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Gray wolf removed from the endangered species list

A decision on whether they can be hunted in Minnesota will come later.

The gray wolf is being removed from the U.S. Endangered Species Act list, with federal officials saying the animal's population has recovered and no longer requires federal protection.

“After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law," U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt said when announcing the long-anticipated decision in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Thursday.

The gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is now more than 6,000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) says. Prior to this recovery, Minnesota's northeastern corner was the last remaining place where wolves lived in the lower 48 states, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website says.

The Associated Press notes the Trump Administrations' action to delist the gray wolf is the latest in a series of environmental actions that appeal to rural voters in swing states in the final days before the election. Other actions include steps to allow more mining in Minnesota and logging in Alaska.

Wolves in Minnesota

Removing an animal from the list means it is now up to states to handle the management of gray wolves and could lead to wolf hunts resuming in the upper Midwestern states.

The Minnesota DNR issued a statement regarding the decision to delist the wolves, saying:

"Prior to this action, the wolf in Minnesota was federally listed as threatened. In our July 2019 comments on the USFWS’s then-proposed delisting, we concluded 'all evidence indicates that the gray wolf population in Minnesota has recovered' and federal protection under the Endangered Species Act is no longer warranted in the state. 

"We simultaneously recognized, however, that the situation in Minnesota is not representative of the wolf’s status elsewhere and noted that 'a blanket delisting across the United States may not be warranted.' This continues to be our position with respect to the federal listing status of the wolf, both within and beyond Minnesota."

In Minnesota, the DNR says its management of gray wolves includes an "extensive and sophisticated monitoring program" that is guided by a wolf management plan that's aimed at maintaining a healthy wolf population while also addressing conflicts between wolves and humans. 

The Minnesota DNR began the process of updating its wolf management plan in 2019, with an input period set to close on Nov. 1. However, it has extended the deadline until Nov. 20 in light of the USFWS' decision Thursday to delist the gray wolf.

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“We have been working on an update to our wolf management plan since November of 2019, and gathering broad public input on wolf management since late September,” said Dave Olfelt, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “Given today’s delisting decision, we will extend our web-based public input until Nov. 20 so people can consider the federal delisting prior to offering their input on wolf management in Minnesota. We will carefully consider all of this input as we draft revisions to our wolf management plan.”

The delisting of wolves generally allows gray wolves to be hunted or trapped legally, with the DNR noting that the potential for allowing a wolf hunting and trapping season will be made following the completion of the DNR's management plan update. 

Meanwhile, the Star Tribune reports a recreational wolf hunt in Minnesota would require state authorization, and it's something both Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan have said they're opposed to.

The Minnesota DNR's website for wolves is here

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