The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced yesterday that it will begin a comprehensive Endangered Species Act status review of the gray wolf in the western United States. The announcement follows the agency’s review of two petitions—filed in June and July—that presented “substantial, credible information” that may warrant action.
The petitions focus on the relisting of certain geographic populations rather than the species as a whole. The first petition supports listing populations in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, and a small portion of north-central Utah. Both petitions also propose listing populations in California, Colorado, Nevada, and—in one petition—part of Arizona.
“We are hopeful this decision marks the first step toward righting the gray wolf’s path,” said Jonathan Proctor, Rockies and Plains program director at Defenders of Wildlife. “However, given the many new anti-wolf laws proliferating across the Northern Rockies, this lengthy review could allow untold damage on these populations. The gray wolf needs relisting on an emergency basis.”
Wolves now face a series of new laws across many western states designed to devastate their populations. In April 2021, four short-sighted, unsustainable anti-wolf bills were signed into law in Montana. This action ignored science and threw away decades of conservation efforts. These laws allow hunters and trappers to kill 10 wolves with a single license (doubling the previous allowance of 5), reimburse hunters and trappers for killing wolves, allow trappers to use cruel strangulation neck snares, extend the wolf-trapping season, allow baiting statewide and authorize night-time hunting on private lands.
Idaho’s leaders have a long history of taking some of the most extreme and destructive approaches against gray wolves in the country. This year they took it even further, by passing a law sanctioning the killings of up to 90% of the state’s gray wolves, as well as allowing the hunting of all wild canids through the use of baiting, snaring, night hunting, and aerial gunning.
The upcoming Federal Register notice will serve as the 90-day finding for both petitions. The FWS will then undertake an in-depth status review and come to a 12-month finding on whether listing is warranted.
“I’m incredibly disturbed by how quickly the situation has devolved. We’re watching decades of progress evaporate before our eyes. The states have made it clear that relisting is the only way to ensure the long-term and sustainable recovery of gray wolves in the western United States,” said Proctor.