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Gray wolf is officially a protected species again, federal court rules

James Sullivan

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday officially reinstated protection for the gray wolf, under the rule of the federal Endangered Species Act. The legislation is effective in Minnesota and several local states where the wolf has begun to re-emerge. Once found throughout the country, the wolves are now restricted to a few states in the Midwest and Northwest, many of which have traveled from preserves in western Canada. The agency sought to lift protections on the wolf, but the decision was struck down by a federal judge back in December.

The agency’s actions affect the states of Wyoming, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan as well as regions of both North and South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, in many of which sightings of gray wolves are relatively few, with coyotes and red foxes taking over much of what was once wolf territory as apex predators.

Federal protection on the wolf – a controversial issue particularly out west for ranchers who fear that the packs may endanger their livestock, was initially lifted back in 2012 by the Fish and Wildlife Service, who subsequently left the decision of whether or not to protect the animals to state and local governments.

In December 2014, a ruling made by the U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., deemed the agency’s decision to remove the wolf’s protected status as both “arbitrary and capricious,” as the animals have barely had much of a comeback, and doing so would be in full violation of the Endangered Species Act.