Gray wolf removed from endangered species list after 40 years

Wisconsin State Farmer
Gray wolves are no longer considered an endangered species after decades of population recovery efforts. This July 16, 2004, file photo, shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn.

After more than 40 years spent on the endangered species list, the gray wolf has been removed after successful recovery efforts, the US Department of the Interior announced.

"Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available," said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. "After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law."

A press release said the gray wolf populations are "thriving" throughout the contiguous United States with a total population of over 6,000 in the country, which more than met recovery goals. Federal agencies are handing over the reigns of population management and protection to state and tribal agencies, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to help monitoring efforts for the next five years.

Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation president Joe Bragger said he's glad control is returning to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

"Wisconsin farmers and rural residents have dealt with nightmare situations with wolf attacks on pets and livestock and even wolf sightings as children play in the yard or wait for the school bus," Bragger said. "We applaud the Department of Interior for this long overdue announcement that will return gray wolf population management authority back to the state DNR."

WFBF District 8 Coordinator Ashleigh Calaway was there during the announcement to provide testimony of wolf attacks.

"I had heard about wolf attacks in the Northwoods of Wisconsin but never dreamed it would happen to us," Calaway shared. "As a farmer, I don’t want to see the wolf population eliminated, but I do want to see the wolf population managed so we can coexist in harmony."

The success of the gray wolf population recovery is owed to the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The wolves were at significant risk of extinction, with a count of merely 14 wolves in 1985 throughout the state of Wisconsin. The population count sits above 1,000 per DNR surveys from this spring. There are still more than 1,600 species considered endangered or threatened.

"This is an Endangered Species Act success story," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. "The gray wolf joins more than 50 other animals, including the bald eagle, as an example of how careful management and partnerships between federal and state agencies can result in the successful recovery of a once-threatened species. The gray wolf population is now thriving so it is appropriate to turn management over to the states, which can oversee the species in a way that is most appropriate for each region."

Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher, who represents Wisconsin's 8th district, released a statement on the delisting. Rep. Gallagher has contributed to efforts to delist the gray wolf, including co-sponsoring the Manage Our Predators Act with Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin's 7th district. He also attempted to pass H.R. 6784, the Manage Our Wolves Act, this year.

"The recovery of the gray wolf population is one of our country’s greatest conservation success stories," said Rep. Gallagher. "By granting states the authority to manage these populations, today’s announcement is a win for federalism and a win for our Northeast Wisconsin farmers, who have lost millions of dollars in livestock due to gray wolves. Thanks to the Administration, Wisconsin will finally have a say on how best to manage these populations and protect our farmers."

Wisconsin Senator Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, also commended the efforts and said control coming back to the state is a good thing.

"The gray wolf’s resurgence is a true Wisconsin comeback story, but balance is always key when it comes to wildlife management," said Senator Testin. "State oversight of the gray wolf population will aid both farmers and hunters, as threats to livestock and our deer herd can now be reduced."