Wyoming's Wolves in the Crosshairs

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Some conservationists were howling mad that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) removed Wyoming’s gray wolves (Canis lupus) from the Endangered Species list on Aug. 31. However, Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming ensured the public that de-listing won’t result in wolf massacre once hunting of the canines resumes in his state on Oct. 1, reported the Wyoming Star Tribune.

Only approximately 10 percent of Wyoming’s more than 300 wolves live in areas that allow the animals to be shot on sight, according to a USFWS press release. The rest live in trophy game management areas where regulations will control timing, methods and numbers of animals taken in wolf hunts. Wyoming has authorized 52 wolves to be killed in 2012’s hunt. Idaho and Montana have already begun using management plans similar to what Wyoming will use. Wolves in those states were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2011.

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Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm, may seek an injunction to halt Wyoming’s wolf hunt.

Despite outcry from conservation groups, USFWS stated that wolf populations have reached the carrying capacity for the Rocky Mountains and no longer need protection. Wolf numbers have met or exceeded recovery goals for 10 consecutive years.

Currently, 1,774 adult wolves and more than 109 breeding pairs split the chill night air of the Rockies with their howls. If wolf numbers drop, the USFWS can return wolves to the Endangered Species List.

“Our primary goal, and that of the states, is to ensure that gray wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains remain healthy, giving future generations of Americans the chance to hear its howl echo across the area,” said USFWS Director Dan Ashe in a press release. “No one, least of all Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, wants to see wolves back on the endangered species list. But that’s what will happen if recovery targets are not sustained.”

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Approximately 65,000 wolves roam North America. Most live in Canada and Alaska.

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Gray wolf Canis lupus at Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Michigan.(Seney Natural History Association, Wikimedia Commons)