Gray wolves are under attack again. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced in early March that it intends to eliminate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves across the contiguous United States.
In the 48 contiguous states, hundreds of thousands of gray wolves once roamed. By the early 20th century, however, intensive predator control efforts had wiped out all but a few remnants of this population. Placed under ESA protection in the 1970s, the species began to return, but even today, only 5,000-6,000 gray wolves exist in the contiguous United States, occupying less than 10 percent of their historic range. Protecting these wolves and establishing wolf populations in remaining suitable habitat is crucial to the future of the species.
This proposed rule would cede management of the species to state agencies—several of which have shown an open hostility to wolf recovery programs and to predators in general. Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, where wolves were previously delisted, have already instituted wolf hunting seasons that permit cruel killing methods. Wolves in these states have legally been snared and caught in barbaric steel-jaw leghold traps; Wyoming has even allowed wolves to be run over by snowmobiles and ATVs, poisoned, incinerated in their dens with gas or dynamite, and gunned down from aircraft.
What You Can Do
The USFWS is accepting comments from the public on its delisting proposal. Please contact the USFWS before the May 14 deadline asking the agency to uphold its conservation mandate and maintain ESA protections for gray wolves. (Note: When you submit comments through AWI’s website, your name and comments will be publicly viewable on the official comment page at Regulations.gov.) You may also submit your comments directly here.
Featured image: A grey wolf in Washington state. Image credit Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, CC BY-SA 3.0.