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Statement: Trump administration’s decision to strip protections for gray wolves threatens a species numbering only 6,000 in the continental U.S.

These wolves need space to roam, and now state boundaries will dictate whether a wolf might be shot or protected.
For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration finalized its decision to delist the gray wolf from protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The largest canine native to North America, gray wolves were once common throughout more than two-thirds of the lower 48 states. But they were nearly wiped out in the mid-20th century due to habitat loss and deliberate eradication efforts. 

When the ESA was passed in 1973, gray wolves were among the first species to be listed. The law, which has successfully protected 98 percent of listed species from going extinct, has been critical to reintroduction efforts. In the 1990s, the wolves were brought back to Central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. Today, roughly 6,000 wolves can be found in parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

With this delisting, states will be left to determine the future of these animals within their boundaries. Wolves were delisted in 2011 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, where during a three-year window an estimated 1,500 were killed before protections were put back in place.

On March 15, 2019, when the delisting was initially proposed, more than 1.8 million public comments were submitted in opposition to the rule. 

Alex Petersen, Conservation Advocate for Environment America, issued the following statement: 

“The administration’s plan to delist gray wolves just doesn’t make sense. We do not live in a world where these important creature’s numbers have safely rebounded, meaning this decision puts them at serious risk. Wolves were nearly hunted to extinction, and, even today, with years of protections, their population still only sits at around 6,000 in the continental U.S. Let’s learn from history: Removing legal protections is a disaster for gray wolves.

“Instead of this wrong-headed move, we need a bold national plan, if not a continental one, to safeguard these wolves. Gray wolves need plenty of space to roam, and it just doesn’t make sense to create arbitrary boundaries for them. Do we really want to lose the hearty howl of the gray wolf on our watch?

“The planet is a fundamentally better place when we share it with iconic wildlife, including wolves, and we have a responsibility to preserve them. Congress should move to overturn this delisting.”