Experts say Great Lakes wolves aren’t endangered

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, December 23, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — A group of wolf experts disputed Monday that gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are endangered or that a judge’s ruling will help the region’s population spread to other states.

A federal judge on Friday threw out the Obama administration’s decision to remove wolves in the three states from the endangered list. The move banned sport hunting and trapping of wolves in the region, where the combined population is around 3,700.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped federal protections in the three states in 2012 and returned management to the states. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., ruled that the decision violated the Endangered Species Act. She said state regulation was inadequate, and that the animals still inhabit only a fraction of their former range. The federal government could appeal. Service spokesman Gavin Shire said Monday that the agency is still determining its next steps.

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In a conference call organized by the International Wolf Center in Ely, regional wolf experts including David Mech of the U.S. Geological Survey in Minnesota, who’s vice chair of the center, said hunting and trapping as it was regulated by the three states did not threaten the species’ survival.