A Federal District Court judge in Montana recently ruled that gray wolves in Montana and Idaho must be federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. The numbers indicate that roughly less than 1,700 gray wolves exist in the Rockies and biologists have determined that 2,000 or more are needed to sustain the proper breeding genetics.
In 1973, the Senate and the House of Representatives approved the Endangered Species Act which protects various species of fish, wildlife and plants that are facing extinction.
The Endangered Species Act states in part:
“The purposes of this Act are to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species, and to take such steps as may be appropriate to achieve the purposes of the treaties and conventions set forth.”
You can read the Act in full here.
Not everyone is completely happy about the Federal Judge’s ruling and Joe Maurier, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks had this comment,
“We simply can’t manage wildlife successfully in that environment. We must have the ability to manage wildlife, to do our job, to seek a balance among predator and prey. As a practical matter, as wildlife managers, we need the authority to respond to the challenges wolves present every day.”
The gray wolves were exterminated from the region in the late 1930’s and given Endangered Species status in 1974 under the Act. In the 1980’s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a wolf recovery program that introduced 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves for three consecutive years in the recovery regions: Montana, Idaho and the greater Yellowstone region. In 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a ruling that delisted the wolves as endangered.
The Conservationists sued in Federal Court and the court agreed that the Fish and Wildlife Services had not established enough proof of genetic exchange and therefore could not lift the endangered status. This back and forth banter between the Conservationists and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services continued, with the hunting of wolves up until the recent Court ruling.
Some gray wolf facts you may not know (Source: Idaho Fish and Game website):
- Wolf packs typically include a breeding pair, their offspring, and other non-breeding adults with the average pack size of 8 wolves.
- Wolves are capable of mating by age two or three; sometimes form lifelong bond.
- Dens are often used year after year, wolves rarely relocate.
- Wolves travel as far as 30 miles in a day to hunt, trotting at approximately 5 mph. They have been known to run as fast 40 mph for short distances.
- On average, a female wolf can birth 5 pups each Spring. They are cared for by the entire pack. For the first six weeks, pups are reared in dens.
For now, the wolves are back on the Endangered list and it is safe for them to take off the sheep’s clothing. The hunt for gray wolves is no more – at least for the time being. Nate Helm, a board member for Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife said it had not yet decided on whether to appeal the most recent ruling. His group is considering even more sweeping action: changing the Endangered Species Act itself.