[Federal Register: July 21, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 139)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 43663-43692]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 43663]]


Part II

Department of the Interior


Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Eastern 
Distinct Population Segment of the Gray Wolf From the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Proposed Rule

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Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AJ03

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the 
Eastern Distinct Population Segment of the Gray Wolf From the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or we) proposes to 
remove the Eastern Distinct Population Segment (EDPS) of the gray wolf 
(Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
established under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
We propose this action because available data indicate that this DPS no 
longer meets the definitions of threatened or endangered under the Act. 
The gray wolf population is stable or increasing in Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, and Michigan, and exceeds its numerical recovery criteria. 
Completed State wolf management plans will provide adequate protection 
and management to the species in these three States if the gray wolf is 
delisted in the EDPS. The proposed rule, if finalized, would remove 
this DPS from the protections of the Act by ending its threatened 
classification. This proposed rule would also remove the currently 
designated critical habitat for the gray wolf in Minnesota and Michigan 
and remove the current special regulations for gray wolves in Minnesota 
and other Midwestern States. This proposal, if finalized, would not 
change the status or special regulations currently in place for the 
Western or Southwestern DPSs of the gray wolf or for the red wolf (C. 

DATES: We must receive comments by November 18, 2004 in order to ensure 
their consideration in our final decision. We must receive requests for 
public hearings by September 7, 2004.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments and other information, identified by 
RIN 1018-AJ03, by any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 

Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: Gray Wolf Delist--EDPS, c/o Content Analysis Team, 
P.O. Box 221150, Salt Lake City, UT 84122-1150
     Fax: (801) 517-1015
     Email: egwdelist@fs.fed.us. Include ``Attn: Gray Wolf 
Delisting'' in the subject line of the message.
Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and 
Regulatory Information Number (RIN) for this rulemaking. For detailed 
instructions on submitting comments and additional information on the 
rulemaking process, see the ``Public Comments Solicited'' heading of 
the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.
    The complete file for this rule is available for inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at our Midwest Regional 
Office: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Building, 1 Federal 
Drive, Ft. Snelling, MN 55111-4056. Call 612-713-5350 to make 
arrangements. The comments and materials we receive during the comment 
period also will be made available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours. See the ``Public Comments 
Solicited'' section of SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for location 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Direct all questions or requests for 
additional information to the Service using the Gray Wolf Phone Line--
612-713-7337, facsimile--612-713-5292, the general gray wolf electronic 
mail address_GRAYWOLFMAIL@FWS.GOV, or write to: Gray Wolf Questions, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive, Ft. 
Snelling, MN 55111-4056. Additional information is also available on 
our World Wide Web site at http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf. In the event 

that our internet connection is not functional, please contact the 
Service by the alternative methods mentioned above. Individuals who are 
hearing-impaired or speech-impaired may call the Federal Relay Service 
at 1-800-877-8337 for TTY assistance.



    This rule begins with discussions on the biology, ecology, 
taxonomy, and historical range of the gray wolf. We then describe 
previous Federal listing actions taken for this DPS of gray wolves. 
Next, we discuss the purpose and relevant definitions of the Act and 
conclude this introductory section with a discussion of the 
conservation and recovery of the EDPS of the gray wolf.
    We then analyze the current status of the EDPS relative to the 
criteria set out in section 4(c)(1) of the Act to determine whether it 
still warrants listing under the Act. This analysis takes into account 
the effects of current and future likely actions that may positively or 
negatively affect the EDPS if it were delisted.

A. Biology and Ecology of Gray Wolves

    Gray wolves are the largest wild members of the Canidae, or dog 
family, with adults ranging from 18 to 80 kilograms (kg) (40 to 175 
pounds (lb)) depending upon sex and subspecies (Mech 1974). The average 
weight of male wolves in Wisconsin is 35 kg (77 lb) and ranges from 26 
to 46 kg (57 to 102 lb), while females average 28 kg (62 lb) and range 
from 21 to 34 kg (46 to 75 lb) (Wisconsin Department of Natural 
Resources (WI DNR) 1999a). Wolves' fur color is frequently a grizzled 
gray, but it can vary from pure white to coal black. Wolves may appear 
similar to coyotes (Canis latrans) and some domestic dog breeds (such 
as the German shepherd or Siberian husky) (C. familiaris). Wolves' 
longer legs, larger feet, wider head and snout, and straight tail 
distinguish them from both coyotes and dogs.
    Wolves primarily are predators of medium and large mammals. Wild 
prey species in North America include white-tailed deer (Odocoileus 
virginianus) and mule deer (O. hemionus), moose (Alces alces), elk 
(Cervus elaphus), woodland caribou (Rangifer caribou) and barren ground 
caribou (R. arcticus), bison (Bison bison), muskox (Ovibos moschatus), 
bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) and Dall sheep (O. dalli), mountain 
goat (Oreamnos americanus), beaver (Castor canadensis), and snowshoe 
hare (Lepus americanus), with small mammals, birds, and large 
invertebrates sometimes being taken (Mech 1974, Stebler 1944, WI DNR 
1999a). In the EDPS, during the last 22 years, wolves have also killed 
domestic animals including horses (Equus caballus), cattle (Bos 
taurus), sheep (Ovis aries), goats (Capra hircus), llamas (Lama glama), 
pigs (Sus scrofa), geese (Anser sp.), ducks (Anas sp.), turkeys 
(Meleagris gallopavo), chickens (Gallus sp.), pheasants (Phasianus 
colchicus), dogs, and cats (Felis catus) (Paul 2001, Wydeven et al. 
    Wolves are social animals, normally living in packs of 2 to 12 
wolves, although 2 packs in Yellowstone National Park (NP) had 22 and 
27 members in 2000; Yellowstone NP's Druid Peak pack increased to 37 
members in 2001 (USFWS et al. 2001, 2002). Winter 2001-02 pack size in 
Michigan's Upper Peninsula averaged 4.3 wolves (Potvin et al. 
submitted). Packs are primarily family groups consisting of a breeding 
pair, their pups from the current year, offspring from the previous 
year, and occasionally an unrelated wolf. Packs typically occupy,

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and defend from other packs and individual wolves, a territory of 50 to 
550 square kilometers (km2) (20 to 214 square miles 
(mi2)). In the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains, territories 
tend to be larger, usually from 520 to 1,040 km2 (200 to 400 
mi2), and in Wood Buffalo NP in Canada, territories of up to 
2,700 km2 (1,042 mi2) have been recorded (Carbyn, 
Canadian Wildlife Service, in litt. 2000). Normally, only the top-
ranking (``alpha'') male and female in each pack breed and produce 
pups. Litters are born from early April into May; they range from 1 to 
11 pups, but generally include 4 to 6 pups (Michigan Department of 
Natural Resources (MI DNR) 1997; USFWS 1992a; USFWS et al. 2001). 
Normally a pack has a single litter annually, but the production of 2 
or 3 litters in one year has been documented in Yellowstone NP (USFWS 
et al. 2002). Yearling wolves frequently disperse from their natal 
packs, although some remain with their natal pack. Yearlings may range 
over large areas as lone animals after leaving their natal pack or they 
may locate suitable unoccupied habitat and a member of the opposite sex 
and begin their own pack. Dispersal distances of 800 km (500 mi) have 
been documented (Fritts 1983; James Hammill, MI DNR, in litt. 2001). 
Individual wolves have more recently traveled from central Wisconsin to 
east-central Indiana (655 km (407 mi)) and northern Illinois (unknown 
distance), from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to northern Missouri 
(965 km (600 mi)), and from the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan population 
to east-central Nebraska (unknown distance).
    The gray wolf historically occurred across most of North America, 
Europe, and Asia. In North America, gray wolves formerly occurred from 
the northern reaches of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland to the central 
mountains and the high interior plateau of southern Mexico. The only 
areas of the conterminous United States that apparently lacked gray 
wolf populations since the last ice age are parts of California and 
portions of the eastern and southeastern United States (an area 
occupied by the red wolf). In addition, wolves were generally absent 
from the deserts and mountaintop areas of the western United States 
(Young and Goldman 1944, Hall 1981, Mech 1974, Nowak 2000). (Refer to 
the Taxonomy of Gray Wolves in the Eastern United States section below 
for additional discussion.)
    European settlers in North America and their cultures often had 
superstitions and fears of wolves and a unified desire to eliminate 
them (Boitani 1995). Their attitudes, coupled with perceived and real 
conflicts between wolves and human activities along the frontier, led 
to widespread persecution of wolves. Poisons, trapping, and shooting 
spurred by Federal, State, and local government bounties extirpated 
this once widespread species from more than 95 percent of its range in 
the 48 conterminous States. At the time the Act was passed, only 
several hundred wolves occurred in northeastern Minnesota and on Isle 
Royale, Michigan, and a few scattered wolves may have occurred in the 
Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Montana, and the American Southwest.
    Researchers have learned a great deal about gray wolf biology, 
especially about the species' adaptability and its use of nonwilderness 
habitats. Public appreciation of the role of predators in our 
ecosystems has increased. Surveys indicate that approximately 60 
percent of persons in the eastern and western United States have 
positive attitudes towards wolves and their restoration (Williams et 
al. 2002). Most importantly, within the last decade the prospects for 
gray wolf recovery in several areas of their historical range in the 
United States have greatly increased. In the EDPS, wolves have 
dramatically increased their numbers and occupied range.
    The gray wolf is one of two North American wolf species currently 
protected by the Act. The other species is the red wolf (Canis rufus), 
which is listed as endangered throughout its historical range in the 
southeastern United States and extending west into central Texas. The 
red wolf is the subject of a separate recovery program. This final rule 
does not affect the current listing status or protection of the red 
    Gray wolf populations in the United States are protected under the 
Act by separate listings covering the EDPS, the Western DPS, and the 
Southwestern DPS (50 CFR 17.11(h)), regulations establishing three non-
essential experimental populations (50 CFR 17.84(i) and (k)), and by 
special regulations for parts of the Western and Eastern DPSs (50 CFR 
17.40(d), (n), and (o)). Regulations for the Western and Southwestern 
DPSs would not be removed or changed if this proposal is finalized.
    It is important to note that the protections of the gray wolf under 
the Act does not extend to gray wolf-dog hybrids regardless of the 
geographic location of the capture of their pure wolf ancestors. As 
noted in the final reclassification rule (68 FR 15804, April 1, 2003), 
gray wolf-dog hybrids have no value to gray wolf recovery programs and 
can introduce dog genes into wild wolf populations.

B. Taxonomy of Gray Wolves in the Northeastern United States

    Both versions (USFWS 1978 and 1992a) of the Recovery Plan for the 
Eastern Timber Wolf (Recovery Plan) were developed to recover the gray 
wolf subspecies Canis lupus lycaon, commonly known as the eastern 
timber wolf. Canis lupus lycaon was believed to be the gray wolf 
subspecies that historically occurred throughout the northeastern 
quarter of the United States east of the Great Plains (Young and 
Goldman 1944, Hall 1981, Mech 1974). Since the publication of those 
recovery plans, various studies on the subspecific taxonomy of the gray 
wolf have been conducted with conflicting results (Nowak 1995, 2002, 
2003; Wayne et al. 1995; Wilson et al. 2000).
    Wilson et al. (2000) questioned the identity of the Canis species 
in southeastern Canada, an area with an extant wolf population adjacent 
to the northeastern United States. The alternative view of southeastern 
Canada wolf taxonomy as advanced by Wilson et al. (2000) appears to be 
gaining wider acceptance among taxonomists. That view is that the wolf 
currently occurring in Algonquin Provincial Park and southern Quebec 
Province, and possibly the ancestral wolf of southeastern Canada and 
the northeastern United States, is a smaller form of wolf, similar to 
or indistinguishable from the red wolf. Others argue that ecologically, 
the ancestral wolf in northern New England and northern New York where 
moose and woodland caribou were the predominant ungulate prey (Hall 
1981), and throughout New York State where elk were indigenous (Hall 
1981), was likely to be a large-bodied gray wolf, rather than a 
smaller, deer-eating wolf, such as the red wolf (Daniel Harrison, 
University of Maine, pers. comm.).
    We acknowledge that our understanding of wolf taxonomy at both the 
species and the subspecies levels is likely to continue changing as new 
studies are completed and the results of additional genetic and 
morphometric analyses are published. Analyses of the canids recently 
found in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada point 
to a north-south (and to a lesser extent, west-east) gradient 
consisting of western gray wolf, eastern wolf, and coyote. The western 
gray wolf historically occupied much of the western United States and 
much of Canada. According to recent genetic analyses (Wilson et al. 
2000), the eastern

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wolf, now referred to by some investigators as Canis lycaon, currently 
occupies southeastern Canada and may have historically occupied the 
northeastern United States and portions of the Great Lakes area as well 
(Fascione et al. 2001). The Service believes that it is equally likely 
there was a contact zone between the two forms of wolves along this 
broad boundary between the northern extent of white-tailed deer range 
and the southern extent of caribou and moose range.
    Currently, molecular genetic and morphological data suggest several 
plausible identities for the large canid that historically occupied the 
Northeast. Nowak's (1995) morphological data support the contention 
that Canis lupus lycaon, a subspecies of the gray wolf, occupied part 
of the Northeast, including southern New England. A recent molecular 
genetics study (Wilson et al. 2000) disputes that this species is a 
gray wolf, and suggests it is a form of red wolf and both forms should 
be referred to as C. lycaon. Nowak's (2002) more recent analysis places 
the boundary between the gray wolf and red wolf in central New York and 
northern Vermont, with C. l. lycaon to the north and west of this line 
and the red wolf subspecies, C. rufus floridanus, to the east and 
south. Furthermore, Nowak (2002, 2003) now suggests that C. l. lycaon 
may be a subspecies of hybrid origin resulting from matings of C. lupus 
and C. rufus.
    The historical range of the gray wolf and the taxonomy of the wolf 
in the conterminous United States is the subject of substantial 
scientific debate. As pointed out in the April 2003 final 
reclassification (68 FR 15804) and by Brewster and Fritts (1995), wolf 
systematics is a continually evolving science. During the 1800s and 
through the mid-1900s, which Brewster and Fritts (1995) refer to as the 
``descriptive era,'' wolf taxonomies were based on physical attributes 
such as color, weight, and size. During the ``multivariate analysis 
era'' (1950s to present), alternative wolf taxonomies were based on 
statistical analyses of multiple morphometric data, particularly 
cranial measurements. Lastly, recent advances in molecular taxonomy 
(1970s to present) have made it possible to compare phylogenic 
relatedness between closely related species and subspecies and to 
characterize their differences. Proponents of each alternative wolf 
taxonomy offer a different view of the range of wolf species and 
subspecies in North America.
    The coyote is the dominant canid in the northeastern United States 
at present, although wolf genetic material is also present in these 
animals (Wilson et al. 2004). It is extremely difficult to determine 
the genetic identity of the wolf (or wolves) that occurred in the 
Northeast before European settlement. The ranges of specific forms of 
wolf may have changed over time or intermingled along contact zones, 
and scientific consensus on one ancestral form of wolf for the 
Northeast may not be possible. We, however, encourage additional 
research on the identity of the historical wolf of the northeast 
region, the taxonomy and phylogeny of contemporary wolves in 
southeastern Canada, and new information on the occurrence of wolves in 
the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. Due to the 
extreme uncertainty over wolf taxonomy, at this time we are adopting no 
final position on the identity of the wolf (or wolves) that 
historically existed in the northeastern United States. As announced in 
the final reclassification rule (68 FR 15804, April 1, 2003), we are 
treating gray wolves in the northeastern United States as part of the 

C. Historical Range of the Gray Wolf

    Until the molecular genetics studies of the last few years, the 
range of the gray wolf before European settlement was generally 
believed to include most of North America. The only areas that were 
believed to have lacked gray wolf populations are southern and interior 
Greenland, the coastal regions of Mexico, all of Central America south 
of Mexico, coastal and other parts of California, the extremely arid 
deserts and the mountaintops of the western United States, and parts of 
the eastern and southeastern United States (Young and Goldman 1944, 
Hall 1981, Mech 1974, Nowak 1995). (Some authorities, however, question 
the reported historical absence of gray wolves from parts of California 
(Carbyn in litt. 2000, Mech, U.S. Geological Survey, in litt. 2000)). 
Authors are inconsistent on their views of the precise boundary of 
historical gray wolf range in the eastern and southeastern United 
States. Some use Georgia's southeastern corner as the southern extent 
of gray wolf range (Young and Goldman 1944, Mech 1974); others believe 
gray wolves did not occur at all in the southeastern U.S. (Hall 1981) 
or only to a limited extent, primarily at relatively high elevations 
(Nowak 1995). The southeastern and mid-Atlantic States have generally 
been recognized as being within the historical range of the red wolf; 
the extent of overlap between the ranges of these competing canids is 
unknown. Recent morphological work (Nowak 2002, 2003) supports 
extending the historical range of the red wolf into southern New 
England or even further north. This suggests that the historical range 
of the gray wolf in the eastern United States may have been more 
limited than previously believed, although the ranges of the wolf 
species may have expanded and contracted after the last ice age.
    The results of recent molecular genetic (Wilson et al. 2000) and 
morphometric studies (Nowak 1995, 2002) may help explain some of the 
past difficulties in determining the southern boundary of the gray 
wolf's range in the eastern United States. Unless additional data 
demonstrate that gray wolves did not historically occur in the 
northeastern U.S., we have defined the historical range of the gray 
wolf as including those areas north of the Ohio River, the southern 
borders of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and southern Missouri; and west 
from central Texas and Oklahoma (68 FR 15804). This boundary is a 
reasonable compromise of several published accounts, being somewhat 
south of that shown by Nowak (2002) and north of the range boundary 
shown by Young and Goldman (1944) and Mech (1974). The historical range 
boundary we used to establish the southern boundary of the EDPS in 50 
CFR 17.11(h) most closely approximates that shown in Hall (1981).
    While the historical range and taxonomy of the wolf in the 
northeastern United States continues to be debated, the fact that 
wolves were indigenous to that region is well established in historical 
accounts and bounty records. As early as 1645, the Massachusetts Court 
complained of ``the great losse and damage'' suffered by the colony 
because wolves killed settlers' cattle (Cronon 1983). Cronon (1983) 
reports that such complaints persisted in newly settled areas 
throughout the colonial period. Young and Goldman (1944) recount the 
early years of wolf bounties offered on Long Island, New York, where in 
1663 it was agreed that settlers be provided bushels of Indian corn in 
exchange for wolf heads. In 1794, Samuel Williams recorded in The 
Natural and Civil History of Vermont that, ``One of the most common and 
noxious of all our animals, is the Wolf.'' A review of wolf bounty 
records in Maine revealed documentation for well over 100 bounties 
paid, primarily during the 1800s (R. Joseph, USFWS, in litt. 2000). In 
the Proceedings of the Portland Society of Natural History (1930), it 
is reported that wolves were numerous in the Portland, Maine, region, 
and existed at least until 1740 in

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the immediate vicinity of the present city.
    From the first reward offered by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 
1630, wolf bounties became a common means of addressing livestock 
losses to wolf predation in colonial America. By the early eighteenth 
and into the nineteenth centuries, bounties on the wolf were common 
throughout the United States. Wolf populations in the northeastern 
United States were strongly affected as colonial settlement progressed 
and activities such as forest clearing, hunting, and trapping reduced 
the wolf's natural habitat and prey (ungulates and beaver). Remaining 
wolf populations were largely eliminated by the bounties, and by 1900, 
the wolf was considered extirpated from the northeastern United States 
(Nowak 2002). Hamilton (1943) noted that where the wolf formerly ranged 
widely throughout the eastern States, persistent hunting, trapping, and 
poisoning resulted in its extermination in Pennsylvania, New York, and 
New England well before the close of the nineteenth century.

D. Previous Federal Action

    On April 1, 2003, we published a final rule (68 FR 15804) that 
reclassified and delisted gray wolves, as appropriate, across their 
range in the 48 conterminous United States and Mexico. In that final 
rule (on page 15806), we included a detailed summary of the previous 
Federal actions completed prior to publication of that final rule.
    The first part of the April 1, 2003, final rule delisted gray 
wolves in parts or all of 16 southern States because that area is 
outside the historical range of the species. The second part of the 
final rule separated the remainder of the 32 States and Mexico into 
three gray wolf DPSs, and it gave each DPS a separate listing under the 
Act as threatened or endangered (see Figure 1 below). Additionally, new 
special regulations under section 4(d) of the Act were established for 
portions of the Western and Eastern Gray Wolf DPSs.

    On March 1, 2000, we received a petition from Mr. Lawrence Krak of 
Gilman, Wisconsin, and on June 28, 2000, we received a petition from 
the Minnesota Conservation Federation. Mr. Krak's petition requested 
the delisting of gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The 
Minnesota Conservation Federation requested the delisting of gray 
wolves in a Western Great Lakes DPS. Because the data reviews resulting 
from the processing of these petitions would be a subset of the review 
begun by our July 13, 2000, proposal (65 FR 43450) to revise the 
current listing of the gray wolf across most of the conterminous United 
States, we did not initiate separate reviews in response to those two 
petitions. This proposed rule constitutes both our 90-day finding that 
the petitioned actions may be warranted and our 12-month finding that 
the actions are warranted.
    On April 1, 2003, we also received a petition from Defenders of 
Wildlife, Sierra Club, RESTORE: The North Woods, and The Wildlands 
Project requesting that we list a DPS of wolves in the northeastern 
United States. As explained in the April 1, 2003, reclassification rule 
(68 FR 15804) and our September 12, 2003, response to the petitioners, 
the absence of a wolf population in the Northeast precluded us from 
designating that entity as a separate DPS. Instead, the EDPS includes 
New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and New York; any gray wolves that may 
exist in or disperse into these States continue to be protected as 
threatened under the Act until a final delisting of the EDPS is 

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E. Purpose and Definitions of the Act

    The primary purpose of the Act is to prevent the endangerment and 
extinction of animal and plant species. The Act requires the Service to 
identify species that meet the Act's definitions of endangered or 
threatened, to add those species that meet either of these definitions 
to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants 
(50 CFR 17.11 and 17.12, respectively), and to plan and implement 
conservation actions to improve their status to the point at which they 
no longer need the protections of the Act. When that protection is no 
longer needed, we take steps to remove (delist) the species from the 
Federal lists. If a species is listed as endangered, we may first 
reclassify it to threatened status as an intermediate step, if the 
species has met the downlisting criteria outlined in its recovery plan 
before its eventual delisting; reclassification before delisting, 
however, is not required.
    Section 3 of the Act provides the following definitions that are 
relevant to this rule:
    Endangered species--any species which is in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range;
    Threatened species--any species which is likely to become an 
endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range; and
    Species--includes any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and 
any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or 
wildlife which interbreeds when mature. (For further information on 
DPSs, see our February 7, 1996, DPS policy (61 FR 4722) or the April 1, 
2003, final gray wolf reclassification rule (68 FR 15804)).
    Understanding the Service's strategy for gray wolf recovery also 
requires an understanding of the meaning of ``recover'' and 
``conserve'' under the Act. ``Conserve'' is defined in the Act itself 
(section 3(3)) whereas ``recovery'' is defined in the Act's 
implementing regulations at 50 CFR 402.02.
    Conserve--defined, in part as ``the use of all measures and 
procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or 
threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant 
to this Act are no longer necessary.''
    Recovery--improvement in the status of listed species to the point 
at which listing is no longer appropriate under the criteria set out in 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act. Essentially, ``recover'' and ``conserve'' 
both mean to bring a species to the point at which it no longer needs 
the protections of the Act because the species is no longer threatened 
or endangered.
    The Service will determine whether a species is endangered or 
threatened only after assessing its status throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. A species does not have to be 
recovered throughout all of its historical range before it can be 
delisted; however, within its current range it must no longer be in 
danger of extinction or likely to become endangered in the foreseeable 

F. Recovery Planning and Recovery Criteria for the Eastern Timber Wolf

    The Eastern Gray Wolf DPS was established on April 1, 2003 (68 FR 
15804). It is important to note that a DPS is a listed entity under the 
Act, and is treated the same as a listed species or subspecies. It is 
listed, protected, subject to interagency consultation, and recovered 
just as any other threatened or endangered species or subspecies. A DPS 
will have its own recovery plan and its own recovery goals. As with a 
species or subspecies, we are not required to seek restoration of the 
animal throughout the entire geographic area of the DPS, but only to 
the point at which it no longer meets the definition of a threatened or 
endangered species.
    Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement 
recovery plans for listed entities: Species, subspecies, or DPS. In 
some cases, we appoint recovery teams of experts to assist in the 
writing of recovery plans and to provide advice to the Service on 
subsequent recovery efforts. Recovery plans contain criteria that 
trigger our consideration of the need to either reclassify (from 
endangered to threatened) a species due to improvements in its status 
or to delist the species due to its recovery under the Act. 
Reclassification and recovery criteria are based on factors that can be 
measured or otherwise objectively evaluated to document improvements in 
a species' status. Examples of the type of criteria typically used are 
numbers of individuals, numbers and distribution of subgroups or 
populations of the species, rates of productivity of individuals or 
populations, protection of habitat, and reduction or elimination of 
specific threats to the species and its habitat.
    We initiated recovery programs for the originally listed gray wolf 
subspecies by appointing recovery teams and developing and implementing 
recovery plans. In addition to containing the criteria to assess a 
species' progress toward recovery, recovery plans describe and 
prioritize specific actions necessary to achieve the recovery criteria 
and objectives and identify appropriate parties to implement each 
    Once a species has met its delisting criteria and no longer meets 
the definition of endangered or threatened, it is considered to be 
recovered and should be delisted. The restoration of a species 
throughout its historical range, or even throughout the entire 
remaining suitable habitat, may not be necessary for a species to be 
delisted. Recovery plans generally do not require restoration of the 
species throughout its historical range to achieve recovery under the 
    The 1978 Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf (Recovery Plan) 
was approved on May 2, 1978, (USFWS 1978) and revised and approved on 
January 31, 1992 (USFWS 1992a). The 1978 Recovery Plan and its 1992 
revision were intended to recover the eastern timber wolf, Canis lupus 
lycaon, thought at that time to be the gray wolf subspecies that 
historically inhabited the United States east of the Great Plains. 
Thus, this Recovery Plan covers a geographic triangle extending from 
Minnesota to Maine and into northeastern Florida, an area consistent 
with the geographic coverage of the EDPS (when corrected for the lack 
of historical gray wolf range in the southeastern United States). The 
Recovery Plan was based on the best available information on wolf 
taxonomy at the time of its original publication and subsequent 
revision. Since the publication of those recovery plans, various 
studies have produced conflicting results regarding the identity of the 
wolf that historically occupied the eastern States. Because this 
conflict is still unresolved, this recovery program has continued its 
original focus on recovering the gray wolf population that survived in, 
and has expanded outward from, northeastern Minnesota, regardless of 
its subspecific identity. (See the Taxonomy of Gray Wolves in the 
Northeastern United States section above).

G. Recovery of the Eastern Gray Wolf

    The 1978 and the 1992 revised Recovery Plans each have two 
delisting criteria. The first delisting criterion states that the 
survival of the wolf in Minnesota must be assured. We, and the Eastern 
Timber Wolf Recovery Team (Rolf Peterson, Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery 
Team, in litt. 1997, 1998, 1999a, 1999b), believe that this first 
delisting criterion remains valid. It identifies a need for reasonable 
assurances that future State, tribal, and

[[Page 43669]]

Federal wolf management practices and protection will maintain a viable 
recovered population of gray wolves within the borders of Minnesota for 
the foreseeable future. The Recovery Plan's subgoal for Minnesota is 
1,251 to 1,400 wolves (USFWS 1992a).
    The second delisting criterion in the Recovery Plan states that at 
least one viable wolf population should be reestablished within the 
historical range of the eastern timber wolf outside of Minnesota and 
Isle Royale, Michigan. The Recovery Plan provides two options for 
reestablishing this second viable wolf population. If it is located 
more than 100 miles from the Minnesota wolf population, the second 
population should consist of at least 200 wolves for at least 5 years 
(based upon late-winter population estimates) to be considered viable. 
Alternatively, if the second population is located within 100 miles of 
a self-sustaining wolf population (for example, the Minnesota wolf 
population), a reestablished second population having a minimum of 100 
wolves for at least 5 years would be considered viable.
    The Recovery Plan does not specify where in the eastern United 
States the second population should be reestablished. Therefore, the 
second population could be located anywhere within the triangular 
Minnesota-Maine-Florida area covered by the Recovery Plan, except on 
Isle Royale (Michigan) or within Minnesota. The 1978 Recovery Plan 
identified potential gray wolf restoration areas throughout the eastern 
United States, including northern Wisconsin and Michigan and extending 
as far south as the Great Smoky Mountains and adjacent areas in 
Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. The revised 1992 Recovery Plan, 
however, dropped from consideration the more southern potential 
restoration areas, because recovery efforts for the red wolf were being 
initiated in those areas (USFWS 1978, 1992a). The recovery criteria do 
not suggest that either the restoration of the gray wolf throughout all 
or most of its historical range in the eastern United States are 
necessary to achieve recovery under the Act.
    In 1998, the Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team clarified the 
delisting criterion for the second population (i.e., the wolves in 
northern Wisconsin and the adjacent Upper Peninsula of Michigan) (Rolf 
Peterson, Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team, in litt. 1998). It stated 
that the numerical delisting criterion for the Wisconsin-Michigan 
population will be achieved when 6 consecutive late-winter wolf surveys 
documented that the population equaled or exceeded 100 wolves 
(excluding Isle Royale wolves) for the 5 consecutive years between the 
6 surveys (Rolf Peterson, in litt. 1998). The Wisconsin-Michigan wolf 
population was first known to have exceeded 100 wolves in the late-
winter 1993-94 survey and the numerical delisting criterion was 
satisfied in early 1999, based upon late-winter 1998-99 data (Beyer et 
al. 2001, Wydeven et al. 1999).
    The Recovery Plan has no goals or criteria for the gray wolf 
population on 546 km\2\ (210 mi\2\) Isle Royale, Michigan. The wolf 
population of Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, is not considered to 
be an important factor in the recovery or long-term survival of wolves 
in the EDPS. This population is small, varying from 12 to 29 animals 
over the last 20 years, and is almost completely isolated from other 
wolf populations (Peterson et al. 1998, pers. comm. 1999, Peterson and 
Vucetich 2004). For these reasons, the Eastern Plan does not include 
these wolves in its recovery criteria and recommends only the 
continuation of research and complete protection for these wolves 
(USFWS 1992a). Unless stated otherwise in this proposal, subsequent 
discussions of Michigan wolves do not refer to wolves on Isle Royale.


    During the pre-1965 period of wolf bounties and legal public 
trapping, wolves persisted in the more remote northeastern areas of 
Minnesota, but were eliminated from the rest of the State. Estimated 
numbers of Minnesota wolves before their listing under the Act in 1974 
include 450 to 700 in 1950-53 (Fuller et al. 1992, Stenlund 1955), 350 
to 700 in 1963 (Cahalane 1964), 750 in 1970 (Leirfallom 1970), 736 to 
950 in 1971-72 (Fuller et al. 1992), and 500 to 1,000 in 1973 (Mech and 
Rausch 1975). Although these estimates were based upon different 
methodologies and are not directly comparable, each estimates pre-
listing abundance of wolves in Minnesota at 1,000 or less. This was the 
only significant population in the United States outside Alaska during 
those time-periods.
    After the wolf was listed as endangered under the Act, population 
estimates in Minnesota indicated increasing numbers in the State (see 
Table 1 below). L. David Mech estimated the population to be 1,000 to 
1,200 in 1976 (USFWS 1978); Berg and Kuehn (1982) estimated that there 
were 1,235 wolves in 138 packs in the winter of 1978-79. In 1988-89, 
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) repeated the 
1978-79 survey and also used a second method to estimate wolf numbers 
in the State. The resulting independent estimates were 1,500 and 1,750 
wolves in at least 233 packs (Fuller et al. 1992).

           Table 1.--Gray Wolf Population in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan From 1976 Through 2004
                 [Note that there are several years between the first three Minnesota surveys.]
                     Year                                   Minnesota                Wisconsin       Michigan
1976..........................................  1,000-1,200.....................  ..............  ..............
1978-79.......................................  1,235...........................  ..............  ..............
1988-89.......................................  1,500-1,750.....................  ..............  ..............
1993-94.......................................  ................................              57              57
1994-95.......................................  ................................              83              80
1995-96.......................................  ................................              99             116
1996-97.......................................  ................................             148             112
1997-98.......................................  2,445...........................             178             140
1998-99.......................................  ................................             205             174
1999-2000.....................................  ................................             248             216
2000-01.......................................  ................................             257             249
2001-02.......................................  ................................             327             278
2002-03.......................................  ................................             335             321
2003-04.......................................  Pending*........................             373            360
*Minnesota DNR conducted another survey of the State's wolf population and range during the winter of 2003-04. A
  preliminary population estimate may be available for review by mid-July 2004.

[[Page 43670]]

    During the winter of 1997-98, a statewide wolf population and 
distribution survey was repeated by MN DNR, using methods similar to 
those of the two previous surveys. Field staff of Federal, State, 
Tribal, and county land management agencies and wood products companies 
were queried to identify occupied wolf range in Minnesota. Data from 
five concurrent radio telemetry studies tracking 36 packs, 
representative of the entire Minnesota wolf range, were used to 
determine average pack size and territory area. Those figures were then 
used to calculate a statewide estimate of pack numbers and the overall 
wolf population in the occupied range, with single (non-pack) wolves 
factored into the estimate (Berg and Benson 1999).
    The 1997-98 survey concluded that approximately 2,445 wolves 
existed in about 385 packs in Minnesota during that winter period. This 
figure indicates the continued growth of the Minnesota wolf population 
at an average rate of about 3.7 percent annually. The Minnesota wolf 
population has shown approximately this average annual rate of increase 
since 1970 (Berg and Benson 1999, Fuller et al. 1992). No rigorous 
survey of the Minnesota wolf population has been conducted since the 
winter of 1997-98, but biologists generally accept that the population 
has increased (Mech 1998, Paul 2001).
    As wolves increased in abundance in Minnesota, they also expanded 
their distribution. During 1948-53, the major wolf range was estimated 
to be about 31,080 km 2 (11,954 mi 2) (Stenlund 
1955). A 1970 questionnaire survey resulted in an estimated wolf range 
of 38,400 km 2 (14,769 mi 2) (calculated by 
Fuller et al. 1992 from Leirfallom 1970). Fuller et al. (1992), using 
data from Berg and Kuehn (1982), estimated that Minnesota primary wolf 
range included 36,500 km 2 (14,038 mi 2) during 
winter 1978-79. By 1982-83, pairs or breeding packs of wolves were 
estimated to occupy an area of 57,050 km 2 (22,000 mi 
2) in northern Minnesota (Mech et al. 1988). That study also 
identified an additional 40,500 km 2 (15,577 mi 
2) of peripheral range, where habitat appeared suitable but 
no wolves or only lone wolves existed. The 1988-89 study produced an 
estimate of 60,200 km 2 (23,165 mi 2) as the 
contiguous wolf range at that time in Minnesota (Fuller et al. 1992), 
an increase of 65 percent over the primary range calculated for 1978-
79. The 1997-98 study concluded that the contiguous wolf range had 
expanded to 88,325 km 2 (33,971 mi 2), a 47 
percent increase in 9 years (Berg and Benson 1999). Thewolf population 
in Minnesota had recovered to the point that its contiguous range 
covered approximately 40 percent of the State during 1997-98.
    Minnesota DNR conducted another survey of the State's wolf 
population and range during the winter of 2003-04 using methodology 
similar to that used in 1988-89 and 1997-98 (John Erb, MN DNR, pers. 
comm. 2003). A preliminary population estimate may be available for 
review by mid-July 2004. The final results of that survey will be 
posted on our web site (http://midwest/fws.gov/wolf) as soon as they 

are available. Those results will be used in our final decision on this 


    Wolves were considered to have been extirpated from Wisconsin by 
1960. No formal attempts were made to monitor the State's wolf 
population from 1960 until 1979. From 1960 through 1975, individual 
wolves and an occasional wolf pair were reported. There is no 
documentation, however, of any wolf reproduction occurring in 
Wisconsin, and the wolves that were reported may have been dispersing 
animals from Minnesota.
    Wolf population monitoring by the WI DNR began in 1979 and 
estimated a statewide population of 25 wolves at that time. This 
population remained relatively stable for several years, then declined 
slightly to approximately 15 to 19 wolves in the mid-1980s. In the late 
1980s, the Wisconsin wolf population began an increase that has 
continued into 2004.
    Wisconsin DNR intensively surveys its wolf population annually 
using a combination of aerial, ground, and satellite radio telemetry, 
complemented by snow tracking and wolf sign surveys (Wydeven et al. 
1995, 2003). Wolves are trapped from May through September and fitted 
with radio collars, with a goal of having at least one radio-collared 
wolf in about half of the wolf packs in Wisconsin. Aerial locations are 
obtained from each functioning radio collar about once per week, and 
pack territories are estimated from the movements of the individuals 
who exhibit localized patterns. From December through March, the pilots 
make special efforts to visually locate and count the individual wolves 
in each radio-tracked pack. Snow tracking is used to supplement the 
aerial sighting-based counts and to provide pack size estimates for 
packs lacking a radio-collared wolf. Tracking is done by assigning 
survey blocks to trackers who then drive snow-covered roads in their 
blocks and follow all wolf tracks they encounter. Snowmobiles are used 
to locate wolf tracks in more remote areas with low road density. The 
results of the aerial and ground surveys are carefully compared to 
properly separate packs and to avoid over-counting (Wydeven et al. 
2003). The number of wolves in each pack is estimated based on the 
aerial and ground observations made of the individual wolves in each 
pack over the winter.
    During the winter of 2002-03, 43 of Wisconsin's 94 wolf packs (46 
percent) had members carrying active radio transmitters much of the 
season. Thirty-nine of the 66 monitored wolves were located 20 or more 
times during the mid-September to mid-April period, providing excellent 
information on home range boundaries and pack territory size (Wydeven 
et al. 2003). Minimum wolf population estimates (late-winter counts) 
for 1994 through 2003 increased from 57 to 335 animals, comprising 14 
to 94 packs respectively (Wydeven et al. 2003) (see Table 1 above). An 
estimated 373 to 410 wolves in 109 packs, including 12 wolves on Native 
American reservations, were in the State in 2004, representing an 11 
percent increase from 2003 (WI DNR 2004).
    Because the monitoring methods focus on wolf packs, it is believed 
that lone wolves are undercounted in Wisconsin, and, as a result, these 
population estimates are probably slight underestimates of the actual 
wolf population within the State during the late-winter period. Also, 
these estimates are made at the low point of the annual wolf population 
cycle--late-winter surveys produce an estimate of the wolf population 
at a time when most winter mortality has already occurred, but the 
birth of pups has yet to take place. The wolf population increases 
dramatically when pups are born, then decreases rapidly due to pup 
mortality, and with a subsequent slower decline as other mortality 
factors continue throughout the year. Thus, Wisconsin wolf population 
estimates are conservative in two respects: they undercount lone wolves 
and the count is made at the annual low point of the population. 
However, the recovery criteria established in 1992 are consistent with 
existing methodology, establishing numerical criteria based on late-
winter surveys.
    In 1995, wolves were first documented in Jackson County, Wisconsin, 
an area well to the south of the northern Wisconsin area occupied by 
other Wisconsin wolf packs. The number of wolves in this central 
Wisconsin area has dramatically expanded since that time. During the 
winter of 2003-04, there were approximately 57 wolves in 16 to 17

[[Page 43671]]

packs in central Wisconsin (Wydeven pers. comm. 2004).
    During the winter of 2002-03, 7 wolves occurred on Native American 
reservations in Wisconsin (Wydeven et al. 2003), and this increased to 
12 wolves in the winter of 2003-04 (WI DNR 2004). These animals were on 
the Bad River (10) and Lac Courte Oreilles Reservations (2) (Wydeven in 
litt. 2004). There also is evidence of individual wolves on the Lac du 
Flambeau and Menominee Reservations, with a high likelihood of wolf 
packs developing on these reservations in the near future (Wydeven 
pers. comm. 2002). Additionally, the Red Cliff and Stockbridge-Munsee 
Reservations and scattered Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk lands will likely 
support wolves in the near future (Wydeven in litt. 2003).
    In 2002, wolf numbers in Wisconsin alone surpassed the goal for a 
second population, as identified in the Recovery Plan (i.e., 100 wolves 
within 100 miles for a minimum of 5 consecutive years, as measured in 6 
consecutive late-winter counts). The Wisconsin wolf population 
continues to increase, although the slower rates of increase seen in 
the 2001 and 2003 surveys (3.6 and 2.4 percent, respectively, above the 
previous year) may be the first indications that the State's wolf 
population growth and geographic expansion are beginning to level off. 
The much higher rates of growth seen in 2000 and 2002 (20.9 and 27.2 
percent, respectively), however, indicate that it is too soon to 
conclude that wolf numbers in Wisconsin have reached a plateau. Over 
the last 10 years, the Wisconsin wolf population grew at an annualized 
rate of 24 percent.


    Michigan wolves were extirpated as a reproducing population long 
before they were listed as endangered in 1974. Prior to 1991, and 
excluding Isle Royale, the last known breeding population of wild 
Michigan wolves occurred in the mid-1950s. As wolves began to reoccupy 
northern Wisconsin, the MI DNR began noting single wolves at various 
locations in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In the late 1980s, a wolf 
pair was verified in the central Upper Peninsula, and it produced pups 
in 1991. Since that time, wolf packs have spread throughout the Upper 
Peninsula, with immigration occurring from both Wisconsin on the west 
and Ontario on the east. They now are found in every county of the 
Upper Peninsula.
    The MI DNR annually monitors the wolf population in the Upper 
Peninsula by intensive late-winter tracking surveys that focus on each 
pack. The Upper Peninsula is divided into seven monitoring zones, and 
specific surveyors are assigned to each zone. Pack locations are 
derived from previous surveys, citizen reports, and ground and aerial 
tracking of radio-collared wolves. During the winter of 2002-03 at 
least 68 wolf packs were resident in the Upper Peninsula. Approximately 
30 to 35 percent of these packs had members with active radio-tracking 
collars (Dean Beyer, MI DNR, pers. comm. 2004). Care is taken to avoid 
double-counting packs and individual wolves, and a variety of evidence 
is used to distinguish adjacent packs and accurately count their 
members (Beyer et al. 2003). Surveys along the border of adjacent 
monitoring zones are coordinated to avoid double-counting of wolves and 
packs occupying those border areas. In areas with a high density of 
wolves, ground surveys by four to six surveyors with concurrent aerial 
tracking are used to accurately identify adjacent packs and count their 
members (Potvin et al. submitted).
    From 1994 through 2003, annual surveys have documented minimum 
late-winter estimates of wolves occurring in the Upper Peninsula as 
increasing from 57 wolves in 1994 to 321 in 2003 (see Table 1 above). 
Over the last 10 years the annualized rate of increase has been 27 
percent (MI DNR 1997, 1999a, 2001, 2003). In 2004, the late winter 
population was at least 360 wolves, up 12 percent from last year (MI 
DNR 2004b). The Michigan Upper Peninsula wolf population by itself has 
surpassed the recovery goal for a second population of 100 wolves 
within 100 miles for a minimum of 5 consecutive years (6 late-winter 
estimates), as specified in the Recovery Plan.
    In 2003-04, no wolf packs were known to be primarily using tribal-
owned lands in Michigan (Beyer pers comm. 2004). Native American tribes 
in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan own small, scattered blocks of land. 
As such, no one tribal property would likely support a wolf pack. 
However, as wolves occur in all counties in the Upper Peninsula and 
range widely, tribal land is likely utilized periodically by wolves.
    As mentioned previously, the wolf population of Isle Royale 
National Park, Michigan, is not considered to be an important factor in 
the recovery or long-term survival of wolves in the EDPS. This small 
and isolated wolf population is not expected to make a significant 
numerical contribution to gray wolf recovery, although long-term 
research on this wolf population has added a great deal to our 
knowledge of the species.
    Although there have been reports of wolf sightings in the Lower 
Peninsula of Michigan, including a winter 1997 report of 2 large canids 
believed to be wolves on the ice west of the Mackinaw Bridge, there is 
no evidence that there are resident wolves in the Lower Peninsula. 
Recognizing, however, the likelihood that small numbers of gray wolves 
will eventually move into the Lower Peninsula, MI DNR has begun a 
revision of its Wolf Management Plan to incorporate provisions for wolf 
management there.
    When the wolf population estimates of Wisconsin and Michigan are 
combined, the total population has exceeded the second population 
recovery goal of 200 wolves for 5 consecutive years for a 
geographically isolated wolf population. The two-State wolf population, 
excluding Isle Royale wolves, has exceeded 200 wolves since late-winter 

Northeastern United States

    Wolves were extirpated from the northeastern United States by 1900. 
Few credible observations of wolves were reported in the Northeast 
during most of the 20th century. There has been a small number of 
remains or salvages of either wolves or wolf-like canids in the 
northeastern United States since 1993. Observations of ``wolves'' 
cannot be verified without physical evidence, because wolves may be 
confused with other canids such as large eastern coyotes, wolf-dog 
hybrids, and large domestic and feral dogs. As mentioned earlier and in 
the final reclassification rule (68 FR 15804), gray wolf-dog hybrids 
are not provided protection of the Act, regardless of the geographic 
location of the capture of their pure wolf ancestors. Therefore, only 
recent wolf or wolf-like canid remains in the northeastern United 
States and adjacent Quebec are summarized here.
    Recent reports and analyses confirmed the presence of four wolf-
like canids in the northeastern United States and one in Canada just 
north of the United States border. Three of these wolves (including the 
Canadian wolf) were determined to be gray wolves, whereas the other two 
have been found to be hybrids of various lineages. Of the three gray 
wolf-like canids, two showed genetic linkages with wolves in Canada's 
Algonquin Provincial Park area. However, there is no evidence of the 
presence of a self-sustaining wolf population in the northeastern 
United States.
    In 1993, a 63-pound female canid was killed in northwestern Maine. 
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife concluded that 
this animal

[[Page 43672]]

was of captive origin because it reportedly visited a campsite the day 
before its death. The Service, however, found no evidence that this 
animal was captive held and determined it to be a gray wolf (consistent 
with DNA from an Algonquin Provincial Park area wolf). The animal was 
tested for distemper vaccine and evidence of vaccination was not found. 
Additionally, it had calloused foot pads typical of a wild animal.
    In 1996, an 86-pound male canid was killed in Aurora, Maine. The 
Service conducted a genetic evaluation to establish species identity, 
which was inconclusive. Canadian geneticist Dr. Brad White (in litt. 
1999) states that, based on his analysis, the animal appeared 75 
percent southeastern Canadian wolf (lycaon type) and 25 percent coyote. 
The animal tested negative for routine vaccinations, exhibited worn 
foot pads, had beaver remains in its stomach, and otherwise appeared to 
be of wild origin. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and 
Wildlife initially referred to this canid as a ``probable wolf,'' but 
subsequently described it as a coyote (K. Elowe, in litt. August 2003). 
In 1997, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife placed 
infrared cameras at carcasses and conducted howling surveys in this 
area. No further evidence of other large canids was obtained. We 
concluded that this animal was a hybrid between a coyote and 
southeastern Canadian wolf.
    In 1997, a 72-pound canid was shot in Glover, Vermont. Samples were 
sent to three labs for genetic analyses: The Service's lab in Ashland, 
Oregon; the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA); and the 
Wildlife Forensic DNA Lab at MacMaster University in Ontario, Canada. 
Thus far, results from UCLA indicate that the canid's mitochondrial DNA 
match that of a wolf (Canis lupus lycaon); however, because this 
analysis only identifies maternal ancestry, it does not rule out the 
possibility that the animal may have been sired by a coyote or domestic 
dog. In contrast, the Service's Ashland lab typed the animal using 
mitochondrial DNA as coyote, whereas the nuclear DNA suggests coyote/
Alaskan malamute dog. The Service concluded that the animal was likely 
of hybrid origin.
    In 2001, a male animal reported to be 85 pounds was killed in Day 
(near Edinburg), Saratoga County, New York. The skin, carcass, and 
skull were examined by Dr. Robert Chambers (formerly of the College of 
Environmental Science and Forestry and authority on New York coyotes), 
who reported that the animal's head was atypical in shape for either a 
coyote or a wolf. Dr. Chambers also noted that its teeth were not 
typical for a wild canid and more consistent with that of a domestic 
dog. The Service's Ashland forensic lab, however, recently completed 
mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA analyses on this animal and 
determined that it was a gray wolf. No evidence was found to indicate 
that the animal was of captive origin.
    In 2002, a 64-pound male, wolf-like canid was trapped and killed 
north of the United States border near Sante-Marguerite-de-Lingwick in 
southern Quebec Province, Canada. Mitochondrial DNA samples were 
consistent with Canis l. lycaon/C. latrans and the microsatellite 
genotype showed 95 percent ancestry with Eastern wolves from Algonquin 
Provincial Park (Villemure and Jolicoeur submitted 2003). The authors 
describe this animal as the first confirmed occurrence of a wolf, C. 
Lupus, [in Canada] south of the St. Lawrence River in over 100 years.
    For the past decade, the Service, the State of Maine, the National 
Wildlife Federation, and several other private organizations have 
conducted surveys and responded to sightings of large canids in an 
attempt to document the presence of wolves or wolf-like canids in the 
northeastern United States. These efforts have not documented the 
occurrence of wolves or wolf-like canids in addition to those discussed 
above, nor have they found evidence that a population of wolves is 
breeding in the northeastern United States.
    While the northeastern United States may contain a large area of 
historical range not currently occupied by breeding wolves, recovery of 
the EDPS is not contingent on a secure population of wolves being 
established in this area. It is appropriate to delist the EDPS even if 
a substantial amount of the historical range remains unoccupied if the 
population in its current range is recovered. For this reason, we 
believe that gray wolf recovery in the eastern United States has been 
achieved by restoring the species to its core areas within the EDPS, 
consisting of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Although we believe 
that additional wolf restoration is not necessary within the eastern 
United States before delisting the EDPS, delisting will not preclude 
States and Tribes from undertaking additional wolf restoration 

Other Areas in the Eastern DPS

    The increasing numbers of wolves in Minnesota and the accompanying 
expansion of their range westward and southwestward in the State have 
led to an increase in dispersing, mostly young wolves that have been 
documented in North and South Dakota in recent years. No surveys have 
been conducted to document the number of wolves present in North Dakota 
or South Dakota. The North Dakota Fish and Game Department (Phil 
Mastrangelo pers. comm. 2004), USDA Wildlife Services (John Paulson 
pers. comm. 2004), and the Service estimate the number of wolves in 
North Dakota to be 10 to 20 animals; in South Dakota, single wolves 
have been sighted, but no resident wolves have been documented.
    An examination of skull morphology of North and South Dakota wolves 
indicates that of eight examined, seven likely had dispersed from 
Minnesota; the eighth probably came from Manitoba, Canada (Licht and 
Fritts 1994). Genetic analysis of an additional gray wolf killed in 
2001 in extreme northwestern South Dakota indicates that it, too, 
originated from the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population 
(Straughan and Fain 2002).
    Additionally, wolves from the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan 
population are traveling to other States in the EDPS. In October 2001, 
a wolf was killed in north-central Missouri by a farmer who stated that 
he thought it was a coyote. The wolf's ear tag identified it as having 
originated from the western portion of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, 
where it had been captured as a juvenile in July 1999. Another wolf was 
shot and killed in Marshall County, Illinois, in December 2002, and in 
that same month a wolf was mistaken for a coyote and shot near 
Spalding, Nebraska. A fourth Great Lakes wolf was found dead in 
Randolph County in east-central Indiana (about 12 miles from the Ohio 
border) in June 2003. That wolf originated in Jackson County, 
    Wolf dispersal is expected to continue as wolves travel from the 
core recovery populations into areas where wolves are extremely sparse 
or absent. Unless they return to a core recovery population and join or 
start a pack there, they are unlikely to contribute to wolf recovery. 
Although it is possible for them to encounter another wolf, mate, and 
reproduce outside the core wolf areas, the lack of large expanses of 
unfragmented public land will make it difficult for wolf packs to 
persist in these areas.
    Gray wolf recovery in the eastern United States has been achieved 
by restoring the species to its core recovery areas within the EDPS, 
consisting of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, to the point where it 
is not in danger of

[[Page 43673]]

extinction now or in the foreseeable future. We do not need to recover 
the wolf in other areas of the eastern United States to delist the 
EDPS. Once protection of the Act is removed, States and Tribes may 
undertake additional wolf recovery programs if they are interested. The 
Service does not intend to undertake any additional wolf recovery 
efforts within the States that are part of the EDPS, before or after 
delisting. We may, however, provide technical assistance to States and 
tribes who wish to develop wolf recovery plans beyond those that have 
already been undertaken.

H. Principles of Conservation Biology

    Representation, resiliency, and redundancy are three principles of 
conservation biology that are generally recognized as being necessary 
to conserve the biodiversity of an area (Shaffer and Stein 2000). These 
principles apply when establishing goals for individual species' 
recovery under the Act.
    The principle of representation is the need to preserve ``some of 
all available''--every species, every habitat, and every biotic 
community--so biodiversity can be maintained. At the species level, it 
also calls for preserving the genetic diversity that remains within a 
species to maximize its ability to adapt to its environment.
    Redundancy and resiliency both deal with preserving ``enough to 
last,'' but they address it at distinctly different levels. Redundancy 
addresses the need for a sufficient number of populations of a species, 
whereas resiliency deals with the necessary size and geographic range 
of individual populations necessary to ensure the species' persistence 
over time. Resiliency increases in relation to the geographic range of 
a population. Therefore, populations with a broad geographic range are 
more likely to persist in the face of environmental changes and other 
threats to their existence. The redundancy provided by multiple 
populations of a species provides additional assurances for its 
survival. For example, a threat to one population may not affect other 
populations. If that threat leads to the extirpation of a population, 
the species would still persist due to the occurrence of more than one 
population that was not affected by the same set of factors.
    Due to the vast array of life forms that are potentially subject to 
the protections of the Act and the variety of physical, biological, and 
cultural factors acting on them, these three principles should be 
applied on a species-by-species basis to determine the appropriate 
recovery goals. For example, addressing the need for redundancy and 
resiliency for nonmotile organisms, species of limited range (for 
example, island or insular species), or those species restricted to 
linear features of the environment (stream or shoreline species) should 
be expected to result in recovery goals that are quite different from 
goals developed for habitat generalist, widely distributed, and/or 
highly mobile species like the gray wolf.

I. Application of Conservation Biology Principles to the Eastern Gray 
Wolf DPS

    In this proposed rule, we evaluate the current conditions and the 
conditions in the foreseeable future to determine whether the DPS still 
warrants listing under the Act. This includes an assessment of progress 
made to date toward the recovery of the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS. Because 
the wolf currently resides in only a portion of the DPS, we will 
determine if recovery has been achieved across a significant portion of 
the DPS to ensure long-term viability in the DPS. We use the principles 
of conservation biology discussed above and focus on the size, number, 
composition, distribution, and threats to wolves in the EDPS to answer 
the following key question: is the gray wolf in danger of extinction, 
or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range within the EDPS?
    The original Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf and the 1992 
revision of that plan (USFWS 1978, 1992a) included criteria to identify 
whether long-term population viability of gray wolves would be assured 
in the eastern United States. The 1978 Recovery Plan embodied 
conservation biology tenets in its recovery criteria that the 1992 
revised recovery plan carried forward. The Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery 
Team (Eastern Team) reviewed these criteria in 1997 and found them to 
be adequate and sufficient to ensure long-term population viability 
(Peterson in litt. 1997).
    The principles of representation, resiliency, and redundancy are 
fully incorporated into the recovery criteria developed by the Eastern 
Team. Maintenance of the Minnesota wolf population is vital because the 
remaining genetic diversity of gray wolves in the eastern United States 
was carried by the several hundred wolves that survived in the State 
into the early 1970s. The Eastern Team insisted that the remnant 
Minnesota wolf population be maintained and expanded to achieve wolf 
recovery in the eastern United States, and the successful growth of 
that remnant population has maximized the representation of that 
genetic diversity among gray wolves in the eastern United States. 
Furthermore, the Eastern Team specified that the Minnesota wolf 
population should increase to 1,250-1,400 animals, which would increase 
the likelihood of maintaining its genetic diversity over the long term, 
and would provide the resiliency to reduce the adverse impacts of 
unpredictable chance demographic and environmental events. The 
Minnesota wolf population currently is estimated to be double that 
numerical goal.
    The Eastern Team members recognized the need for redundancy, and 
specified that this need be accomplished by establishing a second 
population of gray wolves in the eastern United States. They identified 
several potential locations for the second population, including 
Wisconsin, Michigan, northern New York, and northern Maine. To ensure 
that the second population also had sufficient resiliency to survive 
normal and unexpected variations in population size, the Eastern Team 
specified a minimum size for the second population that would have to 
be maintained for a minimum of 5 years. If the second population was 
isolated from the larger Minnesota population, the recovery criteria 
requires that the second population contain at least 200 wolves for a 
minimum of 5 years. If, however, the second population were near (i.e., 
less than 100 miles from) the Minnesota population, the two populations 
would function as a ``metapopulation'' rather than as two separate and 
isolated populations; in that case the second population would be 
viable if it maintained 100 wolves for at least 5 years. Wolf 
populations near Minnesota were likely to be viable at this smaller 
size due to the potential immigration of wolves from Minnesota. Such a 

second wolf population has developed in Wisconsin and the adjacent 
Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This second population is less than 200 
miles from the Minnesota wolf population, and it has had a late-winter 
population exceeding 100 animals since 1994.
    The number of wolves in the EDPS greatly exceeds the recovery 
criteria (USFWS 1992a) for (1) a secure wolf population in Minnesota 
and (2) a second population of 100 wolves for 5 successive years; thus, 
based on the criteria set by the recovery team in 1992, the DPS 
contains sufficient numbers and distribution (resiliency and 
redundancy) to ensure the long-term survival of gray wolves within the 
DPS. The wolf's numeric and distributional recovery in the EDPS has 
been achieved.

[[Page 43674]]

Next we will consider whether the significant reduction or removal of 
threats to the gray wolf's continued existence within the DPS 
demonstrates that the species is not likely to become in danger of 
extinction nor likely to become an endangered species within the 
foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
within the DPS.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act and regulations (50 CFR 
Part 424) promulgated to implement the listing provisions of the Act 
set forth the procedures for listing, reclassifying, and delisting 
species. Species may be listed as threatened or endangered if one or 
more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act 
threaten the continued existence of the species. A species may be 
delisted, according to 50 CFR 424.11(d), if the best scientific and 
commercial data available substantiate that the species is neither 
endangered nor threatened because of (1) extinction, (2) recovery, or 
(3) error in the original data, or the data analysis, used for 
classification of the species. A determination of recovery must be 
based upon the same five threat factors specified in section 4(a)(1).
    For species that are being considered for delisting, this analysis 
of threats is primarily an evaluation of the threats that would, with a 
reasonable degree of likelihood, affect the species in the foreseeable 
future after its delisting and the consequent removal of the Act's 
protections. This may include currently existing threats whose impacts 
are sufficiently low so that recovery has been achieved despite their 
impacts; or they may be threats that are no longer existent, but that 
may have significant adverse effects after delisting. Although the 
latter threats are more difficult to identify and evaluate, their 
potential impacts may preclude the long-term viability of a species.
    Our evaluation of the threats to the gray wolf in the EDPS--
especially those threats to wolves in the core recovery areas that 
would occur after removal of the protections of the Act--is 
substantially based on the wolf management plans and assurances of the 
States and Tribes. If the gray wolf is federally delisted, State and 
Tribal management plans will be the major determinant of wolf 
protection, will set and enforce limits on human take of wolves (e.g., 
for depredation control), and will determine the overall regulatory 
framework for the conservation and/or exploitation of gray wolves.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    A popular perception is that wolves inhabit only remote portions of 
pristine forests or mountainous areas, where human developments and 
other activities have produced negligible change to the natural 
landscape. Their extirpation south of Canada and Alaska, except for the 
heavily forested portions of northeastern Minnesota, reinforced this 
popular belief. Wolves, however, survived in those areas not because 
those were the only places with the necessary habitat conditions, but 
because only in those remote areas were they sufficiently free of the 
human persecution that elsewhere killed wolves faster than the species 
could reproduce (Mech 1995).
    In the upper Great Lakes region, wolves in the densely forested 
northeastern corner of Minnesota have expanded into the more 
agricultural portions of central and northwestern Minnesota, northern 
and central Wisconsin, and the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 
Habitats currently being used by wolves span the broad range from the 
mixed hardwood-coniferous forest wilderness area of northern Minnesota, 
through sparsely settled, but similar habitats in Michigan's Upper 
Peninsula and northern Wisconsin, and into more intensively cultivated 
and livestock-producing portions of central and northwestern Minnesota 
and central Wisconsin; wolves even approach the fringes of the St. 
Paul, Minnesota, and Madison, Wisconsin, suburbs. Wolves also travel 
from Minnesota into the agricultural landscape of North and South 
Dakota in increasing numbers (Licht and Fritts 1994, Straughan and Fain 
2002). Similarly, a radio-collared wolf from the Upper Peninsula of 
Michigan was recently mistaken for a coyote and killed in north-central 
Missouri, presumably traveling through expanses of agricultural land 
along the way (Missouri Department of Conservation 2001). A wolf 
originating from the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan population was shot 
and killed in central Illinois, and a young wolf from central Wisconsin 
was shot in extreme eastern Indiana, and likely traveled through areas 
of heavy human use as it journeyed south and east around the highly 
developed land bordering the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Similar 
long-distance movement of wolves is expected to continue from core 
areas as these animals attempt to disperse into unoccupied areas. These 
movements may result in the expansion of the population's range when 
the wolves locate areas with sufficient prey and potential mates and 
where human-caused mortality is not too high to preclude their 
    Wolf research and the expansion of wolf range over the last three 
decades have shown that wolves can successfully occupy a wide range of 
habitats, and they are not dependent on wilderness areas (i.e., areas 
essentially free of human disturbance) for their survival (Mech 1995). 
In the past, gray wolf populations occupied nearly every type of 
habitat north of mid-Mexico that contained large ungulate prey species, 
including bison, elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, and woodland 
caribou. An inadequate prey density and a high level of human 
persecution apparently are the only factors that limit wolf 
distribution (Mech 1995). Therefore, virtually any area that has 
sufficient prey and adequate protection from human-caused mortality 
could be considered potential gray wolf habitat.
    Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan contain large tracts 
of wolf habitat, estimated at 15,052 km\2\ (5,812 mi\2\) and 29,348 
km\2\ (11,331 mi\2\), respectively (Mladenoff et al. 1995; WI DNR 
1999a). In those States, much of the suitable habitat is on public 
lands (national, State, and county forest lands).
    Hearne et al. (2003), determined that a viable wolf population 
(that is, having less than 10 percent chance of extinction over 100 
years) should consist of at least 175 to 225 wolves, and they modeled 
various likely scenarios of habitat conditions in the Upper Peninsula 
of Michigan and northern Wisconsin through the year 2020 to determine 
whether future conditions would support a wolf population of that size. 
Most scenarios of future habitat conditions resulted in viable wolf 
populations in each State through 2020. When the model analyzed the 
future conditions in the two States combined, all scenarios produced a 
viable wolf population through 2020.
    Three comparable surveys of wolf numbers and range in Minnesota 
have been carried out since 1979. These surveys estimated that there 
were 1,235, 1,500-1,750, and 2,445 wolves in Minnesota in 1979, 1989, 
and 1998, respectively (Berg and Kuehn 1982, Fuller et al. 1992, Berg 
and Benson 1999) (see Table 1 above). Based on these surveys, wolf 
numbers in Minnesota increased at annual rates of about 3 percent 
between 1979-89 and by about 4 to 5 percent between 1989-98. As of the 
1998 survey, the number of wolves in Minnesota was

[[Page 43675]]

approximately twice the planning goal for Minnesota, as specified in 
the Eastern Recovery Plan. (Refer to the Recovery of the Eastern Gray 
Wolf section above, for additional details on the increase in numbers 
and range of Minnesota wolves.)
    The MN DNR, in cooperation with the MN Department of Agriculture, 
completed a Wolf Management Plan (Minnesota Plan) in early 2001 (MN DNR 
2001). The Minnesota Plan's stated goal is ``to ensure the long-term 
survival of wolves in Minnesota while addressing wolf-human conflicts 
that inevitably result when wolves and people live in the same 
vicinity.'' It establishes a minimum goal of 1,600 wolves, with 
provisions to monitor the population and to take prompt corrective 
action, including habitat protection, if wolf numbers drop below that 
threshold. The Minnesota Plan divides the State into two wolf 
management zones--Zones A and B (see Figure 2 below). Zone A 
corresponds to wolf management zones 1 through 4 (an approximately 
30,000 mi\2\ area in northeastern Minnesota) in the Service's Eastern 
Recovery Plan, whereas Zone B constitutes zone 5 in the Eastern 
Recovery Plan. Within Zone A, wolves would receive strong protection by 
the State, unless they were involved in attacks on domestic animals. 
The rules governing the take of wolves to protect domestic animals in 
Zone B would be less protective than in Zone A.

[[Page 43676]]



[[Page 43677]]

    The Wisconsin wolf population has increased at an average annual 
rate of 18 percent since 1985. Wisconsin had at least 335 wild gray 
wolves in early 2003 (Wydeven et al. 2003b), and an estimated 373-410 
wolves in the State in 2004, an 11 percent increase from 2003 (WI DNR 
2004). The Michigan wolf population (excluding Isle Royale) has 
increased at an average annual rate of about 19 percent between 1995 
and 2002 and the 2003 wolf population was at least 321 wolves 
(Huntzinger et al. 2003). The early 2004 wolf population was at least 
360 wolves, up 12 percent from last year (MI DNR 2004b). Wolf survey 
methods in both States focus on wolf packs and may miss many lone 
individuals, thus underestimating the actual wolf populations. It is 
safe to say, however, that the combined gray wolf population in the two 
States (excluding Isle Royale, MI) was over 700 animals in late-winter 
    Final State wolf management plans for Michigan and Wisconsin have 
identified habitat protection as one of their top priorities for 
maintaining a viable wolf population. Both State wolf management plans 
emphasize the need to manage human access to wolf areas by avoiding 
increasing road densities, protecting habitat corridors between larger 
tracts of wolf habitat, avoiding disturbance and habitat degradation in 
the immediate vicinity of den and rendezvous sites, and maintaining 
adequate prey species for wolves by suitable habitat and prey harvest 
    Both the Michigan Plan and the Wisconsin Plan establish wolf 
population goals that exceed the viable population threshold identified 
in the Federal recovery plan for isolated wolf populations, that is, a 
population of 200 or more wolves for 5 consecutive years (USFWS 1992a). 
Each State adopted this ``isolated population'' approach to ensure the 
continued existence of a viable wolf population within its borders 
regardless of the condition or existence of wolf populations in 
adjacent States or Canada. (For more information on State Management 
Plans, see the Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section, factor 
``D. The adequacy or inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms'' 
section, below.)
Tribal Lands
    Native American tribes and multi-tribal organizations have 
indicated to the Service that they will continue to conserve wolves on 
most, and probably all, Native American reservations in the core 
recovery areas of the EDPS. The wolf retains great cultural 
significance and traditional value to many tribes and their members 
(Eli Hunt, Leech Lake Tribal Council, in litt. 1998; Mike Schrage, Fond 
du Lac Resource Management Division, in litt. 1998a). Some Native 
Americans view wolves as competitors for deer and moose, whereas others 
are interested in harvesting wolves as a furbearer (Schrage, in litt. 
1998a). Many tribes intend to sustainably manage their natural 
resources, wolves among them, to ensure that they are available to 
their descendants. Traditional natural resource harvest practices, 
however, often include only a minimum amount of regulation by the 
tribal government (Hunt in litt. 1998).
    To retain and strengthen cultural connections, some tribes oppose 
unnecessary killing of wolves on reservations and on ceded lands, even 
if wolves were to be delisted in the future. For example, because of 
the strong cultural significance of the wolf to their culture, the 
Ojibwe people support its protection (James Schlender, Great Lakes 
Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, in litt. 1998). (For detailed 
discussion on tribal management of wolves in the EDPS, see the Summary 
of Factors Affecting the Species section, factor ``D. The adequacy or 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms'' section, below.)
    Although no tribes have completed wolf management plans, based on 
communications with tribes and tribal organizations, wolves are likely 
to be adequately protected on tribal lands. Furthermore, the numerical 
recovery criteria in the Recovery Plan would be achieved (based on the 
numbers and range of off-reservation wolves) even without the 
protection of wolves on tribal lands.
Federal Lands
    National forests, and the prey species found in their various 
habitats, are important to wolf conservation and recovery in the core 
areas of the EDPS. There are five national forests with resident wolves 
(Superior, Chippewa, Chequamegon-Nicolet, Ottawa, and Hiawatha National 
Forests) in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Their wolf populations 
range from approximately 20 on the Nicolet portion of the Chequamegon-
Nicolet National Forest in northeastern Wisconsin to an estimated 300-
400 on the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. Nearly 
half of the wolves in Wisconsin currently use the Chequamegon portion 
of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. All of these national 
forests are operated in conformance with standards and guidelines in 
their management plans that follow the 1992 Recovery Plan's 
recommendations for the Eastern Timber Wolf (USFWS 1992a). Delisting is 
not expected to lead to an immediate change in these standards and 
guidelines; in fact, the Regional Forester for U.S. Forest Service 
Region 9 is expected to maintain the classification of the gray wolf as 
a sensitive species for at least 5 years after Federal delisting 
(Regional Forester, U.S. Forest Service, in litt. 2003). The 
continuation of current national forest management practices will be 
important in ensuring the long-term viability of gray wolf populations 
in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
    Gray wolves regularly use four units of the National Park System in 
the EDPS and may occasionally use three or four other units. Although 
the National Park Service (NPS) has participated in the development of 
some of the State wolf management plans in this area, NPS is not bound 
by States' plans. Instead, the NPS Organic Act and the NPS Management 
Policy on Wildlife authorize the agency to conserve natural and 
cultural resources and the wildlife present within the parks. 
Generally, National Park Service management policies require that 
native species be protected against harvest, removal, destruction, 
harassment, or harm through human action, although certain parks may 
allow some harvest in accordance with State management plans. 
Management emphasis in National Parks after delisting would continue to 
minimize the human impacts on wolf populations. Thus, because of their 
responsibility to preserve all wildlife, units of the National Park 
System can be more protective of wildlife than are State plans and 
regulations. In the case of the gray wolf, the NPS Organic Act and NPS 
policies will continue to provide protection even after Federal 
delisting has occurred.
    Voyageurs National Park, along Minnesota's northern border, has a 
land base of nearly 882 km2 (340 mi2). There are 
40 to 55 wolves within 7 to 11 packs that exclusively or partially 
reside within the park. Management and protection of wolves in the park 
is not likely to change after delisting. The park's management policies 
require that ``native animals will be protected against harvest, 
removal, destruction, harassment, or harm through human action.'' To 
reduce human disturbance, temporary closures around wolf denning and 
rendezvous sites will be enacted whenever they are discovered in the 
park. Sport harvest of wolves within the park will be prohibited,

[[Page 43678]]

regardless of what may be allowed beyond park boundaries (Barbara West, 
National Park Service, in litt. 2004). A radiotelemetry study conducted 
between 1987-91 of wolves living in and adjacent to the park found that 
all mortality inside the park was due to natural causes (e.g., killing 
by other wolves), whereas all mortality outside the park was human 
induced (e.g., shooting and trapping) (Gogan et al. 1997). If there is 
a need to control depredating wolves outside the park, which seems 
unlikely due to the current absence of agricultural activities adjacent 
to the park, the park would work with the State to conduct control 
activities where necessary (West in litt. 2004).
    The wolf population in Isle Royale National Park is described above 
(see the Recovery of the Eastern Gray Wolf section). The NPS has 
indicated that it will continue to closely monitor and study these 
wolves. This wolf population is very small and isolated from the other 
EDPS gray wolf populations; it is not considered to be significant to 
the recovery or long term viability of the gray wolf (USFWS 1992a).
    Two other units of the National Park System, Pictured Rocks 
National Lakeshore and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, are 
regularly used by wolves. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a narrow 
strip of land along Michigan's Lake Superior shoreline; lone wolves 
periodically use, but do not appear to be year-round residents of, the 
Lakeshore. If denning occurred after delisting, the Lakeshore would 
protect denning and rendezvous sites at least as strictly as the MI 
Plan recommends (Karen Gustin, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, in 
litt. 2003). Harvesting wolves on the Lakeshore may be allowed (i.e., 
if the Michigan DNR allows for harvest in the State), but trapping 
would not be allowed. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, in 
Wisconsin and Minnesota, is also a mostly linear ownership. At least 18 
wolves from 6 packs use the Riverway. The Riverway is likely to limit 
public access to denning and rendezvous sites and to follow other 
management and protective practices outlined in the respective State 
wolf management plans, although trapping will not be allowed on NPS 
lands except possibly by Native Americans (Robin Maercklein, National 
Park Service, in litt. 2003).
    In the EDPS, we currently manage seven units within the National 
Wildlife Refuge System with wolf activity. Primary among these are 
Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Tamarac NWR in Minnesota, 
Seney NWR in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Necedah NWR in 
central Wisconsin. Agassiz NWR has had as many as 20 wolves in 2 to 3 
packs in recent years, but in 1999 mange and illegal shootings reduced 
them to a single pack of five wolves and a separate lone wolf. Since 
2001, however, two packs with a total of 10 to 12 wolves have been 
using the refuge. Tamarac NWR has 2 packs, with approximately 18 
wolves, using that refuge. In 2003, Seney NWR had one pack with two 
adults and two pups on the refuge. Necedah NWR currently has 3 packs 
with a total of 13 to 15 wolves in the packs. Rice Lake NWR, in 
Minnesota, has one pack of nine animals using the refuge in 2004; other 
single or paired wolves pass through the refuge frequently (M. 
Stefanski, USFWS, pers. comm. 2004). In the past ten years, Sherburne 
and Crane Meadows NWRs in central Minnesota have reliably had 
intermittent observations and signs of individual wolves each year. To 
date, no established packs have been documented on either of those 
refuges. The closest established packs are within 15 miles of Crane 
Meadows NWR at Camp Ripley Military Installation and 30 miles of 
Sherburne NWR at Mille Lacs State Wildlife Management Area (J. Holler, 
USFWS, pers. comm. 2004).
    Gray wolves occurring on NWRs in the eastern United States will be 
monitored and refuge habitat management will maintain the current prey 
base for them for a minimum of 5 years after delisting. Trapping or 
hunting by government trappers for depredation control will not be 
authorized on NWRs. Because of their relatively small size, however, 
most or all of these packs and individual wolves also spend significant 
amounts of time off of these NWRs.
    Gray wolves also occupy the Fort McCoy military installation in 
Wisconsin. In 2003, one pack containing five adult wolves occupied a 
territory that included the majority of the installation; in 2004, the 
installation had one pack with two adults. Management and protection of 
wolves on the installation will not change significantly after Federal 
and/or State delisting. Den and rendezvous sites would continue to be 
protected; non-deer hunting seasons (i.e. coyote) would be closed 
during the gun-deer season; and current surveys would continue, if 
resources are available. Fort McCoy has no plans to allow a public 
harvest of wolves on the installation. (Danny Nobles, Department of the 
Army, in litt. 2004).
    The protection afforded to resident and transient wolves, their den 
and rendezvous sites, and their prey by five national forests, four 
National Parks, and numerous National Wildlife Refuges in Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, and Michigan would further ensure the conservation of wolves 
in the three States after delisting.
    In summary, we find that the risk of gray wolf habitat destruction 
or degradation, a reduction in the range of the gray wolf, or related 
factors that may affect gray wolf abundance, will not by themselves or 
in combination with other factors cause the EDPS of the gray wolf 
likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future. 
Ongoing effects of recovery efforts over the past decade, which 
resulted in a significant expansion of the range of wolves in the EDPS, 
in conjunction with State, Tribal, and Federal agency wolf management 
will be adequate to ensure the conservation of the EDPS. These 
activities are likely to maintain an adequate prey base, preserve 
denning sites and dispersal corridors, and keep wolf populations well 
above the numerical recovery criteria established in the Federal 
Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf (USFWS 1992a).

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Since their listing under the Act, no gray wolves have been legally 
killed or removed from the wild in the conterminous 48 States for 
either commercial or recreational purposes. Some wolves may have been 
illegally killed for commercial use of the pelts and other parts, but 
we think that illegal commercial trafficking in wolf pelts or parts and 
illegal capture of wolves for commercial breeding purposes is rare.
    We do not expect the use of wolves for scientific purposes to 
increase in proportion to total wolf numbers in the EDPS after 
delisting. Before delisting, the intentional or incidental killing, or 
capture and permanent confinement, of endangered or threatened gray 
wolves for scientific purposes has only legally occurred under permits 
issued by us (for example, under section 10(a)(1)(A) and 10(a)(1)(B) of 
the Act), under an incidental take statement issued by us in 
conjunction with a biological opinion completed under section 7(a)(2), 
under an incidental take permit issued by us pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(B), or by a State agency operating under a cooperative 
agreement with us pursuant to section 6 of the Act (50 CFR 17.21(c)(5) 
and 17.31(b)). Although exact figures are not available, throughout the 
coterminous 48 States, such removals of wolves from the wild have been 
very limited and probably

[[Page 43679]]

comprise an average of fewer than two animals per year since the 
species was first listed as endangered. In the EDPS, these animals were 
either taken from the Minnesota wolf population during long-term 
research activities (about 15 gray wolves) or were accidental takings 
as a result of research activities in Wisconsin (4 to 5 mortalities and 
1 long-term confinement) (William Berg, MN DNR, in litt. 1998; Mech, in 
litt. 1998; Wydeven 1998).
    The Minnesota DNR plans to encourage the study of wolves with 
radio-telemetry after delisting, with an emphasis on areas where they 
expect wolf-human conflicts and where wolves are expanding their range 
(MN DNR 2001). The handling of animals, including the administration of 
drugs, may result in some accidental deaths of wolves. We assume that 
radio-telemetry will not increase significantly above the level 
observed before delisting in proportion to wolf abundance; adverse 
effects to wolves associated with such activities has been minimal (see 
below) and would not constitute a threat to the EDPS.
    We believe that no wolves have been legally removed from the wild 
for educational purposes in recent years. Wolves that are used for such 
purposes are the captive-reared offspring of wolves that were already 
in captivity for other reasons.
    Refer to the Depredation Control Programs section under the Summary 
of Factors Affecting the Species section, factor D. The adequacy or 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, below, for discussions of 
additional wolf mortalities associated with wolf depredation control 
programs. For a discussion on commercial and recreational hunting and 
trapping, refer to the Predation section under the Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Species section, factor C. Disease or predation, below.

C. Disease or Predation

    Disease. Many diseases and parasites have been reported for the 
gray wolf, and several of them have had significant impacts during the 
recovery of the species in the 48 conterminous United States (Brand et 
al. 1995). These diseases and parasites, and perhaps others, may 
significantly threaten gray wolf populations in the future. Thus, to 
avoid a decline caused by diseases or parasites, States and their 
partners will have to diligently monitor the prevalence of these 
pathogens and respond to significant outbreaks.
    Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a relatively new disease that infects 
wolves, domestic dogs, foxes, coyotes, skunks, and raccoons. Recognized 
in the United States in 1977 in domestic dogs, it appeared in Minnesota 
wolves (based upon retrospective serologic evidence) live-trapped as 
early as 1977 (Mech et al. 1986). Minnesota wolves, however, may have 
been exposed to the virus as early as 1973 (Mech and Goyal 1995). 
Serologic evidence of gray wolf exposure to CPV peaked at 95 percent 
for a group of Minnesota wolves live-trapped in 1989 (Mech and Goyal 
1993). In a captive colony of Minnesota wolves, pup and yearling 
mortality from CPV was 92 percent of the animals that showed 
indications of active CPV infections in 1983 (Mech and Fritts 1987), 
demonstrating the substantial impacts this disease can have on young 
wolves. It is believed that the population impacts of CPV occur via 
diarrhea-induced dehydration leading to abnormally high pup mortality 
(WI DNR 1999a).
    There is no evidence that CPV has caused a population decline or 
has had a significant impact on the recovery of the Minnesota gray wolf 
population. Mech and Goyal (1995), however, found that high CPV 
prevalence in the wolves of the Superior National Forest in Minnesota 
occurred during the same years in which wolf pup numbers were low. 
Because the wolf population did not decline during the study period, 
they concluded that CPV-caused pup mortality was compensatory, that is, 
it replaced deaths that would have occurred from other causes, 
especially starvation of pups. They theorized that CPV prevalence 
affects the amount of population increase and that a wolf population 
will decline when 76 percent of the adult wolves consistently test 
positive for CPV exposure. Their data indicate that CPV prevalence in 
adult wolves in their study area increased by an annual average of 4 
percent during 1979-93 and was at least 80 percent during the last 5 
years of their study (Mech and Goyal 1995). Additional unpublished data 
gathered since 1995 indicate that CPV reduced wolf population growth in 
that area from 1979 to 1989, but not since that period (Mech in litt. 
1999). These data provide strong justification for continuing 
population and disease monitoring.
    Canine parvovirus probably stalled wolf population growth in 
Wisconsin during the early and mid-1980s when numbers there declined or 
were static and 75 percent of 32 wolves tested positive for CPV. During 
the following years (1988-96) of population increase, only 35 percent 
of the 63 wolves tested positive for CPV (WI DNR 1999a). Exposure rates 
for CPV were 50 percent in live-captured Wisconsin wolves in 1995-96 
(WI DNR 1999a). Of the 13 Wisconsin wolves that died and were examined 
in 2000, none of the deaths were attributed to CPV (Wydeven et al. 
2001a). Similarly, CPV was not noted for the 22 wolves with a suspected 
cause of death identified in 2001 (WI DNR unpublished data). Recently, 
CPV has been confirmed as the cause of death for some pups (Wydeven 
pers. comm. 2004) and the difficulty of discovering CPV-killed pups, 
however, must be considered.
    Canine parvovirus is considered to have been a major cause of the 
decline of the isolated Isle Royale, Michigan, population in the mid 
and late 1980s. The Isle Royale gray wolf population decreased from 23 
and 24 wolves in 1983 and 1984, respectively, to 12 and 11 wolves in 
1988 and 1989, respectively. The wolf population remained in the low to 
mid-teens through 1995. Factors other than disease, however, may be 
causing, or contributing to, a low level of reproductive success, 
including a low level of genetic diversity and a prey population 
composed of young healthy moose that may make it difficult to secure 
sufficient prey for pups.
    There are no data showing any CPV-caused population impacts to the 
larger gray wolf population on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan 
(Peterson et al. 1998, Hammill pers. comm. 2002, Beyer pers. comm. 
2003). Mortality data is primarily collected from collared wolves, 
however, which until recently received CPV inoculations. Therefore, 
mortality data for the Upper Peninsula should be interpreted 
    Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite infection of the skin. The 
irritation caused by the feeding and burrowing mites results in 
scratching and then severe fur loss, which in turn can lead to 
mortality from exposure during severe winter weather. In a long-term 
Alberta, Canada, wolf study, higher wolf densities were correlated with 
increased incidence of mange, and pup survival decreased as the 
incidence of mange increased (Brand et al. 1995).
    From 1991 to 1996, 27 percent of live-trapped Wisconsin wolves 
exhibited symptoms of mange. During the winter of 1992-93, 58 percent 
showed symptoms, and a concurrent decline in the Wisconsin wolf 
population was attributed to mange-induced mortality (WI DNR 1999a). 
Seven Wisconsin wolves died of mange from 1993 through October 15, 
1998, and severe fur loss affected five other wolves that died from 
other causes. During that period, mange was the third largest cause of 
death in Wisconsin wolves,

[[Page 43680]]

behind trauma (usually vehicle collisions) and shooting (Nancy Thomas 
in litt. 1998).
    The prevalence of mange and its impacts on the wolf population have 
increased in Wisconsin. During the 12-month period from April 2002 
through March 2003, mange caused the death of 7 of the 63 Wisconsin 
wolves that were found dead, and 1 wolf was euthanized because of the 
disease. (Depredation control took 17 Wisconsin wolves during this same 
period, while 17 died from motor vehicle collisions, 15 were shot, 1 
drowned, and 1 was killed by other wolves.) Wolves nearing death from 
mange generally crawl into dense cover and are difficult to discover if 
they are not radio-tracked (Shelley and Gehring 2002). During the 
winter of 2002-03, approximately 36 percent of the radio-collared 
wolves being tracked by WI DNR died from mange (Wydeven et al. 2003a, 
2004). Other observations showed that some mangy wolves are able to 
survive the winter (Wydeven et al. 2000b, 2001a).
    Pup survival during their first winter is believed to be strongly 
affected by mange. Wolf mortality from mange in Wisconsin was fairly 
high in 2003 and may have had more severe effects on pup survival than 
in previous years. The prevalence of the disease may have contributed 
to the relatively small population increase in 2003 (2.4 percent in 
2003 as compared to the average 18 percent since 1985). So far, though, 
mange has not caused a decline in the State's wolf population, and even 
though the rate has slowed in recent years, the wolf population 
continues to increase despite the continued prevalence of mange in 
Wisconsin wolves (Wydeven et al. 2003b). Although mange mortality may 
not be the primary determinant of wolf population growth in the State, 
the impacts of mange in Wisconsin need to be closely monitored as 
identified in the State wolf management plan.
    At least seven wild Michigan wolves died from mange during 1993-97, 
making it the most common disease of Michigan wolves. From 1999-01, 
mange-induced hypothermia killed all seven Michigan wolves whose cause 
of death was attributed to disease (Hammill in litt. 2002). Before 
2004, MI DNR treated all captured wolves with Ivermectin if they showed 
signs of mange. In addition, MI DNR vaccinated all captured wolves 
against CPV and canine distemper virus (CDV), and administered 
antibiotics to combat potential leptospirosis infections. These 
inoculations will be discontinued in 2004 to provide more natural 
biotic conditions and to provide biologists with an unbiased estimate 
of disease-caused mortality rates in the population (Beyer per. comm. 
    Wisconsin wolves similarly had been treated with Ivermectin and 
vaccinated for CPV and CDV when captured, but the practice was stopped 
in 1995 to allow the wolf population to experience more natural biotic 
conditions. Since that time, Ivermectin has been administered only to 
captured wolves with severe cases of mange. In the future, Ivermectin 
and vaccines will be used sparingly on Wisconsin wolves, but will be 
used to counter significant disease outbreaks (Wydeven in litt. 1998).
    Mange has not been documented to be a significant disease problem 
in Minnesota. Several packs in the Ely and Park Rapids areas, however, 
are known to suffer from mange, and at Agassiz NWR in northwestern 
Minnesota wolves were reduced from as many as 20 animals in 2 to 3 
packs in the early 1990s to a single pack of 5 wolves and a separate 
single wolf in 1999, primarily as a result of mange.
    Lyme disease, caused by a spirochete, is another relatively 
recently recognized disease, first documented in New England in 1975; 
it may have occurred in Wisconsin as early as 1969. It is spread by 
ticks that pass the infection to their hosts when feeding. Host species 
include humans, horses, dogs, white-tailed deer, white-footed mice, 
eastern chipmunks, coyotes, and wolves. The prevalence of Lyme disease 
in Wisconsin wolves averaged 70 percent of live-trapped animals in 
1988-91, but dropped to 37 percent during 1992-97. Although there are 
no data showing wolf mortalities from Lyme disease, it may be 
suppressing population growth through decreased wolf pup survival.
    Other diseases and parasites, including rabies, canine distemper, 
canine heartworm, blastomycosis, bacterial myocarditis, granulomatous 
pneumonia, brucellosis, leptospirosis, bovine tuberculosis, hookworm, 
dog lice, coccidiosis, and canine hepatitis, have been documented in 
wild gray wolves, but their impacts on future wild wolf populations are 
not likely to be significant (Brand et al. 1995, Hassett in litt. 2003, 
Johnson 1995, Mech and Kurtz 1999, Thomas in litt. 1998, WI DNR 1999a). 
Continuing wolf range expansion, however, likely will provide new 
avenues for exposure to several of these diseases, especially canine 
heartworm, rabies, and bovine tuberculosis (Thomas in litt. 2000), 
further emphasizing the need for disease monitoring programs.
    In aggregate, diseases and parasites were the cause of 9 percent of 
the diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared wolves in Michigan from 
1992 through 2003 (MI DNR unpublished data 2004a) and 26 percent of the 
diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared wolves in Wisconsin from 1979 
through June 2003 (Hassett in litt. 2003).
    Several of the diseases and parasites are known to be spread by 
wolf-to-wolf contact. Therefore, their incidence may increase as wolf 
densities increase in newly colonized areas. Because wolf densities 
generally are relatively stable following the first few years of 
colonization, wolf-to-wolf contacts will not likely lead to a 
continuing increase in disease prevalence (Mech in litt. 1998).
    Disease and parasite impacts may increase because several wolf 
diseases are carried and spread by domestic dogs. This transfer of 
diseases and parasites from domestic dogs to wild wolves may increase 
as gray wolves continue to colonize non-wilderness areas (Mech in litt. 
1998). Heartworm, CPV, and rabies are the main concerns (Thomas in 
litt. 1998).
    Disease and parasite impacts are a recognized concern of the 
Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin State DNRs. The Michigan Gray Wolf 
Recovery and Management Plan states that necropsies will be conducted 
on all dead wolves, and that all live wolves that are handled will be 
examined, with blood, skin, and fecal samples taken to provide disease 
information (MI DNR 1997). Similarly, the Wisconsin Wolf Management 
Plan states that as long as the wolf is State-listed as a threatened or 
endangered species, the WI DNR will conduct necropsies of dead wolves 
and test a sample of live-captured wolves for diseases and parasites. 
The goal will be to capture and screen 10 percent of the State wolf 
population for diseases annually. After State delisting, disease 
monitoring will be scaled back because the percentage of the wolf 
population that is live-trapped each year will decline. The State will 
continue to test for disease and parasite loads through periodic 
necropsy and scat analyses. The plan also recommends that all wolves 
live-trapped for other studies should have their health monitored and 
reported to the WI DNR wildlife health specialists (WI DNR 1999a).
    The Minnesota Wolf Management Plan (MN DNR 2001) states that MN DNR 
``will collaborate with other investigators and continue monitoring 
disease incidence, where necessary, by examination of wolf carcasses 
obtained through depredation control programs, and also through blood/
tissue physiology work conducted by DNR and the U.S. Geological Survey. 
DNR will

[[Page 43681]]

also keep records of documented and suspected incidence of sarcoptic 
mange.'' In addition, it will initiate ``(R)egular collection of 
pertinent tissues of live captured or dead wolves'' and periodically 
assess wolf health ``when circumstances indicate that diseases or 
parasites may be adversely affecting portions of the wolf population.'' 
Unlike Michigan and Wisconsin, Minnesota has not established minimum 
goals for the proportion of its wolves that will be assessed for 
disease nor does it plan to treat any wolves, although it does not rule 
out these measures. Minnesota's less intensive approach to disease 
monitoring and management seems warranted in light of its much greater 
abundance of wolves than in the other two States.
    In summary, several diseases have had significant impacts on wolf 
population growth in the Great Lakes region in the past. These impacts 
have been both direct, resulting in mortality of individual wolves, and 
indirect, by reducing longevity and fecundity of individuals or entire 
packs or populations. Canine parvovirus stalled wolf population growth 
in Wisconsin in the early and mid-1980s and has been implicated as a 
contributing factor in declines of the isolated Isle Royale population 
in Michigan. Sarcoptic mange has affected wolf recovery in Michigan's 
Upper Peninsula and in Wisconsin over the last ten years, and is 
recognized as a continuing problem. Despite these and other diseases 
and parasites, however, the overall trend for wolf populations in the 
EDPS is upward. Wolf management plans for Minnesota, Michigan, and 
Wisconsin include disease monitoring that we expect to identify future 
disease and parasite problems in time to allow corrective action to 
avoid a significant decline in overall population viability. We 
conclude that disease will not prevent the continuation of wolf 
recovery in these States. Delisting wolves in the EDPS will not change 
the incidence or impacts of disease on these wolves.
    Predation. No wild animals habitually prey on gray wolves. Large 
prey, such as deer or moose (Mech and Nelson 1989), or other predators, 
such as mountain lions (Felis concolor), occasionally kill wolves, but 
this has only been rarely documented. Humans, however, are highly 
effective predators of gray wolves.
    Wolves kill other wolves, most commonly when packs encounter and 
attack a dispersing wolf as an intruder or when two packs encounter 
each other along a territorial boundary. This form of mortality is 
likely to increase as more of the available wolf habitat becomes 
saturated with wolf pack territories, as is the case in northeastern 
Minnesota. From October 1979 through June 1998, 7 (13 percent) of the 
diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared Wisconsin wolves resulted from 
wolves killing wolves (Wydeven 1998). Gogan et al. (1997) studied 31 
radio-collared wolves from 1987-91 and found that 3 (10 percent) were 
killed by other wolves. This behavior is normal in healthy wolf 
populations and indicates that the wolf population is at, or 
approaching, its carrying capacity for the area.
    Humans have functioned as highly effective predators of the gray 
wolf. We attempted to eliminate the wolf entirely in earlier times and 
the United States Congress passed a wolf bounty that covered the 
Northwest Territories in 1817. Bounties on wolves subsequently became 
the norm for States across the species' range. In Michigan, an 1838 
wolf bounty became the ninth law passed by the First Michigan 
Legislature; this bounty remained in place until 1960. A Wisconsin 
bounty was instituted in 1865 and then repealed about the time wolves 
were extirpated from the State in 1957. Minnesota maintained a wolf 
bounty until 1965.
    Subsequent to the gray wolf's listing as a federally endangered 
species, the Act and State endangered species statutes prohibited the 
killing of wolves except under extenuating circumstances, such as in 
defense of human life, for scientific or conservation purposes, or 
under several special regulations intended to reduce wolf depredations 
of livestock. This reduction in human-caused mortality is the main 
cause of the wolf's reestablishment in parts of its historical range. 
It is clear, however, that illegal killing of wolves continued.
    If delisted, wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will 
continue to receive protection from general human persecution by State 
laws and regulations. In Michigan, wolves would continue to be 
protected under the State's Endangered Species Protection Law after 
Federal delisting. Michigan has met the criteria established in their 
management plan for State delisting, and, during that delisting 
process, intends to amend the Wildlife Conservation Order to grant 
``protected animal'' status to the gray wolf. That status would 
``prohibit take, establish penalties and restitution for violations of 
the Order, and detail conditions under which lethal depredation control 
measures could be implemented'' (Rebecca Humphries, MI DNR, in litt. 
2004). Following State delisting in Wisconsin, the wolf will be 
classified as a ``protected wild animal,'' with protections that 
provide for fines of $1,000 to $2,000 for unlawful hunting. Minnesota 
DNR will consider population management measures, including public 
hunting and trapping, but not sooner than five years after Federal 
delisting (MN DNR 2001). In the meantime, wolves could only be legally 
taken in Minnesota for depredation management or public safety and 
Minnesota plans to increase its capability to enforce laws against take 
of wolves (MN DNR 2001).
    Illegal killing of wolves occurs for a number of reasons. Some of 
these killings are accidental (e.g., wolves are hit by vehicles, 
mistaken for coyotes and shot, or caught in traps set for other 
animals); some of these accidental killings are reported to State, 
Tribal, and Federal authorities. Most illegal killings, however, likely 
are intentional and are never reported to authorities. Radiotelemetry 
studies (e.g., Gogan et al. 1997) are necessary to accurately estimate 
illegal mortality (Fuller 1989).
    In Wisconsin, human-caused mortalities accounted for 58 percent of 
the diagnosed mortalities on radio-collared wolves from October 1979 
through June 1998. One-third of all the diagnosed mortalities, and 55 
percent of the human-caused mortalities, were from shooting. Another 12 
percent of all the diagnosed mortalities resulted from vehicle 
collisions. Vehicle collisions have increased as a percentage of radio-
collared wolf mortalities. During the October 1979 through June 1995 
period, only 1 of 27 known mortalities was from that cause; but from 
July 1995 through June 1998, 5 of the 26 known mortalities resulted 
from vehicle collisions (WI DNR 1999a, Wydeven 1998); and from April 
2000 through March 2001, 10 of 23 known mortalities were from that 
cause (Wydeven et al. 2000b, 2001a). Only 2 of those 23 mortalities 
were from shootings, but an additional 4 Wisconsin wolves were shot 
during the State's 2001 deer hunting season (WI DNR 2001).
    In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, human-caused mortalities 
accounted for 75 percent of the diagnosed mortalities, based upon 34 
wolves recovered from 1960 to 1997. Twenty-eight percent of all the 
diagnosed mortalities and 38 percent of the human-caused mortalities 
were from shooting. In the Upper Peninsula during that period, about 
one-third of all the known mortalities were from vehicle collisions (MI 
DNR 1997). During the 1998 Michigan deer hunting season, 3 radio-
collared wolves were shot and killed, resulting in one arrest and 
conviction (Hammill in litt. 1999,

[[Page 43682]]

Michigan DNR 1999b). During the subsequent 3 years, 8 additional wolves 
were killed in Michigan by gunshot, and the cut-off radio-collar from a 
ninth animal was located, but the animal was never found. These 
incidents resulted in 6 guilty pleas, with 3 cases remaining open. Data 
from 1992 to 2002 show that human-caused mortalities still account for 
the majority of the diagnosed mortalities (66 percent) in Michigan. 
Deaths from vehicular collisions, however, now greatly outnumber 
shootings. Twenty-four percent of the diagnosed mortalities were from 
shootings (37 percent of the human-caused mortalities), while 41 
percent of the diagnosed Michigan mortalities were from vehicular 
collisions (Beyer in litt. 2004). When viewing these figures, it is 
important to remember that there is a much greater likelihood of 
finding a vehicle-killed wolf than there is of finding a wolf that has 
been illegally shot, unless the animal was being radio-tracked.
    A continuing increase in wolf mortalities from vehicle collisions, 
both in actual numbers and as a percent of total diagnosed mortalities, 
is expected as wolves continue their colonization of areas with more 
human developments and a denser network of roads and vehicle traffic.
    Minnesota (MN DNR 2001) plans to reduce or control illegal 
mortality of wolves through education, increased enforcement of the 
State's wolf laws and regulations, by discouraging new road access in 
some areas, and by maintaining a depredation control program that 
includes compensation for livestock losses. MN DNR plans to use a 
variety of methods to encourage and support education of the public 
about the effects of wolves on livestock, wild ungulate populations, 
and human activities and the history and ecology of wolves in the State 
(MN DNR 2001:30-31). These are all measures that have been in effect 
for years in Minnesota, although ``increased enforcement'' of State 
laws against take of wolves (MN DNR 2001) would replace enforcement of 
the Endangered Species Act's take prohibitions. We do not expect the 
State's efforts to reduce illegal take of wolves from existing levels, 
but these measures may be crucial in ensuring that illegal mortality 
does not increase.
    The likelihood of illegal take increases in relation to road 
density and human population density, but changing attitudes towards 
wolves may allow them to survive in areas where road and human 
densities were previously thought to be too high (Fuller et al. 2003). 
MN DNR does not plan to reduce current levels of road access, but would 
encourage managers of land areas large enough to sustain one or more 
wolf packs to ``be cautious about adding new road access that could 
exceed a density of one mile of road per square mile of land, without 
considering the potential effect on wolves' (MN DNR 2001).
    MN DNR acknowledges that increased enforcement of the State's wolf 
laws and regulations would be dependent on increases in staff and 
resources, additional cross-deputization of tribal law enforcement 
officers, and continued cooperation with Federal law enforcement 
officers. They specifically propose the addition of three Conservation 
Officers ``strategically located within current gray wolf range in 
Minnesota'' whose priority duty would be to implement the gray wolf 
management plan (MN DNR 2001). In 2000, MN DNR had 78 conservation 
officer stations in the State's wolf range (MN DNR in litt. 2000).
    Two Minnesota studies provide insight into the extent of human-
caused wolf mortality before and after the species' listing. On the 
basis of bounty data from a period that predated wolf protection under 
the Act by 20 years, Stenlund (1955) found an annual human-caused 
mortality rate of 41 percent. Fuller (1989) provided 1980-86 data from 
a north-central Minnesota study area and found an annual human-caused 
mortality rate of 29 percent, a figure which includes 2 percent 
mortality from legal depredation control actions. Drawing conclusions 
from comparisons of these two data sets, however, is difficult due to 
the confounding effects of habitat quality, exposure to humans, prey 
density, differing time periods, and vast differences in study design. 
Although these figures provide support for the contention that human-
caused mortality decreased after the wolf's protection under the Act, 
it is not possible at this time to determine if human-caused mortality 
(apart from mortalities from depredation control) has significantly 
changed over the 25-year period that the gray wolf has been listed as 
threatened or endangered.
    Interestingly, when compared to his 1985 survey, Kellert's 1999 
public attitudes survey showed an overall increase in the number of 
northern Minnesota residents who reported having killed, or knowing 
someone who had killed, a wolf. However, members of groups that are 
more likely to encounter wolves--farmers, hunters, and trappers--
reported a decrease in the number of such incidents (Kellert 1985, 
1999). Because of these apparently conflicting results, and differences 
in the methodology of the two surveys, drawing any clear conclusions on 
this issue is difficult.
    It is important to note that, despite the difficulty in measuring 
the extent of illegal killing of wolves, all sources of wolf mortality, 
including legal (e.g., depredation control) and illegal human-caused 
mortality, have not been of sufficient magnitude to stop the continuing 
growth of the wolf population. Since 1993, wolf numbers have increased 
annually by about 4 percent in Minnesota and by about 28 percent in 
Wisconsin and Michigan. This indicates that total gray wolf mortality 
continues to be exceeded by wolf recruitment (that is, reproduction and 
immigration) in these areas.
    The wolf population in Wisconsin and Michigan will stop growing at 
some point when it has saturated the suitable habitat and is checked in 
less suitable areas by depredation management, incidental mortality 
(e.g., road kill), illegal killing, and other means. At that time, we 
should expect to see population declines in some years that reflect 
short-term fluctuations in birth and mortality rates. Adequate wolf 
monitoring programs, however, as described in the Michigan, Wisconsin, 
and Minnesota wolf management plans are likely to identify mortality 
rates and/or low birth rates that are high enough to warrant corrective 
action. The goals of all three State wolf management plans are to 
maintain wolf populations well above the numbers recommended in the 
Federal Eastern Recovery Plan to ensure long-term viable wolf 
populations (the State management plans recommend a minimum wolf 
population of 1,600 in Minnesota, 350 in Wisconsin, and 200 in 
    In Wisconsin and Michigan, the rapidly expanding wolf population is 
beginning to cause more depredation problems. From 1979 through 1989, 
there were only 5 cases (an average of 0.4/year) of verified wolf 
depredations in Wisconsin. Between 1990 and 1997, there were 27 
depredation incidents in the State (an average of 3.4/year), and 82 
incidents (an average of 16.4 per year) occurred from 1998-02. Data 
from Michigan show a similar increase in confirmed wolf depredations on 
livestock and dogs: 1 in 1996, 3 in 1998, 3 in 1999, 5 in 2000, 6 in 
2001, and 22 in 2003 (MI DNR unpublished data).
    The WI DNR compensates livestock and pet owners for confirmed 
losses to depredating wolves. The compensations have been funded from 
the endangered resources tax check-off and sales of the endangered 
resources license plates. Likewise, in Michigan, livestock owners are 
compensated when they lose

[[Page 43683]]

livestock as a result of a confirmed wolf depredation. Currently there 
are two compensation programs in Michigan, one implemented by Michigan 
Department of Agriculture (MI DA) and another set up through donations 
and held by the International Wolf Center (IWC), a non-profit 
organization. From the inception of the program to 2000, MI DA paid 90 
percent of full market value of depredated livestock value at the time 
of loss. The IWC account was used to pay the remaining 10 percent from 
2000 to 2002 when MI DA began paying 100 percent of the full market 
value of depredated livestock. This MI DA program is funded annually 
through State appropriations. The MI DNR plans to continue cooperating 
with MI DA and other organizations to maintain the wolf depredation 
compensation program (Pat Lederle, MI DNR, pers. comm. 2004).
    Under a Minnesota statute, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture 
(MDA) compensates livestock owners for full market value of livestock 
that wolves have killed or severely injured. A university extension 
agent or conservation officer must confirm that wolves were responsible 
for the depredation. The agent or officer also evaluates the livestock 
operation for conformance to a set of Best Management Practices (BMPs) 
designed to minimize wolf depredation and provides operators with an 
itemized list of any deficiencies relative to the BMPs. The Minnesota 
statute also requires MDA to periodically update its BMPs to 
incorporate new practices that it finds would reduce wolf depredation.
    Wolves were largely eliminated from the Dakotas in the 1920s and 
1930s and were rarely reported from the mid-1940s through the late 
1970s. Ten wolves were killed in these two States from 1981 to 1992 
(Licht and Fritts 1994). Six more were killed in North Dakota since 
1992, with four of these mortalities occurring in 2002 and 2003; in 
2001, one wolf was killed in Harding County in extreme northwestern 
South Dakota. The number of reported sightings of gray wolves in North 
Dakota is increasing. From 1993-98, six wolf depredation reports were 
investigated in North Dakota, and adequate signs were found to verify 
the presence of wolves in two of the cases. A den with pups was also 
documented in extreme north-central North Dakota near the Canadian 
border in 1994. From 1999-2003, 16 wolf sightings/depredation incidents 
in North Dakota were reported to USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services, and 9 of 
these incidents were verified. Additionally, one North Dakota wolf 
sighting was confirmed in early 2004. USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services also 
confirmed a wolf sighting along the Minnesota border near Gary, South 
Dakota, in 1996, and a trapper with the South Dakota Game, Fish, and 
Parks Department sighted a lone wolf in the western Black Hills in 
2002. Several other unconfirmed sightings have been reported from these 
States, including two reports in South Dakota in 2003. Wolves killed in 
North and South Dakota are most often shot by hunters after being 
mistaken for coyotes, or were killed by vehicles. The 2001 mortality in 
South Dakota and one of the 2003 mortalities in North Dakota were 
caused by M-44 ``coyote getter'' devices that had been legally set in 
response to complaints about coyotes.
    Additional discussion of past and future wolf mortalities in the 
EDPS arising from depredation control actions is found under the 
Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section, factor D, The 
inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.
    Despite human-caused mortalities of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, 
and Michigan, these wolf populations have continued to increase in both 
numbers and range. If wolves in the EDPS are delisted, as long as other 
mortality factors do not increase significantly and monitoring is 
adequate to document, and if necessary counteract, the effects of 
excessive human-caused mortality, the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan wolf 
population will not decline to nonviable levels in the foreseeable 
future as a result of human-caused killing or other forms of predation.

D. The Adequacy or Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Human activities may affect wolf abundance and population viability 
by degrading or reducing the wolf habitat and range (Factor A); by 
excessive mortality via commercial or recreational harvest (Factor B); 
by acting as a predator of wolves and killing them for other reasons 
such as depredation control, to reduce perceived competition for wild 
ungulates, or in the interests of human safety (Factor C); by acting as 
a vector for wolf-impacting diseases or parasites (Factor C); and in 
other ways (Factor E). Following Federal delisting under the Act, 
however, many of these human activities would be regulated or 
prohibited by various regulatory mechanisms. Therefore, with only a few 
exceptions, human activities with the potential to impact wolf 
populations are primarily discussed under this factor.
    State Wolf Management Planning. In late 1997 the Michigan Wolf 
Management Plan was completed and received the necessary State 
approvals. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved the Wisconsin 
Wolf Management Plan in October 1999. Our biologists have participated 
on the teams that developed these two State plans and will continue to 
participate in revising the plans, so we are familiar with their 
evolution and likely future direction. We think these plans provide 
sufficient information for us to analyze the future threats to the gray 
wolf population in Wisconsin and Michigan after Federal delisting.
    The MN DNR prepared a Wolf Management Plan and an accompanying 
legislative bill in early 1999 and submitted them to the Minnesota 
legislature. The legislature, however, failed to approve the Minnesota 
Plan in the 1999 session. In early 2000, the MN DNR drafted a second 
bill that would result in somewhat different wolf management and 
protection than the 1999 bill. The legislature did not pass the 2000 
Minnesota wolf management bill, but instead passed separate legislation 
directing the DNR to prepare a new management plan based upon various 
new provisions that addressed wolf protection and the take of wolves. 
The MN DNR completed the Minnesota Wolf Management Plan (MN Plan) in 
early 2001 (MN DNR 2001). Although the Minnesota legislation and the MN 
Plan were not available in time to play a role in our 2003 
reclassification, they were carefully evaluated in preparation of this 
proposal to delist gray wolves in the EDPS.
    The MN Plan is based, in part, on the recommendations of a wolf 
management roundtable and on a State wolf management law enacted in 
2000. This law and the Minnesota Game and Fish Laws constitute the 
basis of the State's authority to manage wolves. Key components of the 
plan are population monitoring and management, management of wolf 
depredation of domestic animals, management of wolf habitat and prey, 
enforcement of laws regulating take of wolves, public education, and 
increased staffing.
    MN DNR plans to allow wolf numbers and distribution to naturally 
expand and if any winter population estimate is below 1,600 wolves it 
would take actions to ``assure recovery'' to 1,600 wolves. MN DNR will 
continue to monitor wolves in Minnesota to determine whether such 
intervention is necessary. It is currently conducting a statewide 
population survey (winter of 2003-04) and plans to repeat the survey in 
the fifth year after delisting and at subsequent five-year intervals. 
Preliminary results of the 2003-04 survey may be available in early 
summer 2004 (J. Erb, MN DNR, pers. comm. 2004).

[[Page 43684]]

    Following delisting, Minnesota's management of wolves would differ 
from their current management under the Act. To guide wolf management 
under the Act, the Service divided Minnesota into five zones and 
established specific population goals for each of Zones 1-4 (The 1992 
Recovery Plan's numeric goal for Minnesota was 1,251-1,400); the 
Service's goal for Zone 5, which consists of all of Minnesota outside 
of Zones 1-4, was ``no wolves'' (USFWS 1992a:28). Currently no control 
of depredating wolves is allowed in Zone 1, whereas in Zones 2-5 
employees or agents of the Service or MN DNR may take wolves in 
response to depredations of domestic animals within one-half mile of 
the depredation site. Young-of-the-year captured on or before August 1 
of that year must be released. The regulations that allow for this take 
[50 CFR 17.40(d)(2)(i)(B)(4)] do not specify a maximum duration for 
depredation control, but USDA-Wildlife Services follows informal 
guidelines under which they trap for no more than 10-15 days, except at 
sites with repeated or chronic depredation, where they may trap for up 
to 30 days (William Paul, USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services, pers. comm., 
    The Minnesota plan divides the State into Zones A and B. Zone A 
comprises the current Zones 1-4 and Zone B is identical to the current 
Zone 5 (i.e., it comprises the rest of the State). The most recent 
statewide survey conducted during the winter of 1997-98 found that 
there were approximately 2,025 wolves in Zone A and 425 in Zone B (M. 
DonCarlos, MN DNR, in litt. 2000).
    Government control of wolf depredation would be modified under 
Minnesota's Wolf Management Plan, especially in Zone B. In Zone A, if 
DNR verifies that a wolf destroyed any livestock, domestic animal, or 
pet, trained and certified predator controllers may take wolves within 
a one-mile radius of the depredation site for up to 60 days. In Zone B, 
predator controllers may take wolves for up to 214 days after MN DNR 
opens a depredation control area, depending on the time of year. The 
DNR may open a control area in Zone B anytime within five years of a 
verified depredation loss.
    The Minnesota plan would also allow for private wolf depredation 
control. Statewide, persons may shoot or destroy a gray wolf that poses 
an immediate threat to their livestock, guard animals, or domestic 
animals on lands that they own, lease, or occupy. Immediate threat is 
defined as ``stalking, attacking, or killing.'' To protect their 
domestic animals in Zone B, however, persons do not have to wait for an 
immediate threat to take wolves. At anytime in Zone B, persons who own, 
lease, or manage lands may take wolves on those lands. They may also 
employ a predator controller to trap a gray wolf on their land or 
within one mile of their land to protect their livestock, domestic 
animals, or pets. The State will continue to provide compensation for 
livestock taken by wolves. The MN Plan would also allow persons to 
harass wolves anywhere in the State within 500 yards of ``people, 
buildings, dogs, livestock, or other domestic pets or animals'' (MN DNR 
2001:23). Harassment may not include physical injury to a wolf. Owners 
of domestic pets may also kill wolves posing an immediate threat to 
pets under their supervision on lands that they do not own or lease, 
although such actions are subject to local ordinances, trespass law, 
and other applicable restrictions. MN DNR will investigate any private 
taking of wolves in Zone A.
    In summary, the key differences between the current management of 
wolves in Minnesota under the ESA and their proposed management under 
MN DNR's wolf plan are:
     Activities to control depredating wolves would be allowed 
within one mile of depredation sites instead of one-half mile of these 
     Persons would be allowed to harass wolves within 500 yards 
of persons, buildings, and domestic animals anywhere in the State.
     Persons would be allowed to destroy wolves posing an 
immediate threat to domestic animals on lands that they own, manage, or 
     Persons would be allowed to destroy wolves posing an 
immediate threat to domestic pets under the supervision of the owner 
statewide, subject to other restrictions.
     Persons may destroy wolves in absence of an immediate 
threat in Zone B to ``protect their domestic animals.''
     Minnesota DNR will consider population management 
measures, including public hunting and trapping, but not sooner than 
five years after Federal delisting.
    The Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan (WI Plan) sets a management goal 
of 350 wolves, well above the 200 wolves specified in the Federal 
recovery plan for a viable isolated wolf population. The WI Plan allows 
for differing levels of management within four separate management 
zones (see figure 3 below). The two zones that now contain most of the 
wolf population would be managed to allow limited lethal control on 
problem wolves when the population exceeds 250, but generally lethal 
control would not be exercised on wolves inhabiting large blocks of 
public land. In the other two zones, liberal controls would be allowed 
for problem wolves, with the least restrictive zone allowing for almost 
no protections; one of these zones had five packs of wolves in 2003, 
and the other had only lone wolves confirmed. Other components of the 
WI Plan include monitoring, education, reimbursement for depredation 
losses, citizen stakeholder involvement, habitat management, 
coordination with the Tribes, and the development of new legal 
protections. If the population exceeds 350, a proactive depredation 
control program would be allowed in all four zones, and public harvest 
would be considered.


[[Page 43685]]


[[Page 43686]]

    The Wisconsin Plan sets a goal of 250 wolves as the trigger for 
State delisting, a process that is nearly complete. The Plan calls for 
re-listing as State threatened if the population falls to less than 250 
for three years, and reclassification as endangered if the population 
falls below 80 for one year. Given the likely decline and ultimate 
termination in Federal funding for monitoring in the future, it is 
imperative that an effective, yet cost-efficient method for detecting 
wolf population changes be put in place. A methodology similar to that 
implemented in Minnesota was tested in Wisconsin during the winter of 
2003-04, but its efficacy remains unknown at this time.
    Some members of the Wisconsin public have already advocated that 
the wolf be subject to public harvest following State and Federal 
delisting. The Wisconsin Plan indicates that any public harvest would 
require a separate action by the Wisconsin State legislature, and 
significant public input. The fact that the Wisconsin Plan calls for 
State listing as threatened if the population falls to less than 250 
for three years provides reasonable assurance that public harvest is 
not likely to threaten the persistence of the population.
    The Michigan Gray Wolf Recovery and Management Plan (MI Plan) 
details wolf management actions needed and wolf recovery goals in 
Michigan. Necessary wolf management activities detailed in the plan 
include wolf education and outreach, population and health monitoring, 
research, depredation control, and habitat management. The MI Plan 
contains a long-term minimum goal of 200 wolves (excluding Isle Royale 
wolves) and identifies 800 wolves as the estimated carrying capacity of 
suitable areas on the Upper Peninsula (MI DNR 1997). (``Carrying 
capacity'' is the number of animals that an area is able to support 
over the long term; for wolves it is primarily based on the 
availability of prey animals and competition from other wolf packs.) 
Under the MI Plan, wolves in the State would be considered recovered 
when a minimal sustainable population of 200 wolves is maintained for 5 
consecutive years. The Upper Peninsula has had more than 200 wolves 
since the winter of 1999-2000. Therefore, the gray wolf is eligible for 
State delisting under the MI Plan in 2004. In Michigan, however, State 
delisting cannot occur until after Federal delisting. During the State 
delisting process, Michigan intends to amend its Wildlife Conservation 
Order to grant ``protected animal'' status to the gray wolf. That 
status would ``prohibit take, establish penalties and restitution for 
violations of the Order, and detail conditions under which lethal 
depredation control measures could be implemented'' (Rebecca Humphries, 
MI DNR, in litt. 2004). Population management, except for depredation 
control, is not addressed in the MI Plan beyond statements that the 
wolf population may need to be controlled by lethal means at some 
future time, when the cultural carrying capacity is reached or 
approached. The MI Plan calls for re-evaluation of the plan at 5-year 
intervals. The MI DNR is currently evaluating the Plan's direction and 
developing recommendations for revisions (Beyer pers. comm.).
    The complete text of the Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota wolf 
management plans, as well as our summaries of those plans, can be found 
on our Web site (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section above).
    Depredation Control Programs in the Core Recovery Areas. Wolves 
that are injuring and/or killing domestic animals in the core recovery 
areas have been controlled in different ways, depending upon their 
listing status under the Act and their importance to our gray wolf 
recovery programs. In Minnesota, depredating wolves have been lethally 
controlled under a special regulation since they were listed as 
threatened in 1978. (Details on the Minnesota depredation control 
program are provided later in this subsection.)
    Until 2003, when wolves in Wisconsin and Michigan were reclassified 
to threatened (and therefore eligible for a section 4(d) special 
regulation), depredating wolves in those States had been trapped and 
released in a suitable and unoccupied area some distance from the 
depredation location. Lethal depredation control is now in effect in 
Wisconsin and Michigan under special management regulations and section 
4(d) of the Act (68 FR 15804). The decreasing effectiveness of, and 
increasing opposition to, translocation of depredating wolves, as well 
as the high monetary and labor costs of such attempts, led to the 
adoption of lethal control.
    With the Wisconsin and Michigan (Upper Peninsula) late-winter wolf 
populations at about 250-350 wolves in each State, in our April 2003 
final reclassification rule (68 FR 15804) we estimate that an average 
of about 2 to 3 percent of those wolves will be taken annually through 
lethal depredation control actions in response to attacks on livestock. 
This will be about 6 to 10 adult and subadult wolves in each State. 
Given the average annual population increases of 19 to 24 percent over 
recent years in each of these States, the effect of such levels of 
lethal depredation control will not prevent the continued growth of the 
wolf population in either State and will probably be so small that it 
does not noticeably slow that growth over the next few years. Wolf 
recovery will not be affected in either State. Reporting (within 15 
days) and monitoring requirements in State management plans will ensure 
that the level of lethal depredation control is evaluated promptly and 
can be curtailed if necessary. Therefore, we think that lethal 
depredation control will not be a significant threat to the future of 
wolves in either Michigan or Wisconsin and that it will not result in a 
need to reclassify those wolves back to threatened or endangered status 
in the foreseeable future.
    In recent years the number of dogs attacked by gray wolves in 
Wisconsin has increased, with 33 dogs killed and 9 dogs injured in 
2001-03. In almost all cases, these have been hunting dogs that were 
being used for, or being trained for, hunting bears and bobcats at the 
time they were attacked. It is believed that the dogs entered the 
territory of a wolf pack and may have been close to a den, rendezvous 
site, or feeding location, thus triggering an attack by wolves 
defending their territory or pups. The Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan 
states that ``generally only wolves that are habitual depredators on 
livestock will be euthanized'' (WI DNR 1999a). Furthermore, the State's 
guidelines for conducting depredation control actions on wolves 
currently listed as federally threatened say that no control trapping 
will be conducted on wolves that kill ``dogs that are free-roaming or 
roaming at large.'' Lethal control will only be conducted on wolves 
that kill dogs that are ``leashed, confined, or under the owner's 
control on the owner's land'' (Wisconsin Wolf Technical Committee 
2002). Because of these State-imposed limitations, we do not believe 
that lethal control of wolves depredating on hunting dogs will be a 
significant additional source of mortality in Wisconsin.
    Michigan has not experienced as high a level of attacks on dogs by 
wolves, although a slight increase in such attacks has occurred over 
the last decade. The number of dogs killed in the State was one in 
1996, one in 1999, three in 2001, four in 2002, and eight in 2003. 
Similar to Wisconsin, MI DNR has guidelines for their depredation 
control program. The Michigan guidelines state that lethal control will 
not be used when wolves kill dogs that are free-roaming, hunting, or 
training on public lands. Lethal control of wolves,

[[Page 43687]]

however, would be considered if wolves have killed confined pets and 
remain in the area where more pets are being held (MI DNR 2003).
    Between the time that wolves were protected under the Act and 
downlisted to threatened in 2003, only one wolf was killed for 
depredation control purposes in Wisconsin and Michigan. That adult wolf 
was killed by the WI DNR in 1999, under the provisions of a permit that 
we issued to deal with that specific instance. This was done to end a 
chronic depredation problem at a private deer farm after the failure of 
extensive efforts to live-trap and remove the wolf (WI DNR 1999b). 
Since the 2003 downlisting and implementation of the 4(d) rule, which 
allows some lethal take in those States, a total of 17 wolves have been 
killed in Wisconsin and 4 in Michigan in response to depredations. Nine 
of the 17 Wisconsin wolves were adults, whereas the remaining 8 were 
juveniles. The four Michigan wolves, all from one pack, were killed 
near Engadine where chronic depredation problems had occurred. A fifth 
pack member, identified for removal, was killed as the result of a 
vehicle collision (Donald Lonsway, Michigan Wildlife Service, pers. 
comm. 2004). These four individuals represented about one percent of 
the Michigan wolf population in 2003. Despite the recent implementation 
of the 4(d) rule allowing lethal control of depredating wolves, 
preliminary estimates indicate that wolf populations in Wisconsin and 
Michigan have continued to increase (Wydeven per. comm. 2004, Beyer 
pers. comm. 2004).
    Before the 2003 downlisting of wolves to threatened, we anticipated 
that North Dakota and South Dakota would have potential wolf 
depredation problems associated with mostly single, dispersing wolves 
from the Minnesota and Manitoba populations. To cope with these 
anticipated depredations we had a ``Contingency Plan for Responding to 
Gray Wolf Depredations of Livestock'' in place for each State for 
several years, although in neither State has it been necessary to 
implement the control measures authorized under the contingency plans 
(USFWS 1992b, 1994). The implementation of the 4(d) rule in 2003 
replaced the contingency plans for those States. Since 1993, three 
incidents of verified wolf depredations occurred in North Dakota, with 
the most recent occurring in September 2003. Wildlife Services 
attempted to remove the wolf responsible for the 2003 depredation, but 
the wolf was not sighted again and no further livestock losses were 
reported. There have been no verified wolf depredations in South Dakota 
in recent decades.
    North Dakota and South Dakota are recognized as lacking significant 
potential for restoration of the gray wolf, and our Eastern Recovery 
Plan does not include those States in its list of possible locations 
for restoration of gray wolf populations (USFWS 1987, 1992a). 
Therefore, lethal control of depredating wolves in these two States 
will not adversely affect recovery in the EDPS.
    During the period from 1980-2003, the Federal Minnesota wolf 
depredation control program euthanized from 20 (in 1982) to 216 (in 
1997) gray wolves annually. Annual averages (percentage of statewide 
populations) were 30 (2.2 percent) wolves killed from 1980 to 1984, 49 
(3.0 percent) from 1985 to 1989, 115 (6.0 percent) from 1990 to 1994, 
and 152 (6.7 percent) from 1995 to 1999. During the most recent 4-year 
period, 2000-03, an average of 132 wolves--about 5 percent of the wolf 
population, based on the most recent (1997-98) statewide estimate--were 
killed under the program annually. The lowest annual percentage of 
Minnesota wolves destroyed by USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services was 1.5 
percent in 1982; the highest percentage was 9.4 in 1997 (Paul 2004).
    This level of wolf removal for depredation control has not halted 
the increase in wolf numbers or range expansion in Minnesota, although 
it may have slowed the increase in wolf numbers in the State, 
especially since the late-1980s. Minnesota wolf numbers grew at an 
average annual rate of nearly 4 percent between 1989 and 1998 while 
depredation control was in effect.
    MN DNR proposes to expand the control of depredating wolves upon 
delisting (see above), but this expansion is not likely to threaten the 
conservation of wolves in the State. Significant changes in wolf 
depredation control under State management would primarily be 
restricted to Zone B, which is outside of the area that the Service 
found was necessary for wolf recovery (USFWS 1992a), and wolves may 
still persist in Zone B despite increased take for depredation control. 
The Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team concluded that the changes in 
wolf management in the State's Zone A would be ``minor'' and would not 
likely result in ``significant change in overall wolf numbers in Zone 
A.'' They found that, despite an expansion in the control area from 
approximately 1 to 3 square miles and an extension of the control 
period to 60 days, depredation control will remain ``very localized'' 
in Zone A. The requirement that control activities are conducted only 
in response to verified wolf depredation in Zone A played a key role in 
the team's evaluation (R. Peterson, Michigan Tech University/Eastern 
Timber Wolf Recovery Team Leader, in litt. 2001). Depredation control 
would be allowed throughout Zone A, which includes an area (Zone 1) 
where such control has not been permitted under Federal management. 
Depredation in Zone 1, however, has been limited to 3 to 6 reported 
incidents per year, mostly of wolves killing dogs (William Paul, USDA/
APHIS-Wildlife Services, pers. comm. 2004), although many dog kills in 
this zone probably go unreported. There are few livestock in Zone 1; 
therefore, the number of reported depredation incidents in that zone is 
expected to be low.
    The proposed changes in the control of depredating wolves in 
Minnesota under State management emphasize the need for robust post-
delisting monitoring. Minnesota will continue to monitor wolf 
populations throughout the State and will also monitor all depredation 
control activities in Zone A. These and other activities contained in 
their plan would be essential in meeting their population goal of a 
minimum statewide winter population of 1,600 wolves, which exceeds the 
Recovery Plan's criteria of 1,251 to 1,400 wolves.
    State Management and Protection of Wolves. Both the Wisconsin and 
Michigan Wolf Management Plans recommend managing wolf populations as 
isolated populations that are not dependent upon immigration of wolves 
from an adjacent State or Canada. Thus, even after Federal wolf 
delisting, each State will be managing for a wolf population at, or in 
excess of, the 200 wolves identified in the Federal Recovery Plan for 
the Eastern Timber Wolf as necessary for an isolated wolf population to 
be viable. We support this approach and believe it provides further 
assurance that the gray wolf will remain a viable component of the EDPS 
ecosystem in the foreseeable future.
    At the time the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan was completed, it 
recommended immediate reclassification from State-endangered to 
threatened status because the State's wolf population had already 
exceeded its reclassification criterion of 80 wolves for 3 years; that 
State reclassification has already occurred (http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/working_list/taxalists/TandE.htm
). The 

Plan further recommends the State manage for a gray wolf population of 
350 wolves outside of Native American reservations, and states that the 
species should be delisted by the State once the population reaches 250 
animals outside

[[Page 43688]]

of reservations. The species was proposed for State delisting in late 
2003; this process is expected to be completed in 2004. Upon State 
delisting, the species would be classified as a ``protected nongame 
species,'' a designation that would continue State prohibitions on 
sport hunting and trapping of the species. The Wisconsin Plan includes 
criteria that would trigger State relisting as threatened (a decline to 
fewer than 250 wolves for 3 years) or endangered (a decline to fewer 
than 80 wolves for 1 year). The Wisconsin Plan will be reviewed 
annually by the Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee and will be reviewed 
by the public every 5 years. Any public harvest could be considered 
only if the population exceeds 350 wolves outside of Native American 
reservations, and would require authorization by the legislature 
following major public input.
    Michigan reclassified wolves to threatened in June 2002. Under the 
Michigan Gray Wolf Recovery and Management Plan (MI Plan), wolves in 
Michigan would be considered recovered when a minimum sustainable 
population of 200 wolves is maintained for 5 consecutive years. The 
Upper Peninsula has had more than 200 wolves since the winter of 1999-
2000. Therefore, the wolf is eligible for State delisting under the MI 
Plan in 2004. In Michigan, however, State delisting cannot occur until 
after Federal delisting. During the State delisting process, Michigan 
intends to amend its Wildlife Conservation Order to grant ``protected 
animal'' status to the gray wolf. That status would ``prohibit take, 
establish penalties and restitution for violations of the Order, and 
detail conditions under which lethal depredation control measures could 
be implemented'' (Rebecca Humphries, MI DNR, in litt. 2004). The MI 
Plan will be re-evaluated at 5-year intervals. The MI DNR is currently 
evaluating the MI Plan's direction and developing recommendations for 
revisions (Beyer, pers. comm. 2004).
    The Wisconsin and Michigan wolf management plans recommend similar 
high levels of protection for wolf den and rendezvous sites, whether on 
public or private land. Both State plans recommend that most land uses 
be prohibited at all times within 100 meters (330 feet) of active 
sites. Seasonal restrictions (March through July) should be enforced 
within 0.8 km (0.5 mi) of these sites, to prevent high-disturbance 
activities such as logging from disrupting pup-rearing activities. 
These restrictions should remain in effect even after State delisting 
    The Wisconsin Plan provides for legal protections of wolves 
following State delisting, through designation as a Protected Wild 
Animal in the Wisconsin Administrative Code NR 10.02(1). Penalties for 
illegally killing wolves would include fines in the range of $1,000 to 
$2,000, as well as revocation of hunting privileges for 3 to 5 years, 
and possibly up to 6 months imprisonment.

Tribal Management and Protection of Gray Wolves

    Although the tribes with wolves that visit or reside on their 
Reservations do not yet have management plans specific to the gray 
wolf, several tribes have informed us that they have no plans or 
intentions to allow commercial or recreational hunting or trapping of 
the species on their lands after Federal delisting. We are working with 
the States and several tribes to assist them to develop wolf management 
plans for the Reservations.
    The Tribal Council of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Ojibwe 
(Council) supports a recent resolution that describes the sport and 
recreational harvest of gray wolves as an inappropriate use of the 
animal (Peter White, Leech Lake Tribal Council, in litt. 2003). That 
resolution supports limited harvest of wolves to be used for 
traditional or spiritual uses by enrolled tribal members if it would 
not negatively affect the wolf population. Based on the Council's 
request, we will help them to obtain wolf pelts and parts that become 
available from other sources, such as depredation control activities. 
The Council is currently revising the Reservation Conservation Code to 
allow tribal members to harvest some wolves (P. White in litt. 2003). 
The Leech Lake Reservation is home to an estimated 65 gray wolves, the 
largest population of wolves on a Native American reservation in the 48 
coterminous States (P. White in litt. 2003).
    The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians (Minnesota) has indicated 
that it is likely to develop a wolf management plan that will be very 
similar in scope and content to the plan developed by the MN DNR. The 
Band's position on wolf management is ``wolf preservation through 
effective management,'' and the Band is confident that wolves will 
continue to thrive on their lands (Lawrence Bedeau, Red Lake Band of 
Chippewa Indians, in litt. 1998). The Reservation has an estimated six 
to eight packs within its boundaries (George King, Red Lake Band of 
Chippewa Indians, in litt. 2003).
    The Fond du Lac Band (Minnesota) believes that the ``well being of 
the wolf is intimately connected to the well being of the Chippewa 
People'' (Schrage in litt. 2003). In 1998, the Band passed a resolution 
opposing Federal delisting and any other measure that would permit 
trapping, hunting, or poisoning of the gray wolf (Schrage in litt. 
1998b, in litt. 2003). If this prohibition is rescinded, the Band's 
Resource Management Division will coordinate with State and Federal 
agencies to ensure that any wolf hunting or trapping would be 
``conducted in a biologically sustainable manner'' (Schrage in litt. 
    The Red Cliff Band (Wisconsin) strongly opposes State and Federal 
delisting of the gray wolf. Current Tribal law protects gray wolves 
from harvest, although harvest for ceremonial purposes would likely be 
permitted after delisting (Matt Symbol, Red Cliff Natural Resources 
Department, in litt. 2003).
    The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, will continue to list 
the gray wolf as a protected animal under the Tribal Code even if it is 
federally delisted, with hunting and trapping prohibited (Mike 
Donofrio, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Biological Services, pers. 
comm. 1998). Furthermore, the Keweenaw Bay Community plans to develop a 
Protected Animal Ordinance in the next few years that will address gray 
wolves (Donofrio in litt. 2003).
    Several Midwestern tribes (e.g., the Bad River Band of Lake 
Superior Chippewa Indians and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa 
Indians) have expressed concern regarding the possibility of Federal 
delisting resulting in increased mortality of gray wolves on 
reservation lands, in the areas immediately surrounding the 
reservations, and in lands ceded by treaty to the Federal Government by 
the tribes (Kiogama in litt. 2000). At the request of the Bad River 
Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, we are currently working with 
their Natural Resource Department and WI DNR to develop a wolf 
management agreement for lands adjacent to the Bad River Reservation. 
The tribe's intent is to reduce the threats to reservation wolf packs 
when they are temporarily off the reservation. Under the draft 
agreement, the WI DNR would consult with the tribe before using lethal 
depredation control methods in those areas and would defer to the 
tribe's recommendations for wolves known to be part of a reservation 
pack. This agreement is still being developed, however, so its 
protective measures may

[[Page 43689]]

change somewhat. Other tribes have expressed interest in such an 
agreement. If this and similar agreements are implemented they will 
provide additional protection to certain wolf packs in the eastern 
United States.
    The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) has 
stated its intent to work closely with the States to cooperatively 
manage wolves in the ceded territories in the core areas, and will not 
develop a separate wolf management plan (Schlender in litt. 1998).
    According to the 1854 Authority, ``attitudes toward wolf management 
in the 1854 Ceded Territory run the gamut from a desire to see total 
protection to unlimited harvest opportunity.'' Because of these diverse 
attitudes, the management of wolves in the 1854 Ceded Territory is 
speculative, but the 1854 Authority would not ``implement a harvest 
system that would have any long-term negative impacts to wolf 
populations'' (Andrew Edwards, 1854 Authority Biological Services, in 
litt. 2003).
    In addition, on the basis of information received from other 
Federal land management agencies in the eastern United States where 
wolves occur (as discussed in Summary of Factors Affecting the Species 
section, factor A, The present or threatened destruction, modification, 
or curtailment of its habitat or range, above), we expect National 
Forests, units of the National Park System, and National Wildlife 
Refuges will provide protections to gray wolves after delisting beyond 
the protections provided by State wolf management plans and State 
protective regulations.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Public Attitudes Toward the Gray Wolf. The primary determinant of 
the long-term status of gray wolf populations in the United States will 
be human attitudes toward this large predator. These attitudes are 
based on the conflicts between human activities and wolves, concern 
with the perceived danger the species may pose to humans, its symbolic 
representation of wilderness, the economic effect of livestock losses, 
the emotions regarding the threat to pets, the conviction that the 
species should never be a target of sport hunting or trapping, wolf 
traditions of Native American tribes, and other factors.
    We have seen a change in public attitudes toward the wolf over the 
last few decades. Public attitude surveys in Minnesota and Michigan 
(Kellert 1985, 1990, 1999), as well as the citizen input into the wolf 
management plans of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, have indicated 
strong public support for wolf recovery if the adverse impacts on 
recreational activities and livestock producers can be minimized (MI 
DNR 1997, MN DNR 1998, WI DNR 1999a). In Michigan, another public 
attitude survey was conducted since the wolf population has expanded. 
This survey suggested that the majority of Michigan residents still 
support wolf recovery efforts. Although Upper Peninsula residents' 
support for wolf recovery has gone down slightly since the 1990 Kellert 
survey, the majority of Upper Peninsula residents are still supportive 
of wolf recovery (Angela Mertig, Michigan State University, pers. comm. 
    The Minnesota DNR recognizes that to maintain public support for 
wolf conservation it must work to ensure that the people are well 
informed about wolves and wolf management in the State. Therefore, MN 
DNR plans to provide ``timely and accurate information about wolves to 
the public, to support and facilitate wolf education programs, and to 
encourage wolf ecotourism,'' among other activities. This increased 
public acceptance of wolves during the last 25 years also has reduced 
illegal persecution and killing of wolves.
    It is unclear whether increased flexibility of depredation control 
after delisting would affect public attitudes towards wolves (i.e., 
decrease opposition to the local presence of wolves), due to the strong 
influence of other factors. A survey of 535 rural Wisconsin residents, 
for example, found that attitudes towards wolves were largely dependent 
on social group, and persons who were compensated for losses to wolves 
were not more tolerant toward wolf presence than those refused 
compensation for reported losses (Naughton-Treves et al. 2003). 
Although social group was the overriding factor in determining 
tolerance for wolves, previous history with depredation also negatively 
affected tolerance: persons who had lost an animal to a wolf or other 
predator were less tolerant of wolves (Naughton-Treves et al. 2003). In 
an analysis of data collected in 37 surveys of public attitudes toward 
wolves, Williams et al. (2002) found that hunters and trappers had 
significantly more positive attitudes towards wolves than farmers and 
ranchers. In Wisconsin, however, where bear hunters have lost hounds to 
wolves, they were clearly less tolerant of wolves than livestock 
producers (Naughton-Treves et al. 2003). In addition to social group 
and previous losses of animals to wolves or other predators, education 
level, gender, age, rural residence, and income have all been found to 
influence attitudes towards wolves (Williams et al. 2002). Attitudes 
appear to have become more tolerant between about 1920-70, but appear 
to have stabilized since then (Williams et al. 2002).
    Prey. Wolf density is heavily dependent on prey availability (e.g., 
expressed as ungulate biomass, Fuller 1989), but prey availability is 
not likely to threaten wolves in the EDPS. Conservation of primary wolf 
prey in the EDPS, white-tailed deer and moose, is clearly a high 
priority for State conservation agencies. As Minnesota DNR points out 
in its wolf management plan (MN DNR 2001:25), it manages ungulates to 
ensure a harvestable surplus for hunters, nonconsumptive users, and to 
minimize conflicts with humans. To ensure a harvestable surplus for 
hunters, MN DNR must account for all sources of natural mortality, 
including loss to wolves, and adjust hunter harvest levels when 
necessary. For example, after severe winters in the 1990's, MN DNR 
modified hunter harvest levels to allow for the recovery of the local 
deer population (MN DNR 2001). In addition to regulation of human 
harvest of deer and moose, MN DNR also plans to continue to monitor and 
improve habitat for these species. Land management carried out by other 
public agencies and by private companies in Minnesota's wolf range, 
including timber harvest and prescribed fire, incidentally improves 
habitat for deer, the primary prey for wolves in the State. There is no 
indication that harvest of deer and moose or management of their 
habitat will significantly depress abundance of these species in 
Minnesota's core wolf range. Therefore, prey availability is not likely 
to endanger gray wolves in the foreseeable future in the State.
    Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a nervous system disease known to 
affect deer and elk, was confirmed in Wisconsin in 2002 (three deer 
from a 2001 deer harvest tested positive). Although it is not yet known 
if transmission from deer and elk to other species is possible (Glenn 
DelGiudice, MN DNR, in litt. 2003), it has never been detected in 
predators, even in areas where the disease has been known for more than 
40 years (Hassett, in litt. 2003). The most likely effect of the 
disease on gray wolves would be indirect, potentially significantly 
reducing the prey base in some areas. In Wisconsin, CWD has been 
detected in a relatively restricted area in the southern

[[Page 43690]]

part of the State. The Wisconsin DNR, in cooperation with landowners 
and other State agencies, initiated an intensive program to eradicate 
the disease. CWD has not spread to deer populations within wolf range; 
the closest packs to the CWD area in Wisconsin are located 
approximately 70 miles to the north (Hassett in litt. 2003). Minnesota 
DNR tests harvested deer for CWD. In 2003 it tested 9,988 deer and all 
were negative, although a captive elk tested positive in 2002. CWD has 
not been detected in Michigan, although MI DNR plans to test 60 deer 
from each county in 2004. The DNRs in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and 
Michigan will continue to monitor for outbreaks of CWD in their States.


    While we recognize that gray wolves in the EDPS do not occupy all 
portions of their historical range, including what may be suitable 
areas with low human density and a healthy prey base within the EDPS, 
they no longer meet the definition of a threatened or endangered 
species. We have based our determinations on the current status of, and 
threats likely to be faced by, existing wolf populations within the 
EDPS. This approach is consistent with the 9th Circuit Court's decision 
in Defenders of Wildlife et al. v. Norton et al., where the Court noted 
that ``[a] species with an exceptionally large historical range may 
continue to enjoy healthy population levels despite the loss of a 
substantial amount of suitable habitat.'' Similarly, when a threatened 
species has recovered to the point where it is not likely to become in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
current range in the foreseeable future, it is appropriate to delist 
the species even if a substantial amount of the historical range 
remains unoccupied if the population in its current range is secure. 
The wolf's recovery in numbers and distribution in the EDPS, together 
with the status of the threats that remain to, and are likely to be 
experienced by, the wolf within the DPS, indicates that the gray wolf 
is not likely to become in danger of extinction nor likely to become an 
endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range within the DPS.
    Since the 2003 reclassification of gray wolves in the eastern 
United States to threatened (68 FR 15804), we have received additional 
data that the conservation of gray wolves in the EDPS will be assured 
if delisted. Most importantly, in February 2001, the MN DNR completed 
their Minnesota Wolf Management Plan. With that completed plan, in 
addition to the previously existing plans for Wisconsin and Michigan, 
we were better able to assess the management of gray wolves if 
delisted. Furthermore, since the implementation of more flexible wolf 
management in Wisconsin and Michigan, resulting from the initiation of 
the 4(d) special rule in 2003, wolf numbers in those States have 
continued to increase (Wydeven per. comm. 2004, Beyer pers. comm. 
    After a thorough review of all available information and an 
evaluation of the previous five factors specified in section 4(a)(1) of 
the Act, as well as consideration of the definitions of threatened and 
endangered contained in the Act and the reasons for delisting as 
specified in 50 CFR 424.11(d), we conclude that removing the Eastern 
Gray Wolf Distinct Population Segment from the list of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife (50 CFR 17.11) is appropriate. Gray wolves have 
recovered in the EDPS as a result of the reduction of threats as 
described in the analysis of the five categories of threats.

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as: (i) The 
specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, at 
the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found 
those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation 
of the species and (II) that may require special management 
considerations or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon 
a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of 
the species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and 
procedures needed to bring the species to the point at which listing 
under the Act is no longer necessary. Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as 
amended, and implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to 
the maximum extent prudent and determinable, we designate critical 
habitat at the time we list a species.
    Critical habitat was designated for the gray wolf in 1978 (43 FR 
9607, March 9, 1978). That rule (50 CFR 17.95(a)) identifies Isle 
Royale National Park, Michigan, and Minnesota wolf management zones 1, 
2, and 3, as delineated in 50 CFR 17.40(d)(1), as critical habitat. 
Wolf management zones 1, 2, and 3 comprise approximately 25,500 
km2 (9,845 mi2) in northeastern and north-central 
Minnesota. This proposed rule, if finalized, would remove the 
designation of critical habitat for gray wolves in Minnesota and on 
Isle Royale, Michigan.

Special Regulations Under Section 4(d) for Threatened Species

    The Act and its implementing regulations found at 50 CFR 17.21 set 
forth a series of general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all 
endangered wildlife. These prohibitions, in part, make it illegal for 
any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take 
(includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture, or collect; or to attempt any of these), import, export, ship 
in interstate commerce in the course of commercial activity, or sell or 
offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce any endangered 
wildlife species. It is also illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, 
transport, or ship any such wildlife that has been taken illegally. 
Certain exceptions apply to our agents and agents of State conservation 
    Section 4(d) of the Act provides that whenever a species is listed 
as a threatened species, we shall issue regulations deemed necessary 
and advisable to provide for the conservation of the species. Section 
4(d) also states that we may, by regulation, extend to threatened 
species the prohibitions provided for endangered species under section 
9. The implementing regulations for threatened wildlife under the Act 
incorporate the section 9 prohibitions for endangered wildlife (50 CFR 
17.31), except when a special regulation promulgated pursuant to 
section 4(d) applies (50 CFR 17.31(c)).
    This proposal, if finalized, would remove the special regulations 
under section 4(d) of the Act for wolves in Minnesota, Michigan, 
Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, 
Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. These regulations are found at 
50 CFR 17.40 (d) and (o).

Post-Delisting Monitoring

    Section 4(g) of the Act requires post-delisting monitoring (PDM) 
for a minimum of five years after a species is delisted. The goal of 
post-delisting monitoring is to confirm that a delisted species does 
not require relisting as threatened or endangered after removal of the 
Act's protections. To do this, PDM generally focuses on evaluating (1) 
demographic characteristics of the species, (2) threats to the species, 
and (3) implementation of legal and/or management commitments that have 
been identified as important in reducing threats to the species or 
maintaining threats at sufficiently low levels. If at any time during 
the 5-year monitoring program data indicate that protective status 
under the Act should be reinstated, we can initiate listing

[[Page 43691]]

procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency listing.
    A monitoring plan for the gray wolf EDPS is being developed to 
detect whether factors that might threaten its existence have arisen or 
increased unexpectedly after delisting. In the EDPS, PDM will be 
conducted in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. These States comprise 
the recovery areas within the DPS and were the only States with 
numerical recovery criteria in the Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber 
Wolf (USFWS 1992a). The monitoring plan is being developed by Service 
biologists and the Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team.
    Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan DNRs have monitored wolves for 
several decades with significant assistance from numerous partners, 
including the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, USDA/APHIS-
Wildlife Services, tribal natural resource agencies, and the Service. 
To maximize comparability of PDM data with data obtained before 
delisting, all three State DNRs intend to continue their previous wolf 
population monitoring methodology with only minor changes. 
Additionally, in the winter of 2003-04, the Wisconsin and Michigan DNRs 
began implementing a ``Minnesota-type'' survey on a trial basis, to 
compare the results of that method to their current method, which is 
more labor-intensive. If found to be sufficiently accurate in 
estimating smaller wolf populations, the Minnesota-type method will be 
considered for adoption in Wisconsin and Michigan.
    In addition to monitoring population numbers and trends, the PDM 
will evaluate post-delisting threats, in particular human-caused 
mortality, disease, and implementation of legal and management 
commitments. If at any time during the monitoring period we detect a 
significant downward change in the populations or an increase in 
threats to the degree that population viability may be threatened, we 
will evaluate and change (intensify, extend, and/or otherwise improve) 
the monitoring methods, if appropriate, and/or consider relisting the 
DPS, if warranted. Changes to the monitoring methods, for example, 
might include increased emphasis on a potentially important threat or a 
particular geographic area. At the end of the monitoring period, we 
will decide if relisting, continued monitoring, or ending monitoring is 
appropriate. If data show a significant population decline or increased 
threats, but not to the level that relisting is warranted, we will 
consider continuing monitoring beyond the specified period and may 
modify the monitoring program based on an evaluation of the results of 
the initial monitoring.

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, comments or 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or any other interested party 
concerning this proposed rule are hereby solicited. Comments 
particularly are sought concerning:
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any current or likely future threat, or lack thereof, to gray wolves in 
the EDPS;
    (2) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of gray wolves in the EDPS;
    (3) Current or planned activities in the EDPS and their possible 
impacts on the gray wolf and its habitat;
    (4) Information concerning the adequacy of the recovery criteria 
described in the 1992 Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf;
    (5) The extent of State and Tribal protection and management that 
would be provided to the gray wolf in the core areas of the EDPS as a 
delisted species;
    (6) Information regarding taxonomy of canids in the northeastern 
United States.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and materials 
concerning this proposal by any one of several methods (see ADDRESSES 
section). Please submit Internet comments to ``egwdelist@fs.fed.us'' in 
ASCII file format and avoid the use of special characters or any form 
of encryption. Please also include ``Attn: Gray Wolf Delisting'' in 
your e-mail subject header and your name and return address in the body 
of your message. You will receive a responding message verifying 
receipt of your comments; if you do not receive notification of 
receipt, please resend your comments by the alternative methods 
mentioned above. Please note that the Internet address 
``egwdelist@fs.fed.us'' will be closed out at the termination of the 
public comment period.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review. Individual 
respondents may request that we withhold their home addresses from the 
rulemaking record, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. 
There also may be circumstances in which we may withhold from the 
rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you 
wish us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this 
prominently at the beginning of your comment. We will not consider 
anonymous comments, however. We will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. We 
anticipate a large public response to this proposed rule. After the 
comment period closes, we will organize the comments and materials 
received and make them available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the following Ecological Services 
     Twin Cities, Minnesota Ecological Services Field Office, 
4101 E. 80th Street, Bloomington, MN.
     Green Bay, Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office, 
2661 Scott Tower Dr., New Franken, WI.
     East Lansing, Michigan Ecological Services Field Office, 
2651 Coolidge Road, Suite 101, East Lansing, MI.
     Pierre, South Dakota Ecological Services Field Office, 420 
South Garfield Avenue, Suite 400, Pierre, SD.
     Bismarck, North Dakota Ecological Services Field Office, 
3425 Miriam Avenue, Bismarck, ND.
     Hadley, Massachusetts Regional Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035-9589.
    We will consider all comments and information received during the 
comment period on this proposed rule during preparation of a final 
rulemaking. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this 

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy published in the Federal 
Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists 
regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of such review is to ensure 
that our delisting decision is based on scientifically sound data, 
assumptions, and analyses. We will send copies of this proposed rule to 
these peer reviewers immediately following publication in the Federal 
Register. We will invite these peer reviewers to comment, during the 
public comment period, on the specific assumptions and conclusions 
regarding the proposed delisting.

Public Hearings

    We will hold public hearings throughout the geographic area of the

[[Page 43692]]

EDPS. The dates and locations of these hearings will be announced in 
the Federal Register and local newspapers. For a list of dates and 
locations, contact the Fort Snelling, MN Regional Office (See ADDRESSES 
section for contact information.)

Clarity of the Rule

    Executive Order 12866 requires agencies to write regulations that 
are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make this 
proposal easier to understand including answers to questions such as 
the following: (1) Is the discussion in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section of the preamble helpful to your understanding of the proposal? 
(2) Does the proposal contain technical language or jargon that 
interferes with its clarity? (3) Does the format of the proposal 
(groupings and order of sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) 
aid or reduce its clarity? What else could we do to make the proposal 
easier to understand? Send a copy of any comments on how we could make 
this rule easier to understand to: Office of Regulatory Affairs, 
Department of the Interior, Room 7229, 1849 C. Street NW., Washington, 
DC 20240. You may also e-mail the comments to this address: 

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an Environmental Assessment or an 
Environmental Impact Statement, as defined under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination 
in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320 
implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et 
seq.). The OMB regulations at 5 CFR 1320.3(c) define a collection of 
information as the obtaining of information by or for an agency by 
means of identical questions posed to, or identical reporting, 
recordkeeping, or disclosure requirements imposed on, 10 or more 
persons. Furthermore, 5 CFR 1320.3(c)(4) specifies that ``ten or more 
persons'' refers to the persons to whom a collection of information is 
addressed by the agency within any 12-month period. For purposes of 
this definition, employees of the Federal Government are not included. 
The Service may not conduct or sponsor, and you are not required to 
respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently 
valid OMB control number.
    This rule does not include any collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. As proposed 
under the Post-delisting Monitoring section above, gray wolf 
populations in the Eastern Gray Wolf DPS will be monitored by the 
States of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in accordance with their 
Gray Wolf State Management Plans. We do not anticipate a need to 
request data or other information from 10 or more persons during any 
12-month period to satisfy monitoring information needs. If it becomes 
necessary to collect information from 10 or more non-Federal 
individuals, groups, or organizations per year, we will first obtain 
information collection approval from OMB.

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 on 
regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and 
use. Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of 
Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. As this proposed rule 
is not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, 
or use, this action is not a significant energy action and no Statement 
of Energy Effects is required.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175, and 512 DM 2, we 
have coordinated this proposed rule with the affected tribes. 
Throughout development of this proposed rule, we endeavored to consult 
with Native American tribes and Native American organizations in order 
both to provide them with a complete understanding of the proposed 
changes and also to enable ourselves to gain an appreciation of their 
concerns with those changes. We will fully consider all of their 
comments on the proposed EDPS gray wolf delisting submitted during the 
public comment period and will attempt to address those concerns to the 
extent allowed by the Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and other 
Federal statutes.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this document is 
available upon request from the Ft. Snelling, Minnesota Regional Office 


    The primary author of this rule is Laura J. Ragan, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Ft. Snelling, Minnesota Regional Office (see 
ADDRESSES section). Substantial contributions were also made by Service 
employees Ron Refsnider (Ft. Snelling, Minnesota), Phil Delphey 
(Bloomington, Minnesota), Joel Trick (Green Bay, Wisconsin), Christie 
Deloria (Marquette, Michigan), and Michael Amaral (Concord, New 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we hereby propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth 


    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

Sec.  17.11  [Amended]

    2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by removing the entry for ``Wolf, gray 
[Eastern Distinct Population Segment] (Canis lupus)'' under ``MAMMALS'' 
from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

Sec.  17.40  [Amended]

    3. Amend Sec.  17.40 by removing and reserving paragraphs (d) and 

Sec.  17.95  [Amended]

    4. Amend Sec.  17.95(a) by removing the critical habitat entry for 
``Gray Wolf (Canis lupus).''

    Dated: June 4, 2004.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 04-16535 Filed 7-16-04; 11:12 am]