It has been a good month for wolves, at least some varieties of them—at least what passes for good news for a dwindling species.
In Wyoming and the Great Lakes states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service once again accorded gray wolves endangered species protection. This means that in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and surrounding states, wolves cannot be hunted or trapped.
The fight had been ongoing since 2013, when several animal welfare groups sued to keep protections in effect in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming, after their removal in 2012. Recent court rulings on those suits have reinstated the protections as the USFWS complies with the judges’ orders.
Gray wolves will now be listed as endangered in Wisconsin and Michigan and threatened in Minnesota, Reuters said. In Wyoming the protections were reinstated in September.
The U.S. House of Representatives is trying to remove these federal protections, though, with legislation that would take the wolves off of all federal lists and leave management to individual states.
Upwards of 50 scientists, meanwhile, had sent Congress a letter stating that the animals still require legal protection because even though their numbers are increasing, they occupy but a fraction of their former range, the Associated Press reported.
Another wolf species whose numbers are rebounding is the Mexican gray wolf, the USFWS Southwestern branch said in a statement on February 13. The Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team documented at least 109 Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico by the end of 2014, the agency said. This marked an increase from the end of 2013, when there were 83—a 31 percent increase, and the fourth consecutive year with at least a 10 percent increase in the known population, the USFWS said.
“In 1982, the Mexican wolf recovery team recommended a population of at least 100 animals in the wild as a hedge against extinction; until we initiated the first releases in 1998, there had been no Mexican wolves in the wild in the United States since the 1970s,” said Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle in the USFWS statement. “Although there is still much to be done, reaching this milestone is monumental!”
Calling it a “major accomplishment in Mexican wolf recovery,” Arizona Game and Fish Director Larry Voyles said there had been 50 Mexican wolves in the wild in 2010 and that today there are 109, more than double the population in Arizona and New Mexico.
“With our Mexican wolf population consisting of wild-born wolves, we expect the growth rates observed this year to continue into the future,” Voyles said. “In spite of considerable naysaying, our 10(j) program has been a success because of on-the-ground partnerships. We have every reason to believe that our efforts at reintroduction will continue to be successful.”