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October 15, 2012

The Humane Society of the United States Files Notice of Suit to Restore Federal Protection for Great Lakes Wolves

wolf

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On the day of the first public wolf hunting and trapping season in the Great Lakes region in more than 40 years, The Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals served notice that they will file suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore federal protections for Great Lakes wolves under the Endangered Species Act. The groups are also asking the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota to postpone wolf hunting and trapping until the case can be decided on the merits.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent decision to delist wolves became effective earlier this year, after multiple previous attempts to delist wolves were struck down by the courts over the course of the last decade.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put faith in the state wildlife agencies to responsibly manage wolf populations, but their overzealous and extreme plans to allow for trophy hunting and recreational trapping immediately after de-listing demonstrate that such confidence was unwarranted,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO for The HSUS. “Between Minnesota’s broken promise to wait five years before hunting wolves, and Wisconsin’s reckless plan to trap and shoot hundreds of wolves in the first year, it is painfully clear that federal protection must be reasserted. The states have allowed the most extreme voices to grab hold of wolf management, and the result could be devastating for this species.” 

In Minnesota, hunters and trappers can kill as many as 400 of the estimated 3,000 wolves in the state. That is additive to the damage control killing, poaching, and other forms of human-caused mortality.

In Wisconsin, the quota for killing wolves in the state is roughly 24 percent of the estimated wolf population in the state. Including depredations, illegal kills, and vehicle collisions, the human-caused death toll could be more than 50 percent of the wolf population – nearly double the level of human-caused mortality the best available science indicates the population can withstand.

Some lawmakers in Michigan, where livestock owners are already allowed to use lethal means as a first resort when a gray wolf preys upon livestock, are pushing for legislation that would create an open sport hunting season on wolves.

The groups have filed today a 60-day notice of their intent to sue over the rule – as required under the Endangered Species Act. If the agency does not reconsider the delisting rule over the next 60 days, The HSUS and The Fund for Animals will ask a federal court to reinstate federal ESA protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region. Both organizations had hoped that sensible policies would prevail in the states, and also took note of the legal claims filed by other organizations seeking to avert reckless killing of wolves.  Those cases have not resolved several of our concerns favorably for the wolves, leading us to file notice to sue.

Facts

  • The gray wolf (Canis lupus) once roamed across the United States in the hundreds of thousands. However, federally funded eradication programs, which lasted through the mid-1900s, bounty programs, poisons, trapping, and aerial shooting nearly eliminated the gray wolf from the lower 48 states. Approximately 6,000 gray wolves are thought to remain in the contiguous United States today.

  • The decision to strip wolves of federal protection threatens the fragile remnants of the gray wolf population by confining wolves to a small area in the Great Lakes region. The agency’s delisting efforts will prevent the wolves’ recovery throughout the vast majority of their historic range.

  • Now that management authority has been turned over to the states, wolf populations could face drastic reductions in their numbers.

Timeline

  • April 2012 - July 2012 – Wisconsin enacts legislation mandating a wolf hunting and trapping season, requiring that the state wildlife agency authorize the use of dogs, night hunting, and snare and leg-hold traps. The state wildlife agency adopts regulations for the hunting and trapping of wolves in 2012-2013 via emergency rules, and sets the quota at 201 wolves.

  • July 2011 - August 2012 – Minnesota enacts legislation allowing a wolf hunting and trapping season once the wolves are delisted. The state wildlife agency adopts regulations for the hunting and trapping of wolves in 2012-2013 via emergency rules, and sets the quota at 400 wolves.

  • December 2011 – USFWS issues a final rule delisting the gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes.

  • September 2010 – The USFWS issues a finding that petitions to delist wolves in the Great Lakes region “may be warranted.”

  • July 2009 – The HSUS enters into a court-approved settlement agreement with the USFWS that reinstated federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region.

  • June 2009 – The HSUS files suit in federal court to block the delisting decision.

  • April 2009 – USFWS issues a final rule delisting the gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes.

  • September 2008 – In response to litigation filed by The HSUS and other organizations, a federal court overturned the USFWS’ Great Lakes delisting decision, thereby reinstating federal protections for gray wolves in the region.

  • February 2007 – The USFWS issues a final rule delisting the gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes.

  • 2005 - 2006 – The USFWS tries to strip wolves of protection by issuing blanket permits to the state of Wisconsin that authorize state officials to kill dozens of wolves. These permits are thrown out by a federal court in response to a lawsuit by The HSUS.

  • January 2005 – A federal court rules that the 2003 downlisting was arbitrary and capricious, returning the wolf to endangered status.

  • 2003 – USFWS issues a final rule downgrading most of the gray wolves living in the lower 48 states from endangered to threatened, making it easier for people to lethally take wolves.

  • 1974 – Gray wolf listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act throughout the lower 48 states.

  • 1967 – Wolves listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 – the precursor to the Endangered Species Act.

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson: 301-721-6463; ksanderson@humanesociety.org  

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