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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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


July 24, 2006

Ed Bangs 406-449-5225, x204
Sharon Rose 303-236-4580 


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it has denied a petition submitted by the State of Wyoming seeking to remove the gray wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains from the Federal list of threatened and endangered species. 

After a thorough review of all available scientific and commercial information, the Service has concluded that the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population cannot be delisted until adequate regulatory mechanisms protecting the wolf are put in place by Wyoming, as they have been by the states of Idaho and Montana. The Service is required by the Endangered Species Act to take into account the adequacy or inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms when determining whether delisting is warranted. 

The Service, therefore, cannot propose to delist the wolf until Wyoming amends its law and approves a wolf management plan that regulates and limits the human take of wolves, commits to maintaining at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in mid-winter, and defines a wolf pack for management purposes using consistent and accepted scientific standards. The Service will continue working with Wyoming officials to address the State’s concerns in a way that allows the Service to move forward with a delisting proposal in the near future.    

Under current Wyoming law, wolves are defined as predatory animals, a status that will not protect the wolf and would limit the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s ability to maintain the minimum number of breeding pairs necessary outside of the National Park units in northwestern Wyoming if the wolf is delisted.  

The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is a total of 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves, with Montana, Idaho and Wyoming each sustaining a minimum of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves for a minimum of three consecutive years. This goal was attained in 2002. By the end of 2005, 1,020 wolves and 71 breeding pairs were estimated in the northern Rocky Mountains.  

On July 19, 2005, the Service received a petition from the Office of the Governor of the State of Wyoming and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department seeking to delist wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.  On October 26, 2005, the Service announced its finding that the Wyoming petition presented substantial scientific and commercial information indicating that the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population may qualify as a distinct population segment (DPS) under the Endangered Species Act, and that this potential DPS may warrant removal from the Endangered Species list.  At that time the Service started a 12-month status review. Today’s announcement is the culmination of that review. 

In February of 2006, the Service announced its intent to propose designating and delisting the Rocky Mountain Population as a DPS, as soon as Wyoming implemented an adequate state law and management plan. A DPS designation allows the Service to treat populations of a species that meet certain criteria for genetic or geographic uniqueness as a separate entity for listing purposes. The Service can therefore list or delist populations that meet the criteria of a DPS independent of considerations that may govern evaluation of the entire species.   

The Service has already allowed the states of Idaho and Montana, both of which have approved wolf management plans and laws, to assume most Federal management responsibilities for wolves under a special rule. This action was taken beginning in 2005, in anticipation of delisting the northern Rocky Mountain wolf DPS.  Idaho and Montana now implement control actions for problem wolves, monitor wolf packs, coordinate research, have active information and public outreach programs, and take wolves for scientific and other purposes in accordance with Federal regulations.   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. 


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Questions and Answers 

Q-Is the Service still proposing to delist the northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves?

A- No. The Service will not propose delisting until Wyoming changes its law and management plan to be more consistent with the Idaho and Montana management frameworks, including an adequate regulatory mechanism managing wolf mortality. 

Q-How does this 12-month petition finding affect the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) the Service published in February 2006?

A- The ANPR articulated the Service’s position that the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population was fully biologically recovered, it was distinct and separate from other wolf populations in the lower 48 states, and that all threats to the population, with the exception of the Wyoming regulations, had been resolved. It also indicated the Service’s intent to propose to delist this population if Wyoming revised its law and regulations to provide adequate protection for a delisted population of wolves. The Service’s 12-month petition finding – which determined that the State of Wyoming does not provide the necessary regulatory mechanisms to assure adequate protections for a recovered northern Rocky Mountain wolf population if the population were delisted – is consistent with the conclusions of the ANPR.  

Q- What does Wyoming have to do to have an approved state law and wolf management plan?

A- Wyoming law must be changed to give the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WYGF) the legal authority to manage for a wolf population that contains a minimum of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in mid-winter. The current State “predatory animal” status prohibits WYGF management from maintaining the minimum number of wolf packs necessary outside of the National Park units in northwestern Wyoming. 

In order for the Service to move forward with a delisting proposal, Wyoming state law must clearly authorize the Wyoming state wolf plan and professional wildlife managers in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to:

  • Classify wolves in Wyoming as trophy game or similar status so Wyoming Game and Fish Department has clear legal authority to regulate human-caused mortality if needed.
  • Commit to managing wolves to ensure that the Wyoming segment of the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population never goes below 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in mid-winter.  Wyoming must maintain some wolf packs in northwestern Wyoming outside the National Park Units.
  • Define a wolf pack by scientific standards that approximate the current breeding pair definition so that Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming all use similar criteria to manage for and maintain for a recovered wolf population.

Q- What happens when Wyoming develops a modified state law and plan?

A- When the Wyoming regulatory framework has been modified and can be approved, the Service intends to propose delisting and ask for additional public comment.  If after the required legal process and public comment period, the Service decides that the wolf population should be delisted, the Service will publish a final rule in the Federal Register removing the Rocky Mountain Population of the gray wolf from the Federal list of threatened and endangered species. At that point, wolves would be solely managed by the States and Tribes. 

Q-Why is delisting being considered?

A- In late 2002, the wolf population achieved its recovery goal of a least 30 breeding pairs and over 300 wolves distributed evenly among Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming for at least three consecutive years. It has exceeded it every year since. The wolf population in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming now exceeds 70 breeding pairs and 1,000 wolves. All threats to the wolf population, except for the unregulated and potentially excessive levels of human-caused mortality state law, have been resolved. If Wyoming had an approved regulatory framework for wolf management, the Service could develop a proposal to delist the northern Rocky Mountain population. 

Q-How many wolves must the States manage for if they are to be delisted?

A- Montana, Idaho and Wyoming must each manage for at least 10 breeding pairs and at least 100 wolves in midwinter so the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population never falls below 30 breeding pairs and 300 wolves. If the wolf population ever dropped below that level, wolves could be relisted under the Service’s emergency listing authorities. 

Q-When a species is proposed for delisting, what information does the Service need to review?

A-The Service must address the same listing factors it used to list the species, in addition to the best scientific and commercial information available at the time. The Service considers five factors affecting a species when determining whether that species requires the protection of the Act, including:

  • present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of habitat or range;
  • over-utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes;
  • disease or predation;
  • inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and
  • other natural or manmade factors affecting the species’ continued existence

Q-At the present time how many wolves are there in the northern Rocky Mountain population?

A-By the end of 2005, the Service estimates that 1,020 wolves and 71 breeding pairs occur in the northern Rocky Mountains. 

Q-How many wolves are needed for recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains?

A-The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves for three consecutive years.  This goal was first attained in 2002.

 Q-What happens now?

A- The Service will continue to work with Wyoming to resolve the State’s concerns about wolf management in a way that will allow the Service to propose that the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population be delisted.  The Service strongly believes that a recovered wolf population is best managed by professional state fish and wildlife agencies within approved management guidelines.



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