A federal judge in California has given many gray wolves increased protection. His ruling covers wolves in states including Washington, Oregon and California. The decision does not affect wolves in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana where they can still be legally hunted. The ruling resulted from a lawsuit challenging removal of the wolves from endangered species status.
Wolves may not be hunted. trapped or killed in the states covered by the ruling. It follows reports of poisoning of wolves in Oregon. The ruling also strengthens state protection rules in these areas. Colorado has already declared wolves an endangered species. The state has one active pack and plans to introduce more.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, 76, a senior district judge presiding in Oakland, was critical of federal environmental authorities. White ruled that the US Fish and Wildlife Service did not adequately consider threats to wolves outside their core habitat. Wolves are established in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes. The US Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the wolves during the Trump Administration. Lawsuits were filed by groups incuding the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club, and led to the Feb. 10 ruling.
The plaintiffs are happy with the ruling but hope that it will be extended to all wolves in the country. No appeal of the ruling has been announced.
Since the 1990’s wolves have been slowly repopulating western states after extirpation from most of their range. Wolf populations appear stable in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Wolves are protected in Michigan and Minnesota. A legal hunt has been allowed in Wisconsin. The number in that state is thought to be over 1000. The animals were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the 1990’s The reintroduction has had enormous impact on the park and wolves have moved beyond its boundaries. Outside the park they have been met with rifle fire from legal hunters.
California, Oregon and Washington all have packs, but conflicts with legal and illegal hunters, poisoners and traffic collisions are taking their toll.