Breaking news: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes stripping federal protections for wolves

By on March 6, 2019 with 13 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will issue a proposed rule to strip Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in all of the lower 48 states, further jeopardizing animals in a fragile state of recovery after years of persecution. The proposed rule, announced by Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, would especially affect wolf populations in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oregon where they are now protected under the ESA.

The delisting proposal comes just as we release reports confirming the relatively small impact that wolves (and grizzly bears and cougars) have on livestock – the reason usually cited by states and the federal government when announcing wolf delisting decisions. Our report also provides evidence of the U.S. Department of Agriculture using exaggerated data on the numbers of cattle and other farm animals killed by wolves. By comparing livestock losses data released by state agencies and the Fish and Wildlife Service, our researchers found that wolves accounted for less than one percent of cattle and sheep losses in the states where they live. In fact, all predators combined take nine times fewer farm animals than illness, weather and theft.

In reality, this delisting rule is nothing more than a handout to trophy hunters, trappers and the agribusiness lobby. Under pressure from these interests, Congress and state and federal wildlife management agencies have pushed a wolf-delisting agenda for decades. In recent years, we have seen more than 100 attacks on wolves and the ESA, including bills in Congress.

The ESA mandates that delisting decisions be based solely on the best available science, but the Interior Department’s rush to delist gray wolves is not backed by any science at all. Wolf populations are still recovering in the states where they live, and they occupy only a fraction of their historic range.

We already know what happens when states allow wolves to be hunted. At present, in four states, wolves are not protected by the ESA. Of these, in Idaho and Montana alone, more than 3,200 wolves have been killed since 2011. In Wyoming, wolves can be killed without a license by just about any means at any time in more than 80 percent of the state. When protections for Great Lakes region wolves were lifted between 2011 and 2014, nearly 1,500 wolves, including many pups, were killed in unsporting ways, including with cable neck snares, steel-jawed leg-hold traps, packs of hounds and with bait.

It was just last November when a trophy hunter killed Spitfire, a famous Yellowstone National Park wolf, in Montana as she stepped over an invisible line out of the park. In response, State Sen. Mike Phillips of Montana has introduced a bill to protect Yellowstone’s wolves, the most viewed and photographed in the world.

The Humane Society of the United States has been on the frontlines to protect wolves. We’ve won a series of landmark legal cases to keep wolves protected under the ESA, and we have fended off Congressional attempts to reduce protections for these iconic American carnivores. We’ve even advanced and won state ballot initiatives to keep wolves out of the crosshairs and defended those victories in court.

In December, with the Center for Biological Diversity, we proposed an alternative way forward to give wolves the protections they need, including reclassifying gray wolves from “endangered” to “threatened” status under the ESA. Our proposed solution is based on the best available science and sound legal grounds, and we urge the FWS to accept it.

We cannot allow our government to hand over the fate of our most precious wildlife species to those few who seek to kill them under the guise of misplaced and exaggerated fear for livestock, or just to decorate dens and living rooms with their heads and hides, while depriving millions of Americans of the joy of seeing such animals in the wild. Please let the FWS know that federal ESA protections should not be stripped from gray wolves across the contiguous United States. Time is running out for our wolves, and it is critical you speak out for them before it’s too late.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Marlena L says:

    We need to protect the wolves; not kill them. This stripping the wolves of federal protection in just wrong. Keep federal protection in place for all the wolves.

  2. Susan Marie says:

    So relieved and glad that you are not giving up on the war against wolves.
    To me there is nothing wrong with hunting, as long as the meat is eaten.
    But to kill any magnificent wildlife just for a ‘trophy’ is just sick.
    Keep up the Good Fight, and Thank you for keeping us informed.
    “FOR THE WOLVES” !!!

  3. Linea says:

    This is an antiscience decision and is a travesty perpetrated by big money NOT for the benefit of our environment or the people of the country.

    • David M. Dickerson says:

      Linea, I appreciate your use of the term “antiscience” in your comment.

      Not only is it accurate — because peer-reviewed scientific literature has repeatedly proven the pivotal role of apex predators in the overall health and viability of ecosystems — but also “antiscience” is a succinct encapsulation of a complete disregard for the results of hard, objective scientific research by an administration that view facts as if they are “opinions.”

      Truth, whether it is about wolves or climate change, has no “agenda,” and we ignore it at the peril of the wolves and ourselves.

      We must be vigilant in ways that were perhaps unthinkable a few years ago — but our passionate concerns for issues such as federal protections for wolves are not merely fueled by our love of animals, but by scientific research, by hard data true regardless of FUD (“fear, uncertainty and doubt”) or those who wish to exploit wildlife for financial gain (and science repeatedly proves what happens when greed drives management decisions — not to mention, for example, the devastating impact the evil of poaching).

      Now, perhaps more than ever, we must not miss a single opportunity to advocate, protect, rescue, or educate.



  4. JoLayne Fritz says:

    PLEASE do EVERYTHING in your power to save and protect ALL the Wolves!! This is so VERY IMPORTANT!! They are a very important part of the ecosystem. We CANNOT let them be wiped out. Every animal that disappears, brings humans one step closer to extinction.

  5. Patricia Karoue says:

    Wolves should be given protected status. Federally protect wolves from slaughter.

  6. Jacqueline Whitney says:

    It’s shameful that in America our precious wild animals are being killed and we the people who care about their lives are as helpless as they are to stop the killing.

  7. Michelle Rogers says:

    Stop! The USFW did something else to benefit trophy hunters? Could it be from officials socializing and hunting with individuals who are members of the prominent trophy hunting groups again? –not referring to SCI.

  8. Heron Gardner says:

    I am saddened that the USFW continues to support this mockery of so called science. What it really shows is that they are in the pocket of trophy hunters (what a sick bunch) and the ranchers. This is also questionable as it is my understanding that ranchers are often eligible for compensation for livestock depravation through state and federal programs Please correct me if I am misinformed on this. However, these two groups are not the only constituents of the FSW we the people make up the majority and the majority of the public has already made clear that they oppose these policies of open season on wolves and other large predators. Once again we must raise our voices and let our Congressional Representative know that we are strongly against this latest wrong head proposal by the FSW

    • Lesley Shein says:


    • Mary Margaret Sharpe says:

      We need to make our voices louder than the Sportsmen Alliance organization. It is appalling these trophy hunters have the audacity to call themselves “sportsmen” and “conservationists” when they should be called animal serial killers.

  9. John says:

    Wolves have not only meet but exceed the number for recovery by 300%. That is a win in my book for all. If numbers are not managed other areas of habitat will be effected. Pets are being eaten do to lack of other pray for the wolves across the Midwest.

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