More Wolves in Your Future

While the wolf war rages on in the Northern Rockies, a handful of biologists want to take the fight to the national level. The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition Tuesday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, requesting that gray wolves stay on the endangered species list until stable populations are reintroduced all around the country.

The center wants to see more wolves in places like the Great Plains, New England, the California Basin, the Pacific Northwest and Colorado.

"If the gray wolf is listed as endangered, it should be recovered in all significant portions of its range, not just fragments," Michael Robinson, the author of the petition, told the Associated Press. According to Robinson, wolves occupy less than 5 percent of their original range in the lower 48 states.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review the petition and make recommendations by early 2011. The Service received a similar petition in 2008, which it rejected; however, a court could order the Fish and Wildlife Service to abide by the petition. Currently, there are about 6,000 wolves in the U.S. (not including Alaska) and they are on the endangered species list in all states except for Montana, Idaho and Alaska.

If the petition is successful, it would counteract what state wildlife biologists around the country have been trying to do for the last few years: reduce wolf populations in specific areas. In Montana, where wolves have caused serious damage to elk herds, officials recently upped the wolf hunt quota to 186 animals (up from 75 last year).

In the Great Lakes region, local officials and the federal government, have tried three times to remove wolves from the endangered species list. Each time they've been rejected by the courts, which caved under heavy pressure from wolf advocates and environmentalists. The Center for Biological Diversity was one of the groups that helped block the delisting.

And there's good reason to remove Great Lakes wolves from the endangered species list, mainly, because there populations are no longer in danger. Minnesota has by far the largest number of wolves in the lower 48 with 3,200 animals and Wisconsin and Michigan each have about 700 wolves. But since wolves are federally protected in all three states, it's hard for farmers to kill problem wolves and any sort of wolf hunt is out of the question. The situation has left state wildlife managers essentially powerless.

You don't need a biology degree to spot the flaws in the Center for Biological Diversity's petition. Why should the management of 3,200 wolves in Minnesota be dependent on whether or not wolves are successfully reintroduced into New England?