U.S. Government Denies Wyoming Petition to Delist Wolves

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it has denied a petition submitted by the State of Wyoming seeking to remove the gray wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains from the Federal list of threatened and endangered species.

After a thorough review of all available scientific and commercial information, the Service has concluded that the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population cannot be delisted until adequate regulatory mechanisms protecting the wolf are put in place by Wyoming, as they have been by the states of Idaho and Montana. The Service is required by the Endangered Species Act to take into account the adequacy or inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms when determining whether delisting is warranted.

The Service, therefore, cannot propose to delist the wolf until Wyoming amends its law and approves a wolf management plan that regulates and limits the human take of wolves, commits to maintaining at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in mid-winter, and defines a wolf pack for management purposes using consistent and accepted scientific standards. The Service will continue working with Wyoming officials to address the State's concerns in a way that allows the Service to move forward with a delisting proposal in the near future.

Under current Wyoming law, wolves are defined as predatory animals, a status that will not protect the wolf and would limit the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's ability to maintain the minimum number of breeding pairs necessary outside of the National Park units in northwestern Wyoming if the wolf is delisted.

The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is a total of 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves, with Montana, Idaho and Wyoming each sustaining a minimum of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves for a minimum of three consecutive years. This goal was attained in 2002. By the end of 2005, 1,020 wolves and 71 breeding pairs were estimated in the northern Rocky Mountains.

On July 19, 2005, the Service received a petition from the Office of the Governor of the State of Wyoming and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department seeking to delist wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. On October 26, 2005, the Service announced its finding that the Wyoming petition presented substantial scientific and commercial information indicating that the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population may qualify as a distinct population segment (DPS) under the Endangered Species Act, and that this potential DPS may warrant removal from the Endangered Species list. At that time the Service started a 12-month status review. This announcement is the culmination of that review.

In February of 2006, the Service announced its intent to propose designating and delisting the Rocky Mountain Population as a DPS, as soon as Wyoming implemented an adequate state law and management plan. A DPS designation allows the Service to treat populations of a species that meet certain criteria for genetic or geographic uniqueness as a separate entity for listing purposes. The Service can therefore list or delist populations that meet the criteria of a DPS independent of considerations that may govern evaluation of the entire species.

The Service has already allowed the states of Idaho and Montana, both of which have approved wolf management plans and laws, to assume most Federal management responsibilities for wolves under a special rule. This action was taken beginning in 2005, in anticipation of delisting the northern Rocky Mountain wolf DPS. Idaho and Montana now implement control actions for problem wolves, monitor wolf packs, coordinate research, have active information and public outreach programs, and take wolves for scientific and other purposes in accordance with Federal regulations.