As the wolf spins


The merry-go-round that is wolf regulation in the West, has made yet another turn. The Department of the Interior announced that it will, once again, remove gray wolves from the endangered species list—at least wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon and northern Utah.

According to the decision, states will, again, take over management of the species, with the exception of Wyoming. That state’s controversial management plan was the center of concern for the federal courts asked to reconsider the delisting by conservation groups late last year.

Under the Wyoming plan, wolves outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks were in a “predator” zone, where they could be shot on site.

Ed Mitchell, spokesman for the Idaho Fish and Game Department, said the agency is ready and waiting to take over management of the species, again.

“[U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] seems to be pretty well convinced they’ve answered the concerns of the courts,” he said.

Idaho’s management plan has already been approved by Fish and Wildlife, and allows for some limited sport hunting to maintain population levels. The first planned hunt was put on hold last fall after the conservation groups’ lawsuit put wolves back under federal protection.

Wildlife managers expect the decision to be published in the Federal Register sometime within the next week, after which point a 30-day countdown will begin before the states take over management, again.

The start date will then be under the administration of President-elect Barack Obama, which could mean further changes for the ruling. As it stands, Wyoming officials will have to come up with a new plan before wolves in that state can be delisted.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Gary Kramer

[UPDATE 17:11] Quote from Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Cal Groen: “Our plan is to manage wolves as we do other big game. Once wolves are removed from the endangered species list, Idaho would actively manage the population and not let them return to the list and federal control.” IDFG wolf page here.