The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced today it has removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list, signaling a successful recovery under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). State and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves in states where wolves occur.
USFWS based its final determination to remove all gray wolves from the list of ESA-protected species on the best science available, including the latest information about the wolf’s current and historical distribution in the contiguous United States. This final rule excludes Mexican wolves, which remain listed under the ESA.
“States and tribes continue to responsibly and effectively manage wolf populations to guarantee the long-term sustainability of the species,” said USFWS Director Aurelia Skipwith. “I am grateful for these partnerships in conservation, the commitment to sustainable management of wolves by states and tribes will last beyond federal delisting of the wolf and will ensure the long-term survival of the species.”
In total, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is over 6,000 wolves, greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations. The best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the currently listed wolves are recovered and no longer meet the ESA definitions of a “threatened” or “endangered” species.
With gray wolves removed from federal protected status, management of wolves will return to state wildlife authorities, according to John Pepin, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) deputy public information officer.
The population of the species in Michigan has surpassed federal and state recovery goals for many years, Pepin added, noting MDNR conducted a wolf survey from Dec. 2019 to March 2020 covering approximately 62% of the Upper Peninsula. Their findings showed the wolf population remained relatively stable over the past nine years, estimating there was a minimum of 695 wolves found among 143 packs.
“The comeback of gray wolves in Michigan is a true success story,” Pepin said. “Management will be guided by the DNR’s respected Wolf Management Plan – crafted with the help of diverse interests ranging from Native American tribes and environmentalists to hunters and farmers – to help ensure the continued viability of Michigan’s wolf population while seeking to reduce human-wolf conflicts.”
USFWS already delisted gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains, where a healthy and sustainable population roams across Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and eastern portions of Oregon and Washington. Those states have since managed this delisted population effectively and responsibly. Wolves have even expanded into western Oregon, western Washington, northern California and most recently in northwest Colorado.
The Western Great Lakes wolf population in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the largest outside Alaska, is also strong and stable. These states have been key partners in wolf recovery efforts and have made a commitment to continue their activities, according to USFWS.
"Today’s announcement by the Department of the Interior to return management of the gray wolf to the state level is welcomed news," said Michigan Farm Bureau National Legislative Counsel, John Kran. "This is a great example of biologists and other stakeholders working at the state and federal level to help restore a population once considered endangered. States and local authorities will now play a critical role in helping to sustain a manageable population."
USFWS said the final determination is based solely on the best scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats, adding that it will continue to monitor the species for five years, post-delisting, to ensure the continued success of the species.
The final rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
More information is online at https://www.fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery.