How we got here (a condensed history):
The 1987 Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf
Recovery Plan (by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) called for the recovery
of wolves “by securing and maintaining a minimum
of 10 breeding pairs in each of three recovery areas for
a minimum of three successive years.”
Natural recolonization of northwestern Montana from Canadian
populations, while reintroduction would occur in Central
Idaho and the Yellowstone region.
The recovery plan noted: “Delisting the Northern
Rocky Mountain wolf will be contingent upon the species
being classified as a game animal, furbearer or other protected
status by the states.”
After years of debate and study, including the issuance
of environmental impact statements assessing the impact
of a reintroduction program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service issued its final rule in November 1994, laying
out the specific rules under which the reintroduction
program would be conducted: “Establishment of a
Nonessential Experimental Population of Gray Wolves in
Park in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.” Although
litigation continued for several more years, the final
eventually upheld by the federal court system.
One of the significant portions of the rule was the boundary
of the Yellowstone experimental population area was defined
to include the entire state of Wyoming (as well as that
portion of Idaho that is east of Interstate Highway 15;
and that portion of Montana that is east of Interstate
Highway 15 and south of the Missouri River from Great
Falls, Montana, to the eastern Montana border).
The rule established how wolves were to be managed after
reintroduction and provided for control of chronic problem
wolves once the population grew to more than six breeding
pairs, an event that occurred early in the process.
The most important provision of the rule for livestock
producers was the section that noted FWS or agencies
designated by FWS “may take wolves that are determined to be ‘problem’ wolves.
Problem wolves are defined as: wolves that in a calendar
year attack livestock (cattle, sheep, horses, and mules)
or as defined by State and tribal wolf management plans
approved by the Service, or wolves that twice in a calendar
year attack domestic animals (all domestic animals other
Once six or more breeding pairs were established in the
experimental population area, “lethal control of
problem wolves or permanent placement in captivity will
be authorized but only after other methods to resolve livestock
depredations have been exhausted.”
The rule also included the following provisions:
- Landowners on their private land and livestock producers
legally using public land may harass any wolf in an opportunistic
(the wolf cannot be purposely attracted, tracked, waited
for, or searched out, then harassed) and noninjurious
(no temporary or permanent physical damage may result)
at any time, provided that such harassment is non- lethal
or is not physically injurious to the gray wolf and is
reported within seven days to FWS.
- Any livestock producers on their private land may take
(including to kill or injure) a wolf in the act of killing,
wounding, or biting livestock, provided
that such incidents are to be immediately reported within 24 hours to FWS,
and livestock freshly (less than 24 hours) wounded (torn
flesh and bleeding) or killed
by wolves must be evident. FWS or other authorized agencies are to confirm
if livestock were wounded or killed by wolves.
- Authorized FWS to remove any wolf the agency “determines to present a
threat to human life or safety.”
- “Any person may harass or take (kill or injure) a wolf in self defense
or in defense of others,” provided that such take is reported immediately
(within 24 hours) to FWS.
The rule also noted once the six breeding pairs were established, “no land-use
restrictions may be employed outside of national parks or national wildlife refuges,
unless wolf populations fail to maintain positive growth rates toward population
recovery levels for two consecutive years.”
Canadian wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho
in 1995 and 1996. In 1995, 14 were released in Yellowstone and 15 in Idaho. The
next year, Yellowstone received another 17 while Idaho took in 20 more. The 31
Yellowstone wolves and 35 Idaho wolves form the basis of the population that
now has a minimum estimate of nearly 1,300 wolves at the end of 2006.
The Wyoming Legislature enacted a new law for wolves, with the Wyoming
Game and Fish Department finalizing its plan for wolf management in the summer of 2003.
In the plan, Wyoming commits to maintaining at least 15 packs of wolves statewide
including the National Parks, Parkway, National Elk Refuge and potentially the
Wind River Indian Reservation. Of these 15 packs, seven packs will be maintained
outside the National Parks and Parkway. The plan calls for wolves to be under
dual classification of trophy game animal and predatory animal. Initially wolves
will be trophy game animals in the National Parks, Parkway, and contiguous wilderness
areas, but classified as predatory animals in the remainder of the state.
FWS rejected the wolf plan as inadequate for it to proceed with the process of
delisting wolves. FWS determined that Wyoming must designate wolves as trophy
game statewide so the WYGF has legal authority to manage them, and Wyoming must
clearly commit to always managing for 10 or more well distributed breeding pairs
and over 100 wolves.
Wyoming petitioned FWS to delist wolves, but FWS rejected the petition in a decision
issued Aug. 1, 2006.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department wrote a detailed analysis of the FWS rejection
of the delisting petition, before state officials finally filed a federal
lawsuit over the matter in October 2006.
• FWS proposed wolf delisting in January 2007.
2007 Wyoming Wolf Plan (November, 2007, 43 pages, 3.17
Register Wolf Proposed Delisting (Feb. 8, 2007, 35 pages,
Lawsuit vs. US Department of the Interior: US Fish &
Wildlife Service; Dirk Kempthorne (10/10/06):
Petition for review of final agency action and to compel
agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed
(516K, 14 page PDF)
Fish & Wildlife Service official decision to reject Wyoming's
petition to remove Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf from the
Threatened Species List (8/1/06):
Response in the Federal Register. (6621K, 24-page PDF)
Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan (8/6/03):
By the Wyoming Game & Fish Department. (621K, 155
Final Rule: Endangered & Threatened Wildlife and
Plants; Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental
of Gray Wolves in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming,
Idaho and Montana. (134K, 33 pages PDF)