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Wolves in Minnesota officially returned to protected status

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Gray wolves in Minnesota and several other states are back under the protection of the federal Endangered Species List.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service implemented new rules Friday placing wolves in Minnesota as "threatened," and those in Wisconsin and Michigan as "endangered," the Associated Press reports.

The rules were put in place to comply with a federal judge's order in December that overruled the agency's decision of a few years ago to remove gray wolves from protected status and give individual states the authority to manage the wolf population.

The rule means that wolf hunting seasons that were established in the states are no longer permitted.

It also means that other measures Minnesota put into place to help farmers and ranchers who lose livestock to wolves are also invalid, according to the Star Tribune.

Under the state rules, farmers in certain areas of the state were allowed to shoot wolves to protect their animals, or could hire a trapper to catch them. Neither option is available anymore, the Star Tribune notes.

In addition, a state program that pays farmers for any livestock they lose to wolves is almost broke, and some who've made claims won't be paid.

There is still disagreement, even among wildlife experts, over whether the wolf population still needs protection.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has not yet said whether it will appeal the judge's ruling.

In the meantime, a bill that would essentially reverse the ruling has been introduced in Congress. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., is collecting co-authors of a bill that would also apply to Minnesota, Michigan, and Wyoming.

More than 50 scientists this week signed a letter to Congress saying wolves occupy a small fraction of their former range and still need legal protection, according to the AP..

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