By Allie Jarrell
After recovering from near extinction, western gray wolves will be removed from the endangered species list this month in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to formally delist the wolves due to a “robust, self-sustaining wolf population” present in these states.
Canis lupus, more commonly known as the gray wolf, could once be found in all of Michigan’s counties, but due to past eradication efforts, the wolves were practically wiped out by the 1960s. Michigan’s gray wolf populations hit a record low in 1973 with only six wolves accounted for, and one year later they were added to the federal endangered species list. Conservation efforts, such as the introduction of wolves from neighboring states and a ban placed on hunting wolves, have helped the species to rebound, but they still suffer from forest destruction and urban sprawl.
Despite the loss of habitat, the American gray wolf population has now reached approximately 6,200 wolves. Nearly 700 of these wolves are residing in Michigan, which far surpasses what biologists thought was sustainable. After roughly four decades and tens of millions of dollars dedicated to saving the gray wolves, the government has stepped back, allowing individual states to take charge of protecting the adaptive predator. The wolf populations will be monitored over the next five years and can be relisted at any time if the population seems to be in danger.
Many of MNA’s sanctuaries in the Upper Peninsula protect the gray wolves’ habitat and have the potential to offer rest, shelter, hunting ground and a corridor. The Echo Lake and Keweenaw Shores Nature Sanctuaries are known to be areas for gray wolf migration. Thanks to conservation efforts, the wolves now exist in every Upper Peninsula county as well as certain areas of the Lower Peninsula.
If you’d like to find out more information about gray wolves in Michigan, visit the Department of Natural Resources’ website or check out this MNA blog post, filled with tips for identifying and understanding gray wolves. To get involved in protecting the western gray wolf and its habitat, you can visit the National Wildlife Federation’s site or support MNA’s efforts to protect Michigan’s land. Check out our website to find more information on volunteering at MNA!