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The Endangered Gray Wolf in Wyoming: Managing Wolf Populations after Endangered Species Act Delisting Open Access

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For over sixty years the distinct howl of the gray wolf has been absent from the Northern Rocky Mountains. The U.S. government successfully exterminated the species from all but Minnesota by the 1930s. With the passage of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 the gray wolf was protected by law. A recovery plan was developed throughout the 1980s and implemented beginning in 1995. Since then, populations of gray wolves in three designated recovery areas consisting of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming have increased annually. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is considering delisting the gray wolf from the endangered list and has begun to devolve management to state governments. Idaho and Montana's recovery plans were approved by USFWS, but Wyoming's plan was rejected. To ensure state management of wolves is achieved, Wyoming should seriously consider implementing a program similar to those of Idaho and Montana and one that will be easily approved by the USFWS. This paper proposes that Wyoming consider several different ways to manage the wolf population, including: developing a new wolf recovery plan using a a diverse group of stakeholders; continuing to keep wolves protected under state protection; developing a comprehensive education program to inform citizens about gray wolves; continuing to utilize the Defenders of Wildlife compensation program to repay ranchers for livestock depredation losses; and leaving the definition of a breeding pair as an adult male and female raising two or more pups until December 31 of the respective year.

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