Gray wolf listing reinstated under Endangered Species Act

Gray wolves are once again listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act after a court decision.

In the Feb. 10 decision, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White reversed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2020 rule to delist the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the ESA.

When gray wolves were first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1970, the species had been nearly extirpated from the continental United States. Protections under the ESA allowed for wolf recovery, and by 2020, most populations were either stable or growing with a total of more than 6,000 wolves across the country.

These data led federal wildlife officials to determine the species had exceeded conservation goals, which warranted delisting under the ESA. However, USFWS’ rule was contentious, and environmental groups filed numerous lawsuits to challenge the notion that the gray wolf population no longer required federal protection.

As a result of White’s decision, gray wolves are once again listed as threatened under the ESA, returning the canids to federal management in nearly the entire continental United States.

The decision rested on the USFWS’ review of Great Lakes and Northern Rockies populations, which the agency used as an indicator of health for all wolf populations across the lower 48. “The Service did not adequately consider threats to wolves outside of these core populations,” White said.

The Wildlife Society supports the integration of science in policy-making and continues to encourage decision makers and stakeholders to work toward minimizing and mitigating wolf-human conflicts, increasing public tolerance of wolves, and retaining wolves as a component of the natural landscape where appropriate. To learn more, check out TWS’ issue statement on Wolf Restoration and Management in the Contiguous United States.

Header Image: Gray wolves were nearly extirpated from the United States as a result of human activity in the early 1900s. Credit: Dallie Dee