Montana Wolves in parts of the Northern Rockies and the Great Lakes region come off the endangered species list today, opening them to public hunts in some states for the first time in decades.
Federal officials say the population of gray wolves in those areas has recovered and is large enough to survive on its own. The animals were listed as endangered in 1974, after they had been wiped out across the lower 48 states by hunting and government-sponsored poisoning.
With the delisting, state wildlife agencies will have full control over the animals. States such as Idaho and Montana plan to resume hunting the animals this fall, but no hunting has been proposed in the Great Lakes region.
Ranchers and livestock groups, particularly in the Rockies, have pushed to strip the endangered status in hopes that hunting will keep the population in check.
About 300 wolves in Wyoming will remain on the list because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the state’s plan for a “predator zone” where wolves could be shot on sight. Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and a coalition of livestock and hunting groups have announced a lawsuit against the federal government over the decision.