WASHINGTON D.C. (WTAQ) - The Obama White House added fuel to the fiery debate over whether grey wolves still need federal protections.
Those protections vanished a year-and-a-half ago in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan.
Now, the administration wants to end the endangered status for other wolves in the lower 48 states, with the exception of a fledgling population of Mexican wolves in the southwestern U.S.
Most wolves live in 10 states, Wisconsin included. A number of scientists and members of Congress say protections need to continue, so a steady stream of wolves from the 10 states can move elsewhere.
In an interview with the AP, director Dan Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said a species that nearly became extinct in the last century has rebounded nicely with over 6,100 wolves roaming the western Great Lakes and Northern Rockies.
Wisconsin has more than twice as many wolves than what wildlife experts expected when the species was reintroduced almost four decades ago.
Last year, Wisconsin wolf hunters were much more successful than many had predicted. It took only about half of the planned season to shoot the state’s quota of 117.
Wolf hunts have killed around 16-hundred animals nationally in the past few years – and with federal protections out of the way, state wildlife agencies have shot problem wolves that have damaged livestock and farm crops.
Even so, animal rights’ groups continue to oppose state control of wolves.
A lawsuit was filed a few months to put Wisconsin wolves back under federal protections.