The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has announced a proposal to remove gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes area – which includes Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin – from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife because wolves have recovered in this area and no longer require the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Wolves in the Western Great Lakes area have exceeded recovery goals and continue to thrive. Wolf numbers total more than 4,000 animals in the three core recovery states. Minnesota's population is estimated at 2,922 wolves; there are an estimated 557 wolves in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and another 690 in Wisconsin. Each state has developed a plan to manage wolves once federal protection is no longer needed.
“Wolves in the Western Great Lakes have achieved recovery,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould. “We are taking this step because wolf populations have met recovery goals and no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. We are asking the public to review this proposal and provide us with any additional information that can help inform our final decision.”
The proposal identifies the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of wolves, which includes a core area of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as parts of adjacent states that are within the range of wolves dispersing from the core recovery area. After reviewing the latest available scientific and taxonomic information, the Service now recognizes the presence of two species of wolves in the Western Great Lakes: the gray wolf (Canis lupus), the wolf species currently listed under the ESA, and the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon), with a historical range that includes portions of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. Recent wolf genetic studies indicate that what was formerly thought to be a subspecies of gray wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) is actually a distinct species (Canis lycaon). To establish the status of this newly recognized species, the Service is initiating a review of C. lycaon throughout its range in the United States and Canada.
The Service is seeking information from governmental agencies, Native American tribes, scientific community, industry and any other interested parties on threats, population size and trends, and other data that could affect the long-term survival of the Western Great Lakes DPS of the gray wolf. The Service is also seeking information on the status of the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) throughout its range in the United States and Canada.