Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that gray wolf populations in the Great Lakes region have recovered and no longer require the protection of the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is publishing a final rule in the Federal Register removing wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and in portions of adjoining states, from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants.
“Once again, the Endangered Species Act has proved to be an effective tool for bringing species back from the brink of extinction,” Secretary Salazar said. “Thanks to the work of our scientists, wildlife managers, and our state, tribal, and stakeholder partners, gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region are now fully recovered and healthy.”
The rule removing ESA protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
“Gray wolves are thriving in the Great Lakes region, and their successful recovery is a testament to the hard work of the Service and our state and local partners,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We are confident state and tribal wildlife managers in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will effectively manage healthy wolf populations now that federal protection is no longer needed.”
Wolves total more than 4,000 animals in the three core recovery states in the western Great Lakes area and have exceeded recovery goals. Minnesota’s population is estimated at 2,921 wolves, while an estimated 687 wolves live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and another 782 in Wisconsin. Each state has developed a plan to manage wolves after federal protection is removed.
Wolf populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan will be monitored for at least five years to ensure the species continues to thrive. If it appears, at any time, that the gray wolf cannot sustain itself without the protections of the ESA, the Service can initiate the listing process, including emergency listing.
In the Service’s May 5, 2011, proposal to delist western Great Lakes wolves, the agency also proposed accepting recent taxonomic information that the gray wolf subspeciesCanis lupus lycaon should be elevated to the full species Canis lycaon, and that the population of wolves in the Western Great Lakes is a mix of the two full species, Canis lupus and Canis lycaon. Based on substantial information received from scientists and others during the public comment period, the Service has re-evaluated that proposal, and the final rule considers all wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS to be Canis lupus.
The Service also previously proposed delisting gray wolves in all or parts of 29 states in the eastern half of the United States. The Service continues to evaluate that portion of the May 5, 2011, proposal and will make a final separate determination at a later date.
Gray wolves were originally listed as subspecies or as regional populations of subspecies in the lower 48 states and Mexico under the ESA in 1973 and its predecessor statutes before that. In 1978, the Service reclassified the gray wolf as an endangered species across all of the lower 48 states and Mexico, except in Minnesota where the gray wolf was classified as threatened.
More information on the recovery of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes can be found at www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/.