The Obama administration on Wednesday said that the 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.
The decision will leave management of the animal to individual states. The Minnesota DNR says it's pleased with the decision and ready to take over again. The agency points out Minnesota has more gray wolves than any other state in the lower 48 -- and far more wolves than federal guidelines require.
That fact has caused problems for Minnesota's ranchers, who have struggled to protect cattle from the predator.
But the iconic animal's future is still very uncertain. The Associated Press takes a closer look at what it calls a "historical crossroads" for the species. The decision to lift protections could open the door for hunters. And the animal's long-term survival could depend on how much wild land is left for it roam. "Wolves are not compatible with areas that are agricultural and have a lot of humans," a scientist and wolf expert from St. Paul tells the AP. "There's just too much conflict."
Federal officials will continue to monitor the wolf population, and they do have the power to put the animal back on the endangered list, according to the Hill.