Protection of gray wolves is being returned to States and Tribes

With the exception of the Mexican wolf, wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves.

More than 45 years after gray wolves were first listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Secretary of the Interior announced last month that due to the successful recovery of the gray wolf it is being delisted from the Endangered Species Act.  U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced that state and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves in states with gray wolf populations, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) monitors the species for five years to ensure the continued success of the species.

In total, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000 wolves, greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations.  Organizations who opposed the Fish and Wildlife ruling say that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made its decision despite the fact that wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of their former range across the continental United States.

“This is no ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment for wolf recovery,” said Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney. “Wolves are only starting to get a toehold in places like Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and wolves need federal protection to explore habitat in the Southern Rockies and the Northeast. This delisting decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy — and it’s illegal, so we will see them in court.”

“We should be putting much more effort into coexistence with wolves, working to ensure that populations in the lower 48 are thriving and are able to play out their ecological role balancing our natural systems, instead of stripping critical protections still needed for their full recovery,” said Bonnie Rice, Sierra Club senior campaign representative. “The science is clear that to protect our communities and prevent future pandemics, we need to be doing more to protect nature and wildlife, not less.”

Jean Ossorio of Lobos of the Southwest recently made a presentation on Mexican wolf recovery efforts at the Chihuahuan Desert Virtual Fiesta sponsored by the El Paso Zoo, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition.   Few people living in southern New Mexico are as familiar with Mexican wolf recovery efforts over the past two decades.  

Jean has spent over 530 nights tent camping in the Mexican wolf recovery area since 1998, and has seen 57 Mexican wolves in the wild. She served on the stakeholder panel of the 2003 Mexican Wolf Recovery Team, on Governor Richardson’s Catron County Wolf Task Force in 2005, and as a pre-release pen sitter for the Coronado Pack in 2013. She writes occasional features for the website, “Lobos of the Southwest” (also known as, and gives frequent public outreach programs on the Mexican gray wolf.

To watch other presentations recorded at the Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta visit

Photo credits
Top – Valerie, Wikimedia Creative Commons
Bottom – Josh More, Wikimedia Creative Commons

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