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Grey wolves set to be first animal taken off endangered list

Grey Wolves are set to become the first animals ever to be removed from an endangered species list meaning that they can be hunted once again.

The animals are now fair game after U.S. Congress agreed to lift federal safeguards the western states of Montana and Idaho.

There are about 1,200 wolves in the wild and their removal from the list means they are now state controlled and allows for licensed hunting.

Fair game: Grey wolves are going to become the first animals to be taken off the endangered species list

Fair game: Grey wolves are going to become the first animals to be taken off the endangered species list

Ranchers, who have seen the population of the wolf growing in the Northern Rockies, have said they are glad that this has happened because of the threat they pose to their herds.

Cattle producers, hunters and state game wardens say that wolf packs in some places are going unchecked as they prey on livestock and other animals such as elk.

However pro-animal experts say it could be a slippery slope to taking more animals off the list.

Senator Jon Tester, who put forward the motion, said: 'Right now, Montana's wolf population is out of balance, and this provision will get us back on the responsible path with statement management.'

People against the decision say they fear it opens a 'Pandora's box' that will allow for more animals to be taken off the list

Similar plans were turned down in 2009 by federal judges after an application by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service saying that it would violate the Endangered Species Act.

Wildlife expert Matt Kirby said: 'Congress has never before made a species-specific decision. It opens up a Pandora's box where you could have politicians cherry-picking inconvenient species.'

The Obama administration has sought to quell the dispute by persuading wildlife advocates to embrace the management plans of Montana and Idaho as adequate to keep wolf populations at healthy levels now that they exceed recovery targets.

On Saturday, Molloy rejected the plan again after it was presented as a negotiated settlement between the federal government and 10 conservation groups. Several environmental organizations continue to oppose it.

Once abundant across most of North America, grey wolves were hunted, trapped and poisoned to near extinction in much of the continental United States by the 1930s under a government-sponsored eradication program.

Decades later, biologists recognized that wolves had an essential role to play in mountain ecosystems as a predator. Listed as endangered in 1974, the animals have made a comeback in the region around Yellowstone National Park since the government reintroduced them there in the mid-1990s.

The language now before Congress would override Molloy and put the 2009 plan back into place.

A number of animals have been removed from the U.S. endangered species list over the years through a process of scientific review established under federal law.

But this legislation would mark the first time an animal has been removed by Congress from the endangered list.

Endangered wolves fall prey to US politics

April 15, 2011

Political victim ... the grey wolf. Photo: AFP

The political tussle over US spending has ensnared an unlikely victim, the grey wolf, whose long-time status as an endangered species will most likely be axed due to a late addition to the budget deal.

The annex, or rider, attached by two senators to the federal budget bill after weeks of tumultuous debate, marks the first time that Congress has removed an animal from the endangered species list and is expected to pass in a vote on Thursday.

Added Tuesday, a few days after a deal to prevent the government from shutting down was agreed on, the move has left environmentalists both seething and admitting defeat after years of legal wrangling over the fate of the wolves.

"There is nothing we can do to sue because the rider actually bans the citizens from suing the government over this issue," said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Centre for Biological Diversity.

"We are going to have to regroup at this point and come at wolf recovery from a fresh angle because we have been shut down," he said.

At issue is whether wolves, which were heavily hunted in the US west for many decades, have recovered in numbers enough to allow hunters to target them again.

The wolves had all but disappeared from the region until they were reintroduced in the 1990s, and their protected status has allowed them to reach a population of 1651 in the Rocky Mountain region, according to the Sierra Club.

But ranchers say wolves are a nuisance to livestock and could even threaten humans if their population grows too large.

The number of 300 wolves was decided upon as a regional threshold in the late 1980s, even before efforts began to re-establish a wolf population, said Sierra Club spokesman Matt Kirby.

"It was an arbitrary number. It was not based on any science. It was picked out of the air," he told AFP.

Since then, "the science has gone a lot farther and shown that 300 is not enough to have a genetically connected population and to really have a sustainable population, which is the intent of the Endangered Species Act," Kirby said.

The rider caps a legal battle that dates back to the end of the George W. Bush administration, and allows the removal of the grey wolves from the list maintained by the Fish and Wildlife Service under the 1973 Endangered Species Act.

The Bush Administration set the delisting in motion during its final weeks in power. The controversial move was upheld by the Barack Obama administration, but 14 environmental groups sued and won their case to prevent it from happening in 2010.

Tuesday's rider reverses that and effectively puts an end to the matter by preventing further legal action.

Two senators, Republican Mike Simpson of Idaho and Democrat Jon Tester of Montana, both from states with growing wolf populations, added the rider to the compromise bill - agreed shortly before midnight last Friday - that funds the US government to October 1.

Tester, who chairs the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, said in a statement that the "bipartisan provision" would return wolf management to the states and remove protected status because the once-vulnerable population had recovered.

"Right now, Montana's wolf population is out of balance and this provision will get us back on the responsible path with state management. Wolves have recovered in the Northern Rockies," he said.

"By untying the hands of the Montana biologists who know how to keep the proper balance, we will restore healthy wildlife populations and we will protect livestock."

Environmentalists allege that Tester is facing a perilous re-election bid in a remote, right-leaning state where hunting is popular, and is seeking to gain favour from voters.

"While normally the Democratic Party and the White House would oppose this and not let a bill go through, they have decided it is more important to boost Jon Tester's poll numbers for the upcoming election than to protect wolves," said Suckling.

"It doesn't save any money at all. It is a terrible harm to the economy," he added. "The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park and the Rocky Mountains have been a huge tourist draw."

Kirby accused Congress of meddling with a federal act that should not be decided on a state-by-state basis.

"The concern is once this has happened, you have really opened the door to politicians cherry-picking the individual species that are inconvenient and just introducing legislation to do away with them," Kirby said.

"We really have to work to make sure Congress does not do this again."

Read more:

Prodigal Dogs

Have gray wolves found a home in Colorado?
Feature story - From the February 15, 2010 issue of High Country News

by Michelle Nijhuis

Last April, in a narrow mountain valley in northwestern Colorado, Cristina Eisenberg was searching for scat. The diminutive, dark-haired biologist and two members of her field crew had set up a kilometer-long transect through elk habitat, and the trio was walking slowly along the line. It was a raw day, cold and windy with spells of freezing rain, and the biologists had been moving through meadows for hours, looking for elk poop, deer poop, coyote poop, mountain lion poop. This was old-fashioned wildlife biology -- hardly glamorous work -- but in it lay the story of the landscape, of the pursuers and the pursued, and Eisenberg was absorbed in the tale.

Then, on the edge of an aspen grove, one of the biologists saw something unusual: a scat roughly as long and wide as a banana, tapered at the ends, perhaps two months old. When Eisenberg examined it, she saw that it contained hair from deer or elk and shards of bone, some almost as long as a fingernail. It smelled distinctively earthy, like a shady forest floor.

In the course of her research, Eisenberg had seen and handled thousands of scats just like this one, but not here, not in Colorado. Everything about it -- the size, the shape, the smell, the contents -- indicated a creature that had been extirpated from the state more than 70 years ago. Everything about it said wolf.

Click here to read the rest of the story


For Immediate Release

Contact(s) Eva Sargent, (520) 834-6441

Mexican wolf numbers down to 42

Defenders of Wildlife says a scientific recovery plan is desperately needed

(Albuquerque, N.M., February 5, 2010) — Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the Mexican wolf population plummeted by 20 percent in 2009, according to its annual year-end survey of the recovery area spanning New Mexico and Arizona. This recent survey counted only 42 wolves and two breeding pairs brings them closer to a second extinction in the wild.   

The following is a statement from Eva Sargent, Ph.D., the Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife.

“Mexican wolves are in big trouble. With numbers so perilously low, every single wolf in the wild counts toward the animal’s survival. Turning this dire situation around will require every effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to craft a science-based recovery plan that pays careful attention to genetic issues. The Service must also make a renewed commitment to keep wolves on the ground."   


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit




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