US Fish and Wildlife Service Considering Relisting Gray Wolf on Endangered List After It Was Taken Off in 2020

by Jon D. B.

“We need to revisit how wildlife decisions are made in the states.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now conducting an in-depth, year-long status review for the gray wolf.

As Montana’s expanded wolf hunt opens, the USFWS has released a coinciding statement declaring their intent to review the endangerment status of the gray wolf. The cornerstone species continues to serve as a hot topic of debate, as Outsiders know. Strong cases both for-and-against protecting the ancient canines exist.

Specifically, USFWS is looking to determine whether Montana’s plans to drastically reduce their gray wolf population will damage the recovery of the species. To do so, USFWS now has a full year to conduct review of the wolves in the wild – using only the “best available science.”

The end goal is to determine whether listing gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act is appropriate.

To this end, senior attorney at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, Andrea Zaccardi, tells the Montana Free Press that “It’s been a pretty nonstop effort” from 25,000 organization members to protect the species.

“I think it just shows that people around the country are pretty outraged as to what’s going on,” she says, citing mass pushback against the wolf hunts of 2021 so far. Many of which blew past their quotas, with hundreds of wolves being taken illegally.

“We need to revisit how wildlife decisions [come to be] in the states and the makeup of commissions that are making those decisions,” Zaccardi continues.

She believes that resident trappers “had the state’s ear… And the commission was going to do whatever the trappers wanted and ignore everybody else.”

Pointing fingers aside, there is no easy answer on either side of this argument.

USFWS Finds ‘Substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S’

Several conservation groups would petition to reinstate endangered status to the wolves over the summer. Each petition came in staunch opposition to lawmakers in Montana and Idaho. In these states, bills that encourage aggressive population reduction for gray wolves are now law. Many of which drew immediate criticism from leading conservationists. These legalized methods include: removing bag limits, and reimbursement for wolf harvests.

Most troubling to the US Forest Service, however, was the inclusion of neck snares, night hunting, and baiting. In Idaho, hunting gray wolves with hounds is also now legal.

In response to the wide-reaching petitions, the USFWS writes that they have found “substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S.”

As a result, “new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate to address this threat.”

At the moment, this USFWS review will not change anything for either state. If anything happens, it will be a year from now when the review is complete.

“Montana has successfully managed wolves for more than a decade. [We] can continue to do so in a fashion that keeps their numbers at sustainable levels above minimum thresholds,” responds FWP spokesperson Greg Lemon to the USFWS in an email for Montana Free Press. “FWP looks forward to working with the USFWS on the review they’re undertaking… And will provide them with any information they need.”

USFWS will reconvene on wolves come Summer 2022.