Four wolves, © Irving/NPS

Standing Up For Wolves

We’re going to court to stand up for wolves.  Today Defenders and our conservation colleagues filed a notice of intent to sue the Obama administration over its regrettable decision to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming.  We urged them not to do it, but last week the administration announced their intention to move forward and today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its final notice of delisting in the Federal Register.  The rule will take effect on September 30.   So now it will be up to a federal court to determine the fate of wolves in Wyoming.

Why are we taking this important step?  We should be celebrating the return of wild wolves to the region.  Indeed, the return of the gray wolf to the northern Rockies has been one of conservation’s greatest success stories, and Defenders played a big role in making it happen.  But the administration’s premature delisting of wolves in Wyoming threatens to undermine that success.

This wolf, spotted outside Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest, is one of many that could be legally killed under the state’s management plan (Photo: Sandy Sisti, Wild At Heart Images)

Once removed from federal protection, wolves in Wyoming will be managed by the state, and Wyoming’s official wolf management plan will turn back the clock on wolf recovery.  Outside of Yellowstone National Park, in most of Wyoming, it will be legal to shoot wolves on sight.  In a smaller portion of the state, wolves can be legally hunted with proper licenses and regulations.  Only in Yellowstone itself would wolves be protected – and woe to any wolf that strays outside the park boundaries.  Put simply, Wyoming’s plan means that up to 60 percent of the state’s wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park could be wiped out.

That’s not only bad policy — we think it is illegal.  Our lawsuit will argue that the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the ESA by failing to consider how important wolves in Wyoming are to maintaining a functioning population of wolves across the northern Rockies.  Under the delisting plan, Wyoming could reduce wolf populations outside Yellowstone NP to just 10 breeding pair or 100 wolves.  This, combined with aggressive wolf management in Idaho, Montana and other areas of the northern Rockies, could bring the regional population well below sustainable levels.  Not only could this undermine regional wolf recovery, but it will undoubtedly hinder the spread of wolves to other areas in the Pacific Northwest and southern Rockies, where they remain federally protected.

We will also argue that the Service’s delisting decision is “arbitrary and capricious” — the legal term for completely irrational.  The Service previously rejected a prior Wyoming plan for failing to maintain at least 15 breeding pair in the state. A federal court also ruled that a second, nearly identical Wyoming wolf management plan failed to satisfy the ESA‘s conservation standard.  The ESA requires states to have adequate rules in place to ensure the continued conservation of the species before it is delisted.  Despite some tweaks, Wyoming’s latest management plan suffers from the same fundamental defects as its earlier plans.  It creates a broad predator zone in which wolves can be shot on sight in much of the state, and it fails to guarantee a minimum of 15 breeding pair within its borders.

So today, we filed a notice of intent to sue.  That is not yet a lawsuit.  Under the Endangered Species Act, litigants must give the government 60 days’ notice of their intent to sue over illegal agency action.  The point of this “waiting period” is to give federal agencies an opportunity to correct their errors before litigation ensues.  Alas, in most cases, the agencies decline this opportunity to right any wrongs, and litigation moves forward.

Unfortunately, the 60-day waiting period also means that Wyoming will be free to kill wolves for at least a month before our suit can even be filed.  Many wolves in the predator zone could be eliminated before we get our day in court. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, and it is a shame that the administration has taken this approach. Our hands are legally tied for now, and Wyoming’s wolves will pay the price.

At the very first opportunity, exactly 60 days from now, we will file a complaint in the U.S. District Court.  We will ask the court to declare this rule illegal, and put wolves back on the endangered species list until Wyoming adopts a responsible management plan that ensures the continued survival and recovery of wolves in the region. That’s why we are going to court.  We don’t want to return to the days when wolves were recklessly targeted for elimination, especially not after all the work that’s been done to bring them back.

38 Responses to “Standing Up For Wolves”

  1. Debra Radford-Boehmer

    I pray that these wolves are protected…
    They are beautiful..
    It’s just too bad that we can’t keep them like a dog as a pet..

  2. Paulie

    This is SO wrong on so many levels! Thankyou so much for all you do to help protect the wolves! Glad & relieved youre taking this to court!

  3. James

    What a surprise that some people ‘think’ animals are there to be slaughtered. No better than canned hunting and an excuse for thrill killers to get their kicks.
    Of course such people are going to come out and tell you lies about a ‘clean kill’ and that they are ‘conservationists’ the same lies they tell when they are the reason for an animal being hunted to extinction or when it takes them a dozen bullets in the one animal to kill them

  4. Hood

    I just have to wonder how many of you people are from Wyoming? You cry & whine to save the wolves, don’t hear any of you fighting for the deer, elk or moose population that have been devastated since the reintroduction. Really wish the liberals from the east would worry about their own state’s problems, instead of trying to “save” Wyoming. News flash, we don’t want or need your help. Anyway have a great day.

    • Jason Rylander

      There is actually no evidence that wolves are “devastating” elk populations, or any other big game in Wyoming. Big game populations naturally fluctuate but most remain at or above management objectives, and the presence of wolves has made little difference. The Wyoming Department of Fish and Game in their last annual report stated: “The Department continues to manage to reduce Wyoming elk numbers.” The total population of the herds “is now 24 percent above the statewide objective of 83,640 animals.” WDFG estimates that harvests increased from 2009-2010 and hunter success was above the five year average. According to WDFG “Overall, management strategies will continue to focus on decreasing the statewide population; however, some herds are at objective and will be managed for their current numbers.” You can view the WDFG Annual Report 2011 at

    • Marc Cooke

      I dont reside in Wyoming, but live in Montana. I often hear that the elk and other ungulates are being decimated by wolves and other predators. For example: The great Yellowstone elk herd was once 24k elk strong. Now, they are fluctuating around 5k elk. On the surface….perhaps this seems a steep decline. Its what we are not being told that is critical. The winter of 1996 was a very harsh, serve winter. The Yellowstone elk herd lost 8k elk to the weather that winter. Now…that is a third of the herd……conveniently this is never mentioned by the individuals that promote the anti wolf hysteria. Then there is the over hunting by sportsman…..but I believe you understand my point. Yes I live with wolves. Yes I have livestock!
      Defenders….Thanks for all you do to help our wolves in the Rockies!
      Marc Cooke…Wolves of the Rockies, Stevensville, Mt.

    • linda

      It is unfortunate that you do not believe in coexisting with wolves and other natural preditors like the original human inhabitants, Native Americans, did. The latter depended on game for survival, do you?

    • Dave P

      Be extremely suspicious of anyone who addresses you/anyone as “you people” as Ms. or Mr. Hood does. Their thinking often goes to a we vs. them point of view, or “black and white thinking.” Issues such as wolf reintroduction are very complex, requiring many shades of gray. Problem wolves today are killed and wolves suspected of becoming a problem (young of livestock killers) are moved to other areas far from livestock.

  5. Doraine Shipley

    Ijust hope its not to little too late, these animals need to be protected and relisted. We just all have to keep up the pressure on our representives and just hope Thank you for what you are doing.

  6. Charmaine Villadonga

    I am so glad to hear that there are people helping to defend the wolves. I feel sorry for them, they are so hated out west. They have no say and they cannot speak for themselves and they are God’s creatures and they do deserve our protection from these crazy wolf haters.

    Thank you so much for helping the wolves for I sincerely love Wolves very much. They are truly beautiful creatures!
    They need all the help they can get!

    • Willian

      I am also very interested in gentitg involved with an organization like this in Missouri. If there is one, could you let me know, or possibly put me in contact with others who may also be interested in this? Thanks!

  7. Pinke Andersson

    Please,do not give up the fight!! They do deserve to have the kind of life they where created for! Keeping the balance in the wild!!
    Magnificent,beautiful wolves!

  8. Pete Braun

    Good to know that you plan on fighting this. But I gotta ask, where was this when the wolves needed you LAST YEAR challenging the Simpson/Tester rider!?

  9. Vivian Ashwill

    Please allow these beautiful wolves to live their lives, wild & free, & not be subject to every redneck just itching for a chance to kill them. They were here long before we were.

  10. MadMelly

    Thanks for standing up for these beautiful animals. When dogs are abused and killed, people are disgusted. Yet, people don’t rally behind the big bad wolf, even though ALL dogs come from wolves. Also, the majority of the land that surrounds Yellowstone National Park, is BLM land. Which means that it belongs to the PEOPLE of the US. The BLM rents out this land to ranchers, for pennies an acre. Then these ranchers complain about wolves killing their livestock, even though the ranchers get reimbursed if a wolf kills one of their animals. Wolves are an apex predator, they play an important part in the ecosystem. Wolves were in Wyoming, long before these ranchers are. I say, evict the ranchers and make that land into a wildlife preserve. If these ranchers want to protect their livestock, there are simple things they can do. Such as buying some herding animals, Great Pyrenees. A scientist came up with a system, where the ranchers could play sounds of other wolves. The howls that wolves make to tell OTHER wolves to stay away. Studies this scientist made, showed that just playing those sounds, reduced the # of livestock kills by wolves.

  11. Alexandra Squiers

    Please call the White House and write hand written letters, by the scores. Environmental groups have been fighting this delisting since it was a rider on a Budget Bill, with no effect. It takes numbers of citizens demanding protections for our wild heritage.

    • Joyce Henderson

      Could you please give me info on who to contact to preserve and protect these beautiful, magnificent animals. Thank you!

  12. Jennifer

    It doesn’t matter what geographical area we live in, when a species is in need of protection those of us who see a wrong are compelled to make it right. If geography was an issue, most of the wars we fight would never have occurred. This land, this country, this planet is shared by all living beings. Why should it be so different when the victim is an animal?

  13. Laura

    Thank you Defenders for your dedication in protecting the wolves. Do these people out there not realize or do they just ignore the fact humans kill more livestick or wild animals than wolves. The difference…wolves kill to eat/survive wasting a bare minimum of their kill (such as the jaw bone). Whereas humans waste more than what they keep for consumption. Plus, humans kill for the sport of it, simply to hang the head on a wall (not impressive considering that person took the kill shot with a high powered rifle from 100 yards or greater).

  14. peace4crows

    Thank you for your undeniable dedication and commitment to protect not only these beautiful wolves, but all of earth’s precious wildlife!!!
    Bless you!!

  15. Venice

    It is wonderful to know you are taking action for the wolves in Wyoming. I do so hope this will effect wolves nationwide. I have read in the paper that their are thousands of hunters with licenses raring and ready to kill wolves in northern Wisconsin. The only protected areas are indian grounds which aren’t many. It seems like a helpless situation. Is there anything to do here in Wisconsin?

  16. casandra umstead

    The heart ache is now felt, for this mis understood wonderful breed of wildlife…the great and beautiful wolves. They are now taking off the list of endangered species d listed.. only because they say they’re overpopulated and killing private live stock…. well when you mess with the circle of life and get rid of all other animals that make a food chain in the wild then you have messed up nature all together!!! once again our government has much too much say so and how everything is handled and run in this country!! what is behind all this is greed”! and we a citizens need to stand up for your rights for a change and protect what is beautiful in this country like our environment and our wildlife

  17. David Weaver

    OOrah. Thanks for fighting for those who cannot defend themselves and are subject to being sniped out of a helo.

  18. Dominic Shane Monaco

    Thanks for doing the right thing.
    The fact that the Wolf was hunted in the first place is just plain wrong. We have many Canines as pets and to see our own Domesticated Dogs Brethren Killed is just plain sickening to me. Its like the Whole Slavery deal with our kind. There still human yet we treated the African Americans like animals. Dogs and Wolves are the same Species, Canines, and to see it right in some minds to kill a wolf and to even have there own dogs trained to kill one is just wrong.

    Like other species that have gone extinct, When there gone that’s when people actually realize how great they were lets hope that doesn’t end up to be the case here. Once a Population is Gone it Gone.

    One Earth, One Home, to me all inhabitants are like family We shouldn’t go around killing our family.

  19. Cynthia Sebregts

    I am pleased that there are people like you, who stand up for animals. Keep up the good work. Thank you.

  20. Kim Hamlin

    I am thankful to you for making it possibe for Wyoming’s Wolves to have a day in court, but saddened that so many will be murdered before the case for there survival is brought before the court. I pray that when you go before the court, you will win the lives of wolves through education. Again, Thank You! <3

  21. mary duffe

    I hope and pray that some good conclusion comes from all the work you guys at Defenders do for the wolf. They are beautiful creatures that I feel God has left us to see that nature has to balance out on its own and not by man’s hands or guns. To preserve what alot of people hold dear in nature and to keep a balance in a natural way. If the Obama administration makes the wrong decision, will man and earth be next?

  22. misty johnson

    Please add my signature to the petition to continue protection of these glorious wolves. They are an important part of our balance in ecosystems…maybe the human race needs to look at their over consumption of beef and other animal products ….ranchers work hard, but cattle ranches are not part of the natural ecosystem…of course some get eaten! Please accept my vote to protect them!

  23. Becky L. Skipper

    Killing of the female wolf is a terrible act for a human being who clai to be a hunter….killing something beautiful and a part of the planet earth has the same right at that miserable human who did the killing…..maybe this made the individual feel like a man as opposed to a person who does not have enough intelligence to figure out what is good about this earth and what is left of the animals that have been on this earth for sometime…this is a horrible act…I trust that he will suffer consequences for his evil actions…this must stop…enough of these unnecessary acts against creatures that have a right to live and roam in what remains on this planet…same on this miserable human …

  24. Marybeth Jarubas

    Man is afraid of what he does not understand. I don’t understand man.

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