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Federal Government Delivers Another Major Blow to Wolves

Wolves set to lose Endangered Species Act protection

The Department of Interior has announced its plans to drop endangered species protections for the still-recovering gray wolf population in the lower 48 states, with the exception of about 75 wild Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. This decision will transfer management authority to individual states and leave wolves vulnerable to a resumption of exploitation driven by political pressure from ranchers and trophy hunting and trapping organizations.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States said: “While some states have set up sound, capable management plans for wolves, many others have taken a regressive, dangerous approach.  Instead of hoping for the best from a patchwork of state authorities subject to varying degrees of political power exerted by ranching and hunting interests, the federal government should be overseeing working with the states and driving the nation toward full recovery of wolves.”

The short-sighted decision to strip wolves of their endangered species protections places this keystone species in peril. With wolves occupying only a fraction of their historic range, it is premature to remove them from federal protection.


  • 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.
  • Two populations of wolves – the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies – are currently under state control. Every state where wolves are currently delisted has rushed to open trophy hunting seasons involving some of the cruelest and most unsporting methods including steel-jawed leghold traps, baiting and chasing down wolves with packs of dogs. Hunting and trapping programs last year killed about half of the wolves in the Northern Rockies population.


  • May 2013 – Michigan Board of State Canvassers certifies petition signatures from Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, coalition of groups that includes The HSUS. The signatures will place the wolf hunt referendum on the 2014 ballot.
  • March 2013 – Keep Michigan Wolves Protected submit 253,705 signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office in an effort to stop a wolf hunting season until Michigan voters can decide the issue at the ballot box in November 2014.
  • February 2013 – Wildlife protection groups, including The HSUS, file suit to restore federal protections for gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region.
  • December 2012 – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signs legislation designating the wolf as a game species and authorizing the Natural Resources Commission to establish a wolf hunting season.
  • December 2012 – The HSUS and The Fund for Animals file a lawsuit to restore federal protections for Wyoming wolves.
  • September 2012 – The USFWS issues a final ruling delisting gray wolves in Wyoming from federal Endangered Species Act protections.
  • December 2011 – The USFWS issues a final rule delisting the gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes region, including throughout Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
  • April 2011 – Congress delists gray wolves in Montana and Idaho, and portions of Washington, Oregon, and Utah, marking the first time ever that Congress has removed protections for any species on the Endangered Species List.  Congress also prevented anyone from being able to challenge this delisting in court.
  • 1978 – Gray wolves are listed at the species level under the Endangered Species Act as endangered throughout the coterminous United States and Mexico, except in Minnesota, where gray wolves were listed as threatened.

For a complete timeline, visit humanesociety.org/wolves/facts.

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson: 240-672-8397; ksanderson@humanesociety.org

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