Federal wildlife managers denied a petition to restore ESA protections to the gray wolf population in the northern Rockies . . .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Friday denied a listing petition from an alliance of more than 70 conservation groups seeking to restore Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections to gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. Although federal wildlife managers framed the decision as following “a path to support a long-term and durable approach to the conservation of gray wolves,” and pledged to adopt a first-of-its-kind National Recovery Plan, the conservation groups said they were considering a legal challenge.
Gray wolves are still listed under the ESA as endangered in 44 states, and are considered threatened in Minnesota; however, in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and portions of eastern Oregon and Washington, the wolves are managed under state jurisdiction, with their respective legislatures passing laws allowing wolf harvests, while setting quotas and regulations to manage the populations.
Although the FWS decision doesn’t change existing policy, it signals the latest turn in a decades-old debate over state and federal management of wolves in the West, as well as how to quantify the species’ recovery following their delisting in places like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
This is interesting — and encouraging — news . . .
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks are proposing to reduce the hunting quota for wolves statewide from 450 to 289, according to the department and an interview with a spokesperson.
FWP said the wolf population has dropped in the last two years, and it believes the new quota will keep wolves at a healthy and sustainable population per state law.
“State law, set by the 2021 Montana Legislature, requires FWP to reduce wolf populations in Montana to a sustainable level,” said Greg Lemon, FWP public information officer. “We believe the quota of 289 wolves will meet that statutory requirement while ensuring a healthy wolf population in the state.”
This announcement comes a year after the wolf numbers fell in 2022, according to the 2022 FWP Wolf Report.
Federal protections for gray wolves have been restored, except for those states where gray wolf endangered species status has already been removed by congress . . .
A judge has ordered federal protections restored for gray wolves across much of the U.S. after they were removed in the waning days of the Trump administration.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said in Thursday’s ruling that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to show wolf populations could be sustained in the Midwest and portions of the West without protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Wildlife advocates had argued state-sponsored hunting threatened to reverse the gray wolf’s recovery over the past several decades.
The ruling does not directly impact wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, which remain under state jurisdiction.
Aggressive wolf management plans in Montana and Idaho are drawing the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service . . .
On opening day of Montana’s expanded wolf-hunting season, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it has decided to conduct an in-depth status review to determine whether state management plans aiming to aggressively reduce wolf populations threaten the recovery of gray wolves.
The agency now has a year to conduct a further review of the species using the best available science to determine whether listing under the Endangered Species Act is warranted.
The process was initiated this summer when environmental groups asked the agency to relist the animals through two separate petitions. The groups filed the petitions after lawmakers in Montana and Idaho passed laws that encouraged aggressive population reduction by broadening the methods hunters could use to harvest wolves and expanding the trapping season.
In a release about the decision, the agency wrote that the two petitions presented “substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S.” and that the “new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate to address this threat.”…
Disease and migration have reduced the wolf population in Yellowstone National Park by half since 2003 . . .
The gray wolf population in Yellowstone National Park has dropped to about 80 wolves, officials say — less than half of the high population mark in the park.
While Yellowstone leaders won’t have an accurate count until the fall after surviving pups are visible, the park’s top biologist doesn’t expect numbers to rise dramatically after litters are included in population estimates.
“Unfortunately, many of them die. Gray pup survival is about 7 percent,” Doug Smith, long-time project leader for the Wolf Restoration Project in Yellowstone, said in a Wednesday video broadcast on the park’s Facebook page.
Not entirely unexpected: The U.S. Department of the Interior wants to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List for for the entire country . . .
U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, re-igniting the legal battle over a predator that’s run into conflicts with farmers and ranchers after rebounding in some regions, an official told The Associated Press.
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the proposal during a Wednesday speech at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Denver, a weeklong conservation forum for researchers, government officials and others, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Gavin Shire said in an interview with the AP.
The decision was based on gray wolves successfully recovering from widespread extermination last century, Shire said. Further details were expected during a formal announcement planned in coming days.
Montana officials are hoping to try a new, less expensive way to estimate the wolf population . . .
In the span of a human lifetime, gray wolves have re-established their presence in Montana’s mountains and forests.
Human settlers had driven most of the predators out by the early 1930s. But beginning in the 1970s, Endangered Species Act protections and re-introductions fostered a recovery. Montana’s wolf population has grown from about 50 confirmed animals in the 1990s to nearly 500 today.
The recovery is often hailed as a success story for wildlife management. But now, the wolf population’s growth is making management tougher.
Montana plans to change the way they count wolves. The Missoulian has the story. We’ve also included a link to the official Montana FWP press release discussing the subject . . .
Montana wildlife officials say the way they count wolves is too expensive and falls far short of an actual population estimate, so they plan to switch to a model that uses information gathered from hunters.
However, wildlife advocates say wolf numbers are declining and the switch could threaten the species’ survival. They worry the data is too unreliable to be used to manage the population.
The change, expected within the next three years after improvements to the model, will be cheaper than the annual wolf counts conducted now and provide a more accurate estimate of the total population, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said.
Wow! North Forker and NFPA member Diane Boyd has a very nice write-up in the Flathead Beacon titled “The Jane Goodall of Wolves” . . .
In 1979, Diane Boyd left her native Minnesota and headed west to begin tracking the first radio-collared gray wolf from Canada to recolonize the Western U.S., where humans had effectively eliminated the species by the 1930s through hunting, poisoning and habitat loss. Boyd, a 24-year-old wildlife biology graduate student at University of Montana, was fueled by optimistic idealism and boundless energy. When she pulled up to her new home, deep in northwestern Montana’s rugged North Fork Flathead River valley, it was apparent she would need both.
“It was like, ‘Wow,’” Boyd recalls of seeing the cabin, which had no plumbing, electricity or means of communicating with the outside world. “I’d spent a lot of time outdoors, but this was true isolation.”
Though wolves had been extirpated statewide, reports of sightings and shootings started trickling in during the 1960s and ‘70s, leading University of Montana professor Bob Ream to launch the Wolf Ecology Project in 1973, the same year that Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves were listed under the Endangered Species Act. It was through the Wolf Ecology Project that researcher Joe Smith trapped a female wolf, dubbed Kishinena, on April 4, 1979 in the North Fork drainage along the northwestern edge of Glacier National Park.