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Endangered Species Permits

Gray Wolf

Supplement to the Environmental Assessment: Management of Wolf Conflicts and Depredating Wolves in Wisconsin


Below is the Introduction to the Supplement. Go here to view or download the complete SUPPLEMENT TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT: MANAGEMENT OF WOLF CONFLICTS AND DEPREDATING WOLVES IN Wisconsin (29-page PDF)


December 2009

In 2006, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (WS), the United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) cooperated in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) on the potential environmental impacts of alternatives for managing gray wolf (Canis lupus) damage and conflicts in Wisconsin while wolves were federally listed as a threatened or endangered species (USDA 2006). After consideration of information in the EA and public comments, on April 24, 2006, the agencies chose Alternative 2, Integrated Wildlife Damage Management, as the strategy to address wolf damage and conflicts in Wisconsin. The alternative permitted use of the full range of nonlethal and lethal methods to reduce wolf damage, and included USFWS issuance of permits for the lethal take of depredating wolves.


On August 9, 2006, a U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia enjoined the permit 1 and all lethal take of wolves for depredation management was discontinued until February 8, 2007, when the USFWS removed wolves from the federal list of threatened and endangered species (delisted the wolves). The February 8, 2007, decision to delist wolves and a similar decision that went into effect on May 4, 2009, were challenged in court and, in each instance, status as an endangered species was restored. While wolves have been federally-listed, the agencies have managed wolves in accordance with the 2006 EA and Decision with the exception that permits were not issued for the take of wolves for damage management. After the July 2, 2009, court settlement which returned wolves to endangered status, the WDNR requested a new permit to conduct studies critical to the management and recovery of the gray wolf in the state (e.g., monitoring population size and health), and to use aversive conditioning (e.g., shock collars; Hawley et al. 2009), nonlethal projectiles, and lethal methods to reduce wolf damage and conflicts. This supplement was prepared to update the analysis in the 2006 EA and to reevaluate USFWS options for the issuance of permits to the WDNR for wolf management in Wisconsin.


The WDNR has authority to conduct many of the activities included in the permit request because of an Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 6 Cooperative Conservation Agreement with the USFWS and authorities granted in the ESA. However, the WDNR has included these methods in the permit request to address the risk of unintentional wolf mortality associated with authorized activities and to clearly communicate the nature of their wolf management activities to the USFWS. In states with Cooperative Conservation Agreements, any qualified and authorized employee or similarly qualified and authorized agent of the State Conservation Agency may take an endangered species without a permit or 4(d) rule from the USFWS provided the taking is not reasonably expected to result in: 1) the death or permanent disabling of the specimen; 2) the removal of the specimen from the state where the taking occurred; 3) the introduction of the specimen to an area outside the historical range of the species; or 4) holding the species in captivity for a period of more than 45 days. (50 CFR 17.21 (c)(5)). Additionally, under the ESA, anyone can take a wolf in response to an immediate and demonstrable threat to human life (i.e., when a wolf is attacking a person) without a permit from the USFWS. The ESA also grants the USFWS, federal land management agencies, WDNR or their designated agents (e.g., WS) the authority to take wolves in cases of non-immediate but demonstrable threats to human safety without a permit from the USFWS. The USFWS, WDNR, federal land management agencies, or their designated agents, may take a wolf to aid a sick or injured wolf.


The WDNR Permit request for the use of lethal wolf damage management (WDM) is similar to that analyzed in the 2006 Wolf EA and requests the same level of take analyzed for Alternative 2 of the EA (10% of the previous winter wolf population). If the permit for lethal take of wolves for depredation management is issued, lethal removal of wolves would only be conducted under the following conditions:


1) The depredations must have occurred within the calendar year.


2) The depredation occurred on lawfully present livestock (as defined by the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan (WWMP; WDNR 1999, 2007), livestock guarding animals, and/or pets that are near residences and farm buildings. Lethal methods would not be used to address depredations by wolves on pets running at large or used in hunting and training.


3) The depredation must be verified by trained personnel from WS, the WDNR, other agents of the state listed under the permit request, the USFWS, or Tribal natural resources staff.


4) Additional wolf depredations are likely to continue in the immediate future if depredating wolf or wolves are not removed.


5) Taking of wolves will only occur within ½ mile of the depredation site.


6) Pups of the year will be released back to the wild prior to August 1 and will be marked with ear tags, and/or microchips if available. Pups that weigh at least 30 lbs may be fitted with radio collars.


In addition to evaluating the applicant’s request, the USFWS will consider whether to authorize lethal take of wolves for a study designed to compare the efficacy and impacts of nonlethal and lethal strategies for wolf depredation management. This proposed research is considered in a separate Alternative (Alternative 5 – Research Option). The Research Option would involve comparing sites using nonlethal methods for wolf damage management to sites using lethal methods for wolf damage management (See Section 3.4 below). Under the Research Option, only some of the sites involved in the study would be able to use lethal methods for WDM. The remaining study sites and all sites which are not included in the research project will only use nonlethal methods for wolf damage management. Consequently, the total lethal take of wolves for the Research Option would be less than the take if the WDNR damage management permit request is granted (Alternative 2).



1 Instead of contesting the Court’s decision, the USFWS chose to pursue the removal of wolves from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. However, the Safari Club International and Safari Club International Foundation were interveners on the case and continued to pursue the issue. In 2008, a three judge appellate panel vacated the District Court’s opinion.




Last updated: April 14, 2015