Persecuted gray wolves may once again be afforded life-saving protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), pending a status review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that follows a massacre of wolves across the country and two legal petitions interceding on wolves’ behalf.
About 6,000 gray wolves remain in the wild nationwide, roaming only about 20 percent of their historic habitat. They’re currently under heavy attack by hunters and private contractors — particularly in Montana, Idaho, and Wisconsin.
The magnificent animals lost their ESA protections in November 2020, when the Trump Administration declared them sufficiently recovered and de-listed them. President Joe Biden, who sought a review of that decision upon taking office, relented on campaign promises to protect wolves after FWS upheld the former administration’s determination.
Unnecessary slaughter followed.
An Idaho law passed within a week by legislators authorized the killing of 90 percent of the state’s wolves — or more than 1,000 animals. Wisconsin hunters killed more than 200 wolves in just three days — nearly doubling the state’s declared kill quota.
Legislation in all three states also pushed for authorizing brutal methods to catch and kill wolves — including shooting at packs from helicopters or ATVs, snaring wolves in merciless steel traps, and hunting wolves with dogs who could also risk injury in the attacks.
In June and July, FWS received two petitions urging the re-listing of gray wolves that the federal agency said “present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted.”
The first petition — filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and the Sierra Club — makes the case for re-listing gray wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains area as threatened.
The second petition — filed by Western Watersheds Project and 70 other organizations — requests federal protections for wolves in western North America.
The petitioners noted that regulations in Rocky Mountain States may be inadequate to address the potential threat from humans. Other threats include changes to habitat, a reduced prey base, and loss of genetic diversity caused by isolation and small population sizes.
FWS’s status review announcement also references “human-caused mortality.”
“Based on our review of the petitions and readily available information regarding human-caused mortality, we find that the petitioners present credible and substantial information that human-caused mortality may be a potential threat to the species in Idaho and Montana,” the FWS wrote.
Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Hill that wolves will remain highly at risk until decisive action is taken.
“Anti-wolf policies in Idaho and Montana could wipe out wolves and erase decades of wolf recovery,” she said. “We’re glad that federal officials have started a review, but wolves are under the gun now, so they need protection right away.”
If you haven’t already, sign our petition demanding that gray wolves be given the protection from mass slaughter under the Endangered Species Act. This is literally a life-saving move for these afflicted animals.