If you listen closely in portions of the country, you’ll hear two different kinds of howls—one from wolves, which the federal government has aggressively and successfully brought back into the ecosystem. The other is from a cadre of western lands users, including ranchers and sportsmen, who weren’t too sure that bringing wolves back into the biological picture was a good idea.

With recent wolfish developments now on the table, howls from the four-legged sector will continue, as will those from ranchers and sportsmen. But given the reality that wolves are now and will continue to be a part of the rural landscape, the human howling is more about who and how to manage the predators.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Friday, June 7 proposed to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of threatened and endangered species. The proposal comes after a comprehensive review confirmed its successful recovery following management actions undertaken by federal, state and local partners following the wolf’s listing under the Endangered Species Act over three decades ago. 

However, FWS is also proposing to maintain protection and expand recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) in the Southwest, where they say it remains endangered.

 

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Under the proposal, state wildlife management agency professionals would resume responsibility for management and protection of gray wolves in states where wolves occur. The proposed rule is based on the best science available and incorporates new information about the gray wolf’s current and historical distribution in the contiguous U.S. and Mexico. It focuses the protection on the Mexican wolf, the only remaining entity that warrants protection under the Act, by designating the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies.

In the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountains, the gray wolf has rebounded from the brink of extinction to exceed population targets by as much as 300%. Gray wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segments were removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 2011 and 2012.