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Conserving the Nature of America

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

History of Decline, Protection and Recovery



Due to a Federal court decision, wolves in the western Great Lakes area (including Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) were relisted under the Endangered Species Act, effective December 19, 2014.


Role of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Post-Delisting Wolf Management


Current status


  • On January 27, 2012, gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment were removed from the list of endangered and threatened species.  At that time, wolf management responsibility transitioned from the federal government to the states and tribes.


  • Now that wolves in the western Great Lakes are under state and tribal management, the Service does not prescribe the specifics of how they manage delisted wolves.


  • After delisting, the Service’s role is to ensure that gray wolves are adequately monitored in the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment. The Endangered Species Act requires the Service to monitor delisted species for at least 5 years.  A post-delisting monitoring plan is in place.


  • If it appears that the status of the gray wolf warrants Endangered Species Act protections, the Service can start the normal, or emergency, listing process. The Monitoring Plan includes circumstances that would cause the Service to consider relisting the Gray Wolf Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment (summarized below).


  • Each state in the core recovery area (Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin) has an approved gray wolf management plan with the goal of ensuring a healthy wolf population. Hunting and trapping are possible management tools included in each of those management plans.


Events that might cause consideration of relisting or emergency relisting

Summarized from the Gray Wolf Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan


Any of the following events may indicate a serious problem, but none would trigger relisting or emergency listing alone.  Each of the situations would be evaluated to find the cause, severity and other factors to decide whether any action is needed.  The events exclude Michigan’s Isle Royale and Lower Peninsula and include:


    • A decline that reduces the Wisconsin-Michigan late winter wolf population to 200 or fewer wolves.
    • A decline in either the Michigan OR the Wisconsin wolf estimate to 100 or fewer wolves.
    • A decline that brings the Minnesota winter wolf population estimate to 1,500 or fewer wolves.


  • Other factors that may prompt concern and additional investigation include:
    • A rapid and large decline in the late winter wolf population estimate for Michigan and Wisconsin, or a decline continuing for three or more years.
    • Widespread, substantial mortality in wolves from unknown causes.
    • Evidence of new disease, or increased severity of an existing disease affecting wolves.
    • A substantial decline in wolf prey or significant adverse change in wolf or prey habitat management.


Possible Service actions


Following each annual review under the post-delisting monitoring plan, if the Service finds declines in wolf abundance as described above, the Service may take any or all of the following actions:


    • Extend post-delisting monitoring beyond 5 years.
    • Revise the post-delisting monitoring plan
    • Start a status review of the gray wolf population within the Distinct Population Segment
    • Investigate or address the causes of the decline.
    • No action, if declines are minor and likely to be temporary


At the end of the post-delisting monitoring period, the Service will conduct a final review.  At that point the Service will decide whether to relist gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment, continue monitoring the population, or end monitoring.


Chronology of Federal Actions
Gray Wolves in the Western Great Lakes States