Gray wolf

Let’s take stock of the progress of the gray wolf’s recovery in the Lower 48 states, shall we?

As it currently stands, upwards of 6,000 gray wolves have taken up residence in states ranging from California, Oregon and Washington state on the West Coast across the northern continental U.S. to Michigan. That’s in addition to about 55,000 wolves that live across the border in Canada.

In every state, the population estimates are just that: Wildlife managers offer only a minimum population estimate because they don’t really know where all of the wolves are. They are popping up all over the place.

In Oregon and Washington, they are now in the Cascade Range and heading further west and south.

OR-7, the wolf that took off from northeastern Oregon and headed down to California before returning to southern Oregon, found a mate that wildlife managers didn’t even know about and formed a new pack.

Many of those wolves are descendants of 66 from Canada that were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the 1990s. Others followed their noses into the U.S. from Canada.

The wolves have caused problems for ranchers, who have lost sheep, cattle and working dogs to the predators while wildlife managers were forced to stand by. Because the wolves are protected, only after livestock were repeatedly attacked were managers able to do anything other than tell ranchers about non-lethal tactics such as fencing with flags on it and hiring range riders.

One thing is clear: The wolf population is thriving in the U.S. — and it will continue to thrive.

For years these ranchers have urged Congress, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — and anyone who would listen — to take the gray wolf off the list of endangered species. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, wolves are treated as though they are frail little creatures that cannot survive without protection.

In point of fact, the wolves are multiplying and spreading across the countryside in all directions. At this point, they no longer need protection from anyone.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has now proposed taking the gray wolf off the endangered species list, and we believe the time is right. Wolves should be managed the way any other game animal is managed.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting your comments on taking wolves off the endangered species list. This is your opportunity to make sure your voice is heard. The deadline is Tuesday, May 14 and the website is http://bit.ly/wolfdecision.

The reintroduction of gray wolves can be described as many things, but it has accomplished its goals. Wolves are back. They are thriving. They need no special protections.

Those are the facts. It’s long past time to take them off the endangered species list.

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