Gray wolves are no longer protected under the Endangered Species Act. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a rule on Thursday that strips the animal’s protections in 48 states except for Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.
The Service said that with the successful recovery of the gray wolf population, it is now up to state and tribal wildlife management agencies to “resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves in states with gray wolf populations.” The Service will monitor the species for the next five years to “ensure” their continued success.
The final rule, which excludes Mexican wolves, will be published in the Federal Register on Nov. 3 and go into effect 60 days later.
“The gray wolf is the latest in a strong list of Endangered Species Act (ESA) recoveries that includes the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American alligator, brown pelican and 48 other species of animals and plants in U.S. states, territories and waters,” the Service said.
But many conservationists counter the Service’s move saying that gray wolves are “functionally extinct” throughout the United States as the species continues to be hunted, trapped and poisoned.
“Stripping protections for gray wolves is premature and reckless,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO for Defenders of Wildlife, said. “Gray wolves occupy only a fraction of their former range and need continued federal protection to fully recover. We will be taking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to court to defend this iconic species.”