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Gray Wolf Off Endangered Species List

May 5th, 2011

May 5, 2011 — The gray wolf was taken off the endangered species list in some parts of the U.S. today.

Some say this is good news because it means the wolves are back to a healthy population. But some people are upset because there still aren’t that many of them and it took a lot of work to bring them back from near extinction.

Idaho and Montana are the two states this is mainly happening in, but with more likely to follow. There are 700 gray wolves in Idaho and around 550 in Montana.

map artwork by www.carladaly.com

The federal government is in charge of protecting endangered species for the whole country under the Endangered Species Act.  Taking the gray wolves off the list means that these individual states now get to decide how best to manage the wolves.

The  groups that work to save the wolves don’t think that having just over 1,000 wolves in those two states is very much at all. And they worry that their numbers could go down even lower because, under the new rule, the gray wolves are now allowed to be killed under certain conditions.

But some farmers are saying they’re the ones who need protection because the wolves are threatening the chickens and cattle they’re growing for us to eat. Starting today, wolves in Montana and Idaho can be killed if they’re trying get to the livestock. Some people also like to hunt wolves.

Groups that protect wolves also say it doesn’t make sense to give individual states this responsibility because a gray wolf in Wyoming is considered endangered and protected, but if he roams next door to Montana, he’s not protected and could be killed. And wolves don’t know borders.

But the states do say they understand the importance of preserving the gray wolf and they will take care to find a balance.  Not everyone’s so sure and there’s a lot at stake.

It’s a tricky situation. What do you think?

If you have strong feelings on either side of this discussion, you can officially submit your comments to the government about it here (until July 5, 2011) , though it may be a good idea to find out more before you do that. Here are a few places to start:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service International Wolf Center Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Even though there’s a lot of disagreement on this issue, almost everyone can agree that wolves are amazing animals. You can watch a short National Geographic video here (click on the video and sound tab beside facts and photos). And though it’s less likely you’ve encountered them in person, you probably know them well from stories. There are a lot of famous stories with wolves in them!

Sometimes they’re portrayed as the bad guy in stories like The Three Little Pigs or Little Red Riding Hood . Sometimes they’re the wise, good animal, in stories like  The Jungle Book and Romulus and Remus . And sometimes they’re just misunderstood like in Peter and the Wolf and The Great Wolf and the Good Woodsman .  The wolf was even portrayed as a super hero in the Wolverine comics!

In reality, they’re strong, intelligent animals who know the importance of family and friends and work together (in packs). They also know their place in their group so there’s little conflict between them.  The main conflict seems to be finding a way for them to live with humans. Hopefully we can find a solution for that soon.

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