impacts since the mid-1980s 
impacts from CPV.
    Disease and parasite impacts are a recognized concern of the 
Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin 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 (MI DNR 1997). Similarly, the Wisconsin Wolf Management 
Plan 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, 
with a goal of screening 10 percent of the State wolf population for 
diseases annually. However, the plan anticipates that after State 
delisting (which occurred on March 24, 2004), disease monitoring will 
be scaled back because the percentage of the wolf population that is 
live-trapped each year will decline. To date, however, the number of 
wolves subject to disease testing has not been reduced, with 27 wolves 
captured and tested in the 9 months of 2004 following State delisting, 
compared to 22 in 2002 and 19 in 2003 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2004b, 
2005). The State will continue to test for disease and parasite loads 
through periodic necropsy and scat analyses. 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 1999).
    The Minnesota Wolf Management Plan (MN DNR 2001) states that MN DNR 
``will collaborate with other investigators and continue monitoring 
disease incidence, where necessary, by examination of wolf carcasses 
obtained through depredation control programs, and also through blood/
tissue physiology work conducted by DNR and the U.S. Geological Survey. 
DNR will also keep records of documented and suspected incidence of 
sarcoptic mange.'' In addition, it will initiate ``(R)egular collection 
of pertinent tissues of live captured or dead wolves'' and periodically 
assess wolf health ``when circumstances indicate that diseases or 
parasites may be adversely affecting portions of the wolf population.'' 
Unlike Michigan and Wisconsin, Minnesota has not established minimum 
goals for the proportion of its wolves that will be assessed for 
disease nor does it plan to treat any wolves, although it does not rule 
out these measures. Minnesota's less intensive approach to disease 
monitoring and management seems warranted in light of its much greater 
abundance of wolves than in the other two States.
    In areas within the WGL DPS, but outside Minnesota, Wisconsin, and 
Michigan, we lack data on the incidence of diseases or parasites in 
transient wolves. However, the WGL DPS boundary is laid out in a manner 
such that the vast majority of, and perhaps all, wolves that will occur 
in the DPS in the foreseeable future will have originated from the 
Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan wolf metapopulation. Therefore, they will 
be carrying the ``normal'' complement of Midwest wolf parasites, 
diseases, and disease resistance with them. Any new pairs, packs, or 
populations that develop within the DPS are likely to experience the 
same low to moderate adverse impacts from pathogens that have been 
occurring in the core recovery areas. The most likely exceptions to 
this generalization would arise from

[[Page 15285]]

exposure to sources of novel diseases or more virulent forms that are 
being spread by other canid species that might be encountered by wolves 
dispersing into currently unoccupied areas of the DPS. To increase the 
likelihood of detecting such novel, or more virulent, diseases and 
thereby reduce the risk that they might pose to the core meta-
population after delisting, we will encourage these States and Tribes 
to provide wolf carcasses or suitable tissue, as appropriate, to the 
USGS Madison Wildlife Health Center or the Service's National Wildlife 
Forensics Laboratory for necropsy. This practice should provide an 
early indication of new or increasing pathogen threats before they 
reach the core metapopulation or impact future transient wolves to 
those areas.
    Disease summary--We believe that several diseases have had 
noticeable 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 has been implicated in the decline of the isolated Isle 
Royale wolf population in Michigan. Sarcoptic mange has affected wolf 
recovery in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and in Wisconsin over the last 
ten years, and it is recognized as a continuing problem. Despite these 
and other diseases and parasites, the overall trend for wolf 
populations in the WGL DPS continues to be upward. Wolf management 
plans for Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin include disease monitoring 
components that we expect will identify future disease and parasite 
problems in time to allow corrective action to avoid a significant 
decline in overall population viability. We conclude that diseases and 
parasites will not prevent the continuation of wolf recovery or the 
maintenance of viable wolf populations in the DPS. Delisting wolves in 
the WGL DPS will not significantly change the incidence or impacts of 
disease and parasites on these wolves.
    No wild animals habitually prey on gray wolves. Large prey, such as 
deer, elk, or moose (Mech and Nelson 1989, Smith et al. 2001), or other 
predators, such as mountain lions (Felis concolor) or grizzly bears 
(Ursus arctos horribilis) where they are extant (USFWS 2005), 
occasionally kill wolves, but this has only been rarely documented. 
This very small component of wolf mortality will not increase with 
    Wolves frequently are killed by other wolves, most commonly when 
packs encounter and attack a dispersing wolf as an intruder or when two 
packs encounter each other along a 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, but such a trend is not yet evident from 
Wisconsin or Michigan data. From October 1979 through June 1998, seven 
(12 percent) of the mortalities of radio-collared Wisconsin wolves 
resulted from wolves killing wolves, and 8 of 73 (11 percent) 
mortalities were from this cause during 2000-05 (Wydeven 1998, Wydeven 
and Wiedenhoeft 2001a, 2002, 2003a, 2004a, 2005). Gogan et al. (1997) 
studied 31 radio-collared wolves in northern Minnesota from 1987-91 and 
found that 3 (10 percent) were killed by other wolves. Intra-specific 
strife was the primary cause of mortality within Voyageurs National 
Park. The Del Giudice data (in litt. 2005) show a 17 percent mortality 
rate from other wolves in another study area in north central Minnesota 
from 1994-2005. This behavior is normal in healthy wolf populations and 
is an expected outcome of dispersal conflicts and territorial defense, 
as well as occasional intra-pack strife. This form of mortality is 
something that the species has evolved with and it should not pose a 
threat to wolf populations in the WGL DPS following delisting.
    Humans have functioned as highly effective predators of the gray 
wolf in North America for several hundred years. European settlers in 
the Midwest attempted to eliminate the wolf entirely in earlier times, 
and 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 was 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 very limited circumstances, such as in 
defense of human life, for scientific or conservation purposes, or 
under special regulations intended to reduce wolf depredations of 
livestock or other domestic animals. The resultant reduction in human-
caused wolf mortality is the main cause of the wolf's reestablishment 
in large parts of its historical range. It is clear, however, that 
illegal killing of wolves has continued in the form of intentional 
mortality and incidental deaths.
    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); some of these accidental killings are reported to State, 
Tribal, and Federal authorities. It is likely that most illegal 
killings, however, are intentional and are never reported to government 
authorities. Because they generally occur in remote locations and the 
evidence is easily concealed, we lack reliable estimates of annual 
rates of intentional illegal killings.
    In Wisconsin, all forms of human-caused mortality accounted for 54 
percent of the diagnosed deaths of radio-collared wolves from October 
1979 through June 2005. Thirty percent of the diagnosed mortalities, 
and 55 percent of the human-caused mortalities, were from shooting 
(firearms and bows). Another 14 percent of all the diagnosed 
mortalities (25 percent of the human-caused mortalities) resulted from 
vehicle collisions. (These percentages and those in the following 
paragraphs exclude two radio-collared Wisconsin wolves that were killed 
in depredation control actions by USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services in 2003-
04. The wolf depredation control programs in the Midwest are discussed 
separately under Depredation Control, below.)
    As the Wisconsin population has increased in numbers and range, 
vehicle collisions have increased as a percentage of radio-collared 
wolf mortalities. During the October 1979 through June 1995 period, 
only 1 of 27 (4 percent) known mortalities was from that cause; but 
from July 1995 through June 1998, 5 of the 26 (19 percent) known 
mortalities resulted from vehicle collisions (WI DNR 1999, Wydeven 
1998). From 2002 through 2004, 7 of 45 (16 percent) known mortalities 
were from that cause (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2003a, 2004a, 2005).
    A comparison over time for diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared 
Wisconsin wolves shows that 18 of 57 (32 percent) were illegally shot 
from October 1979 through 1998, while 12 of 42 (29 percent) were 
illegally shot from 2002 through 2004 (Wisconsin DNR 1999; Wydeven and 
Wiedenhoeft 2003a, 2004a, 2005).

[[Page 15286]]

    It appears that in Wisconsin, vehicle collision has been an 
increasing mortality factor, while illegal shooting has not increased, 
and shooting may have declined slightly in recent years. All human-
caused mortality factors (excluding 2 depredation control actions) 
resulted in 35 of 57 (61 percent) diagnosed deaths of radio-collared 
wolves from October 1979 through 1998, but only 20 of 41 deaths (49 
percent) from 2002 through 2005 (Wisconsin DNR 1999; Wydeven and 
Wiedenhoeft 2003a, 2004a, 2005).
    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, including mostly non-radio-collared 
wolves. 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 1999). 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 
collected from radio-collared wolves from the 1999 to 2004 bioyears 
(mid-April to mid-April) show that human-caused mortalities still 
account for the majority of the wolf mortalities (60 percent) in 
Michigan. Deaths from vehicular collisions were about 15 percent of 
total mortality (25 percent of the human-caused mortality) and showed 
no trend over this six-year period. Deaths from illegal killing 
constituted 38 percent of all mortalities (65 percent of the human-
caused mortality) over the period. From 1999 through 2001 illegal 
killings were 31 percent of the mortalities, but this increased to 42 
percent during the 2002 through 2004 bioyears (MI DNR, unpublished 
    North-central Minnesota data from 16 diagnosed mortalities of 
radio-collared wolves over a 12-year period (1994-2005) show that 
human-causes resulted in 69 percent of the diagnosed mortalities. This 
includes 1 wolf accidentally snared, 2 vehicle collisions, and 8 (50 
percent of all diagnosed mortalities) that were shot (Del Giudice, in 
litt. 2005). However, this data set of only 16 mortalities over 12 
years is too small for reliable comparison to Wisconsin and Michigan 
    A smaller mortality dataset is available from a 1987-1991 study of 
wolves in, and adjacent to, Minnesota's Voyageurs National Park, along 
the Canadian border. Of 10 diagnosed mortalities, illegal killing 
outside the Park was responsible for 60 percent of the deaths (Gogan et 
al. 1997).
    Two Minnesota studies provide some limited 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 that includes 2 percent 
mortality from legal depredation control actions. Drawing conclusions 
from comparisons of these two studies, however, is difficult due to the 
confounding effects of habitat quality, exposure to humans, prey 
density, differing time periods, and vast differences in study design. 
Although these figures provide support for the contention that human-
caused mortality decreased after 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 30-year period that the gray wolf has been listed as 
threatened or endangered.
    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 
(Licht and Fritts 1994). Six more were killed in North Dakota since 
1992, with four of these mortalities occurring in 2002 and 2003; in 
2001, one wolf was killed in Harding County in extreme northwestern 
South Dakota. The number of reported sightings of gray wolves in North 
Dakota is increasing. From 1993-98, six wolf depredation reports were 
investigated in North Dakota, and adequate signs were found to verify 
the presence of wolves in two of the cases. A den with pups was also 
documented in extreme north-central North Dakota near the Canadian 
border in 1994. From 1999-2003, 16 wolf sightings/depredation incidents 
in North Dakota were reported to USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services, and 9 of 
these incidents were verified. Additionally, one North Dakota wolf 
sighting was confirmed in early 2004, and two wolf depredation 
incidents were verified north of Garrison in late 2005. USDA-APHIS-
Wildlife Services also confirmed a wolf sighting along the Minnesota 
border near Gary, South Dakota, in 1996, and a trapper with the South 
Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department sighted a lone wolf in the 
western Black Hills in 2002. Several other unconfirmed sightings have 
been reported from these States, including two reports in South Dakota 
in 2003. Wolves killed in North and South Dakota are most often shot by 
hunters after being mistaken for coyotes, or were killed by vehicles. 
The 2001 mortality in South Dakota and one of the 2003 mortalities in 
North Dakota were caused by M-44 devices that had been legally set in 
response to complaints about coyotes.
    In and around the core recovery areas in the Midwest, 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. In 
addition, the growing wolf populations in Wisconsin and Michigan are 
producing greater numbers of dispersing individuals each year, and this 
also will contribute to increasing numbers of wolf-vehicle collisions. 
This increase would be unaffected by a removal of WGL DPS wolves from 
the protections of the Act.
    In those areas of the WGL DPS that are beyond the areas currently 
occupied by wolf packs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the UP, we expect 
that human-caused wolf mortality in the form of vehicle collisions, 
shooting, and trapping have been removing all, or nearly all, the 
wolves that disperse into these areas. We expect this to continue after 
Federal delisting. Road densities are high in these areas, with 
numerous interstate highways and other freeways and high-speed 
thoroughfares that are extremely hazardous to wolves attempting to move 
across them. Shooting and trapping of wolves also is likely to continue 
as a threat to wolves in these areas for several reasons. Especially 
outside of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula, hunters will 
not expect to encounter wolves, and may easily mistake them for coyotes 
from a distance, resulting in unintentional shootings.
    It is important to note that, despite the difficulty in measuring 
the extent of illegal killing of wolves, all sources of wolf mortality, 
including legal (e.g., depredation control) and illegal human-caused 
mortality, have not been of sufficient magnitude to stop the continuing 
growth of the wolf

[[Page 15287]]

population in Wisconsin and Michigan, nor to cause a wolf population 
decline in Minnesota. This indicates that total gray wolf mortality 
does not threaten the continued viability of the wolf population in 
these three States, or in the WGL DPS.
    Predation summary--The high reproductive potential of wolves allows 
wolf populations to withstand relatively high mortality rates, 
including human-caused mortality. The principle of compensatory 
mortality is believed to occur in wolf populations. This means that 
human-caused mortality is not simply added to ``natural'' mortality, 
but rather replaces a portion of it. For example, some of the wolves 
that are killed during depredation control actions would have otherwise 
died during that year from disease, intraspecific strife, or 
starvation. Thus, the addition of intentional killing of wolves to a 
wolf population will reduce one or more mortality rates that wolf 
population experiences. Based on 19 studies by other wolf researchers, 
Fuller et al. (2003) concludes that human-caused mortality can replace 
about 70 percent of other forms of mortality.
    Fuller et al. (2003) has summarized the work of various researchers 
in estimating mortality rates, especially human harvest, that would 
result in wolf population stability or decline. They provide a number 
of human-caused and total mortality rate estimates and the observed 
population effects in wolf populations in the United States and Canada. 
While variability is apparent, in general, wolf populations increased 
if their total average annual mortality was 30 percent or less, and 
populations decreased if their total average annual mortality was 40 
percent or more. Four of the cited studies showed wolf population 
stability or increases with human-caused mortality rates of 24 to 30 
percent. The clear conclusion is that a wolf population with high pup 
productivity--the normal situation in a wolf population--can withstand 
levels of overall and of human-caused mortality without suffering a 
long-term decline in numbers.
    The wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will 
stop growing at some point when they have saturated the suitable 
habitat and are curtailed in less suitable areas by natural mortality 
(disease, starvation, and intraspecific aggression), depredation 
management, incidental mortality (e.g., road kill), illegal killing, 
and other means. At that time, we should expect to see population 
declines in some years followed by short-term increases in other years, 
resulting from fluctuations in birth and mortality rates. Adequate wolf 
monitoring programs, however, as described in the Michigan, Wisconsin, 
and Minnesota wolf management plans are likely to identify high 
mortality rates and/or low birth rates that warrant corrective action 
by the management agencies. The goals of all three State wolf 
management plans are to maintain wolf populations well above the 
numbers recommended in the Federal Eastern Recovery Plan to ensure 
long-term viable wolf populations. The State management plans recommend 
a minimum wolf population of 1,600 in Minnesota, 350 in Wisconsin, and 
200 in Michigan.
    Despite human-caused mortalities of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, 
and Michigan, these wolf populations have continued to increase in both 
numbers and range. If wolves in the WGL DPS are delisted, as long as 
other mortality factors do not increase significantly and monitoring is 
adequate to document, and if necessary counteract, the effects of 
excessive human-caused mortality should that occur, the Minnesota-
Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population will not decline to nonviable levels 
in the foreseeable future as a result of human-caused killing or other 
forms of predation either within the core wolf populations or in all 
other parts of the DPS.

D. The Adequacy or Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Human activities may adversely affect wolf abundance and population 
viability in a variety of ways--by degrading or reducing the wolf 
habitat and range (Factor A); by excessive mortality via commercial or 
recreational harvest (Factor B); by acting as a predator of wolves and 
killing them for other reasons, to reduce perceived competition for 
wild ungulates, or in the interests of human safety; by serving as a 
vector for wolf-impacting diseases or parasites (Factor C); and in 
other ways (Factor E). Following Federal delisting under the Act, many 
of these human activities would be regulated or prohibited by various 
regulatory mechanisms implemented by State, Federal, or Tribal 
agencies. Therefore, the remaining human activities with the potential 
to impact wolf populations are discussed under this factor (Factor D). 
We will compare current regulatory mechanisms within the DPS with the 
future mechanisms that will provide the framework for wolf management 
after delisting.
Regulatory Assurances in States Within the Significant Portion of the 
    State Wolf Management Planning. 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 1999. The MN DNR prepared a Wolf 
Management Plan and an accompanying legislative bill in early 1999 and 
submitted them to the Minnesota Legislature. The Legislature, however, 
failed to approve the Minnesota Plan in the 1999 session. In early 
2000, the MN DNR drafted a second bill that would have resulted in 
somewhat different wolf management and protection than the 1999 bill. 
The legislature did not pass the 2000 Minnesota wolf management bill, 
but instead passed separate legislation directing the DNR to prepare a 
new management plan based upon various new regulatory provisions that 
addressed wolf protection and the take of wolves. The MN DNR completed 
the Minnesota Wolf Management Plan (MN Plan) in early 2001 (MN DNR 
    The Minnesota Wolf Management Plan. The MN Plan is based, in part, 
on the recommendations of a State wolf management roundtable and on a 
State wolf management law enacted in 2000. This law and the Minnesota 
Game and Fish Laws constitute the basis of the State's authority to 
manage wolves. The 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 in the State. 
Key components of the plan are population monitoring and management, 
management of wolf depredation of domestic animals, management of wolf 
prey, enforcement of laws regulating take of wolves, public education, 
and increased staffing to accomplish these actions. Following 
delisting, Minnesota DNR's management of wolves would differ from their 
current management while listed as threatened under the Act. Most of 
these differences deal with the control of wolves that attack or 
threaten domestic animals. Additional aspects of the Minnesota Plan are 
discussed here.
    The Minnesota Plan divides the State into two wolf management 
zones-Zones A and B (see Figure 2 below). Zone A corresponds to wolf 
management zones 1 through 4 (an approximately 30,000 mi\2\ area in 
northeastern Minnesota) in the Service's Eastern Recovery Plan, whereas 
Zone B constitutes zone 5 in the Eastern Recovery Plan. Within Zone

[[Page 15288]]

A, wolves would receive strong protection by the State, unless they 
were involved in attacks on domestic animals. The rules governing the 
take of wolves to protect domestic animals in Zone B would be less 
protective than in Zone A.


[[Page 15289]]

    MN DNR plans to allow wolf numbers and distribution to naturally 
expand, and if any winter population estimate is below 1,600 wolves, it 
would take actions to ``assure recovery'' to 1,600 wolves. MN DNR will 
continue to monitor wolves in Minnesota to determine whether such 
intervention is necessary. The MN DNR will conduct a statewide 
population survey no later than the fifth year after delisting and at 
subsequent five-year intervals. In addition to these statewide 
population surveys, MN DNR annually reviews data on depredation 
incident frequency and locations provided by Wildlife Services and 
winter track survey indices (Erb 2005) to help ascertain annual trends 
in wolf population or range.
    Minnesota (MN DNR 2001) plans to reduce or control illegal 
mortality of wolves through education, increased enforcement of the 
State's wolf laws and regulations, by discouraging new road access in 
some areas, and by maintaining a depredation control program that 
includes compensation for livestock losses. MN DNR plans to use a 
variety of methods to encourage and support education of the public 
about the effects of wolves on livestock, wild ungulate populations, 
and human activities and the history and ecology of wolves in the State 
(MN DNR 2001). These are all measures that have been in effect for 
years in Minnesota, although ``increased enforcement'' of State laws 
against take of wolves (MN DNR 2001) would replace enforcement of the 
Act's take prohibitions. Financial compensation for livestock losses 
has been increased in recent years to the full market value of the 
animal, replacing previous caps of $400 and $750 per animal. We do not 
expect the State's efforts will result in the reduction of illegal take 
of wolves from existing levels, but these measures may be crucial in 
ensuring that illegal mortality does not significantly increase 
following Federal delisting.
    The likelihood of illegal take increases in relation to road 
density and human population density, but changing attitudes towards 
wolves may allow them to survive in areas where road and human 
densities were previously thought to be too high (Fuller et al. 2003). 
MN DNR does not plan to reduce current levels of road access, but would 
encourage managers of land areas large enough to sustain one or more 
wolf packs to ``be cautious about adding new road access that could 
exceed a density of one mile of road per square mile of land, without 
considering the potential effect on wolves'' (MN DNR 2001).
    MN DNR acknowledges that increased enforcement of the State's wolf 
laws and regulations would be dependent on increases in staff and 
resources, additional cross-deputization of tribal law enforcement 
officers, and continued cooperation with Federal law enforcement 
officers. They specifically propose after delisting to add three 
Conservation Officers ``strategically located within current gray wolf 
range in Minnesota'' whose priority duty would be to implement the gray 
wolf management plan (MN DNR 2001).
    Minnesota DNR will consider wolf population management measures, 
including public hunting and trapping seasons and other methods, in the 
future. However, State law and the MN Plan state that such 
consideration will occur no sooner than five years after Federal 
delisting, and there would be opportunity for full public comment on 
such possible changes at that time (MN Statutes 97B.645 Subdiv. 9; MN 
DNR 2001). The MN Plan requires that these population management 
measures have to be implemented in such a way to maintain a statewide 
late-winter wolf population of at least 1,600 animals, well above the 
Federal Recovery Plan's 1250-1400 for the State (USFWS 1992).
Depredation Control in Minnesota
    Wolves that have attacked domestic animals in Minnesota have been 
killed by designated government employees under the authority of a 
special regulation under section 4(d) of the Act since the 1978 
reclassification of wolves to threatened status. During the period from 
1980-2004, the federal Minnesota wolf depredation control program 
euthanized from 20 (in 1982) to 216 (in 1997) gray wolves annually. 
Annual averages (and percentage of statewide populations) were 30 (2.2 
percent) wolves killed from 1980 to 1984, 49 (3.0 percent) from 1985 to 
1989, 115 (6.0 percent) from 1990 to 1994, and 152 (6.7 percent) from 
1995 to 1999. During 2000-04 an average of 127 wolves (4.2 percent of 
the wolf population, based on the 2003-2004 statewide estimate) were 
killed under the program annually. Since 1980, the lowest annual 
percentage of Minnesota wolves killed under this program was 1.5 
percent in 1982; the highest percentage was 9.4 in 1997 (Paul 2004).
    This level of wolf removal for depredation control has not 
interfered with wolf recovery in Minnesota, although it may have slowed 
the increase in wolf numbers in the State, especially since the late-
1980s, and may be contributing to the possibly stabilized Minnesota 
wolf population suggested by the 2003-04 estimate (see additional 
information in Recovery). Minnesota wolf numbers grew at an average 
annual rate of nearly 4 percent between 1989 and 1998 while the 
depredation control program was taking its highest percentages of 
wolves (Paul 2004).
    Under a Minnesota statute, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture 
(MDA) compensates livestock owners for full market value of livestock 
that wolves have killed or severely injured. A university extension 
agent or conservation officer must confirm that wolves were responsible 
for the depredation. The agent or officer also evaluates the livestock 
operation for conformance to a set of Best Management Practices (BMPs) 
designed to minimize wolf depredation and provides operators with an 
itemized list of any deficiencies relative to the BMPs. The Minnesota 
statute also requires MDA to periodically update its BMPs to 
incorporate new practices that it finds would reduce wolf depredation.
    Following Federal delisting, depredation control would be 
authorized under Minnesota State law and conducted in conformance to 
the Minnesota Wolf Management Plan (MN DNR 2001). The Minnesota Plan 
divides the State into Wolf Management Zones A and B. Zone A comprises 
the current Federal Wolf Management Zones 1-4, covering 30,728 sq. mi., 
approximately the northeastern third of the State. Zone B is identical 
to the current Federal Wolf Management Zone 5, and contains the 48,889 
sq. mi. that make up the rest of the State (MN DNR 2001). The statewide 
survey conducted during the winter of 2003-04 provided an estimate that 
there were approximately 2,570 wolves in Zone A and 450 in Zone B (J. 
Erb, MN DNR, in litt. 2005). As discussed in Recovery, the Federal 
planning goal for Zones 1-4 is 1251-1400 wolves and no wolves in Zone 5 
(USFWS 1992).
    Currently, while federally-protected as a threatened species in 
Minnesota, no control of depredating wolves is allowed in Zone 1. In 
Zones 2 through 5 employees or agents of the Service (including USDA-
APHIS-Wildlife Services) or MN DNR may take wolves in response to 
depredations of domestic animals within one-half mile of the 
depredation site. Young-of-the-year captured on or before August 1 of 
that year must be released. The regulations that allow for this take 
(50 CFR 17.40(d)(2)(i)(B)(4)) do not specify a maximum duration for 
depredation control, but Wildlife Services personnel follow informal 
guidelines under which they trap for no more than 10-15 days, except at 
sites with repeated or chronic

[[Page 15290]]

depredation, where they may trap for up to 30 days (Paul, pers. comm. 
Post-Delisting Depredation Control in Minnesota
    Upon Federal delisting, wolf depredation control would be modified 
under Minnesota's Wolf Management Plan, with the greatest change 
occurring in Zone B. In Zone A, if DNR verifies that a wolf destroyed 
any livestock, domestic animal, or pet, trained and certified predator 
controllers may take wolves within a one-mile radius of the depredation 
site for up to 60 days. In Zone B, predator controllers may take wolves 
for up to 214 days after MN DNR opens a depredation control area, 
depending on the time of year. The DNR may open a control area in Zone 
B anytime within five years of a verified depredation loss upon request 
of the landowner.
    The Minnesota plan would also allow for private wolf depredation 
control throughout the State. Persons may shoot or destroy a gray wolf 
that poses an immediate threat to their livestock, guard animals, or 
domestic animals on lands that they own, lease, or occupy. Immediate 
threat is defined as ``stalking, attacking, or killing.'' Owners of 
domestic pets may also kill wolves posing an immediate threat to pets 
under their supervision on lands that they do not own or lease, 
although such actions are subject to local ordinances, trespass law, 
and other applicable restrictions. MN DNR will investigate any private 
taking of wolves in Zone A. The Minnesota Plan would also allow persons 
to harass wolves anywhere in the State within 500 yards of ``people, 
buildings, dogs, livestock, or other domestic pets or animals'' (MN DNR 
2001). Harassment may not include physical injury to a wolf.
    To protect their domestic animals in Zone B, individuals do not 
have to wait for an immediate threat in order to take wolves. At 
anytime in Zone B, persons who own, lease, or manage lands may shoot 
wolves on those lands to protect livestock, domestic animals, or pets. 
They may also employ a predator controller to trap a gray wolf on their 
land or within one mile of their land (with permission of the 
landowner) to protect their livestock, domestic animals, or pets.
    This expansion of depredation control activities will not threaten 
the conservation of wolves in the State. Significant changes in wolf 
depredation control under State management would primarily be 
restricted to Zone B, which is outside of the area that our Recovery 
Plan found was necessary for wolf recovery (USFWS 1992), and wolves may 
still persist in Zone B despite the likely increased take there. The 
Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team concluded that the changes in wolf 
management in the State's Zone A would be ``minor'' and would not 
likely result in ``significant change in overall wolf numbers in Zone 
A.'' They found that, despite an expansion in the depredation control 
area from approximately 1 to 3 square miles and an extension of the 
control period to 60 days, depredation control will remain ``very 
localized'' in Zone A. The requirement that depredation control 
activities be conducted only in response to verified wolf depredation 
in Zone A played a key role in the team's evaluation (R. Peterson, in 
litt. 2001). Depredation control would be allowed throughout Zone A, 
which includes an area (Federal Wolf Management Zone 1) where such 
control has not been permitted under Federal protection. Depredation in 
Zone 1, however, has been limited to 3 to 6 reported incidents per 
year, mostly of wolves killing dogs (Paul, pers. comm. 2004), although 
some dog kills in this zone probably go unreported. There are few 
livestock in Zone 1; therefore, the number of verified depredation 
incidents in that Zone is expected to be low, resulting in a 
correspondingly low number of depredating wolves being killed there 
after delisting.
    Within Zone B, the Minnesota wolf management plan would provide 
broad authority to landowners and land managers to shoot wolves at any 
time to protect their livestock, pets, or other domestic animals on 
land owned, leased, or managed by the individual. Such takings can 
occur in the absence of wolf attacks on the domestic animals. Thus, the 
estimated 450 wolves in Zone B could be potentially subject to 
substantial reduction in numbers, and one could even argue that at the 
extreme, wolves could be eliminated from Zone B. However, there is no 
way to reasonably evaluate in advance the extent to which residents of 
Zone B will use this new authority, and any estimate of future wolf 
numbers in Zone B would be highly speculative at this time. The fact 
that this broad authority is limited to Zone B is consistent with the 
Federal Recovery Plan's advice that wolves should be restored to the 
rest of Minnesota but not to Zone B (Federal Zone 5) because that area 
``is not suitable for wolves.'' The Federal Recovery Plan envisioned 
that the Minnesota numerical recovery goal would be achieved solely in 
Zone A (Federal Zones 1-4) (USFWS 1992), and that has occurred. 
Therefore, there is no need to maintain significant protection for 
wolves in Zone B in order to maintain a Minnesota wolf population that 
continues to satisfy the Federal recovery goals after Federal 
    The proposed changes in the control of depredating wolves in 
Minnesota under State management emphasize the need for post-delisting 
monitoring. Minnesota will continue to monitor wolf populations 
throughout the State and will also monitor all depredation control 
activities in Zone A (MN DNR 2001). These and other activities 
contained in their plan would be essential in meeting their population 
goal of a minimum statewide winter population of 1,600 wolves, which 
exceeds the Recovery Plan's criteria of 1,251 to 1,400 wolves.

The Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan

    Both the Wisconsin and Michigan Wolf Management Plans are designed 
to manage and ensure the existence of wolf populations in the States as 
if they are isolated populations and are not dependent upon 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, the 200 wolves identified in the Federal Recovery Plan 
as necessary for a viable isolated wolf population. We support this 
approach and believe it provides strong assurances that the gray wolf 
will remain a viable component of the WGL DPS for the foreseeable 
future. The WI Plan updates are expected to be completed and approved 
by the Natural Resources Board in mid-2006 (Wydeven, pers. comm. 
    At the time the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan was completed, it 
recommended immediate reclassification from State-endangered to State-
threatened status because Wisconsin's wolf population had already 
exceeded its reclassification criterion of 80 wolves for 3 years; that 
State reclassification occurred in 1999, after the population exceeded 
that level for 5 years. The Plan further recommends the State manage 
for a gray wolf population of 350 wolves outside of Native American 
reservations, and specifies that the species should be delisted by the 
State once the population reaches 250 animals outside of reservations. 
The species was proposed for State delisting in late 2003, and the 
State delisting process was completed in 2004. Upon State delisting, 
the species was classified as a ``protected nongame species,'' a 
designation that continues State prohibitions on sport hunting and 
trapping of the species (Wydeven and Jurewicz 2005). The Wisconsin Plan

[[Page 15291]]

includes criteria that would trigger State relisting to threatened (a 
decline to fewer than 250 wolves for 3 years) or endangered status (a 
decline to fewer than 80 wolves for 1 year). The Wisconsin Plan will be 
reviewed annually by the Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee and will be 
reviewed by the public every 5 years.
    The WI Plan sets a management goal of 350 wolves, well above the 
200 wolves specified in the Federal recovery plan for a viable isolated 
wolf population. The WI Plan is currently being updated to reflect 
current wolf numbers, additional knowledge, and issues that have arisen 
since its 1999 completion. This update will be put into service in the 
form of one or more appendices to the 1999 plan, rather than as a major 
revision to the plan. Several components of the plan that are key to 
our evaluation are not expected to change; specifically, the State wolf 
population goal of 350 animals, the boundaries of the four wolf 
management zones, and the guidelines for the wolf depredation control 
program will not undergo significant alteration during the update 
process (Wydeven pers. comm. 2005, Jurewicz pers. comm. 2005, Wydeven 
    An important component of the WI Plan is the annual monitoring of 
wolf populations by radio collars and winter track surveys in order to 
provide comparable annual data to assess population size and growth for 
at least 5 years after Federal delisting. This monitoring will include 
health monitoring of captured wolves and necropsies of dead wolves that 
are found. Wolf scat will be collected and analyzed to monitor for 
canine viruses and parasites. Health monitoring will be part of the 
capture protocol for all studies that involve the live capture of 
Wisconsin wolves.
    Cooperative habitat management will be promoted with public and 
private landowners to maintain existing road densities in Zones 1 and 2 
(see Figure 3), protect wolf dispersal corridors, and manage forests 
for deer and beaver. Furthermore, in Zone 1, a year-around prohibition 
on tree harvest within 330 feet of den and rendezvous sites, and 
seasonal restrictions to reduce disturbance within one-half mile, will 
be DNR policy on public lands and will be encouraged on private lands.

[[Page 15292]]


    The WI Plan contains other recommendations that would provide 
protection to assist maintenance of a viable wolf population in the 
State: (1) Continue the protection of the species as a ``protected wild 
animal'' with penalties similar to those for unlawfully killing large 
game species (fines of $1000-2000, loss of hunting privileges for 3-5 
years, and a possible 6-month jail sentence), (2) maintain closure 
zones where coyotes cannot be shot during deer hunting season in Zone 
1, (3) legally protect wolf dens under the Wisconsin Administrative 
Code, (4) require State permits to possess a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid, 
and (5) establish a restitution value to be levied in addition to fines 
and other penalties for wolves that are illegally killed.
    The WI Plan emphasizes the continuing need for public education 
efforts that focus on living with a recovered wolf population, ways to 
manage wolves and wolf-human conflicts, and the ecosystem role of 
wolves. The plan recommends reimbursement for depredation losses, 
citizen stakeholder involvement in the wolf management program, and 
coordination with the Tribes in wolf management and investigation of 
illegal killings.
    A public harvest of gray wolves is not included in the Wisconsin 
Plan, and is not advocated in the most recent draft update of the 
Wisconsin Plan (WI DNR 1999, Wydeven 2006). The plan briefly discusses 
(Appendix D) the possibility of a public harvest after the Statewide 
(outside Indian reservations) wolf population reaches 350, but it takes 
no steps to begin establishing a public harvest. Public attitudes 
toward a wolf population in excess of 350 would have to be fully 
evaluated, as would the impacts from other mortalities, before a public 
harvest could be initiated. A public harvest must be preceded by a 
citizen review process, including public hearings, as well as approvals 
by the State legislature and by the Natural Resources Board. The fact 
that the

[[Page 15293]]

Wisconsin Plan calls for State relisting of the wolf as a threatened 
species if the population falls to fewer than 250 for 3 years provides 
a strong assurance that any future public harvest is not likely to 
threaten the persistence of the population.
    Given the likely decline and ultimate termination in Federal 
funding for wolf monitoring in the future, Wisconsin and Michigan DNRs 
are seeking an effective, yet cost-efficient, method for detecting wolf 
population changes to replace the current labor-intensive and expensive 
monitoring protocols. A methodology similar to that implemented in 
Minnesota was tested in Wisconsin during the winter of 2003-04, but the 
results of the comparison were inconclusive, so wolf population 
monitoring methodology likely will remain unchanged.
    The WI Plan allows for differing levels of protection and 
management within four separate management zones (see figure 3). The 
Northern Forest Zone (Zone 1) and the Central Forest Zone (Zone 2) now 
contain most of the wolf population, with less than 5 percent of the 
Wisconsin wolves in Zones 3 and 4. Zones 1 and 2 have all the larger 
unfragmented areas of suitable habitat, so most of the State's wolf 
packs will continue to inhabit those parts of Wisconsin for the 
foreseeable future.

Depredation Control in Wisconsin

    The rapidly expanding Wisconsin wolf population has resulted in 
increased depredation problems. From 1979 through 1989, there were only 
five cases (an average of 0.4 per year) of verified wolf depredations 
in Wisconsin. Between 1990 and 1997, there were 27 verified depredation 
incidents in the State (an average of 3.4 per year), and 82 incidents 
(an average of 16.4 per year) occurred from 1998-2002. Depredation 
incidents increased to 23 cases (including 50 domestic animals killed 
and 4 injured) in 2003, and to 35 cases (53 domestic animals killed, 3 
injured, and 6 missing) in 2004 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2004a, 2005a). 
In 2005, depredation grew to 45 cases, with 53 domestic animals killed 
and 11 injured. The number of farms experiencing wolf depredations on 
livestock grew from 8 in 2002, to 14 in 2003, to 22 in 2004, and to 25 
in 2005 (Wydevin and Jurewicz, 2005).
    Over the several years that lethal depredation control has been 
conducted in Wisconsin, there is no indication that it has adversely 
impacted the ability to maintain a viable wolf population in the State. 
As a result of depredation control actions, 17 wolves were euthanized 
in 2003, 24 were euthanized in 2004, and 29 (plus 6 presumed wolf-dog 
hybrids) were euthanized in 2005. This represents 5.1 percent, 6.4 
percent, and 6.8 percent, respectively, of the late winter population 
of Wisconsin wolves during the previous winter. (Note that some of the 
wolves euthanized after August 1 were young-of-the-year who were not 
present during the late winter survey, so the cited percentages are 
overestimates.) Following this level of lethal depredation control, the 
WI wolf population increased 11 percent from 2003 to 2004, and 14 
percent from 2004 to 2005, indicating a continuing healthy rate of 
population increase (Wydeven and Jurewicz 2005, Wydeven et al 2005b).
    A significant portion of depredation incidents in Wisconsin involve 
attacks on dogs engaged in bear hunting activities or dogs being 
trained in the field for hunting. Attacks on other dogs occur much less 
frequently. The frequency of attacks on hunting dogs has increased as 
the State's wolf population has grown. In 2004, 13 dogs involved in 
bear hunting or training were killed by wolves and 2 dogs not involved 
in hunting/training were killed. These incidents were believed to 
involve 7 different wolf packs, or 8 percent of the 108 packs in 
Wisconsin in 2004. In 2005, 17 dogs were killed and 6 injured by 
wolves, including 12 dogs killed and 3 injured during bear/coyote 
hunting and training (Wydeven pers. comm. January 22, 2006). While 
Wisconsin DNR compensates dog owners for mortalities and injuries to 
their dogs, DNR takes no action against the depredating pack. Instead, 
the DNR issues press releases to warn bear hunters and bear dog 
trainers of the areas where wolf packs have been attacking bear dogs 
(WI DNR 2002) and provides maps and advice to hunters on the DNR web 

Post-delisting Depredation Control in Wisconsin

    Following Federal delisting, wolf depredation control in Wisconsin 
would be carried out according to the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan 
(WI DNR 1999), Wisconsin guidelines for conducting depredation control 
(Wisconsin DNR 2005), and any Tribal wolf management plans or 
guidelines that may be developed in the future for reservations in 
occupied wolf range. While the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan is 
currently being updated by the DNR, these updates are not expected to 
significantly change the State Plan, and there are no plans to change 
the wolf management goal of 350 wolves nor the depredation management 
program (Randall Jurewicz, WI DNR, pers. comm. December 5, 2005; 
Wydeven, pers. comm. December 6, 2005; Wydeven 2006). Verification of 
wolf depredation incidents will continue to be conducted by USDA-APHIS-
Wildlife Services, working under a cooperative agreement with WI DNR, 
or at the request of a Tribe, depending on the location of the reported 
incident. Following verification, one or more of several options will 
be implemented to address the depredation problem. Technical 
assistance, consisting of advice or recommendations to reduce wolf 
conflicts, will be provided. Technical assistance may also include 
providing to the landowner various forms of non-injurious behavior 
modification materials, such as flashing lights, noise makers, 
temporary fencing, and fladry. For depredation incidents in Wisconsin 
Zones 1 through 3, where all wolf packs currently reside, wolves may be 
trapped and translocated and released at a point distant from the 
depredation site. As noted above, translocating depredating wolves has 
become increasingly difficult in Wisconsin and is likely to be used 
infrequently in the future. In most wolf depredation cases where 
technical assistance and non-lethal methods of behavior modification 
are judged to be ineffective, wolves will be trapped and euthanized or 
shot by Wildlife Services or DNR personnel.
    Following Federal delisting, in certain circumstances, Wisconsin 
landowners will be able to obtain permits from WI DNR to kill 
depredating wolves. In Zones 1 and 2, where over 95 percent of wolves 
currently reside, these permits will be available to private landowners 
if their property has had a history of recurring wolf depredation 
problems and if the WI DNR believes that additional depredation is 
likely to occur. These permits will primarily be issued in response to 
livestock depredations, but may be infrequently issued in response to 
repeated instances of, or high likelihood of, depredation on confined 
pets. The permits will be of short duration and will place a limit on 
the number of wolves to be killed. Based on wolf depredation data from 
recent years, there currently are 10 to 12 Wisconsin farms that have 
such a history and would likely qualify for landowner permits to kill 
depredating wolves. In Zone 3 (currently has less than 5 percent of the 
State's wolves) and Zone 4 (currently has no wolf packs), landowners 
will be able to get DNR permits to kill depredating or nuisance wolves 
on their property if wolf depredation has been verified at the site, 
but there is no history of recurring

[[Page 15294]]

depredation incidents (WI DNR 1999, Wydeven pers. comm. 2006).
    In Zones 3 and 4, following Federal delisting, proactive control 
(that is, removing wolves before depredation occurs) or initiating 
intensive control to reduce the wolf population in a limited area may 
be conducted by WI DNR and Wildlife Services. This would be done only 
in areas lacking large expanses of public land and where wolf habitat 
is marginal; it would occur in Zone 3 only if the wolf population is 
above the State management goal of 350. Proactive control may also be 
carried out in Zones 1 and 2, but it would not be carried out on large 
public land areas, and only if the wolf population exceeds 350 and the 
DNR determines that local population reduction is desirable. Proactive 
controls would be allowed in Zones 1, 2, and 3 only if the population 
exceeds 350 outside of Indian reservations, and such controls would 
cease if the population declines below 350 wolves (WI DNR 1999, Wydeven 
pers. comm. 2006).
    In Zones 3 and 4, and in urban areas within Zones 1 and 2, local 
law enforcement officials may be allowed to kill wolves that appear to 
be losing a fear of humans, but have not exhibited a clear threat to 
human safety (WI DNR 1999, Wydeven pers. comm. 2006). A more flexible 
system such as this for controlling bold wolves in urban areas would 
also allow easier control of wolf-dog hybrids that frequently escape or 
are released to the wild (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2005). These hybrids 
have not been as readily controlled in the past due to concerns about 
shooting endangered wolves.
    We have evaluated future lethal depredation control based upon 
verified depredation incidents over the last decade and the impacts of 
the implementation of similar lethal control of depredating wolves 
under 50 CFR 17.40(o) and section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act. Under those 
authorities, WI DNR and Wildlife Services trapped and euthanized 17 
wolves in 2003, 24 in 2004, and 29 (including several possible hybrids) 
in 2005. For 2003, 2004, and 2005 this represents 5.1 percent, 6.4 
percent, and 6.8 percent (including several possible wolf-dog hybrids), 
respectively, of the late winter population of Wisconsin wolves during 
the previous winter. As stated above, this level of lethal depredation 
control was followed by a wolf population increase of 11 percent from 
2003 to 2004, and 14 percent from 2004 to 2005. (Wydeven and Jurewicz 
2005, Wydeven et al 2005b). (Data from the winter survey for 2005-2006 
are not yet available.) This provides strong evidence that this form of 
depredation control will not adversely impact the viability of the 
Wisconsin wolf population.
    One significant change to lethal control that likely would result 
from Federal delisting would be the ability of a small number of 
private landowners, whose farms have a history of recurring wolf 
depredation, to obtain DNR permits to kill depredating wolves. We 
estimate that up to 3 wolves from each of 5 to 10 farms may be killed 
annually under these permits in the several years immediately after 
delisting. Because the late-winter 2004-05 Wisconsin wolf population 
exceeded 400 animals, the death of these 5 to 30 additional wolves will 
not affect the viability of the population. Another significant change 
would be proactive trapping or intensive control in limited areas. 
While it is not possible to estimate the number of wolves that might be 
killed via these actions, we are confident that they will not impact 
the long-term viability of the Wisconsin wolf population because they 
would be carried out only if the State's late-winter wolf population 
exceeds 350 animals.
    In recent years the number of dogs attacked by gray wolves in 
Wisconsin has increased, with 33 dogs killed and 9 dogs injured in 
2001-03. 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. The Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan 
states that ``generally only wolves that are habitual depredators on 
livestock will be euthanized'' (WI DNR 1999). Furthermore, the State's 
guidelines for conducting depredation control actions on wolves 
currently listed as Federally threatened 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 DNR 2005). 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.
    Lethal control of wolves that attack captive deer is included in 
the WI DNR depredation control program, because farm-raised deer are 
considered to be livestock under Wisconsin law. However, Wisconsin 
regulations for deer farms fencing have recently been strengthened, and 
it is unlikely that more than an occasional wolf will need to be killed 
to resolve depredation inside deer farms in the foreseeable future. 
Claims for wolf depredation compensation are rejected if the claimant 
is not in compliance with regulations regarding farm-raised deer 
fencing or livestock carcass disposal (Wisconsin Statutes 90.20 & 
90.21, Wisconsin Administrative Code 12.53)
    Data from verified wolf depredations in recent years indicate that 
depredation on livestock is likely to increase as long as the Wisconsin 
wolf population increases in numbers and range. Most large areas of 
forest land and public lands are included in Wisconsin Wolf Management 
Zones 1 and 2, and they have already been colonized by wolves. 
Therefore, new areas likely to be colonized by wolves in the future 
will be in Zones 3 and 4, where they will be exposed to much higher 
densities of farms, livestock, and residences. During the period from 
July 2004 through June 2005, 29 percent (8 of 28) of farms experiencing 
wolf depredation were in Zone 3, yet only 4 percent of the State wolf 
population occurs in this zone (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2005). Further 
expansion of wolves into Zone 3 would likely lead to an increase in 
depredation incidents and an increase in lethal control actions against 
wolves. These incidents, and resultant wolf mortalities, can be 
expected to increase at a rate that exceeds the wolf population 
increase. However, it is likely that these mortalities will have no 
impact on wolf population viability in Wisconsin because of the wolf 
populations in Zones 1 and 2. For the foreseeable future, the wolf 
population in Zones 1 and 2 will continue to greatly exceed the Federal 
recovery goal of 200 late winter wolves for an isolated population and 
100 wolves for a subpopulation connected to the larger Minnesota 
population, regardless of the extent of wolf mortality in Zones 3 and 
    The possibility of a public harvest of wolves is acknowledged in 
the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan and in plan update drafts (WI DNR 
1999, Wydeven 2006). However, the question of whether a public harvest 
will be initiated and the details of such a harvest are far from 
resolved. Establishing a public harvest would be preceded by extensive 
public input and would require legislative authorization and approval 
by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. Because of the steps that 
must precede a public harvest of wolves and the uncertainty regarding 
the possibility of, and the details of, any

[[Page 15295]]

such program, it is not possible to evaluate the potential impacts of 
the public harvest of wolves. Therefore, we consider public harvest of 
Wisconsin wolves to be highly speculative at this time. The Service 
will closely monitor any steps taken by States and/or Tribes within the 
WGL DPS to establish any public harvest of gray wolves in the 
foreseeable future. Based on wolf population data, the current WI Plan, 
and the draft updates, the Service believes that any public harvest 
plan would continue to maintain wolf populations well above the 
recovery goal of 200 wolves in late winter.
    The WI DNR compensates livestock and pet owners for confirmed 
losses to depredating wolves. The compensation is made at full market 
value of the animal (up to a limit of $2500 for hunting dogs and pets) 
and can include veterinarian fees for the treatment of injured animals 
(Wisconsin Admin. Rules 12.54). Compensation costs have been funded 
from the endangered resources tax check-off and sales of the endangered 
resources license plates. Current Wisconsin law requires the 
continuation of the compensation payment for wolf depredation 
regardless of Federal listing or delisting of the species (WI Admin. 
Rules 12.53). In recent years depredation compensation payments have 
ranged from $23,000 to over $76,000.

Michigan Wolf Management Plan

    The Michigan Gray Wolf Recovery and Management Plan (MI Plan) 
details wolf recovery and management actions needed and wolf recovery 
goals in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. It does not address the 
potential need for wolf recovery or management in the Lower Peninsula, 
nor wolf management within Isle Royale National Park (where the wolf 
population is protected by the National Park Service). Necessary wolf 
management actions detailed in the plan include public education and 
outreach activities, annual wolf population and health monitoring, 
research, depredation control, and habitat management.
    As with the WI Plan, MI DNR has chosen to manage the State's wolves 
as though they are an isolated population that receives no genetic or 
demographic benefits from immigrating wolves. Therefore, the MI Plan 
contains a long-term minimum goal of 200 wolves on the UP (excluding 
Isle Royale wolves), which is the population level established in the 
Federal Recovery Plan for a viable isolated wolf population (USFWS 
1992). We strongly support this approach, as it provides additional 
assurance that a viable wolf population will remain in the UP 
regardless of the future fate of wolves in Wisconsin or Ontario.
    The MI plan identifies 800 wolves as the estimated biological 
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.) Under the MI Plan, wolves in the State would be considered 
recovered when a sustainable population of at least 200 wolves is 
maintained for 5 consecutive years. The Upper Peninsula has had more 
than 200 wolves since the winter of 1999-2000. Therefore, Michigan 
reclassified wolves from endangered to threatened in June 2002, and the 
gray wolf became eligible for State delisting under the MI Plan's 
criteria in 2004. In Michigan, however, State delisting cannot occur 
until after Federal delisting. During the State delisting process, 
Michigan intends to amend its Wildlife Conservation Order to grant 
``protected animal'' status to the gray wolf. That status would 
``prohibit take, establish penalties and restitution for violations of 
the Order, and detail conditions under which lethal depredation control 
measures could be implemented'' (Rebecca Humphries, MI DNR, in litt. 
2004). Population management, except for depredation control, is not 
addressed in the MI Plan beyond statements that the wolf population may 
need to be controlled by lethal means at some future time, when the 
cultural carrying capacity is reached or approached.
    Similar to the Wisconsin Plan, the 1997 MI Plan recommends 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 330 feet (100 meters) of active 
sites. Seasonal restrictions (March through July) should be enforced 
within 0.5 mi (0.8 km) 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 
occurs (MI DNR 1997).
    The MI Plan calls for re-evaluation of the plan at 5-year 
intervals. The MI DNR initiated this process in 2001, with the 
appointment of a committee to evaluate wolf recovery and management. As 
a result of that review, MI DNR concluded that a revision of the 1997 
Plan is needed, and a more formal review, including extensive 
stakeholder input, was recently initiated. Recognizing that wolf 
recovery has been achieved in Michigan, additional scientific knowledge 
has been gained, and new social issues have arisen since the 1997 Plan 
was drafted, the DNR intends that revised plan to be more of a wolf 
management document than a recovery plan. The DNR is convening a 
Michigan Wolf Management Roundtable to assist in this endeavor. The 
Roundtable will be a diverse group of citizens drawn from organizations 
spanning the spectrum of those interested in, and impacted by, wolf 
recovery and management in Michigan, including Tribal entities and 
organizations focused on agriculture, hunting/trapping, the 
environment, animal protection, law enforcement and public safety, and 
tourism. The Roundtable is being asked to engage in strategic planning 
for long-term wolf management. This will include an evaluation of the 
current wolf management goal and setting priorities for management 
issues to be addressed by subsequent, more detailed operational 
planning by the DNR. The Roundtable may also provide recommendations on 
whom the DNR should address the priorities it identifies. The revised 
Michigan wolf management plan will be implemented when the species has 
been Federally delisted, at which time the wolf would become a 
protected non-game species under State law. The DNR's goal is to 
``ensure the wolf population remains viable and above a level that 
would require either Federal or State reclassification as a threatened 
or endangered species'' (MI DNR 2006).
    At this time, the MI DNR is developing a ``white paper'' to guide 
and help the Roundtable with its strategic planning by identifying 
specific wolf issues and providing background information and data for 
each issue. The Roundtable is being given a December 15, 2006, deadline 
to draft a strategic plan that outlines goals and policies for managing 
Michigan wolves. That draft will then be subject to public review and 
subsequent revision by the Roundtable prior to its approval and use by 
MI DNR to develop operational wolf management guidelines. Because the 
plan revision process will not be completed prior to 2007, we cannot 
evaluate the strategies or activities that it will contain. However, MI 
DNR's written commitment to ensure the continued viability of a 
Michigan wolf population above a level that would trigger State or 
Federal listing as threatened or endangered is sufficient for us to 
conclude that both the current MI Plan,

[[Page 15296]]

and a revised plan to be developed under the January 12, 2006, 
instructions to the Roundtable, will provide adequate regulatory 
mechanisms for Michigan wolves (MI DNR 1997, 2006).
    Michigan has not experienced as high a level of attacks on dogs by 
wolves as Wisconsin, although a slight increase in such attacks has 
occurred over the last decade. The number of dogs killed in the State 
was one in 1996, one in 1999, three in 2001, four in 2002, and eight in 
2003. Similar to Wisconsin, MI DNR has guidelines for their depredation 
control program. The Michigan guidelines state that lethal control will 
not be used when wolves kill dogs that are free-roaming, hunting, or 
training on public lands. Lethal control of wolves, however, would be 
considered if wolves have killed confined pets and remain in the area 
where more pets are being held (MI DNR 2005a).

Depredation Control in Michigan

    Data from Michigan show a similar increase in confirmed wolf 
depredations on livestock and dogs: 1 in 1996, 3 in 1998, 3 in 1999, 5 
in 2000, 6 in 2001, 21 in 2003, and 15 in 2004 (MI DNR unpublished 
data). As in Wisconsin, the number of verified depredation incidents is 
increasing much faster than the increase in the State wolf population. 
The 46 depredations on livestock occurred at 34 different UP farms; 
nearly three-quarters of the depredations were on cattle. Of the 24 
dogs killed by wolves in the last decade, half were hounds being used 
to hunt bear, and most of the rest were pets attacked near homes.
    During the several years that lethal control of depredating wolves 
had been conducted in Michigan, there is no evidence of resulting 
adverse impacts to the maintenance of a viable wolf population in the 
Upper Peninsula. Four, six, and two wolves, respectively, were 
euthanized in 2003, 2004, and 2005. This represents 1.2 percent, 1.7 
percent, and 0.5 percent, respectively, of the UP's late winter 
population of wolves during the previous winter. Following this level 
of lethal depredation control, the UP wolf population increased 12 
percent from 2003 to 2004, and 13 percent from 2004 to 2005, 
demonstrating that the wolf population continues to increase at a 
healthy rate (Huntzinger et al. 2005). Data from the winter survey for 
2005-2006 are not yet available.

Post-Delisting Depredation Control in Michigan

    Following Federal delisting, wolf depredation control in Michigan 
would be carried out according to the Michigan Wolf Management Plan (MI 
DNR 1997) and any Tribal wolf management plans that may be developed in 
the future for reservations in occupied wolf range. However, the 
current MI Plan was written well before Federal delisting was 
envisioned; it contains no guidance on post-delisting depredation 
control and it restricts control actions to trapping and translocation 
of problem wolves. The Michigan Wolf Management Plan is currently being 
updated by the MI DNR, and a revised management plan is unlikely to be 
completed before 2007. A series of public meetings were held to gather 
public input, and a Wolf Management Roundtable is being convened by MI 
DNR. The Roundtable will represent the full spectrum of wolf 
stakeholder interests and will be charged with developing recommended 
goals and policies for wolf management in the State following Federal 
delisting (MI DNR 2006). Until such time as the Roundtable recommends, 
and MI DNR adopts, changes to wolf depredation control measures, the 
following practices will be used following Federal delisting.
    To provide depredation control guidance when lethal control is an 
option, MI DNR has developed detailed instructions for incident 
investigation and response (MI DNR 2005). Verification of wolf 
depredation incidents will be conducted by MI DNR or USDA-APHIS-
Wildlife Services personnel (working under a cooperative agreement with 
MI DNR or at the request of a Tribe, depending on the location) who 
have been trained in depredation investigation techniques. MI DNR 
specifies that the verification process will use the investigative 
techniques that have been developed and successfully used in Minnesota 
by Wildlife Services (MI DNR 2005a, esp. Append. B). Following 
verification, one or more of several options will be implemented to 
address the depredation problem. Technical assistance, consisting of 
advice or recommendations to reduce wolf conflicts, will be provided. 
Technical assistance may also include providing to the landowner 
various forms of non-injurious behavior modification materials, such as 
flashing lights, noise makers, temporary fencing, and fladry.
    Trapping and translocating depredating wolves has been used in the 
past and may be used in the future, but as with Wisconsin, suitable 
relocation sites are becoming rarer, and there is local opposition to 
the release of translocated depredators. Furthermore, none of the past 
24 translocated depredators have remained near its release site, making 
this a questionable method to end the depredation behaviors of these 
wolves (MI DNR 2005a).
    Lethal control of depredating wolves is likely to be the most 
common future response in situations when improved livestock husbandry 
and wolf behavior modification techniques (e.g., flashing lights, 
noise-making devices) are judged to be inadequate. However, based on 
nearly 3 years of depredation control when lethal control was used 
(April 1, 2003, to September 13, 2005), only 12 depredating wolves were 
euthanized. These deaths constituted less than 2 percent of the UP wolf 
population, based on previous late-winter surveys. As wolf numbers 
continue to increase on the UP, the number of verified depredations 
will also increase, and will probably do so at a rate that exceeds the 
rate of wolf population increase. This will occur as wolves 
increasingly disperse into and occupy areas of the UP with more 
livestock and more human residences, leading to additional exposure to 
domestic animals. In a recent application for a lethal take permit 
under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act, MI DNR requested authority to 
euthanize up to 10 percent of the late-winter wolf population annually 
(MI DNR 2005b). However, based on 2003-2005 depredation data, it is 
likely that significantly less than 10 percent lethal control will be 
needed in 2006, or in the next several years.
    The Michigan Wolf Management Roundtable has been asked to develop 
goals and policies to guide management of various conflicts caused by 
wolf recovery, including depredation on livestock and pets, human 
safety, and public concerns regarding wolf impacts on other wildlife. 
The Roundtable is being asked to provide recommendations on ``the 
selection of intervention methods to control wolf problems'' (MI DNR 
2006). While it is possible that the Roundtable may recommend 
management and control methods such as private landowner authority to 
kill wolves, preventative trapping by government trappers, and public 
harvest of wolves, at this time we can do no more than speculate on 
what will be recommended by the Roundtable and what measures might 
ultimately be adopted by the MI DNR. However, based on the current plan 
and stated goals for maintaining wolf populations at or above recovery 
goals, the Service believes these changes will not result in 
significant reductions in MI wolf populations. At this time, MI DNR 
remains committed to ensuring a viable wolf population above a level 
that would trigger Federal relisting as either

[[Page 15297]]

threatened or endangered in the future (MI DNR 2006).
    Similar to Wisconsin, Michigan livestock owners are compensated 
when they lose livestock as a result of a confirmed wolf depredation. 
Currently there are two complementary compensation programs in 
Michigan, one funded by the MI DNR and implemented by Michigan 
Department of Agriculture (MI DA) and another set up through donations 
and held by the International Wolf Center (IWC), a non-profit 
organization. From the inception of the program to 2000, MI DA has paid 
90 percent of full market value of depredated livestock value at the 
time of loss. The IWC account was used to pay the remaining 10 percent 
from 2000 to 2002 when MI DA began paying 100 percent of the full 
market value of depredated livestock. Neither of these programs provide 
compensation for pets or for veterinary costs to treat wolf-inflicted 
livestock injuries. The MI DNR plans to continue cooperating with MI DA 
and other organizations to maintain the wolf depredation compensation 
program (Pat Lederle, MI DNR, pers. comm. 2004).
    The complete text of the Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota wolf 
plans, as well as our summaries of those plans, can be found on our Web 
site (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section above).

Regulatory Assurances in Other States and Tribal Areas Within the WGL 

North Dakota and South Dakota
    North Dakota lacks a State endangered species law or regulations. 
Any gray wolves in the State currently are classified as furbearers, 
with a closed season. If wolves in all or part of the State are 
Federally delisted, North Dakota Game and Fish Department is unlikely 
to change the species' State classification. Wolves are included in the 
State's July 2004 list of 100 Species of Conservation Concern as a 
``Level 3'' species. Level 3 species are those ``having a moderate 
level of conservation priority, but are believed to be peripheral or do 
not breed in North Dakota.'' Placement on this list gives species 
greater access to conservation funding, but does not afford any 
additional regulatory or legislative protection (Bicknell in litt. 
    Currently any wolves that may be in South Dakota are not State 
listed as threatened or endangered, nor is there a hunting or trapping 
season for them. If wolves are Federally delisted in all or part of 
South Dakota, they would fall under general protections afforded all 
State wildlife. These protections require specific provisions--seasons 
and regulations--be established prior to initiating any form of legal 
take. Thus, the State could choose to implement a hunting or trapping 
season; however, absent some definitive action to establish a season, 
wolves would remain protected. Once Federally delisted, any verified 
depredating wolves would likely be trapped and killed by the USDA-
APHIS-Wildlife Services program (Scott Larson, USFWS, Pierre, SD, in 
litt., 2005). Therefore, following Federal delisting, non-depredating 
wolves in North and South Dakota would continue to receive protection 
by the States' wildlife protection statutes unless specific action is 
taken to open a hunting or trapping season or otherwise remove existing 

Post-Delisting Depredation Control in North and South Dakota

    Since 1993, five incidents of verified wolf depredation have 
occurred in North Dakota, with the most recent occurring in September 
2003, and two more in December 2005. There have been no verified wolf 
depredations in South Dakota in recent decades. Upon Federal delisting 
it is likely that lethal control of a small number of depredating 
wolves will occur in one or both of these States. Lethal control of 
depredating wolves may have adverse impacts on the ability of wolves to 
occupy any small areas of suitable or marginally suitable habitat that 
may exist in the States. However, lethal control of depredating wolves 
in these two States will have no adverse affects on the long-term 
viability of wolf populations in the WGL DPS as a whole.
Other States in the Proposed DPS
    This proposed DPS includes the portion of Iowa that is north of 
Interstate Highway 80, which is approximately 60 percent of the State. 
The Iowa Natural Resource Commission currently lists gray wolves as 
furbearers, with a closed season (Daryl Howell, Iowa DNR, in litt. 
2005). If the State retains this listing following Federal delisting of 
this proposed DPS, wolves dispersing into northern Iowa will be 
protected by State law.
    The portion of Illinois that is north of Interstate Highway 80, 
less than one-fifth of the State, is included in this proposed DPS, and 
would be part of the geographic area where wolves are delisted and 
removed from Federal protection. Gray wolves are currently protected in 
Illinois as a threatened species under the Illinois Endangered Species 
Protection Act (520 ILCS 10). Thus, following Federal delisting, wolves 
dispersing into northern Illinois will continue to be protected from 
human take by State law.
    The extreme northern portions of Indiana and northwestern Ohio are 
included within this proposed DPS, and any wolves that are found in 
this area would not be federally protected under the Act. The State of 
Ohio classifies the gray wolf as ``extirpated,'' and there are no plans 
to reintroduce or recover the species in the State. The species lacks 
State protection, but State action is likely to apply some form of 
protection if wolves begin to disperse into the State (Caldwell, in 
litt. 2005). Indiana DNR lists the gray wolf as extirpated in the 
State, and the species would receive no State protection under this 
classification if Federal protection is removed. The only means to 
provide State protection would be to list them as State-endangered, but 
that is not likely to occur unless wolves become resident in Indiana 
(Scott Johnson, IN DNR, in litt. 2005 and 2006). Thus, Federally 
delisted wolves that might disperse into Indiana and Ohio would lack 
State protection there, unless these two States take specific action to 
provide new protections.
    Because the portions of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio within 
the WGL DPS do not contain suitable habitat or currently established 
packs, depredation control in these States will not affect the 
continued viability of the WGL DPS wolf populations.
Tribal Management and Protection of Gray Wolves
    Native American tribes and multi-tribal organizations have 
indicated to the Service that they will continue to conserve wolves on 
most, and probably all, Native American reservations in the core 
recovery areas of the WGL DPS. The wolf retains great cultural 
significance and traditional value to many Tribes and their members 
(additional discussion is found in Factor E), and to retain and 
strengthen cultural connections, many tribes oppose unnecessary killing 
of wolves on reservations and on ceded lands, even if wolves were to be 
delisted in the future (Eli Hunt, Leech Lake Tribal Council, in litt. 
1998; Mike Schrage, Fond du Lac Resource Management Division, in litt. 
1998a; James Schlender, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife 
Commission, in litt. 1998). Some Native Americans view wolves as 
competitors for deer and moose, whereas others are interested in 
harvesting wolves as furbearers (Schrage, in litt. 1998a). Many tribes 
intend to sustainably manage their natural resources, wolves among 
them, to ensure that they are available to their

[[Page 15298]]

descendants. Traditional natural resource harvest practices, however, 
often include only a minimum amount of regulation by the Tribal 
government (Hunt in litt. 1998).
    Although the Tribes with wolves that visit or reside on their 
reservations 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 after Federal delisting. The Service has 
recently provided the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians 
(Michigan) with a grant funding to develop a gray wolf monitoring and 
management plan. The Service has also awarded a grant to the Ho-Chunk 
Nation to identify wolf habitat on reservation lands.
    As a result of many past contacts with, and previous written 
comments from, the Midwestern Tribes and their off-reservation natural 
resource management agencies--the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife 
Commission (GLIFWC), the 1854 Authority, and the Chippewa Ottawa Treaty 
Authority (CORA)--it is clear that their predominant sentiment is 
strong support for the continued protection of wolves at a level that 
ensures that viable wolf populations remain on reservations and 
throughout the treaty-ceded lands surrounding the reservations. While 
several Tribes stated that their members may be interested in killing 
small numbers of wolves for spiritual or other purposes, this would be 
carried out in a manner that would not impact reservation or ceded 
territory wolf populations.
    The Tribal Council of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Ojibwe 
(Council) approved a resolution that describes the sport and 
recreational harvest of gray wolves as an inappropriate use of the 
animal. That resolution supports limited harvest of wolves to be used 
for traditional or spiritual uses by enrolled Tribal members if the 
harvest is done in a respectful manner and would not negatively affect 
the wolf population. The Council is revising the Reservation 
Conservation Code to allow Tribal members to harvest some wolves after 
Federal delisting (George Googgleye, Jr. Leech Lake Band Tribal Council 
Chairman, in litt. 2004). In 2005, the Leech Lake Reservation was home 
to an estimated 75 gray wolves, the largest population of wolves on a 
Native American reservation in the 48 conterminous States (Steve 
Mortensen, Leech Lake Reservation, pers. comm. 2006; Peter White, Leech 
Lake Tribal Council, in litt. 2003).
    The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians (Minnesota) has indicated 
that it is likely to develop a wolf management plan that will 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, DNR Director, Red 
Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, in litt. 1998). The Reservation 
currently has nine packs with an estimated 15-30 wolves within its 
boundaries (Jay Huseby, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, pers. comm.. 
    The Fond du Lac Band (Minnesota) believes that the ``well being of 
the wolf is intimately connected to the well being of the Chippewa 
People'' (Schrage in litt. 2003). In 1998, the Band 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, in litt. 2003). If this prohibition is rescinded, the Band's 
Resource Management Division will coordinate with State and Federal 
agencies to ensure that any wolf hunting or trapping would be 
``conducted in a biologically sustainable manner'' (Schrage in litt. 
    The Red Cliff Band (Wisconsin) strongly opposes State and Federal 
delisting of the gray wolf. Current Tribal law protects gray wolves 
from harvest, although harvest for ceremonial purposes would likely be 
permitted after delisting (Matt Symbal, Red Cliff Natural Resources 
Department, in litt. 2003).
    The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (Michigan) will continue to list 
the gray wolf as a protected animal under the Tribal Code even if it is 
Federally delisted, with hunting and trapping prohibited (Mike 
Donofrio, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Biological Services, pers. 
comm. 1998). Furthermore, the Keweenaw Bay Community plans to develop a 
Protected Animal Ordinance that will address gray wolves (Donofrio in 
litt. 2003).
    While we have not received any past written comments from the 
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, the Tribe has shown a great deal 
of interest in wolf recovery and protection in recent years. In 2002 
the Tribe offered their Reservation lands as a site for translocating 
seven depredating wolves that had been trapped by WI DNR and Wildlife 
Services. Tribal natural resources staff participated in the soft 
release of the wolves on the Reservation and helped with the subsequent 
radio-tracking of the wolves. Although by early 2005 the last of these 
wolves died on the reservation, the tribal conservation department 
continues to monitor another pair that has moved onto the Reservation, 
as well as other wolves near the reservation (Wydeven in litt. 2006).
    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 Federal 
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 and Chingwa in litt. 2000). At the request of the 
Bad River Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, we are currently 
working with their Natural Resource Department and WI DNR to develop a 
wolf management agreement for lands adjacent to the Bad River 
Reservation. The Tribe's goal is to reduce the threats to reservation 
wolf packs when they are temporarily off the reservation. Other Tribes 
have expressed interest in such an agreement. If this and similar 
agreements are implemented, they will provide additional protection to 
certain wolf packs in the midwestern United States.
    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 core areas, and will not 
develop a separate wolf management plan (Schlender in litt. 1998). 
Furthermore, the Voigt Intertribal Task Force of GLIFWC has expressed 
its support for strong protections for the wolf, stating `` [delisting] 
hinges on whether wolves are sufficiently restored and will be 
sufficiently protected to ensure a healthy and abundant future for our 
brother and ourselves'' (Schlender, in litt. 2004).
    According to the 1854 Authority, ``attitudes toward wolf management 
in the 1854 Ceded Territory run the gamut from a desire to see total 
protection to unlimited harvest opportunity.'' However, the 1854 
Authority would not ``implement a harvest system that would have any 
long-term negative impacts to wolf populations'' (Andrew Edwards, 1854 
Authority Biological Services, in litt. 2003). In comments submitted 
for our 2004 delisting proposal for a larger Eastern DPS of the gray 
wolf, the 1854 Authority stated that the Authority does not have a wolf 
management plan for the 1854 Ceded Territory, but is ``confident that 
under the control of state and tribal management, wolves

[[Page 15299]]

will continue to exist at a self-sustaining level in the 1854 Ceded 
Territory * * * Sustainable populations of wolves, their prey and other 
resources within the 1854 Ceded Territory are goals to which the 1854 
Authority remains committed. As such, we intend to work with the State 
of Minnesota and other tribes to ensure successful state and tribal 
management of healthy wolf populations in the 1854 Ceded Territory'' 
(Sonny Myers, Executive Director, 1854 Authority, in litt. 2004).
    While there are few written Tribal protections currently in place 
for gray wolves, the highly protective and reverential attitudes that 
have been expressed by Tribal authorities and members have assured us 
that any post-delisting harvest of reservation wolves would be very 
limited and would not adversely impact the delisted wolf populations. 
Furthermore, any off-reservation harvest of wolves by Tribal members in 
the ceded territories would be limited to a portion of the harvestable 
surplus at some future time. Such a harvestable surplus would be 
determined and monitored jointly by State and Tribal biologists, and 
would be conducted in coordination with the Service and the Bureau of 
Indian Affairs, as is being successfully done for the ceded territory 
harvest of inland and Great Lakes fish, deer, bear, moose, and 
furbearers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Therefore, we 
conclude that any future Native American take of delisted wolves will 
not significantly impact the viability of the wolf population, either 
locally or across the WGL DPS.
Federal Lands
    The five national forests with resident wolves (Superior, Chippewa, 
Chequamegon-Nicolet, Ottawa, and Hiawatha National Forests) in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are all operating in conformance 
with standards and guidelines in their management plans that follow the 
1992 Recovery Plan's recommendations for the Eastern Timber Wolf (USFWS 
1992). Delisting is not expected to lead to an immediate change in 
these standards and guidelines; in fact, the Regional Forester for U.S. 
Forest Service Region 9 is expected to maintain the classification of 
the gray wolf as a Regional Forester Sensitive Species for at least 5 
years after Federal delisting (Randy Moore, Regional Forester, U.S. 
Forest Service, in litt. 2003). Under these standards and guidelines, a 
relatively high prey base will be maintained, and road densities will 
be limited to current levels or decreased. On the Chequamegon-Nicolet 
National Forest, the standards and guidelines specifically include the 
protection of den sites and key rendezvous sites, in agreement with the 
WI Wolf Recovery Plan. The trapping of depredating wolves would likely 
be allowed on national forest lands under the guidelines and conditions 
specified in the respective State wolf management plans. However, there 
are relatively few livestock raised within the boundaries of national 
forests, so wolf depredation and lethal control of wolves is not likely 
to be a frequent occurrence, nor constitute a significant mortality 
factor, for the national forest wolf populations. Similarly, in keeping 
with the practice for other State-managed game species, any public 
hunting or trapping season for wolves that might be opened in the 
future by the States would likely include hunting and trapping within 
the national forests (Ed Lindquist, Superior NF, in litt. 11/18/05; 
Alan Williamson, Chippewa NF, in litt. 11/17/05; Kirk Piehler, Hiawatha 
NF, in litt. 11/23/05; Robert Evans, Ottawa NF, in litt. 11/21/05). The 
continuation of current national forest management practices will be 
important 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 WGL DPS 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 States' plans. Instead, the NPS Organic Act and the 
NPS Management Policy on Wildlife generally require the agency to 
conserve natural and cultural resources and the wildlife present within 
the parks. Generally, National Park Service management policies require 
that native species be protected against harvest, removal, destruction, 
harassment, or harm through human action, although certain parks may 
allow some harvest in accordance with State management plans. 
Management emphasis in National Parks after delisting would continue to 
minimize the human impacts on wolf populations. Thus, because of their 
responsibility to preserve all native wildlife, units of the National 
Park System are often 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 even after Federal 
delisting has occurred.
    Management and protection of wolves in Voyageurs National Park, 
along Minnesota's northern border is not likely to change after 
delisting. The park's management policies require that ``native animals 
will be protected against harvest, removal, destruction, harassment, or 
harm through human action.'' No population targets for wolves will be 
established for the NP (Holbeck, in litt. 2005). To reduce human 
disturbance, temporary closures around wolf denning and rendezvous 
sites will be enacted whenever they are discovered in the park. Sport 
hunting will continue to be prohibited on park lands, regardless of 
what may be allowed beyond park boundaries (Barbara West, National Park 
Service, in litt. 2004). A radiotelemetry study conducted between 1987-
91 of wolves living in and adjacent to the park found that all 
mortality inside the park was due to natural causes (e.g., killing by 
other wolves), whereas all mortality outside the park was human-induced 
(e.g., shooting and trapping) (Gogan et al. 1997). If there is a need 
to control depredating wolves outside the park, which seems unlikely 
due to the current absence of agricultural activities adjacent to the 
park, the park would work with the State to conduct control activities 
where necessary (West in litt. 2004).
    The wolf population in Isle Royale National Park is described above 
(see Recovery of the Gray Wolf in the Western Great Lakes). The NPS has 
indicated that it will continue to closely monitor and study these 
wolves. This wolf population is very small and isolated from the other 
WGL DPS gray wolf populations; it is not considered to be significant 
to the recovery or long-term viability of the gray wolf (USFWS 1992).
    Two other units of the National Park System, Pictured Rocks 
National Lakeshore and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, are 
regularly used by wolves. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a narrow 
strip of land along Michigan's Lake Superior shoreline. Lone wolves 
periodically use, but do not appear to be year-round residents of, the 
Lakeshore. If denning occurs after delisting, the Lakeshore would 
protect denning and rendezvous sites at least as strictly as the MI 
Plan recommends (Karen Gustin, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, in 
litt. 2003). Harvesting wolves on the Lakeshore may be allowed (i.e., 
if the Michigan DNR allows for harvest in the State), but trapping 
would continue to be prohibited. The St. Croix National Scenic 
Riverway, in Wisconsin and Minnesota, is also a mostly linear 
ownership. At least 18 wolves from 6 packs use the Riverway. The 
Riverway is likely to limit public access to denning and rendezvous 
sites and to follow other management and protective

[[Page 15300]]

practices outlined in the respective State wolf management plans, 
although trapping is not allowed on NPS lands except possibly by Native 
Americans (Robin Maercklein, National Park Service, in litt. 2003).
    Gray wolves occurring on NWRs in the WGL DPS will be monitored, and 
refuge habitat management will maintain the current prey base for them 
for a minimum of 5 years after delisting. Trapping or hunting by 
government trappers for depredation control will not be authorized on 
NWRs. Because of the relatively small size of these NWRs, however, most 
or all of these packs and individual wolves also spend significant 
amounts of time off of these NWRs.
    Gray wolves also occupy the Fort McCoy military installation in 
Wisconsin. In 2003, one pack containing five adult wolves occupied a 
territory that included the majority of the installation; in 2004, the 
installation had one pack with two adults. Management and protection of 
wolves on the installation will not change significantly after Federal 
and/or State delisting. Den and rendezvous sites would continue to be 
protected, hunting seasons for other species (i.e. coyote) would be 
closed during the gun-deer season, and current surveys would continue, 
if resources are available. Fort McCoy has no plans to allow a public 
harvest of wolves on the installation (Danny Nobles, Department of the 
Army, in litt. 2004).
    The protection afforded to resident and transient wolves, their den 
and rendezvous sites, and their prey by five national forests, four 
National Parks, and numerous National Wildlife Refuges in Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, and Michigan would further ensure the conservation of wolves 
in the three States after delisting. In addition, wolves that disperse 
to other units of the National Refuge System or the National Park 
System within the WGL DPS will also receive the protection afforded by 
these Federal agencies. However, because these additional lands will 
only afford small islands of protection, suitable habitat, and adequate 
wild prey, they will not contribute significantly to maintaining a 
viable wolf population in the WGL DPS.
    In summary, following Federal delisting of gray wolves in the WGL 
DPS, there will be varying State and Tribal classifications and 
protections provided to wolves. The wolf management plans currently in 
place for Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will be more than 
sufficient to retain viable wolf populations in each State that are 
above the Federal recovery criteria for wolf metapopulation subunits, 
and even for three completely isolated wolf populations. These State 
plans provide a very high level of assurance that wolf populations in 
these three States will not approach nonviable levels in the 
foreseeable future. Furthermore, current work on updating and revising 
the Wisconsin and Michigan plans, respectively, is being conducted in a 
manner that will not reduce the States' commitments to maintain viable 
wolf populations after Federal delisting. While these State plans 
recognize there may be a need to control or even reduce wolf 
populations at some future time, none of the plans include a public 
harvest of wolves.
    If delisted, most wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will 
continue to receive protection from general human persecution by State 
laws and regulations. Michigan has met the criteria established in 
their management plan for State delisting and, during that delisting 
process, intends to amend the Wildlife Conservation Order to grant 
``protected animal'' status to the gray wolf. That status would 
``prohibit take, establish penalties and restitution for violations of 
the Order, and detail conditions under which lethal depredation control 
measures could be implemented'' (Rebecca Humphries, MI DNR, in litt. 
2004). Following State delisting in Wisconsin, the wolf will be 
classified as a ``protected wild animal,'' with protections that 
provide for fines of $1,000 to $2,000 for unlawful hunting. Minnesota 
DNR will consider population management measures, including public 
hunting and trapping, but not sooner than 5 years after Federal 
delisting (MN DNR 2001). In the meantime, wolves in Zone A could only 
be legally taken in Minnesota for depredation management or public 
safety, and Minnesota plans to increase its capability to enforce laws 
against take of wolves (MN DNR 2001).
    Other States within the DPS either currently have mechanisms in 
place to kill depredating wolves (North Dakota and South Dakota) or can 
be expected to develop mechanisms following Federal delisting of the 
DPS, in order to deal with wolf-livestock conflicts in areas where wolf 
protection is no longer imposed by the Act. Aside from this change, 
wolves are likely to remain otherwise protected by various State 
designations in these portions of the proposed DPS for the immediate 
future, except for the very small portions of Indiana and Ohio within 
the DPS. Because none of these States has sufficient habitat within the 
DPS boundary to restore wolves, it is possible that most, or all, of 
these six States will eventually reduce or eliminate protections for 
gray wolves in the Federally delisted area. However, because these 
States constitute only about one-third of the land area within the 
proposed DPS, and contain virtually no suitable habitat of sufficient 
size to host viable gray wolf populations within the DPS, it is clear 
that even complete protection for gray wolves in these areas would not 
provide any significant benefits to wolf recovery in the DPS, nor to 
the long-term viability of the recovered populations that currently 
reside in the DPS. Therefore, although current and potential future 
regulatory mechanisms may allow the killing of gray wolves in these six 
states, these threats, and the area in which they would be manifest, 
will not significantly impact the recovered wolf populations in the DPS 
now or in the foreseeable future.
    Finally, although to our knowledge no Tribes have completed wolf 
management plans at this time, based on communications with Tribes and 
Tribal organizations, wolves are very likely to be adequately protected 
on Tribal lands. Furthermore, the numerical recovery criteria in the 
Federal Recovery Plan would be achieved and maintained (based on the 
population and range of off-reservation wolves) even without Tribal 
protection of wolves on reservation lands. In addition, on the basis of 
information received from other Federal land management agencies in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, we expect National Forests, units 
of the National Park System, and National Wildlife Refuges will provide 
protections to gray wolves after delisting that will match, and in some 
will cases exceed, the protections provided by State wolf management 
plans and State protective regulations.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

Taking of Wolves by Native Americans for Religious, Spiritual, or 
Traditional Cultural Purposes
    As noted elsewhere in this proposal, the wolf has great 
significance to many Native Americans in the Western Great Lakes area, 
especially to Wolf Clan members, and has a central role in their 
creation stories. The wolf, Ma''ingan, is viewed as a brother to the 
Anishinaabe people, and their fates are believed to be linked. 
Ma''ingan is a key element in many of their beliefs, traditions, and 
ceremonies, and wolf pack systems are used as a model for Anishinaabe 
families and communities. We are not aware of any takings of wolves in 
the Midwest for use in these traditions or ceremonies while the wolf 
has been

[[Page 15301]]

listed as a threatened or endangered species. While wolves have been 
listed as threatened in Minnesota, we have instructed Wildlife Services 
to provide, upon request, gray wolf pelts and other parts from wolves 
killed during depredation control actions to Tribes in order to 
partially serve these traditional needs.
    Some Tribal representatives, as well as the Great Lakes Indian Fish 
and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), have indicated that following 
delisting there is likely to be some interest in the taking of small 
numbers of wolves for traditional ceremonies (George King, Red Lake 
Band of Chippewa Indians, in litt. 2003; Peter White, Leech Lake Band 
of Ojibwe, in litt. 2003). This take could occur on reservation lands 
where it could be closely regulated by a Tribe to ensure that it does 
not affect the viability of the reservation wolf population. Such 
takings might also occur on off-reservation treaty lands on which 
certain Tribes retained hunting, fishing, and gathering rights when the 
land was ceded to the Federal government. Native American taking of 
wolves from ceded lands would only be done as part of a harvestable 
surplus of wolves that is established by the States in coordination 
with the Tribes. Such taking will not occur until such time as a 
harvestable surplus has been documented based on biological data, and 
regulations and monitoring have been established by the States and 
Tribes to ensure a harvest can be carried out in a manner that ensures 
the continued viability of the wolf population in that State.
    If requested by the Tribes, multitribal natural resource agencies, 
and/or the States, the Service or other appropriate Federal agencies 
will work with these parties to help determine if a harvestable surplus 
exists, and if so, to assist in devising reasonable and appropriate 
methods and levels of harvest for delisted wolves for traditional 
cultural purposes.
Public Attitudes Toward the Gray Wolf
    An important 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, wolf traditions of Native American 
tribes, and other factors.
    We have seen indications of a change in public attitudes toward the 
wolf over the last few decades. Public attitude 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 1999). In Michigan, a 
public attitude survey was conducted in 2002, to identify attitude 
changes that had occurred between the time there were only about 10 
wolves in the UP to the current wolf population of about 278 on the UP. 
This survey suggested that the majority of Michigan residents still 
support wolf recovery efforts. However, Upper Peninsula residents' 
support for wolf recovery has declined substantially since the 1990 
Kellert survey (Mertig 2004). At the same time, respondents from across 
the State have increased their support for killing individual problem 
wolves; support for lethal control of problem wolves ranges from 70 
percent in the Southern Lower Peninsula to 85 percent in the UP (Mertig 
    It is unclear whether increased flexibility of depredation control 
after delisting would affect public attitudes towards wolves (i.e., 
decrease opposition to the local presence of wolves), due to the strong 
influence of other factors. A survey of 535 rural Wisconsin residents, 
for example, found that attitudes towards wolves were largely dependent 
on social group, and persons who were compensated for losses to wolves 
were not more tolerant of wolf presence than those who were refused 
compensation for reported losses (Naughton-Treves et al. 2003). 
Although social group was the overriding factor in determining 
tolerance for wolves, previous history with depredation also negatively 
affected tolerance; persons who had lost an animal to a wolf or other 
predator were less tolerant of wolves (Naughton-Treves et al. 2003). 
However, the survey did not directly address the question of whether 
control of problem wolves affected or changed individual attitudes 
toward wolves or local wolf presence. In an analysis of data collected 
in 37 surveys of public attitudes toward wolves on three continents, 
Williams et al. (2002) found that hunters and trappers had 
significantly more positive attitudes towards wolves than farmers and 
ranchers. In Wisconsin, however, where bear hunters have lost hounds to 
wolves, they were clearly less tolerant of wolves than livestock 
producers (Naughton-Treves et al. 2003). In addition to social group 
and previous losses of animals to wolves or other predators, education 
level, gender, age, rural residence, and income have all been found to 
influence attitudes towards wolves (Williams et al. 2002). Williams et 
al. (2002) also suggests that attitudes of individuals may not be 
changing, but the attitudes of various segments of society may change 
as their older cohorts are replaced by others whose attitudes were 
created during a time when public attitudes were generally more 
positive toward wolves.
    The Minnesota DNR recognizes that to maintain public support for 
wolf conservation it must work to ensure that people are well informed 
about wolves and wolf management in the State. Therefore, MN DNR plans 
to provide ``timely and accurate information about wolves to the 
public, to support and facilitate wolf education programs, and to 
encourage wolf ecotourism,'' among other activities (MN DNR 2001). 
Similarly, the Wisconsin and Michigan wolf management plans emphasize 
the need for long-term cooperative efforts with private educational and 
environmental groups to develop and distribute educational and 
informational materials and programs for public use (MI DNR 1997, WI 
DNR 1999). We fully expect organizations such as the International Wolf 
Center (Ely, MN), the Timber Wolf Alliance (Ashland, WI), Timber Wolf 
Information Network (Waupaca, WI), the Wildlife Science Center (Forest 
Lake, MN), and other organizations to continue to provide educational 
materials and experiences with wolves far into the future, regardless 
of the Federal status of wolves.
Summary of Our Five-Factor Analysis of Potential Threats
    As required by the ESA, we considered the five potential threat 
factors to assess whether wolves are threatened or endangered 
throughout all or a significant portion of their range in the WGL DPS 
and therefore, whether the WGL DPS should be listed as threatened or 
endangered. In regard to the WGL DPS, a significant portion of the 
wolf's range is an area that is important or necessary for maintaining 
a viable, self-sustaining, and evolving representative meta-population 
in order for the WGL DPS to persist for the foreseeable future. While 
wolves historically occurred over most of the proposed DPS, large 
portions of this area are no longer able to support viable wolf 
populations, and the wolf

[[Page 15302]]

population in the WGL DPS will remain centered in Minnesota, Michigan, 
and Wisconsin.
    While we recognize that gray wolves in the WGL DPS do not occupy 
all portions of their historical range, including some potentially 
suitable areas with low road and human density and a healthy prey base 
within the WGL DPS, wolves in this DPS no longer meet the definition of 
a threatened or endangered species. Although there may have been 
historic habitat, many of these areas are no longer suitable and are 
not important or necessary for maintaining a viable, self-sustaining, 
and evolving representative wolf population in the WGL DPS into the 
foreseeable future, and are not a significant portion of the range of 
the WGL DPS. We have based our determinations on the current status of, 
and future threats likely to be faced by, existing wolf populations 
within the WGL DPS.
    The number of wolves in the WGL DPS greatly exceeds the recovery 
criteria (USFWS 1992) for (1) a secure wolf population in Minnesota, 
and (2) a second population of 100 wolves for 5 successive years. Thus, 
based on the criteria set by the Eastern Wolf Recovery Team in 1992, 
the DPS contains sufficient wolf numbers and distribution to ensure 
their long-term survival within the DPS. The maintenance and expansion 
of the Minnesota wolf population has maximized the genetic diversity 
that remained in the WGL DPS when its wolves were first protected in 
1974. Furthermore, the Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population has even 
achieved the numerical recovery criteria for an isolated population. 
Therefore, even if this two-State population was to become totally 
isolated and wolf immigration from Minnesota or Ontario ceased, it 
would still remain a viable population for the foreseeable future. 
Finally, the wolf populations in Wisconsin and Michigan each have 
separately exceeded 200 animals for 7 and 6 years respectively, so if 
they each somehow were to become isolated, they are already above 
viable population levels, and each State has committed to manage its 
wolf population at 200 wolves or above. The wolf's numeric and 
distributional recovery in the WGL DPS clearly has been achieved and 
greatly exceeded. The wolf's recovery in numbers and distribution in 
the WGL DPS, together with the status of the threats that remain to, 
and are likely to be experienced by, the wolf within the DPS, indicates 
that the gray wolf is not likely to be in danger of extinction, nor 
likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the DPS.
    Post-delisting wolf protection, management, and population and 
health monitoring by the States, Tribes, and Federal land management 
agencies--especially in Minnesota Zone A, Wisconsin Zone 1, and across 
the Upper Peninsula of Michigan--would ensure the continuation of 
viable wolf populations above the Federal recovery criteria for the 
foreseeable future. Post-delisting threats to wolves in Zone B in 
Minnesota, Zones 3 and 4 in Wisconsin, and in the Lower Peninsula of 
Michigan would be more substantial, and may preclude the establishment 
of wolf packs in most or all of these areas. Similarly, the lack of 
sufficient areas of suitable habitat and weaker post-delisting 
protections in those parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, 
Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio that are within the WGL DPS are expected to 
preclude the establishment of viable populations in these areas, 
although dispersing wolves and packs may temporarily occur in some of 
these areas. However, wolf numbers in these areas will have no impact 
on the continued viability of the recovered wolf metapopulation in 
Minnesota Zone A, Wisconsin Zone 1, and the Upper Peninsula of 
Michigan. Reasonably foreseeable threats to wolves in all parts of the 
WGL DPS are not likely to threaten wolf population viability in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the 
foreseeable future.
    In summary, we find that the threat of habitat destruction or 
degradation or a reduction in the range of the gray wolf; 
overutilization by humans; disease, parasites, or predatory actions by 
other animals or humans; inadequate regulatory measures by State, 
Tribal, and Federal agencies; or other threats will not individually or 
in combination be likely to cause the WGL DPS of the gray wolf to be in 
danger of extinction in the foreseeable future. Ongoing effects of 
recovery efforts over the past decade, which resulted in a significant 
expansion of the occupied range of wolves in the WGL DPS, in 
conjunction with future State, Tribal, and Federal agency wolf 
management across that occupied range, will be adequate to ensure the 
conservation of the WGL DPS. These activities will maintain an adequate 
prey base, preserve denning and rendezvous sites and dispersal 
corridors, monitor disease, restrict human take, and keep wolf 
populations well above the numerical recovery criteria established in 
the Federal Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf (USFWS 1992).
    After a thorough review of all available information and an 
evaluation of the previous five factors specified in section 4(a)(1) of 
the Act, as well as consideration of the definitions of ``threatened'' 
and ``endangered'' contained in the Act and the reasons for delisting 
as specified in 50 CFR 424.11(d), we conclude that removing the WGL DPS 
from the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (50 CFR 17.11) is 
appropriate. Gray wolves have recovered in the WGL DPS as a result of 
the reduction of threats as described in the analysis of the five 
categories of threats.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the ESA 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 ESA 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.

Effects of the Rule

    If finalized, this rule would remove the protections of the Act 
from the WGL DPS. The protections of the Act would still continue to 
apply to the gray wolves outside the WGL DPS, where appropriate.
    This proposal, if finalized, would remove the special regulations 
under section 4(d) of the Act for wolves in Minnesota. These 
regulations currently are found at 50 CFR 17.40(d).
    Critical habitat was designated for the gray wolf in 1978 (43 FR 
9607, March 9, 1978). That rule (codified at 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 25,500 km\2\ (9,845 mi\2\) in northeastern and 
northcentral Minnesota. This proposed rule, if finalized, would remove 
the designation of critical habitat for gray wolves in Minnesota and on 
Isle Royale, Michigan.
    This notice does not apply to the listing or protection of the red 
wolf (Canis rufus) or change the regulations for the three non-
essential experimental populations. It is important to note that the 
protections of the gray wolf under

[[Page 15303]]

the Act do not extend to gray wolf-dog hybrids.

Post-Delisting Monitoring

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act, added in the 1988 reauthorization, 
requires us to implement a system, in cooperation with the States, to 
monitor for not less than 5 years the status of all species that have 
recovered and been removed from the Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants (50 CFR 17.11 and 17.12). The purpose of this post-
delisting monitoring (PDM) is to verify that a species delisted due to 
recovery remains secure from risk of extinction after it no longer has 
the protections of the Act. To do this, PDM generally focuses on 
evaluating (1) demographic characteristics of the species, (2) threats 
to the species, and (3) implementation of legal and/or management 
commitments that have been identified as important in reducing threats 
to the species or maintaining threats at sufficiently low levels. We 
are to make prompt use of the emergency listing authorities under 
section 4(b)(7) of the Act to prevent a significant risk to the well-
being of any recovered species. Section 4(g) of the Act explicitly 
requires cooperation with the States in development and implementation 
of PDM programs, but we remain responsible for compliance with section 
4(g) and, therefore, must remain actively engaged in all phases of PDM. 
We also will seek active participation of other entities that are 
expected to assume responsibilities for the species' conservation, 
after delisting.
    We are developing a PDM plan for the gray wolves in the WGL DPS 
with the assistance of the Eastern Gray Wolf Recovery Team. Once 
completed, we will make that document available on our web site (See 
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). At this time, we anticipate 
the PDM program will be a continuation of State monitoring activities 
similar to those which have been conducted by Minnesota, Wisconsin, and 
Michigan DNR's in recent years. These States comprise the core recovery 
areas within the DPS and were the only States with numerical recovery 
criteria in the Recovery Plan (USFWS 1992). These activities will 
include both population monitoring and health monitoring of individual 
wolves. During the PDM period, the Service and the Recovery Team 
annually will conduct a review of the monitoring data and program. We 
will consider various relevant factors (including but not limited to 
mortality rates, population changes and rates of change, disease 
occurrence, range expansion or contraction) to determine if the 
population of gray wolves within the DPS warrants expanded monitoring, 
additional research, consideration for relisting as threatened or 
endangered, or emergency listing.
    Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan DNRs have monitored wolves for 
several decades with significant assistance from numerous partners, 
including the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, USDA-APHIS--
Wildlife Services, Tribal natural resource agencies, and the Service. 
To maximize comparability of future PDM data with data obtained before 
delisting, all three State DNRs have committed to continue their 
previous wolf population monitoring methodology, or will make changes 
to that methodology only if those changes will not reduce the 
comparability of pre- and post-delisting data.
    In addition to monitoring population numbers and trends, the PDM 
will evaluate post-delisting threats, in particular human-caused 
mortality, disease, and implementation of legal and management 
commitments. If at any time during the monitoring period we detect a 
significant downward change in the populations or an increase in 
threats to the degree that population viability may be threatened, we 
will evaluate and change (intensify, extend, and/or otherwise improve) 
the monitoring methods, if appropriate, and/or consider relisting the 
WGL DPS, if warranted. Changes to the monitoring methods, for example, 
might include increased emphasis on a potentially important threat or a 
particular geographic area. At the end of the monitoring period, we 
will decide if relisting, continued monitoring, or ending monitoring is 
appropriate. If data show a significant population decline or increased 
threats, but not to the level that relisting is warranted, we will 
consider continuing monitoring beyond the specified period and may 
modify the monitoring program based on an evaluation of the results of 
the initial monitoring.
    We anticipate that this Service monitoring program will extend for 
5 years beyond the delisting date of the DPS. At the end of the 5-year 
period we and the Recovery Team will conduct another review and post 
the results on our web site. In addition to the above considerations, 
that review will determine whether the PDM program should be terminated 
or extended.

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, comments, new 
information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested party concerning this proposed rule are hereby solicited. 
Comments particularly are sought concerning:
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any current or likely future threat, or lack thereof, to gray wolves in 
the WGL DPS;
    (2) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, population trends, and threats with respect to gray 
wolves in the WGL DPS;
    (3) Current or planned activities in the WGL DPS and their possible 
impacts on the gray wolf and its habitat;
    (4) Information concerning the adequacy of the recovery criteria 
described in the 1992 Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf;
    (5) The extent and adequacy of Federal, State, and Tribal 
protection and management that would be provided to the gray wolf in 
the WGL DPS as a delisted species; and
    (6) The proposed geographic boundaries of the WGL DPS, and 
scientific and legal supporting information for alternative boundaries 
that might result in a larger or smaller DPS, and including information 
on the discreteness and significance of the proposed and alternative 
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and materials 
concerning this proposal by any one of several methods (see ADDRESSES 
section). Please submit Internet e-mail comments without any form or 
encryption and avoid the use of special characters. Please include 
``WGL Gray Wolf Delisting; RIN 1018-AU54'' in your e-mail subject 
header and your name and return address in the body of your message. 
Note that the Internet e-mail address for submitting comments will be 
closed at the termination of the public comment period.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review. Individual 
respondents may request that we withhold their home addresses from the 
rulemaking record, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. 
There also may be circumstances in which we may withhold from the 
rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you 
wish us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this 
prominently at the beginning of your comment. We will not consider 
anonymous comments, however. We will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available

[[Page 15304]]

for public inspection in their entirety. We anticipate a large public 
response to this proposed rule. After the comment period closes, we 
will organize the comments and materials received and make them 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the following Ecological Services offices:

 Twin Cities, Minnesota Ecological Services Field Office, 4101 
E. 80th Street, Bloomington, MN; 612-725-3548
 Green Bay, Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office, 2661 
Scott Tower Dr., New Franken, WI; 920-866-1717
 East Lansing, Michigan Ecological Services Field Office, 2651 
Coolidge Road, Suite 101, East Lansing, MI; 517-351-2555

    We will consider all comments and information received during the 
comment period on this proposed rule during preparation of a final 
rulemaking. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this 

Public Hearings

    The ESA provides for public hearings on this proposed rule. We have 
scheduled four public hearings on this proposed rule as specified above 
    Public hearings are designed to gather relevant information that 
the public may have that we should consider in our rulemaking. Before 
each hearing, we will hold an informational meeting to present 
information about the proposed action. During the hearing, we invite 
the public to submit information and comments. Interested persons may 
also submit information and comments in writing during the open public 
comment period. We encourage persons wishing to comment at the hearing 
to provide a written copy of their statement at the start of the 
hearing. Public hearings will allow all interested parties to submit 
comments on the proposed rule for the gray wolf.

Peer Review

    In accordance with the December 16, 2004, Office of Management and 
Budget's ``Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review,'' we 
will obtain comments from at least three independent scientific 
reviewers regarding the scientific data and interpretations contained 
in this proposed rule. The purpose of such review is to ensure that our 
delisting proposal provides to the public, and our delisting decision 
is based on, scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We 
have posted our proposed peer review plan on our web site at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Science/.
 Public comments on our peer review were 

obtained through March 11, 2006, after which we finalized our peer 
review plan and selected peer reviewers. We will provide those 
reviewers with copies of this proposal as well as the data used in the 
proposal. Peer reviewer comments that are received during the public 
comment period will be considered as we make our final decision on this 
proposal, and substantive peer reviewer comments will be specifically 
discussed in the final rule.

Required Determinations

Clarity of the Rule

    Executive Order 12866 requires agencies to write regulations that 
are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make this 
proposal easier to understand including answers to questions such as 
the following: (1) Is the discussion in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section of the preamble helpful to your understanding of the proposal? 
(2) Does the proposal contain technical language or jargon that 
interferes with its clarity? (3) Does the format of the proposal 
(groupings and order of sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) 
aid or reduce its clarity? What else could we do to make the proposal 
easier to understand? Send a copy of any comments on how we could make 
this rule easier to understand to: Office of Regulatory Affairs, 
Department of the Interior, Room 7229, 1849 C. Street, NW., Washington, 
DC 20240. You may also e-mail the comments to this address: 

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an Environmental Assessment or an 
Environmental Impact Statement, 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. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination 
in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320 
implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et 
seq.). The OMB regulations at 5 CFR 1320.3(c) define a collection of 
information as the obtaining of information by or for an agency by 
means of identical questions posed to, or identical reporting, 
recordkeeping, or disclosure requirements imposed on, 10 or more 
persons. Furthermore, 5 CFR 1320.3(c)(4) specifies that ``ten or more 
persons'' refers to the persons to whom a collection of information is 
addressed by the agency within any 12-month period. For purposes of 
this definition, employees of the Federal Government are not included. 
The Service may not conduct or sponsor, and you are not required to 
respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently 
valid OMB control number.
    This rule does not include any collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. As proposed 
under the Post-delisting Monitoring section above, gray wolf 
populations in the Western Great Lakes DPS will be monitored by the 
States of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in accordance with their 
gray wolf State management plans. There may also be additional 
voluntary monitoring activities conducted by a small number of tribes 
in these three States. We do not anticipate a need to request data or 
other information from 10 or more persons during any 12-month period to 
satisfy monitoring information needs. If it becomes necessary to 
collect information from 10 or more non-Federal individuals, groups, or 
organizations per year, we will first obtain information collection 
approval from OMB.

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 agencies to prepare Statements of 
Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. As this proposed rule 
is not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, 
or use, this action is not a significant energy action and no Statement 
of Energy Effects is required.

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 
are coordinating this proposed rule with the affected Tribes. 
Throughout several years of development of earlier related rules and 
this proposed rule, we have endeavored to consult with Native American 
tribes and Native American organizations in order to both (1) provide 
them with a complete

[[Page 15305]]

understanding of the proposed changes, and (2) to understand their 
concerns with those changes. We will conduct additional consultations 
with Native American tribes and multitribal organizations subsequent to 
this publication. We will fully consider all of their comments on this 
proposal submitted during the public comment period and will attempt to 
address those concerns to the extent allowed by the Act, the 
Administrative Procedure Act, and other applicable Federal statutes.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this document is 
available upon request from the Ft. Snelling, Minnesota, Regional 
Office and is posted on our Web site (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT section above).


    The primary author of this rule is Ronald L. Refsnider, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Ft. Snelling, Minnesota, Regional Office (see FOR 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we hereby propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth 


    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. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by revising the entry for ``Wolf, gray'' 
under ``MAMMALS'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to 
read as follows:

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

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

                                                                      * * * * * * *
Wolf, gray.............  Canis lupus................  Holarctic................  U.S.A., conterminous    E               1, 6, 13,         NA       N/A.
                                                                                  (lower 48) States,                       15, 35,
                                                                                  except: (1) Where                      561, 562,
                                                                                  listed as an                            631, 745
                                                                                  population below, and
                                                                                  (2) Minnesota,
                                                                                  Wisconsin, Michigan,
                                                                                  eastern North Dakota
                                                                                  (that portion north
                                                                                  and east of the
                                                                                  Missouri River
                                                                                  upstream to Lake
                                                                                  Sakakawea and east of
                                                                                  Highway 83 from Lake
                                                                                  Sakakawea to the
                                                                                  Canadian border),
                                                                                  eastern South Dakota
                                                                                  (that portion north
                                                                                  and east of the
                                                                                  Missouri River),
                                                                                  northern Iowa,
                                                                                  northern Illinois,
                                                                                  and northern Indiana
                                                                                  (those portions of
                                                                                  IA, IL, and IN north
                                                                                  of Interstate Highway
                                                                                  80), and northwestern
                                                                                  Ohio (that portion
                                                                                  north of Interstate
                                                                                  Highway 80 and west
                                                                                  of the Maumee River
                                                                                  at Toledo); Mexico.
Do.....................  do.........................  do.......................  U.S.A. (WY and          XN              561, 562,         NA  17.84(i).
                                                                                  portions of ID and                           745             17.84(n).
                                                                                  MT--see 17.84(i) and
Do.....................  do.........................  do.......................  U.S.A. (portions of     XN                    631        N/A  17.84(k).
                                                                                  AZ, NM, and TX--see

                                                                      * * * * * * *

* * * * *

Sec.  17.40  [Amended]

    3. Amend Sec.  17.40 by removing and reserving paragraph (d).

Sec.  17.95  [Amended]

    4. Amend Sec.  17.95(a) by removing the critical habitat entry for 
``Gray Wolf (Canis lupus).''

    Dated: March 1, 2006.
H. Dale Hall,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 06-2802 Filed 3-24-06; 8:45 am]