Michigan Gray Wolf Removed From Endangered Species List

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As a result of a move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to officially remove the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes region from the federal list of threatened and endangered species, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources now has the primary authority for managing wolves in the State.

Wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio were removed from the federal endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, signifying the biological recovery of the gray wolf in this region, such that the species is not likely to become endangered with extinction in the foreseeable future.

"The recovery of the wolf is the result of decades of hard work by many people, agencies and organizations," said Department of Natural Resources Director Rebecca Humphries. "This delisting decision reflects a tremendous achievement in wildlife management, and we take pride in the roles all of us played to help to make it happen."

The federal delisting decision will take effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. Although the species will no longer be federally protected, wolves remain protected under Michigan law and a person may not kill a wolf except under state permit or in immediate defense of human life. Following the federal delisting decision, the DNR will now have more flexibility in how it can manage problems caused by wolves.

The DNR is currently revising its gray wolf management plan. The plan revision will allow the DNR to continue to conserve and manage wolves based on the best available scientific information.

The revision will address results from extensive public-attitude surveys and it will incorporate guidance offered by the Michigan Wolf Management Roundtable, a 20-member committee convened by the DNR to represent the diverse array of wolf-related interests held by Michigan society. The plan will also reflect the regulation changes following the federal delisting decision. Release of a draft revised plan for public comment is intended for spring 2007. Additional information on wolves is posted on the DNR Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnr. When the gray wolf was listed as endangered in 1974, the entire range of the species in the contiguous U.S. was limited to northeastern Minnesota. The major threat was persecution by humans resulting from negative perceptions of wolves.

With legal protection under the Endangered Species Act, coupled with a favorable shift in public attitudes toward the species, wolves were able to expand into much of their former Great Lakes range. Re-establishment of a resident population in Michigan was documented in 1989 when three animals established a territory in the western Upper Peninsula.

Since that time, the wolf population has grown rapidly. During the winter of 2005-2006, at least 434 wolves occurred in the state. Survey efforts to determine present population size are currently underway.