Wolves in Great Lakes States Ordered Returned to Endangered Species List

Fiona Howling by the PondUS District Judge Beryl Howell has thrown out a 2012 decision to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region — including Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin — from the Endangered Species List.  This has immediately ended wolf hunting seasons in all three states.

Wolves in Minnesota were first granted federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1978, when there were only a few hundred wolves living in the state, and a small population on Isle Royale in Michigan.  Since that time, the wolf population has expanded, with approximately 4,000 wolves across the Great Lakes region when the animals were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2012.

After the delisting, each Great Lakes state designated federally approved “minimums” for its wolf populations, representing a theoretically scientific estimate of how many wolves the area “should be” sustaining for a healthy population.  The chosen minimums would halve, or more than halve, the population in each state: in Minnesota, the plan allowed the population to drop from 3,000 to 1,600; in Wisconsin, from 782 to 350; and in Michigan, the population could drop from 687 to a minimum of only 200 individuals.  If the population dropped to the minimum, the states agreed to reconsider their management plans.  A number of US federal agencies, including the Forest Service, Geological Survey, and Park Service, planned to monitor wolf populations in the Great Lakes states for a minimum of five years to ensure that populations remained robust.

Since the 2012 delisting, all three states have held at least one hunting season, and Minnesota and Wisconsin have also permitted trapping.  More than 1,500 wolves have been killed during that time, according to Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, whose lawsuit prompted Howell’s ruling.  (Read the 2012-2014 post-delisting monitoring annual report from the USFWS here.)  A large percentage of the animals killed during the hunting season were taken with leg hold traps.

Judge Howell rejected claims by the USFWS that states’ management plans — which included hunting practices including snares, bait, calls, trapping, and, in Wisconsin, the use of hunting dogs — were appropriate for maintenance of healthy wolf populations.  Howell found that the delisting of wolves in the Great Lakes states was “arbitrary and capricious”.  Read the entire ruling here.

DNRs in all three states have closed hunting seasons in response to the ruling, but are likely to appeal the decision.  Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire said the agency was disappointed in the decision. “The science clearly shows that wolves are recovered in the Great Lakes region, and we believe the Great Lakes states have clearly demonstrated their ability to effectively manage their wolf populations,” Shire said. “This is a significant step backward.”

The Great Lakes “population segment” is currently considered separate, for purposes of population management, from other wild wolf populations, including those in the Rocky Mountains, and decisions affecting the management of Great Lakes wolves do not affect the management of wolf populations elsewhere.

Read the original article here.

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