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Wisconsin wolves won't be removed from protected species list April 12, 2005 9:51 AM

Wisconsin wolves won't be removed from protected species list

By Robert Imrie
Associated Press

WAUSAU, Wis. - The process of removing Wisconsin's growing
population of gray wolves from federal protection is on hold and it's raising fears about a public backlash against the animals, the coordinator of the state's wolf management program said Wednesday.

The wolf is again considered an endangered species in Wisconsin because of a federal judge's ruling in Oregon restricting the state's efforts to manage the population, said Adrian Wydeven of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

All talk of having a possible hunting season for them is now off, he said.

The animal's designation was changed to a threatened species in April 2003, meaning federal agents could kill problem wolves in Wisconsin rather than trap and relocate them to prevent them from preying on livestock and other domestic animals. There was hope the wolf would be completely removed from the federal species list by
this summer, giving the DNR total say on how to manage them, including possibly creating a hunting season to control them.

Even though the wolf is back on the endangered species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted the DNR a permit last week to kill up to 34 problem wolves this year under some circumstances, Wydeven said.

"Things are kind of up in limbo right now and we may, for a few years, have to just go by year-to-year permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service to get special authority until we are delisted," he said.

U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones in Portland, Ore., ruled in February that the Bush administration violated the Endangered Species Act when it relaxed protections on many of the nation's gray wolves.

Jones ruled the government acted improperly by combining areas where wolves were doing well, such as Montana, with places where their numbers had not recovered.

The judge also found the Fish and Wildlife Service did not consider certain factors listed in the Endangered Species Act in evaluating the wolf's status, including threats from disease, predators or other natural or manmade dangers.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not decided whether to appeal Jones' decision and is awaiting the outcome of another related lawsuit in Vermont, Wydeven said.

Wydeven estimates Wisconsin's wolf population at about 400 - some 50 more than the DNR's goal.

The wolf is a native species that was wiped out in Wisconsin by the late 1950s after decades of bounty hunting. Since the animal was granted protection as an endangered species during the mid-1970s, wolves migrated into the state from Minnesota and their numbers have
been growing ever since.

Minnesota has the largest wolf population in the lower 48 states at around 2,400.

Wydeven said there had been hope that the wolf could be completely delisted in Wisconsin by 2000. Now it looks like that goal could still be years away, he said.

It is creating frustration, antagonism toward the wolves and possibly even some backlash as public support for the animals is being jeopardized, Wydeven said.

"They are big predators and they do occasionally kill domestic animals," he said. "If we keep the population at or slightly below the current levels, we can kind of minimize that. But if the population continues to increase and expand, the domestic killing is likely to increase, creating more animosity and backlash."

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