In a much-needed win for gray wolves, a federal court recently scrapped a rule issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2020 that removed Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from wolves across most of the contiguous 48 states. The court held that, among other missteps, the USFWS had failed to adequately assess threats such as habitat loss and inadequate legal protections for wolves on federal public lands. The decision was the latest in a long string of legal defeats the agency has suffered over the past two decades in its attempts to hand wolf management back to the states.
The effect of the court’s ruling was to return wolves in most states to the ESA’s list of threatened and endangered species. Consequently, wolves may no longer be hunted in places such as Wisconsin, which allowed 218 of the animals to be shot and trapped during a three-day sport hunt last year. The ruling did not affect wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains. This population was delisted in 2011 and has since been subjected to increasingly aggressive hunting and trapping seasons. However, the USFWS announced in September that it was reviewing the status of Northern Rockies wolves to determine whether relisting may be warranted.