for National Geographic News
Gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains are "thriving" and no longer in need of protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, Lynn Scarlett, Deputy Secretary of the Interior, announced today.
Wolves affected by the decision are those living in what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) defines as the northern Rockies Distinct Population Segment (DPS).
This zone includes Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, the eastern thirds of Washington and Oregon, and a small area of north-central Utah (see map).
Settlers had eliminated wolves from the area before controversial reintroduction efforts began about a decade ago.
"In 1995 and '96 the Department of Interior reintroduced 66 wolves into federal lands in the region," Scarlett said. "Today the northern Rocky Mountain population totals more than 1,500 wolves."
David Mech is a senior research scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey and chair of the World Conservation Union's Wolf Specialist Group.
"It's great news [but] it's not a surprise, because the biological criteria for delisting was met years and years ago," Mech said.
The recovery goal was 30 breeding pairs among 300 wolves within the DPS for three consecutive years, he noted. Those criteria were met in 2002, and wolf numbers have increased every year since then.
"The wolves took the opportunity that the Fish and Wildlife Service, states, and tribes gave them and ran with it," Scarlett said. "The wolves are back."
Conservation Success Story
Gray wolves first received federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1974.
The Rocky Mountains delisting follows the removal of the western Great Lakes wolves from the endangered species list in early 2007. (Related news: "Wolves to Be Hunted if Removed From U.S. Endangered List" [February 5, 2007].)
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