Gray wolves at risk of losing endangered status

A gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park. Photo: Danny Green/NPL/Minden Pictures

Yesterday, acting Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, told state wildlife managers from across the nation who that in the coming days the Interior Department will propose the removal of the gray wolf’s endangered species status in the Lower 48 states. As the Denver Post reported, “the push to “de-list” wolves, immediately enraged wildlife advocates, who lamented that wolf howls still can’t be heard in prime habitat from the Grand Canyon to Colorado’s high country to the forests of the Pacific Northwest.” The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks where the public will be able to comment on it and will also likely reignite a bitter legal battle between conservation groups and the federal government.

The New York Times explained that gray wolf populations had dwindled to about 1,000 in the lower 48 states when they received protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. But since their reintroduction to various regions, mostly in the West, the wolves’ numbers have rebounded to about 5,000 and have even been spotted as far west as California. Gray wolves were perceived as a threat by ranchers and landowners and were extirpated from nearly all of their range through a campaign of bounty hunting, trapping, the killing of pups in the den with dynamite and even biological warfare as trappers introduced mange into wolf populations.

Why This Matters: Environmental groups don’t trust that wolves will be managed by states (after federal protections are lifted) in a sustainable and humane way considering the horrible ways they were killed previously. They also worry that this is a move to acquiesce to cattle ranchers and the oil and gas industry who view the gray wolf as a threat to cattle and an impediment to drilling.  But wolves help keep the ecosystems they inhabit healthy, and as Western Watersheds Project director Erik Molvar told the Denver Post, “When wolves returned to Yellowstone, it re-calibrated the distribution of elk to the benefit of stream-side plant communities, beavers, songbirds and trout.” The Interior Department didn’t disclose their rationale for determining that the wolf populations have recovered, and many environmental groups contest this assertion.

Up Next

10 (!) New Bird Species Discovered in Indonesia

10 (!) New Bird Species Discovered in Indonesia

Discovering new species is always exciting but researchers in Indonesia have made a species discovery that’s setting records. As NatGeo reported, In the past two decades, an average of fewer than six new bird species have been described every year in the entire world. But 2020 will be different, as scientists have just announced 10 […]

Continue Reading 285 words
Trump’s Endangered Species Rollbacks Target Hawaiian Royal Hawk

Trump’s Endangered Species Rollbacks Target Hawaiian Royal Hawk

For native Hawaiians the Hawaiian hawk, or ‘io is a symbol of royalty and is considered an “‘aumakua”—a family or personal god—which made harming or killing this bird taboo. The hawk has also been in a battle for its endangered status listing since the George W. Bush administration. And while most Hawaiians oppose its delisting, […]

Continue Reading 449 words

One Cool Thing: Pangolins Protected From Poaching In South Africa

The pangolin is the most highly trafficked mammal on Earth — they are poached at a higher rate than elephants, rhinos and tigers combined. Their scales are what the poachers want — they are ground up and used for medicine in China and Southeast Asia. Pangolins are on the brink of extinction — 120,000 were […]

Continue Reading 128 words