Cry endangered wolf? Not in Wyoming. Gray wolf back from near extinction

Posted at 12:07 AM, Sep 01, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-01 00:07:19-04
(CNN) — The gray wolf population in Wyoming has grown enough to be removed from the endangered species list and will stop receiving federal protection next month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday.

The decision means that gray wolf has recovered from near extinction throughout the Northern Rocky Mountains, which includes all of Idaho and Montana and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah, officials said.

The wolves in Wyoming won’t be protected under the Endangered Species Act effective September 30, when the packs will be managed by the state, federal officials said.

“The return of the wolf to the Northern Rocky Mountains is a major success story, and reflects the remarkable work of states, tribes, and our many partners to bring this iconic species back from the brink of extinction,” Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement.

The Northern Rockies are home to at least 1,774 adult wolves and more than 109 breeding pairs, and the population has exceeded recovery goals for 10 consecutive years, officials said.

Wyoming officials must ensure population levels of at least 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs, and the federal wildlife service will monitor the species in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho for at least five years to ensure the animal’s recovery, officials said.

The federal agency can put the gray wolf back on the endangered list if necessary, officials said.

“Our primary goal, and that of the states, is to ensure that gray wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains remain healthy, giving future generations of Americans the chance to hear its howl echo across the area,” Ashe said. “No one, least of all Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, wants to see wolves back on the endangered species list. But that’s what will happen if recovery targets are not sustained.”

The vast majority of Wyoming’s gray wolves live in the northwest section of the state, where the animals will be managed by state wardens as “trophy game” year-round, federal officials said.

Wyoming officials will regulate the timing, methods and numbers of gray wolves taken through regulated hunting. Wolves found to be preying on livestock also may be controlled, federal officials said.

The gray wolf grows to 2.5 feet in height and up to 6 feet in length, weighing between 80 and 100 pounds. Its coat varies from black to white, and the animal is noted for its broad snout, round ears, and long, low howl.