May 4, 2009

Grey Wolf Officially Off US Endangered List

Officials said that the grey wolf was taken off the U.S. endangered list, making a comeback 35 years after the species almost disappeared.

"We have recovered a wolf population," said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the US Wild Life Services, based in Montana.

"The populations are viable, they are in great shape, they have extreme genetic diversity and so the endangered species act did its job to bring wolves back."

The animal was placed on the list in 1974 after they were almost eliminated by hunters in most of the U.S. states.

However, thanks to conservation efforts, the grey wolf population has reached about 4,000 in the Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  There are also over 1,300 in Idaho and Montana and between 8,000 and 11,000 grey wolves in Alaska.

Grey wolves can now be legally hunted again in all of these states, according to strict regulations.

But, in northwestern Wyoming, the grey wolf remains a protected species, with only about 300 animals there.

"The states will be able to use regulated hunting to manage wolf populations," said Bangs, adding that "the hunting season will occur this fall, people will be able to buy a license to hunt a wolf."

Bangs said that because of cattle problems, around 265 wolves were killed last year in the northern Rockies, but the population still grew eight percent.

"The hunting won't affect the wolf population, but instead of having a person like me getting on a helicopter and shoot a wolf after it killed someone's cow, you'll have a hunter with a license to go out in the fall and hunt a wolf with a fair chase," Bangs added.

He also offered reassurance that conservationists would keep an eye out on the nation's grey wolf population for the next five years.

"If the states don't do a good job over five years, we put them back on the endangered species list," he vowed.


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