March 2006 Proposed Rule to Delist the Gray Wolf Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment
This Proposed Rule was finalized on Feb. 8, 2007. But due to a lawsuit the Final Rule is no longer in effect. Go here for more information about the Final Rule and why it is no longer in effect.
Questions and Answers about the Proposal to Delist the Gray Wolf - Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment - March 2006
1) What is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposing to do?
2) Didn't the Service already delist the wolf in at least part of the United States?
This new (2006) delisting proposal replaces the large 2003 Eastern DPS with a much smaller Western Great Lakes DPS - a DPS that is narrowly structured around the core recovery areas where wolves have exceeded their recovery goals since 1999.
3) What is a Distinct Population Segment?
The Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment encompasses a core area where wolf recovery has occurred. This core area includes northern and central forested areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The DPS also includes Michigan's Lower Peninsula and portions of adjacent states that are within the range of wolves dispersing from the core area.
4) What happens to gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS if they
5) What is the status of wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS while the Service considers the proposal? Are they still protected?
6) Why is the Service proposing to delist gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS?
The approved recovery plan for the gray wolf in the eastern United States sets forth population criteria that, when achieved, will ensure the survival of the gray wolf into the future. Those population criteria are:
Gray wolf numbers and distribution in the Western Great Lakes DPS have exceeded the population criteria identified in the recovery plan. Today's estimated population in Minnesota is about 3,020. Wolves became established in Michigan and Wisconsin and now number 405 and 425 in those states, respectively.
In addition to exceeding population criteria set out in the recovery plan, potential threats after delisting have been addressed by Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin state management plans. To prepare for federal delisting, each of those states developed a wolf management plan with the goal of ensuring future survival of the state's wolf population. Those plans were signed by the head of each state's Department of Natural Resources after input from wolf experts and extensive public involvement.
7) How do the gray wolf management plans prepared by Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin ensure the long-term survival of gray wolves in those states?
The Michigan plan calls for a minimum sustainable population of 200 wolves in the Upper Peninsula. Habitat, prey, and land-use analysis showed that the Upper Peninsula can support at least 800 wolves. No upper population limit is specified, but an upper limit referred to as the cultural carrying capacity will be determined by public reaction. The plan acknowledges that in the future, "some degree of wolf population stabilization and control" may be needed and that "some wolves will likely need to be killed under controlled conditions." The Michigan DNR plans to revise their wolf management plan. They are in the early stages and have begun to form a group of interested parties. That group will provide the DNR with a recommended management plan.
Under the Minnesota plan, wolves will be allowed to continue to naturally expand their range within the state. The minimum statewide winter population goal is 1,600 wolves; there is no maximum goal. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will take the appropriate actions to remedy the situation if the population falls below the minimum goal. The plan divides the state into wolf management zones A and B, which correspond to zones 1-4 and zone 5, respectively, in the federal wolf recovery plan. In Zone A, where over 80 percent of the wolves reside, state protections would be nearly as strict as current protections under the ESA, and we expect little or no resulting post-delisting population decline there. The protection provided by the plan to the Zone A wolves will ensure a state wolf population well above 1,600 in that zone. In Zone B, wolves could be killed to protect domestic animals, even if attacks or threatening behavior have not occurred. While a significant decrease in the Zone B wolf population may result, such a result would be consistent with the federal recovery plan, which discourages the establishment of a wolf population in that portion of the state.
In Wisconsin, the minimum population management goal is 350 outside of Native American Reservations. Because the wolf population now exceeds this level, the state delisted wolves to Protected Wild Animal status on August 1, 2004. If numbers decline and stay below 250 for three years, the state will relist as threatened. If they decline to less than 80 for one year, the state will relist or reclassify the wolf as endangered. The Wisconsin management plan is currently under review and the state intends to publish an appendix that contains updates to the original plan. There are no anticipated changes to the management goals.
8) How will the Service ensure the state management plans are sufficient to protect the future survival of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS?
9) How will wolves be monitored after they are delisted?
Wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have been surveyed and studied for several decades, primarily by the three state natural resource departments, but with assistance from many partners, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey - Biological Resources Division, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services, Tribal natural resource agencies, and the Service. All three states intend to continue their previous wolf population monitoring practices with only minor changes.
In addition to monitoring population numbers and trends, the monitoring plan will include evaluating threats, in particular disease, human-caused mortality, and any legal or management measures imposed by states or tribes.
If at any time during the monitoring period the Service detects a substantial decline in the populations or a new or expanded threat, it will evaluate and change the monitoring methods, if appropriate, and consider relisting the Western Great Lakes DPS. At the end of the monitoring period, the Service will decide if relisting, continued monitoring, or ending Service monitoring is appropriate. If warranted (for example, data show a significant decline or increased threats), the Service will consider continuing monitoring beyond the specified time.
10) Does this proposal affect wolves outside the Western Great Lakes DPS?
11) If gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS are delisted, can they be hunted and trapped?
The Service does not prescribe the specifics of how states and tribes manage delisted wolves, but rather we ensure that they implement management and protective measures that effectively conserve the gray wolves in their states so federal relisting as threatened or endangered will not be necessary.
12) When will the Service make a final decision on this proposal?
13) How can the public provide input on the proposal?
or by sending a letter to:
or by sending a fax to 612-713-5292
or by following the instruction on the federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov.
a series of public hearings will be held where oral and written comments
will be accepted. Check the Service's Midwest website at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf
for dates and locations of the public hearings.
Individuals or groups wishing to be placed on the Service's mailing list to obtain updates on the wolf's status can write to:
or use the GRAYWOLFMAIL@FWS.GOV address or call the Service's Gray Wolf Information Line at 612-713-7337.
Prepared March 2006