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Judge's ruling returns wolves to endangered species list

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A federal court has overturned the Obama administration's decision to take the gray wolf off the endangered species list in three Great Lakes states.

Unless it's overturned, Friday's ruling will bring an end to the hunting of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, the Associated Press reports.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the gray wolf off the list in 2012, turning their management over to the states.

In the ruling handed down Friday, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell writes that the decision was "arbitrary and capricious" and violated the Endangered Species Act.

The judge wrote "...it was arbitrary and capricious for the Service to rely on the state’s nonbinding promises to maintain a particular number of wolves," since keeping the population at a certain level was critical to the decision to de-list the wolves.

Several groups joined in the lawsuit challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service's move. The president of the Humane Society of the United States hailed Friday's ruling.

The Humane Society argued that allowing wolves to be hunted was putting a stop to their recovery in the Great Lakes states. The group says 1,500 wolves have been killed by hunters and trappers in the three states since 2012.

The Star Tribune reports Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources estimated the state's wolf population at 2,423 animals last winter. That was 200 more than the previous year, but short of the 3,020 the agency found in 2004.

Minnesota critics of the wolf hunt had unsuccessfully urged Gov. Mark Dayton to put a stop to it.

Friday's ruling takes the DNR out of the wolf management business. The agency issued a brief statement noting that gray wolves now revert to the federally protected status they had before 2012, which classifies them as threatened in Minnesota and endangered elsewhere in the Great Lakes.

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Gray wolves in Minnesota are coming off endangered species list

The Obama administration on Wednesday said that more than 4,000 gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have recovered from the threat of extinction and will officially be removed from federal protection. Meanwhile the Minnesota DNR says it is ready to take over managing the animal. And the Associated Press looks into the wolf's still-uncertain future.