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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

January 13, 2000
Ed Bangs 406-449-5225, x 204


Sixty years after nearly being exterminated from the lower 48 states, the gray wolf is here to stay. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the wolf reintroduction rules as lawful under the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, allowing approximately 116 wolves in the greater Yellowstone area and 144 in Idaho to remain in the West. This decision reversed the December 12, 1997 order by Wyoming’s District Court which said the reintroduction was illegal and ordered the wolves and their offspring to be removed.

"The reintroduction of wolves has been one of the most emotional issues that our office has dealt with," said Ralph Morgenweck, Regional Director for the Service’s Mountain-Prairie region. "Hearing today that wolves are here to stay put us all over the top in the office," Morgenweck added. "This decision shows that one of the most important options to help recover endangered species, the experimental population, was tested and passed with flying colors. This shows us that the flexibility built into the Endangered Species Act has once again moved recovery of an endangered species ahead at a rapid pace," Morgenweck said.

To date no naturally dispersing wolves have been found in the Yellowstone area, but at least three wolves from northwest Montana dispersed into the central Idaho area although only one lives there today.

Since 1987, livestock producers who experienced wolf-caused losses in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming have been compensated about $105,000 by private fund administered by the Defenders of Wildlife.

Wolf packs in the reintroduction areas consist of ten breeding pairs in central Idaho and eight in the Yellowstone area.. Naturally occurring wolves in northwest Montana now number around 64 with seven breeding pairs. Recovery of wolves, as stated in the Service’s recovery plan, would include 30 breeding pairs throughout Montana, Wyoming and Idaho for three consecutive years by the year 2002.

Canadian wolves totaling 66 animals were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho beginning in March 1995 and ending in early 1996 as part of an effort to restore their populations. The reintroduced wolves are designated a "non-essential, experimental" population to allow for more flexibility in managing them than would be available if they were designated an "endangered" species.

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