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Late attempt to remove gray wolf from endangered list fails

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Gray wolves in the Great Lakes region will remain on the federal endangered species list for now, after an attempt in Congress to remove them failed.

The Associated Press reports some Midwest lawmakers had attempted to attach a "rider" removing gray wolves from the list to a $1.15 trillion federal funding package that's part of the ongoing budget discussions in the U.S. House and Senate.

However, Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-Minn., told AP the proposal, which would have made it legal to hunt wolves in Minnesota, was left out of the final bill agreed late on Tuesday evening.

The wolves were returned to the endangered list last December, when federal judges overruled orders made in 2011 and 2012 by the Interior Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to de-list them.

The judges' decision made it a federal crime in Minnesota to shoot or trap gray wolves, causing consternation among some members of the farming community whose livestock are at risk from the animals and those who argue wolves populations are at a level where they shouldn't be considered endangered.

In response, Gov. Mark Dayton and the state legislature pledged over $200,000 funding for "wolf damage management" work, and a compensation fund for farmers and ranchers whose livestock is attacked.

The decision by Congress on Tuesday has the approval of St. Paul-based organization Howling for Wolves, which called it a "victory for wolves and their survival for future generations."

"Congress should support ethical, effective, nonlethal preventative strategies so communities and wolves can coexist," Howling for Wolves founder Dr. Maureen Hackett said in a news release. "Minnesota has the largest and only remaining original wolf population in the lower 48 states that never went extinct, and we want to protect them for future generations."

The only way a gray wolf can be killed in Minnesota is in defense of human life and by government agents for preying on livestock.

Howling for Wolves claims that after wolf hunting resumed in Minnesota between 2011-14, the wolf population in the state decreased by 25 percent in the first year alone.

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