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State questions how to manage wolves

State questions how to manage wolves

The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Wolves have begun to thrive across the West
and, just recently, they arrived inside Utah’s border, raising concerns
about how the animals should be dealt with.

Wolf recovery efforts in the United States have achieved
remarkable success. The federal government is about to upgrade the wolf’s
status from “endangered” to “threatened,” possibly removing the species
from the endangered species list altogether.

The controversy surrounding the wolf, however, continues as
environmentalists, ranchers and hunters argue over how the states should
manage the creatures, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Late last month, a 2 1/2-year-old gray wolf from Yellowstone
National Park was accidentally captured in a coyote trap less than 25
miles northeast of Salt Lake City.

The incident confirmed a decade-old prediction by biologists
that wolves from packs reintroduced in Yellowstone and the central Idaho
wilderness in the mid-1990s would eventually wander south to the deer- and
elk-rich mountains of Utah.

Now the state must decide if wolves, exterminated more than 70
years ago in Utah, should be allowed to re-establish themselves here.

In 1995, federal biologists released 31 wolves into
and 35 in central Idaho’s vast wilderness. Meanwhile, a parallel wolf
restoration program was under way in Minnesota, spreading wolf packs to
Michigan and Wisconsin.

Since then, the wolf recovery efforts have surpassed
expectations, with about 4,000 wolves now roaming the lower 48 states.
There are nearly 700 wolves in the Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana
and Wyoming.

By next month, the Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to upgrade
the gray wolf’s status to “threatened” from “endangered.” In the spring,
the agency plans to propose the wolf be removed from the endangered
species list.

Some environmental groups, including Defenders of Wildlife,
vowed to resist such an action unless more protections for the animal are
in place.

Defenders Vice President Nina Fascione said Idaho and Wyoming
continue to resist wolf recovery, and surrounding states like Washington,
Oregon and Utah — into which wolves are spreading — have no plans in
place to assure wolf survival.

Those who have lived closest to the wolf recovery effort say
there is good reason to fear wolf restoration. “The reason our ancestors
went to the length they did to exterminate it was because of how difficult
it was to deal with,” says Jerry Peterson, a Cache County sheep rancher.
“The wolf was a very aggressive predator. There is a real concern about
what happens if it is reintroduced across the country.”