New Worries for Wolves
The gray wolf could soon be removed from Wyoming’s endangered-species list
More bad news may be coming for the country’s gray wolves. Last year, they were removed from the endangered-species lists in Idaho and Montana. That means the animals can now be hunted and killed in those states.
Now Wyoming is considering removing the wolves from its endangered-species list this fall. The plan would allow trophy hunting of wolves in a portion of northwestern Wyoming outside of Yellowstone National Park. In the rest of the state, wolves would be classified as predators and could be shot on sight.
Gray wolves once roamed freely across most of the U.S. But widespread hunting and habitat loss nearly wiped out the species in the lower 48 states (all of the states except Alaska and Hawaii). Conservation efforts have since helped increase the number of gray wolves in America. But some people in Wyoming argue that this isn’t such a good thing.
Supporters of the plan say the gray wolf population should be reduced because the animals kill livestock and other wildlife. “We have lost significant numbers of elk and moose,” says Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.
Conservation groups believe that the deal would once again threaten the species. They worry that hundreds of wolves living in Yellowstone could be killed when they wander out of the park in search of prey.
“Wolves . . . have shaped North American landscapes for eons,” says Noah Greenwald of the conservation group Center for Biological Diversity. “If we want to keep any part of America wild, we need to keep our wolves.”
PROTECTING THE WOLF
In 1973, gray wolves were placed on the endangered-species list. That gave them protection from being hunted, as well as habitat protection.
As a result, gray wolves bounced back. Between 5,000 and 6,000 of them now live in the lower 48 states. As of December 2010, at least 343 of those wolves lived in Wyoming—243 of them outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. Although Wyoming’s new wolf-management plan would allow many of those wolves to be killed, it would also require the state to protect at least 100 wolves outside of Yellowstone and the reservation.