Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)
Wolf Tracks VII - A
Summary of Gray Wolf Activities
372 kb; 8 pages)
is the seventh issue of Wolf Tracks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Services update on gray wolf activities and information. This issue
focuses on our recent decision to reclassify gray wolves from endangered
to threatened in portions of the United States and to delist wolves in
areas outside their historical range. For more information, please contact
our Gray Wolf Line at 612-713-7337 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wolf
Tracks and much more information on gray wolves is available on
the Web at http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf.
Summary of the
Gray Wolf Reclassification Final Rule
listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1974, recovery programs
have helped gray wolf populations rebound from the lows experienced during
the mid-1900s. Today, wolf recovery has almost been achieved in the Eastern
United States. In the West, reintroduced gray wolves in Wyoming and Idaho
complement a naturally recovering population in northwestern Montana.
As a result
of these successes, we changed the ESA designation of the gray wolf in
most of the lower 48 states to reflect the species current population
status. We proposed the change in July 2000, and have now finalized it,
but in a form modified from the original proposal. Our final decision,
recently published in the Federal Register, does not affect Mexican gray
wolves in the southwestern United States and Mexico, gray wolves in Alaska
or Canada, or the red wolf, a separate species found in the Southeast.
Register publication of the final reclassification of the gray wolf is
available on the Web at http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf, by calling the Services
Gray Wolf Information Line at 612-713-7337., or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Separate Listings for Each Recovery Program
three separate recovery programs for the gray wolf; each has its own recovery
plan and recovery goals based on the unique characteristics and limitations
of its geographic area. These three recovery programs have progressed
at different speeds and have achieved different degrees of success. It
is no longer appropriate to classify all of these wolf populations as
endangered because two of them are no longer on the brink
of extinction. The ESA provides that species can be reclassified from
endangered to threatened as they approach recovery and the strictest protections
are no longer necessary or appropriate.
the gray wolf was listed as endangered across the 48 states and Mexico,
except in Minnesota where it was listed as threatened. The final reclassification
rule replaces that listing with three separate smaller listings. Those
listings have been designated as Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) under
the Endangered Species Act. In total, the three DPSs cover all the area
that we believe was historically occupied by the gray wolf. Each DPS contains
one of our gray wolf recovery programs in its core, as well as an adjacent
area where wolves are not currently found, except possibly as occasional
dispersing individuals. The protection given to each of these areas varies
with the health of the wolf population there.
Gray Wolf DPS encompasses the historical range of the gray wolf from the
Great Plains to the Atlantic Coast. Due to the successful gray wolf recovery
in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, this DPS is now classified as threatened.
Gray Wolf DPS primarily includes the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific coastal
states. In the Northern U.S. Rockies, wolf recovery efforts have also
been successful to the point that we have reclassified this DPS to threatened.
Gray Wolf DPS includes Arizona and New Mexico, southern Colorado and southern
Utah, western Oklahoma, western Texas, and Mexico. Our efforts to reintroduce
Mexican gray wolves in the southwest are still in the early stage. Wolf
numbers are low, threats appear relatively high, and recovery is many
years in the future. Therefore, the Southwestern DPS retains a classification
of endangered. The special regulation for the nonessential experimental
population designation for wolves in parts of Arizona, Mexico, and Texas
is unchanged by this final rule.
and Mid-Atlantic portions of the U.S. are outside of the historical range
of the gray wolf. Although these areas were included in the 1978 listing
of the gray wolf, their inclusion was in error. These areas are now delisted
they are no longer included in any of the ESAs protections
for the gray wolf. However, the red wolf, a separate wolf species, is
still listed as endangered in the Southeast and is not affected by any
of these changes.
the Nonessential Experimental Population Designations in the Northern
we finalized special regulations under section 10(j) of the Act to designate
two areas in the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains as nonessential experimental
populations (NEP) to use these areas for reintroducing gray wolves.
(Nonessential refers to our determination that these populations
are not essential to the survival of the gray wolf.) These areas include
all of Wyoming, most of Idaho, and the southern half of Montana. The NEP
designations, as well as the special regulations that apply to the two
NEPs, are not affected by this final rule, and they will continue to apply
to gray wolves in the NEPs.
Regulations for the Western DPS and the Eastern DPS
The ESA provides
for threatened species to receive less Federal protection than endangered
species, if that is appropriate for their continued recovery. Because
threatened species generally are more numerous, protection efforts may
focus more on ensuring the continued growth of the population, rather
than on protecting every individual. Section 4(d) of the ESA allows us
to modify protections for threatened species so that we can better address
their unique conservation needs.
In the case
of the gray wolf, one of those unique needs is to reduce the conflicts
that arise between wolves and people who own domestic animals, including
pets and livestock. Due to differences in livestock raising practices
across wolf range, we have developed two different special regulations
under section 4(d) to reduce wolf-domestic animal conflicts without unnecessarily
impacting continued wolf recovery.
regulation for most of the Eastern DPS focuses on removing wolves that
have been verified as having attacked or killed domestic animals. It provides
States and Tribes with the authority to kill such wolves without the need
to obtain a Federal permit. This part of the special regulation is very
similar to the regulation that has authorized lethal control of depredating
wolves in Minnesota since 1978. The new special regulation also provides
Tribes with the authority to salvage dead wolves for traditional cultural
uses without a Federal permit. This new regulation applies to the part
of the Eastern DPS that is west of Pennsylvania; however, it does not
include Minnesota (see next section).
The new special
regulation for the Western DPS is very similar to the regulations that
continue to cover the nonessential experimental population areas in Idaho,
Montana, and Wyoming. It allows a variety of methods to reduce wolf-domestic
animal conflicts, depending on the severity and frequency of the conflicts,
and whether they occur on private or public land. Many of these methods
are now available to livestock and dog owners. Other methods can be carried
out by the Service or by other Federal, State, or Tribal agencies that
we designate for such purposes.
two new special regulations are closely based on the existing special
regulations that have been successfully used for Minnesota wolves and
wolves within the northern Rockies NEPs, we expect them to reduce wolf-domestic
animal conflicts while allowing core wolf populations to continue to increase.
Changes for Minnesota Wolves or for Critical Habitat in Minnesota and
in Minnesota were reclassified from endangered to threatened in 1978.
At that time, we established a special regulation under section 4(d) of
the ESA to allow lethal control of Minnesota wolves that have preyed on
domestic animals. The special regulation applies to about 88 percent of
the State. That special regulation has succeeded in reducing the impact
of wolf recovery on livestock producers in Minnesota while allowing the
States wolf population to increase in numbers and expand its range.
reclassification rule does not affect the previously established Federal
protections afforded to gray wolves in Minnesota. Minnesota wolves remain
threatened under the ESA; the Minnesota section 4(d) rule continues to
be in effect; and the three areas designated as critical habitat in Minnesota
(as well as the fourth critical habitat area on Isle Royale, Michigan)
Changes for Gray Wolves in the Southwestern Distinct Population Segment
rule does not affect the status or management of gray wolves in the southwest.
Gray wolves in the Southwestern DPS retain their endangered status and
the nonessential experimental population area in Arizona, New Mexico,
and a portion of Texas remains unchanged.
Changes from the
Proposed Rule to the Final Rule
final rule was modified from our original proposal. The modifications
are listed below.
three instead of four DPSs - Our July 2000 proposal included four DPSs,
while the final rule lists only three. We combined the proposed Western
Great Lakes DPS and the proposed Northeastern DPS into a single Eastern
DPS because there is no firm evidence that a wolf population exists in
the Northeastern U.S. and there is now uncertainty about the identify
of the wolf species that was historically found there.
The boundary between the Western DPS and the Southwestern DPS has
been moved northward into Colorado and Utah to better reflect the possible
movements of dispersing wolves from the Southwest and the Northern Rocky
Reduction in the area that is delisted - The proposal recommended
delisting in parts or all of 30 states,whereas the final rule delisted
all or parts of 16 states. States that are outside the historical range
were delisted, while all states within the historical range of the gray
wolf are now included in one of the remaining listed areas.
The special regulation for the Western DPS covers California and
Nevada; these states were proposed to be delisted, so the special regulation
was not proposed to apply there.
The special regulation for the proposed Western Great Lakes DPS
applies to most of the larger Eastern DPS. Specifically, those parts of
the DPS west of Pennsylvania, and excluding Minnesota, are covered by
the new special regulation.
Minor changes have been made to the conditions under which several
aspects of the Western DPS special regulation can be applied.
When does the final
reclassification decision become effective?
reclassification and the associated special regulations for the Eastern
and Western DPSs became effective immediately upon publication in the
Federal Register on April 1, 2003. Because we are not increasing Federal
protections or regulatory oversight, there is no need to provide time
for the public and government agencies to come into compliance with any
changes. The immediate application of the reclassification also makes
it easier for individuals to deal with wolf-livestock conflicts.
How did the Service
make its final decision to change the gray wolfs status?
we proposed to change the gray wolfs legal status in 2000, we held
a series of public information meetings, as well as 14 public hearings
throughout the country. During the 120-day public comment period, the
Service received about 17,000 unique comments on the proposal to change
the wolfs status. We examined all public comments, evaluated current
information about the status of the gray wolf, and then made the decision
to reclassify gray wolves in much of the lower 48 states from endangered
to threatened with modifications to the original proposal in response
to our analysis of the public comments.
Will recovery activities
be expanded to all states within the DPSs?
DPS is a listed entity, like a species or subspecies listing; it is not
a recovery program. While each DPS corresponds to a core wolf recovery
area, the DPS boundaries include all areas where wolves once occurred.
The recovery programs for gray wolves in the United States have been directed
by recovery plans that were prepared for the eastern, northern Rocky Mountain,
and southwestern wolf populations. Those recovery plans call for restoration
of wolf populations to a point that they no longer need protection of
the ESA; the ESA does not require, nor do these plans call for restoring
wolves to their entire former range or to all remaining suitable habitat.
recovery plan for the wolves in the eastern U.S. specifies that wolves
must be recovered in Minnesota and in one other place in its historical
range in the East. This second population now exists in Wisconsin and
Michigan. Once those recovery goals are met, the gray wolf will be considered
recovered in the eastern United States even if the species does not occupy
its entire former range. Similarly in the West, once recovery goals have
been met in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, wolves in the Western DPS will
be considered recovered. At this time we are not planning to initiate
additional gray wolf recovery programs or geographically expand the area
included in any of our three existing gray wolf recovery programs.
Changes in Federal Protection for Gray Wolves
that we have finalized the reclassification of gray wolves in areas where
they are no longer endangered, we can begin the review and evaluation
process to delist wolves taking them off the list of endangered
and threatened species if appropriate. Such a step is possible
when wolf numbers reach numerical goals and when states with core wolf
populations provide adequate assurances that those populations will be
protected after the ESAs protections are removed. In the Eastern
DPS, wolf numbers have reached and exceeded recovery goals, and the Service
has received completed state wolf management plans from Wisconsin, Michigan,
and Minnesota. In the Western DPS, numerical recovery goals were achieved
in 2002 and state management plans are being developed.
In two separate
Federal Register advanced notices published concurrently with the final
reclassification rule, we announced our intention to propose removing
the Eastern DPS, the Western DPS, and all nonessential experimental population
designations in the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains from the List of Endangered
and Threatened Wildlife in the near future. Neither of those proposals
will affect gray wolves in the Southwestern DPS or the nonessential experimental
Mountain Wolf Recovery 2002 Annual Report
Mountain Wolf Recovery 2002 Annual Report is available on-line at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/wolf/annualreports.htm or by contacting the Helena, Montana office (406-449-5225). The annual
report, a cooperative effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the
Nez Perce Tribe, the National Park Service, and U.S. Department of Agriculture
Wildlife Services, presents information on the status, distribution, and
management of the recovering Rocky Mountain wolf population from January
1, 2002, through December 31, 2002.
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