The Humane Society of the United States and several other organizations filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Tuesday over the federal de-listing of gray wolves as a protected species.

According to ABC News, the lawsuit aims to re-institute federal protection for gray wolves in the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. State wildlife agencies made the decision to allow wolf hunting and trapping after the species was taken off the endangered species list last year. Wisconsin and Minnesota’s wolf season recently ended with a combined total of 530 wolves harvested. Michigan is still awaiting a final decision in the matter before allowing hunting later this year.

“Wolf populations are just at the threshold of rebounding in many areas across the Great Lakes Region,” said Linda Hatfield, executive director of Help Our Wolves Live. “The recent delisting has taken the wolf back to the old days, days before the [Endangered Species Act], the days of state-sponsored bounty payments to hunters and trappers that were intended to eliminate wolves from the landscape.”

The Humane Society asserts that a de-listing of the gray wolf while the species only resides in 5% of its natural range will severely impact wolves under “hostile state management programs.”

State agencies have a different opinion on the issue. Currently, over 4,000 gray wolves call the Midwest home. An increase in depredation and conflicts with humans have led to renewed interest in wolf management, a move that agency experts believe will not have a detrimental effect on the recovered wolf population.

“We intend to continue managing wolves in ways that work for Wisconsin, socially and biologically,” said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. “But to do so, management authority needs to remain in the hands of the state. We must maintain the authority to employ tools, like a wolf hunt, when populations and depredations peak as they have this year. Increased conflicts with domestic livestock and pets benefit neither humans nor wolves.”

Various wolf subspecies have been listed under the endangered species act since 1974 and the gray wolf joined in 1978. After many years of debate, the FWS decided to de-list the gray wolf in the Great Lakes region last year. Grays are known to be the largest in the wolf family and perhaps the most commonly portrayed in popular culture.

Image from dalliedee on the flickr Creative Commons

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