[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 87 (Thursday, May 5, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 26085-26145]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-9557]



[[Page 26085]]

Vol. 76

Thursday,

No. 87

May 5, 2011

Part III





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service



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50 CFR Part 17



Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Rule To Revise 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife for the Gray Wolf (Canis 
lupus) in the Eastern United States, Initiation of Status Reviews for 
the Gray Wolf and for the Eastern Wolf (Canis lycaon); Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 76 , No. 87 / Thursday, May 5, 2011 / 
Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2011-0029; 92220-1113-000; ABC Code: C6]
RIN 1018-AX57


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Rule To 
Revise the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife for the Gray Wolf 
(Canis lupus) in the Eastern United States, Initiation of Status 
Reviews for the Gray Wolf and for the Eastern Wolf (Canis lycaon)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule, initiation of status reviews.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or USFWS) are 
re-evaluating the listing of the Minnesota population of gray wolves 
(Canis lupus) and propose to revise it to conform to current statutory 
and policy requirements. We propose to identify the Minnesota 
population as a Western Great Lakes (WGL) Distinct Population Segment 
(DPS) of the gray wolf and to remove this DPS from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. We propose these actions because 
the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that 
the WGL DPS does not meet the definitions of threatened or endangered 
under the Act.
    This proposed rule, if made final, would remove the currently 
designated critical habitat for the gray wolf in Minnesota and Michigan 
and the current special regulations for gray wolves in Minnesota. We 
also propose to revise the range of the gray wolf (the species C. 
lupus) by removing all or parts of 29 eastern states that we now 
recognize were not part of the historical range of the gray wolf. New 
information indicates that these areas should not have been included in 
the original listing of the gray wolf.
    In this proposed rule, we recognize recent taxonomic information 
indicating that the gray wolf subspecies Canis lupus lycaon should be 
elevated to the full species C. lycaon. Given that a complete status 
review of this newly recognized species has never been conducted, we 
are initiating a rangewide review of the conservation status of C. 
lycaon in the United States and Canada. This rule also constitutes the 
initiation of our five-year review of the status of gray wolves under 
section 4(c)(2) of the Act, as well as the initiation of status reviews 
specific to gray wolves in the Pacific Northwest and Mexican wolves in 
the Southwest United States and Mexico.

DATES: Comment submission: We will accept comments received or 
postmarked on or before July 5, 2011.
    Public hearings: We will hold two public hearings on this proposed 
rule scheduled on May 18, 2011 and on June 8, 2011. Informational 
meetings will be held from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., followed by the public 
hearings from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

ADDRESSES: Comment submission: You may submit comments by one of the 
following methods:
    Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Enter Keyword or ID box, enter FWS-R3-ES-
2011-0029, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the 
Search panel at the top of the screen, under the Document Type heading, 
click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may 
submit a comment by clicking on ``Submit a Comment.''
    By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R3-ES-2011-0029; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us (see the Public Comments section below for more information).
    Public hearings: We have scheduled an informational meeting 
followed by a public hearing in Ashland, Wisconsin, on May 18, 2011, at 
the Northern Great Lakes Center, 29270 County Highway G. We have 
scheduled an informational meeting followed by a public hearing in 
Augusta, Maine, on June 8, 2011, at the Augusta Civic Center, 16 Cony 
Street. See the Public Hearings section below for more details.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura Ragan, 612-713-5350. Direct all 
questions or requests for additional information to: GRAY WOLF 
QUESTIONS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Building, 1 Federal 
Drive, Ft. Snelling, Minnesota 55111-4056. Additional information is 
also available on our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf. 
Individuals who are hearing-impaired or speech-impaired may call the 
Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8337 for TTY assistance.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Public Comments

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, comments, new 
information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested party concerning this proposed rule are hereby solicited. In 
particular, we are seeking targeted information and comments on our 
national wolf strategy and our proposed revision of the Minnesota 
listing; see items (1)-(2) below. Also, as part of this proposed rule 
we are announcing initiation of a 5-year status review for C. lupus in 
the conterminous United States and Mexico; initiation of status reviews 
specific to, respectively, gray wolves in the Pacific Northwest and in 
the Southwest United States and Mexico; and initiation of a status 
review for C. lycaon throughout its range in the United States and 
Canada. For these status reviews to be complete and based on the best 
available scientific and commercial information, we request information 
on items (9)-(11) below from governmental agencies, Native American 
Tribes, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested 
parties.
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant information 
concerning our analysis of the current gray wolf listing and the 
adequacy of our national wolf strategy, with particular respect to our 
recommended gray wolf listing units (i.e., taxonomic or population 
units);
    (2) Information that forms the basis for revising the currently 
listed Minnesota group of gray wolves under section 4(c) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), with particular respect to the factors in section 4(a) of the 
Act, which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence.
    (3) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any current or likely future threat, or lack thereof, to wolves in the 
WGL DPS;
    (4) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, population trends, and threats with respect to wolves 
in the WGL DPS;

[[Page 26087]]

    (5) Current or planned activities in the WGL DPS and their possible 
impacts on the wolves and their habitat;
    (6) Information concerning the adequacy of the recovery criteria 
described in the 1992 Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf;
    (7) The extent and adequacy of Federal, state, and Tribal 
protection and management that would be provided to wolves in the WGL 
DPS as delisted species; and
    (8) The proposed geographic boundaries of the WGL DPS, and 
scientific and legal supporting information for alternative boundaries 
that might result in a larger or smaller DPS, including information on 
the discreteness and significance of the proposed DPS.
    (9) New information concerning the biology and conservation of the 
gray wolf in the conterminous United States and Mexico that may be 
informative to the 5-year status review of Canis lupus, with particular 
attention to the listing units described under (1) above, including:
    (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (c) Historical and current range including distribution patterns;
    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and 
projected trends;
    (e) Historical, current, and projected levels of suitable gray wolf 
habitat;
    (f) Past, ongoing, and emerging threats to extant gray wolf 
populations, their habitat, or both; and
    (g) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the gray wolf, its 
habitat, or both.
    (10) Information concerning the status of the gray wolf in the 
Pacific Northwest United States and the gray wolf subspecies baileyi 
(Mexican wolf) in the Southwest United States and Mexico, including:
    (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (c) Historical and current range including distribution patterns;
    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and 
projected trends;
    (e) Historical, current, and projected levels of suitable habitat;
    (f) Past, ongoing, and emerging threats to these populations, their 
habitat, or both; and
    (g) Past and ongoing conservation measures for these populations, 
their habitat, or both.
    (11) Information concerning the biology, range, and population 
trends of Canis lycaon, including:
    (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (c) Historical and current range including distribution patterns;
    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and 
projected trends;
    (e) Historical, current, and projected levels of suitable habitat;
    (f) Past, ongoing, and emerging threats to extant populations, 
their habitat, or both;
    (g) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the species, its 
habitat, or both; and
    (h) The potential role that any portion of the historical range of 
the C. lycaon in the United States may play in the persistence and 
viability of the species.
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed in ADDRESSES. We will not accept comments sent by e-mail or fax 
or to an address not listed in ADDRESSES. Comments must be submitted to 
http://www.regulations.gov before midnight (Eastern Daylight Time) on 
the date specified in DATES. Finally, we will not consider hand-
delivered comments that we do not receive, or mailed comments that are 
not postmarked, by the date specified in DATES.
    We will post your entire comment--including your personal 
identifying information--on http://www.regulations.gov. If you provide 
personal identifying information, such as your street address, phone 
number, or e-mail address, you may request at the top of your document 
that we withhold this information from public review. However, we 
cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket 
No. FWS-R3-ES-2011-0029, or by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the following Ecological Services offices:
     Twin Cities, Minnesota Ecological Services Field Office, 
4101 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, MN; 612-725-3548.
     Green Bay, Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office, 
2661 Scott Tower Dr., New Franken, WI; 920-866-1717.
     East Lansing, Michigan Ecological Services Field Office, 
2651 Coolidge Road, Suite 101, East Lansing, MI; 517-351-2555.
     New England Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 70 Commercial St., Suite 300, Concord, NH; 603-
223-2541.

Public Hearings

    We have scheduled an informational meeting followed by a public 
hearing in Ashland, Wisconsin, on May 18, 2011, at the Northern Great 
Lakes Center, 29270 County Highway G. The informational meeting will be 
held from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., followed by a public hearing from 7:30 
p.m. to 9 p.m.
    A second informational meeting followed by a public hearing will be 
held in Augusta, Maine, on June 8, 2011, at the Augusta Civic Center, 
16 Cony Street. The informational meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 
7:15 p.m., followed by a public hearing from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy, ``Notice of Interagency Cooperative 
Policy for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities,'' which 
was published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinion of at least three appropriate independent specialists regarding 
scientific data and interpretations contained in this proposed rule. 
The purpose of such review is to ensure that our decisions are based on 
scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analysis. We will send 
copies of this proposed rule to the peer reviewers immediately 
following publication in the Federal Register.

Background

National Overview

    Below we provide an overview of our proposed national approach to 
recovery of wolves in the conterminous United States and Mexico. This 
overview provides the context for our proposed actions for wolves in 
the eastern United States. In this overview, we discuss the listing 
history for the gray wolf, evaluate the current gray wolf listing, 
present the structured decision-making process we have used to date to 
formulate our national wolf strategy, and describe the strategy itself.

Gray Wolf Listing History

    Here we present a brief overview of previous Federal actions 
relating to the listing of gray wolves and the recovery plans that have 
been developed pursuant to these listing actions. Additional Federal 
actions for western Great Lakes wolves are discussed in Previous 
Federal Actions for WGL Wolves below.
    Gray wolves were originally listed as subspecies or as regional 
populations of subspecies in the conterminous United States and Mexico. 
In 1967, we listed the eastern timber wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) in the 
Great Lakes region (32 FR 4001, March 11, 1967), and in 1973 we listed 
C. l. irremotus in the northern

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Rocky Mountains (38 FR 14678, June 4, 1973). Both listings were 
promulgated under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969; 
subsequently, on January 4, 1974, these subspecies were listed under 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (39 FR 1171). We listed a third gray 
wolf subspecies, the Mexican wolf (C. l. baileyi) as endangered on 
April 28, 1976 (41 FR 17740), in the southwestern United States and 
Mexico. On June 14, 1976 (41 FR 24064), we listed the Texas gray wolf 
subspecies (C. l. monstrabilis) as endangered in Texas and Mexico.
    In 1978, we published a rule (43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978) 
reclassifying the gray wolf as an endangered population at the species 
level (C. lupus) throughout the conterminous 48 States and Mexico, 
except for the Minnesota gray wolf population, which was classified as 
threatened. At that time, we considered the Minnesota group of gray 
wolves to be a listable entity under the Act, and we considered the 
gray wolf group in Mexico and the 48 conterminous States other than 
Minnesota to be another listable entity (43 FR 9607, 9610, 
respectively, March 9, 1978). This reclassification was undertaken 
because of uncertainty about the taxonomic validity of some of the 
previously listed subspecies and because we recognized that wolf 
populations were historically connected, and that subspecies boundaries 
were thus malleable.
    However, the 1978 rule also stated that ``biological subspecies 
would continue to be maintained and dealt with as separate entities'' 
(43 FR 9609), and offered ``the firmest assurance that [the Service] 
will continue to recognize valid biological subspecies for purposes of 
its research and conservation programs'' (43 FR 9610, March 9, 1978). 
Accordingly, recovery plans were developed for the wolf populations in 
the following regions of the United States: the northern Rocky 
Mountains in 1980, revised in 1987; the Great Lakes in 1978, revised in 
1992; and the Southwest in 1982, the revision of which is now underway.
    More detail on previous Federal actions for the Southwest and 
northern Rocky Mountains wolves is provided, respectively, within the 
90-day finding for Mexican wolves (75 FR 46894) and in various notices 
and rulemakings for the management of northern Rocky Mountains wolves 
(59 FR 60252, November 22, 1994; 59 FR 60266, November 22, 1994; 68 FR 
15804, April 1, 2003; 68 FR 15879, April 1, 2003; 70 FR 1286, January 
6, 2005; 71 FR 6634, February 8, 2006; 71 FR 43410, August 1, 2006; 73 
FR 4720, January 28, 2008; 73 FR 10514, February 27, 2008; 74 FR 15123, 
April 2, 2009) . Further detail on previous Federal actions related to 
the WGL DPS is provided in Previous Federal Actions for WGL Wolves 
below.

Evaluation of the 1978 Gray Wolf Listing

    The Service now considers the 1978 Canis lupus listing rule at 43 
FR 9607 to be in need of revision. This need has been identified based 
on our review of the best available taxonomic information, which 
indicates that C. lupus historically did not occupy large portions of 
the eastern United States and on our reconsideration of the listing in 
light of current statutory and policy requirements under the Act. These 
considerations are discussed in turn below.

Taxonomy and Historical Ranges of Wolves in the United States

    Our review of the best available taxonomic information indicates 
that Canis lupus did not occupy large portions of the eastern United 
States: i.e., the northeastern United States was occupied by the 
eastern wolf (C. lycaon), now considered a separate species of Canis 
rather than a subspecies of lupus, and the southeastern United States 
was occupied by the red wolf (Canis rufus) rather than the gray wolf. 
Our review of North American wolf taxonomy also suggests that changes 
in listing classification are warranted in other portions of the 
country.
    At the time the gray wolf was listed in 1978, and until the 
molecular genetics studies of the last few years, the range of the gray 
wolf prior to European settlement was generally believed to include 
most of North America. The only areas that were believed to have lacked 
gray wolf populations were the coastal and interior portions of 
California, the arid deserts and mountaintops of the western United 
States, and parts of the eastern and southeastern United States (Young 
and Goldman 1944, Hall 1981, Mech 1974, and Nowak 1995). We note, 
however, that some authorities have questioned the reported historical 
absence of gray wolves in parts of California (Carbyn in litt. 2000, 
Mech in litt. 2000).
    Furthermore, we note long-held differences of opinion regarding the 
precise boundary of the gray wolf's historical range in the eastern and 
southeastern United States. Some researchers regarded Georgia's 
southeastern corner as the southern extent of gray wolf range (Young 
and Goldman 1944, Mech 1974); others believed gray wolves did not 
extend into the Southeast at all (Hall 1981) or did so to a limited 
extent, primarily at somewhat higher elevations (Nowak 1995). The 
southeastern and mid-Atlantic States were generally recognized as being 
within the historical range of the red wolf (Canis rufus), and it is 
not known how much range overlap historically occurred between the two 
Canis species. Morphological work by Nowak (2000, 2002, 2003) supported 
extending the historical range of the red wolf into southern New 
England or even farther northward, indicating either that the 
historical range of the gray wolf in the eastern United States was more 
limited than previously believed, or that the respective ranges of 
several wolf species expanded and contracted in the eastern and 
northeastern United States, intermingling in post-glacial times along 
contact zones.
    The results of recent molecular genetic analyses (e.g., Wilson et 
al. 2000, Wilson et al. 2003, Wheeldon and White 2009, Wilson et al. 
2009, Fain et al. 2010, Wheeldon et al. 2010) and morphometric studies 
(e.g., Nowak 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003) explain some of the past 
difficulties in establishing the gray wolf's range in the eastern 
United States. These studies show that the mid-Atlantic and 
southeastern United States historically were occupied by the red wolf 
(C. rufus), and that New England and portions of the upper Midwest 
(eastern and western Great Lakes regions) historically were occupied by 
C. lycaon; they also indicate that the gray wolf (C. lupus) did not 
occur in the eastern United States.
    Based on these recent studies, we view the historical range of the 
gray wolf as the central and western United States, including portions 
of the western Great Lakes region, the Great Plains, portions of the 
Rocky Mountains, the Intermountain West, the Pacific Northwest, and 
portions of the Southwest. All or parts of 29 southern and eastern 
States (Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, 
Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, 
Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Ohio (the 
part outside WGL DPS), West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, 
Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas (east of Interstate Highway 35), Oklahoma 
(east of Interstate Highway 35 and southeast of Interstate Highway 44 
north of Oklahoma City), Arkansas, Missouri (southeast of Interstate 
Highway 44 and southeast of Interstate Highway 70 east of St. Louis), 
Indiana (the part outside WGL DPS), and Illinois (the part outside WGL 
DPS)) were not within the gray wolf's historical range.

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    In sum, we now recognize three wolf species with ranges in the 
conterminous United States: Canis lupus, Canis lycaon, and Canis rufus. 
The ranges of C. lupus and C. lycaon overlap in the western Great Lakes 
region, as discussed in Taxonomy of Wolves in the Western Great Lakes 
Region below; however, in the eastern United States, the historical 
range of C. lupus is considered to fall outside the historical ranges 
of C. lycaon and C. rufus.

Conformance With the Act's Definition of Species

    Given the assurances we provided in the 1978 C. lupus listing that 
we would continue to treat gray wolf subspecies as separate entities 
for conservation purposes (as noted in Gray Wolf Listing History, 
above), we identified a need to reconsider the listing in light of 
current statutory and policy standards regarding the Act's definition 
of species. The Act provides for listing at various taxonomic and 
subtaxonomic levels through its definition of ``species'' in section 
3(16): The term species includes any subspecies of fish or wildlife or 
plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of 
vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 
1532(16) (italics added). As a matter of procedure, then, the Service 
determines whether it is most appropriate to list an entity as a full 
species, a subspecies, or a DPS of either a species or subspecies. The 
gray wolf has a Holarctic range; the current listing encompasses the 
United States-Mexico segment of the population and consists, in turn, 
of multiple entities.
    The specific provision for listing distinct population segments of 
vertebrates was enacted through the 1978 Amendments to the Act (Pub. L. 
95-362, November 10, 1978); these amendments replaced the ability to 
list ``populations'' with the ability to list ``distinct population 
segments'' and treat them as species under the Act. To interpret and 
implement the 1978 DPS amendment, the Service and the National Marine 
Fisheries Service jointly published the Policy Regarding the 
Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments Under the 
Endangered Species Act (DPS policy) (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), 
setting policy standards for designating populations as ``distinct.''
    The March 1978 gray wolf listing predated the November 1978 
amendments to the Act. Although the 1978 rule lists two C. lupus 
entities, i.e., the endangered and threatened entities described above, 
these listings were not predicated upon a formal DPS analysis and do 
not comport with current policy standards. Nonetheless, subsequent 
recovery plans and all gray wolf rulemakings since 1996 have focused on 
units reflective of the evident intent of the 1978 rule to manage and 
recover gray wolves as ``separate entities'' (43 FR 9609), i.e., 
subspecies or populations. This proposed rule and our proposed National 
Wolf Strategy, below, constitute an effort to bring the 1978 listing in 
line, insofar as possible, with the Act's requirements and current 
policy standards.

Structured Decision-Making for Wolves

    In 2008, the Service embarked on a structured decision-making 
process as a means of developing a more integrated and comprehensive 
strategy for gray wolf conservation in the lower 48 States and Mexico. 
The overall intent of the process was to identify appropriate wolf 
entities (i.e., listing units) for full status review, anticipating 
that such review would lead to either confirmation or revision of the 
existing gray wolf listing. We aimed to identify a coherent set of 
listing units based on best available scientific and commercial 
information, conformance with existing regulatory and policy 
requirements, and fundamental wolf management objectives.
    We first conducted several iterations of the process in an internal 
Service effort to develop a viable framework for considering the 
scientific and policy questions that drive decision-making for wolves. 
The resulting framework incorporated decision analysis principles and 
techniques for crafting alternative listing units and then assessing 
the relative performance of each alternative in terms of achieving 
management objectives.
    Management of wolves is shared among the Service, States, and 
Tribes. Thus, following our development of a satisfactory decision-
making framework, representatives from several States involved with 
gray wolf conservation joined us to further explore alternative units 
that could qualify for future status review (Tribal representatives 
declined to participate). After acquainting state participants with the 
decision-making framework, we convened a State-Federal workshop in 
August 2010 to generate and assess alternative taxonomic and population 
units at various scales and in various configurations, including the 
1978 listing as the status quo alternative.
    Workshop participants also explored the different values that drive 
wolf decision-making; these values were expressed as the following 
fundamental management objectives: (1) Promote and sustain wolf 
recovery; (2) comply with the requirements of the Act; (3) minimize the 
regulatory burden on States, Tribes, and the general public; (4) 
facilitate State and Tribal management of wolves; (5) minimize wolf-
human conflicts; and (6) promote public acceptance of wolf listing and 
recovery actions.
    Workshop outcomes provided important input to our continuing effort 
to formulate a comprehensive vision of wolf conservation. Based on 
further Service deliberations, this comprehensive vision has evolved 
into the proposed national wolf strategy discussed below. It is 
important to note that this strategy is a broad outline, the components 
of which are in various stages of execution.

National Wolf Strategy

    The Service's national wolf strategy is intended to: (1) Lay out a 
cohesive and coherent approach to addressing wolf conservation needs, 
including protection and management, in accordance with the Act's 
statutory framework; (2) ensure that actions taken for one wolf 
population do not cause unintended consequences for other populations; 
and (3) be explicit about the role of historical range in the 
conservation of extant wolf populations.
    The strategy is based on three precepts. First, in order to qualify 
for any type of listing or delisting action, wolf entities must conform 
to the Act's definition of ``species,'' whether as taxonomic species or 
subspecies or as distinct population segments. Second, the strategy 
promotes the continued representation in this country of all 
substantially unique genetic lineages found historically in the lower 
48 States. Third, wolf conservation under the Act is concerned with 
reducing extinction risks to imperiled entities; the strategy thus 
focuses on conservation of the four extant gray wolf entities 
identified through the structured decision-making process and being 
considered for section 4 actions: (1) The western Great Lakes 
population, (2) the northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) population, (3) gray 
wolves in the Pacific Northwest, and (4) the Southwestern population of 
Mexican wolves.
    Various reviews and listing actions are underway for these gray 
wolf populations. The WGL DPS is proposed for delisting in the proposed 
rule being published in today's Federal Register. With regard to the 
NRM gray wolf population, Congress is considering legislation that 
would direct us to reissue our 2009 final rule (74 FR 15123, April 2, 
2009), that delisted the NRM DPS in the States of Idaho and Montana,

[[Page 26090]]

and in portions of Oregon, Washington, and Utah. This rule retained ESA 
protections of wolves in Wyoming as non-essential experimental. If 
passed, we would publish a separate notice in the Federal Register. 
Negotiations regarding potential future post-delisting wolf management 
in Wyoming are ongoing.
    The biological and conservation status of wolves in the Pacific 
Northwest (we are considering this to be the area west of the NRM gray 
wolf population, including portions of Oregon, Washington, northern 
California, and western Nevada) is being assessed to determine their 
appropriate listing classification. When this review is completed, we 
will evaluate a potential Pacific Northwest DPS in accordance with our 
DPS policy and will reclassify this population as appropriate through 
an additional rulemaking process. The status of the Southwestern 
population (i.e., Mexican wolves within their historical range) is 
being reviewed pursuant to our 90-day finding on two listing petitions 
(75 FR 46894, August 4, 2010). We anticipate that the Southwestern 
population will be proposed for listing as either the subspecies C. l. 
baileyi or as a DPS of C. lupus; in the meantime, recovery planning 
will continue to proceed for these wolves.
    As separate actions move forward for the NRM, Pacific Northwest, 
and Southwest, wolves in these regions will retain their current 
classification as endangered, except where delisted and where currently 
listed as non-essential experimental populations (see 50 CFR 17.84(k)). 
We plan to move forward with a rulemaking to replace the remainder of 
the 1978 listing with more targeted regional units, as appropriate, 
concurrently with publication of the final rule for the WGL DPS.
    It is likely that revision of the 1978 gray wolf listing into 
finer-scale taxonomic or population units will result in removal of the 
Act's protections in areas of the historical C. lupus range, such as 
the Great Plains States and areas of the western States, that do not 
support extant wolf populations and do not play a role in the recovery 
of any of the four gray wolf entities. Although some of these areas are 
within the species' historical range, these areas lack sufficient 
suitable habitat for wolf pack persistence. Thus, we believe recovery 
in these areas is both unrealistic and unnecessary. We note, however, 
that such areas would not necessarily be precluded from wolf 
conservation efforts under other authorities, e.g., Tribes, States, and 
Federal land management agencies.
    Our national wolf strategy also addresses the two other wolf taxa 
that fall within the range described for Canis lupus in the 1978 
listing, C. lycaon and C. rufus. With regard to Canis lycaon, we are 
announcing a rangewide status review of this species, which occurs in 
Canada and the western Great Lakes region of the United States. The 
historical range of C. lycaon also extends into the northeastern United 
States, which the 1978 listing inaccurately treated as part of the 
range of C. lupus. The role of the Northeast region in conservation of 
C. lycaon will be considered in the rangewide review, which will look 
at the status of extant populations in terms of uniqueness, demography, 
and extinction risks. A determination as to whether to proceed with any 
C. lycaon listing action--and, if listing is warranted, whether or not 
to include the northeastern United States in the listed range--will 
depend on the results of the status review. Notification of our 
intentions with regard to C. lycaon will be provided in conjunction 
with publication of the final rule for the WGL DPS. Meanwhile, we 
propose to revise the range of the gray wolf (the species C. lupus) by 
removing all or parts of 29 eastern states that we now recognize were 
not part of the historical range of the gray wolf. New information 
indicates that these areas should not have been included in the 
original listing of the gray wolf. These States are specified under 
Taxonomy and Historical Ranges of Wolves in the United States, above.
    Finally, with regard to Canis rufus, we propose to remove the 
southeastern states included in the 1978 gray wolf listing from the 
List due to error, because we now recognize were not part of the 
historical range of the gray wolf. These states instead constitute the 
range of Canis rufus; see Taxonomy and Historical Ranges of Wolves in 
the United States, above. Red wolves currently are listed as endangered 
where found (32 FR 4001, March 11, 1967); this listing will be retained 
and recovery efforts for red wolves will continue as warranted (Red 
Wolf Recovery and Species Survival Plan; Service 1990).

Five-Year Review of Gray Wolves

    Under section 4(c)(2) of the Act, we have a duty to review listed 
species' status every 5 years and determine whether a change in listing 
status is appropriate. We announce initiation of the 5-year review for 
the gray wolf in this rule and seek new information as requested in 
Public Comments above.

Western Great Lakes Wolves

Previous Federal Actions for WGL Wolves

    The eastern timber wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) was listed as 
endangered in Minnesota and Michigan in the first list of species that 
were protected under the 1973 Act, published in May 1974 (USDI 1974). 
On March 9, 1978, we published a rule (43 FR 9607) reclassifying the 
gray wolf at the species level (Canis lupus) as endangered throughout 
the conterminous 48 States and Mexico, except for the Minnesota 
population, which we classified to threatened. The separate subspecies 
listings, including C. l. lycaon, thus were subsumed into the listings 
for the gray wolf in Minnesota and the gray wolf in the rest of the 
conterminous United States and Mexico. In that 1978 rule, we also 
identified Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, and Minnesota wolf 
management zones 1, 2, and 3, as critical habitat. We also promulgated 
special regulations under section 4(d) of the Act for operating a wolf 
management program in Minnesota at that time. The depredation control 
portion of the special regulation was later modified (50 FR 50793; 
December 12, 1985); these special regulations are found in 50 CFR 
17.40(d)(2).
    On April 1, 2003, we published a final rule revising the listing 
status of the gray wolf across most of the conterminous United States 
(68 FR 15804). Within that rule, we identified three DPSs for the gray 
wolf (see Gray Wolf Listing History, above), including an Eastern DPS, 
which was reclassified from endangered to threatened, except where 
already classified as threatened. In addition, we established a second 
section 4(d) rule that applied provisions similar to those previously 
in effect in Minnesota to most of the Eastern DPS. The special rule was 
codified in 50 CFR 17.40(o).
    U.S. District Court rulings in Oregon and Vermont on January 31, 
2005, and August 19, 2005, respectively, invalidated the April 1, 2003, 
final rule. Consequently, the status of gray wolves outside of 
Minnesota reverted back to endangered status, as had been the case 
prior to the 2003 reclassification. The courts also invalidated the 
three DPSs identified in the April 1, 2003, rule, as well as the 
associated special regulations.
    On March 27, 2006, we published a proposal (71 FR 15266-15305) to 
identify a WGL DPS of the gray wolf, to remove the WGL DPS from the 
protections of the Act, to remove designated critical habitat for the 
gray wolf in Minnesota and Michigan, and to

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remove special regulations for the gray wolf in Minnesota. The proposal 
was followed by a 90-day comment period, during which we held four 
public hearings on the proposal.
    On February 8, 2007, the Service issued a rule that identified and 
delisted the WGL DPS of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) (72 FR 6052). Three 
parties challenged this rule (Humane Society of the United States v. 
Kempthorne, 579 F. Supp. 2d 7 (D.D.C. 2008)), and on September 29, 
2008, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and vacated the rule 
and remanded it to the Service. On remand, the Service was directed to 
provide an explanation as to how simultaneously identifying and 
delisting a DPS is consistent with the Act's text, structure, policy 
objectives, legislative history, and any relevant judicial 
interpretations.
    The court's primary question was whether the Service has the 
authority to identify a DPS within a larger already-listed entity and, 
in the same decision, determine the DPS does not warrant the Act's 
protections even though the other populations of the species retain the 
old listing status. Our authority to make these determinations and to 
revise the list accordingly is a reasonable interpretation of the 
language of the Act, and our ability to do so is an important component 
of the Service's program for the conservation of threatened and 
endangered species.
    Our authority to revise the existing listing of a species (the gray 
wolf in Minnesota and the gray wolf in the lower 48 States and Mexico, 
excluding Minnesota) to identify a Western Great Lakes DPS and 
determine that it is healthy enough that it no longer needs the Act's 
protections is found in the precise language of the Act. Moreover, even 
if that authority were not clear, our interpretation of this authority 
to make determinations under section 4(a)(1) and to revise the 
endangered and threatened species list to reflect those determinations 
under section 4(c)(1) is reasonable and fully consistent with the Act's 
text, structure, legislative history, relevant judicial 
interpretations, and policy objectives.
    We consulted with the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior 
to address the issue in the court's opinion. On December 12, 2008, a 
formal opinion was issued by the Solicitor, ``U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service Authority Under Section 4(c)(1) of the Endangered Species Act 
to Revise Lists of Endangered and Threatened Species to `Reflect Recent 
Determinations''' (U.S. DOI 2008). The Service fully agrees with the 
analysis and conclusions set out in the Solicitor's opinion. This 
proposed action is consistent with the opinion. The complete text of 
the Solicitor's opinion can be found at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/.
    On December 11, 2008, we published a notice reinstating protections 
for the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes (and northern Rocky 
Mountains) pursuant to court orders (73 FR 75356).
    On April 2, 2009, we published a final rule identifying the western 
Great Lakes populations of gray wolves as a DPS and revising the list 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife by removing the DPS from that 
list (74 FR 15070). We did not seek additional public comment on the 
2009 final rule. On June 15, 2009, five parties filed a complaint 
against the Department and the Service alleging that we violated the 
Act, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the court's remand 
order by publishing the 2009 final rule (74 FR 15070). On July 2, 2009, 
pursuant to a settlement agreement between the parties, the court 
issued an order remanding and vacating the 2009 final rule.
    On March 1, 2000, we received a petition from Mr. Lawrence Krak of 
Gilman, Wisconsin, and on June 28, 2000, we received a petition from 
the Minnesota Conservation Federation. Mr. Krak's petition requested 
the delisting of gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The 
Minnesota Conservation Federation requested the delisting of gray 
wolves in a Western Great Lakes DPS. Because the data reviews resulting 
from the processing of these petitions would be a subset of the review 
begun by our July 13, 2000, proposal (65 FR 43450) to revise the 
current listing of the wolf across most of the conterminous United 
States, we did not initiate separate reviews in response to those two 
petitions. While we addressed these petitions in our February 8, 2007, 
final rule (72 FR 6052), this rule was vacated by the subsequent 
District Court ruling. While we view our actions on these petitions as 
final upon publication of the Federal Register determinations, we 
nevertheless restate our 90-day findings that the action requested by 
each of the petitions may be warranted, as well as our 12-month finding 
that the action requested by each petition is warranted.
    On March 15, 2010, we received a petition from the Minnesota 
Department of Natural Resources requesting that the gray wolf in 
Minnesota be removed from the List of Endangered or Threatened Wildlife 
under the Act. Likewise, on April 26, 2010, we received a petition from 
the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources requesting that the gray 
wolf in Minnesota and Wisconsin be delisted. On April 26, 2010, we 
received a petition from the Sportsmen's Alliance, representing five 
other organizations, requesting that gray wolves in the Great Lakes 
area be delisted. On June 17, 2010, we received a petition from Safari 
Club International, Safari Club International Foundation and the 
National Rifle Association of America requesting that wolves of the 
western Great Lakes be delisted. In response to those four petitions, 
on September 14, 2010, we published a 90-day finding determining that 
the petitions presented substantial information that delisting may be 
warranted and reinitiated a full status review. Therefore, this 
delisting proposal constitutes our 12-month finding that the action 
requested by each petition is warranted.
    In response to a separate petition, on June 10, 2010, we made a 90-
day finding that there was no evidence of any breeding population of 
wolves to support the requested listing of a DPS of the gray wolf in 
New England (75 FR 32869).

Species Concepts

    As noted in Conformance with the Act's Definition of Species above, 
the Act defines ``species'' as including any species or subspecies of 
fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct vertebrate population 
segment of fish or wildlife that interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 
1532(16)). It has not been uncommon in the years since the Act was 
passed for significant controversy to arise over the propriety of 
recognizing various groups of organisms as eligible for protection 
under the Act. Our implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.11) require us 
to use standard taxonomic distinctions (such as species and subspecies) 
when they are available, clearly defined, and generally accepted. In 
determining that a taxonomic entity qualifies as a species or 
subspecies we carefully evaluate the best available taxonomic data to 
determine whether we have sufficient information to conclude that a 
taxonomic entity qualifies as a species under the Act.
    In identifying species, there is not a single set of criteria, and, 
therefore, no single species concept that is accepted by all 
taxonomists. In 1942, Ernst Mayr identified five different species 
concepts (Mayr 1942), and many more have been recognized since then 
(Wilkins 2006; 2003; Mayden 1997, pp. 381-384). Many of these species 
concepts can be associated with one of two major classes of concepts or 
approaches. The first is the biological species concept (BSC). This 
concept is based on reproductive relationships among populations. The

[[Page 26092]]

ability to interbreed and realize gene flow between two populations is 
the indication that they belong to the same species. The concept is 
most commonly associated with Mayr (1963), but has antecedents during 
the development of evolutionary biology in the 20th century. The second 
major class of concepts is the phylogenetic species concept (PSC). 
Under this group of concepts, species are identified by their 
genealogical (lineages) or phylogenetic (evolutionary) relationships 
and diagnosability. The many variations of these concepts and others 
are reviewed by Wiley (1981), Avise (2004), and Coyne and Orr (2004).
    There is, likewise, no scientific consensus on what constitutes a 
subspecies, and some authorities (Wilson and Brown 1953) have 
questioned the utility of the subspecies level of classification. 
Following is a description of various subspecies criteria that have 
been proposed and applied in the taxonomic literature. Because some 
criteria are more stringent than others, a putative, or generally 
accepted, subspecies may meet the criteria and be recognized following 
one concept, but found to be invalid under a more stringent concept. 
Nowak (1995, p. 394) discussed the standards he used when he revised 
the subspecies of Canis lupus: ``My investigation largely disregarded 
such questions [concerning use of very localized characters] and 
concentrated on general trends in measurable size and proportion that 
could be evaluated on a continent-wide or worldwide basis. Substantive 
statistical breaks in such trends, as discussed above, were taken as 
evidence of taxonomic division.'' In The Mammals of North America, Hall 
(1981, p. viii) included the following in his ``Criteria for Species 
versus Subspecies.''

    If crossbreeding occurs in nature at a place or places where the 
geographic ranges of two kinds of mammals meet, the two kinds are to 
be treated as subspecies of one species. If no crossbreeding occurs, 
the two kinds are to be regarded as two distinct, full species.

    Mayr (1963, glossary) defined subspecies as, ``an aggregate of 
local populations of a species inhabiting a geographic subdivision of 
the range of the species, and differing taxonomically from other 
populations of the species.'' He further explains ``differing 
taxonomically'' as differing ``by diagnostic morphological characters'' 
(Mayr 1963, p. 348). Mayr (1969, p. 190) also describes a quantitative 
method for determining whether populations differ taxonomically: ``A 
so-called 75-percent rule is widely adopted. According to this, a 
population is recognized as a valid subspecies if 75 percent of the 
individuals differ from ``all'' (97 percent) of the individuals of a 
previously recognized subspecies. At the point of intersection between 
the two curves where this is true, about 90 percent of population A 
will be different from about 90 percent of the individuals of 
population B (to supply a symmetrical solution)''.
    Patten and Unitt (2002, p. 27) provide another definition of 
subspecies as ``diagnosable clusters of populations of biological 
species occupying distinct geographic ranges.'' They do not require 
that diagnosability be absolute, but advocate 90 percent separation as 
a more stringent criterion than the 75-percent rule.
    Avise (2004, p. 362) attempted to incorporate phylogenetic 
information within a biological species concept in providing the 
following guidance on recognizing subspecies: ``Within such units 
[=species], ``subspecies'' warranting formal recognition could then be 
conceptualized as groups of actually or potentially interbreeding 
populations (normally mostly allopatric) that are genealogically highly 
distinctive from, but reproductively compatible with, other such 
groups. Importantly, the empirical evidence for genealogical 
distinction must come, in principle, from concordant genetic partitions 
across multiple, independent, genetically based molecular (or 
phenotypic; Wilson and Brown 1953) traits.''
    A common feature of all of the above definitions is that they 
recognize that subspecies are groups of populations, and most recognize 
that subspecies can be variable and overlap, to some degree, in 
distinguishing characters. Taxonomists do not assign an individual to 
one subspecies or another; instead individuals are assigned a specific 
taxonomic classification based on the population in which they exist.
    The existence of multiple concepts of species and subspecies is not 
the only complicating factor in the debate surrounding the 
classification of organisms; it is further complicated by the way 
organisms occur in the natural world. Taxonomists are determined to 
categorize natural organisms into specific groups and identify and name 
those groups, while also striving to understand the evolutionary 
processes that give rise to these specific groups (Hey 2001, pp. 328-
329). When viewed on the ground, a particular organism may appear to 
clearly fit into one group or another, but when their evolutionary 
history is viewed, these groups are revealed as changeable and without 
clear boundaries. In the reverse, individuals may appear different 
(that is be morphometrically distinct) but in fact be of the same taxon 
(that is, genetically similar). In many situations, it is difficult to 
determine where one species ends and another begins. This is especially 
true in wide-ranging species and in the zones where multiple forms (for 
example, where either two species or two subspecies) contact each other 
or meet, which is the situation with wolves in the WGL region. 
Ultimately, species are evolving, dynamic populations, and at times are 
difficult to categorize. Nevertheless, Congress directs that the 
Service classify populations as species, subspecies, and DPSs, despite 
the difficulty and complexity of various taxonomic concepts.

Taxonomy of Wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region

    The taxonomic status of the wolves in the western Great Lakes 
region has long been debated. They have been considered a subspecies of 
gray wolf, Canis lupus lycaon (Goldman 1944), Nowak 1995, 2002, 2003); 
a Canis lupus population that has been influenced by interbreeding with 
coyotes (Lehman et al. 1991); members of a full species, Canis lycaon 
(or eastern wolf) that is separate from Canis lupus (Wilson et al. 
2000, Baker et al. 2003); possibly the same species as the red wolf, C. 
rufus (Wilson et al. 2000); the result of hybridization between C. 
rufus and C. lupus (Nowak 2002, 2003, 2009); and, most recently, as a 
mixed population of C. lupus, C. lycaon, and their intercrosses (for 
example, Wheeldon and White 2009, Fain et al. 2010, Wheeldon et al. 
2010). These varying interpretations of the taxonomic status of western 
Great Lakes wolves are summarized, respectively, below.
    Wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota were 
considered by Goldman (1944, p. 437 and Figure 14) to be within the 
range of the subspecies Canis lupus lycaon. Goldman based his 
classification on variation in body size and proportions, and in pelage 
(coat) color. According to Goldman, this was the subspecies of gray 
wolf historically found across a wide range east of the Mississippi 
River in the United States and in southeastern Canada. Wolves 
immediately to the west of the Mississippi River were considered to be 
part of the subspecies Canis lupus nubilus. This taxonomic 
interpretation was followed by Hall and Kelson (1959, p. 849) and Hall 
(1981, p. 932).
    Nowak's (1995, p. 396; 2003, p. 243) revision of the subspecies 
taxonomy reduced the range of C. l. lycaon to southern Ontario and 
Quebec and northern portions of New York,

[[Page 26093]]

Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Nowak's classification was primarily based on 
statistical analysis of measurements of skull features. He considered 
gray wolves that historically occupied Michigan, Wisconsin, and 
Minnesota to be within the range of C. l. nubilus. Based on analysis of 
additional specimens, Nowak (2002, p. 119; 2003; 2009, p. 238) 
continued to recognize western Great Lakes wolves as C. l. nubilus, but 
noted that historical specimens from the Upper Peninsula (UP) of 
Michigan were somewhat transitional between the two subspecies.
    Based on a study of DNA variation in North American wolves, Wilson 
et al. (2000, p. 2165) proposed that the taxonomic standing of eastern 
wolves be restored to full species as Canis lycaon. They found that 
eastern wolves were divergent from Canis lupus in both mitochondrial 
DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal microsatellite DNA composition. They 
considered the geographic range of C. lycaon as extending west across 
the Great Lakes region to Minnesota and Manitoba.
    Leonard and Wayne (2008, pp. 2-3) have reported on maternally 
inherited mtDNA sequence haplotypes (DNA sequences or groups of alleles 
of different genes on a single chromosome that are inherited together 
as a single unit) from historical (``prerecovery'') wolves from 
Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, and Wisconsin compared with the recent 
population of the area. Their interpretation of these results is that 
the 6 unique haplotypes) identified in 15 historical individuals 
indicate that the pre-recovery population was ``an endemic American 
wolf,'' which they call ``the Great Lakes wolf'' (p. 1). However, only 
the two haplotypes most common in the historical sample still occur in 
the modern wolf population of the western Great Lakes area. Leonard and 
Wayne (2007) conclude that the modern population does not contain the 
diversity of Great Lakes wolf haplotypes found in the prerecovery 
population and that the current population is primarily a mixture of 
Canis lupus and coyote hybrids, with minor influence from the endemic 
Great Lakes wolf (p. 3).
    Koblm[uuml]ller et al. (2009) examined wolves from the western 
Great Lakes region using three types of genetic markers: mtDNA; Y-
chromosome haplotypes based on microsatellite DNA loci on the Y-
chromosome, which is a paternally-inherited marker; and autosomal 
microsatellite DNA, which provides information on recent and ongoing 
interactions among populations rather than evolutionary lineage 
information. The historical sample from Minnesota was found to exhibit 
a third Great Lakes wolf mtDNA haplotype that is common in the modern 
population. However, the Y-chromosome haplotypes identified in the 
historical sample were more similar to those of western gray wolves, 
suggesting that interbreeding between Great Lakes wolves and western 
gray wolves had taken place before 1910, the year of collection.
    Koblm[uuml]ller et al. (2009) conclude that, despite what they 
consider both ancient and recent incidences of interbreeding with 
coyotes and western gray wolves, Great Lakes wolves remain 
morphologically distinct and represent a ``distinct taxon'' of gray 
wolf (Canis lupus) that is adapted to the region. They do not, however, 
conclude that this taxon is differentiated enough to be recognized as a 
species separate from gray wolves, as proposed by Wilson et al. (2000).
    Several recent studies conclude that the eastern wolf is a unique 
species and should be recognized as C. lycaon (Wheeldon and White 2009; 
Wilson et al. 2009; Fain et al. 2010, p. 15; Wheeldon et al. 2010). 
Wheeldon and White (2009, pp. 3-4) state that both the present-day and 
pre-recovery wolf populations in the western Great Lakes region are 
genetically similar and that both were derived from hybridization 
between C. lupus and the eastern wolf, C. lycaon. Fain et al. (2010, p. 
10) recognize C. lycaon as a unique species of North American wolf, and 
based on mtDNA and Y-chromosome haplotypes and autosomal microsatellite 
markers, they establish that the population of wolves in the western 
Great Lakes region comprise C. lupus, C. lycaon, and their hybrids. 
Contrary to Koblm[uuml]ller et al. (2009), Fain et al. (2010, p. 14) 
found no evidence of interbreeding with coyotes. Furthermore, they 
conclude that the western Great Lakes States were included in the 
historical range of C. lycaon and that hybridization between the two 
species ``predates significant human intervention'' (Fain et al. 2010, 
pp. 13-14).
    Wheeldon et al. (2010, p. 2) used multiple genetic markers to 
clarify the taxonomic status of Canis species in the western Great 
Lakes region of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and western Ontario. 
They conclude that the current western Great Lakes wolf population is 
``composed of gray-eastern wolf hybrids that probably resulted from 
historic hybridization between the parental species'' (Wheeldon et al. 
2010, p. 10), and that the appropriate taxonomic designation for the 
western Great Lakes hybrid wolves is C. lupus x lycaon, replacing 
Nowak's (2009) wolf subspecies designation of C. lupus lycaon. We note, 
however, that a name in the form of C. lupus x lycaon has no standing 
as an available species name under the rules of zoological nomenclature 
(ICZN 1999).
    It is clear from the studies discussed above that the taxonomic 
classification of wolves in the western Great Lakes region is one that 
has been, and will continue to be, of great debate in the scientific 
community. Most researchers, however, appear to agree that there is a 
unique and genetically identifiable form of wolf that occupies the 
western Great Lakes region, and that this form has hybridized with 
Canis lupus, whose origins were from elsewhere in North America. 
Researchers differ in whether this unique form of wolf should be 
recognized as a species (Wilson et al. 2000; Fain et al. 2010, p. 15; 
Wheeldon et al. 2010), a subspecies (Nowak 1995), or a distinct taxon 
or ecotype but without applying a formal scientific name to that form 
(Koblm[uuml]ller et al. 2009). In choosing among these three 
alternatives, we find that the large divergence of both mtDNA and Y-
chromosome haplotypes between Great Lakes wolves and C. lupus is 
greater than that found between subspecies of Canis lupus and favors 
recognition of the eastern wolf as a species. Currently, the best 
available scientific information supports recognition of the eastern 
wolf, C. lycaon, as a species (rather than, as previous believed, as a 
subspecies of gray wolf), and establishes that this species has 
intercrossed with C. lupus in the western Great Lakes region to 
constitute a population composed of C. lupus, C. lycaon, and their 
hybrids (Wheeldon and White 2009, p. 1; Fain et al. 2010, p. 14; Mech 
et al. 2010; Wheeldon et al. 2010).
    The existence of two wolf species in the western Great Lakes region 
was not known or suspected in 1978, when the Service replaced the 
listings of four subspecies of gray wolf, including C. lupus lycaon, 
with the listing of all Canis lupus and Canis lupus subspecies in the 
conterminous United States and Mexico as endangered, except for the 
Minnesota population, which was listed as threatened (USFWS 1978). 
Since that time, increasingly powerful genetic techniques for the 
characterization of populations have been developed and applied to wild 
populations, including wolves. These advances have shown that 
hybridization between species is much more prevalent than was 
appreciated in 1978 (Schwenk et al. 2011); thus the detection of 
hybridization in western Great Lakes wolves is not unique among 
mammalian species.

[[Page 26094]]

    Nowak's (1995, 2002, 2003) exclusion of the western Great Lakes 
region from C. l. lycaon was likely influenced by his inclusion of both 
C. lupus and C. lycaon in his western Great Lakes sample. In any event, 
the various genetic investigations of western Great Lakes wolves 
clearly show a distribution of eastern wolf (C. lycaon) genetic markers 
throughout the region.
    We do not accept the proposal of Wilson et al. (2000) that C. 
lycaon and C. rufus (red wolf) are the same species. Their conclusion 
was based on red wolf and C. lycaon occurring on the same branch of a 
phylogenetic network representing mtDNA differences (Wilson et al. 
2000, Figure 5A). This relationship has not been found in subsequent 
studies (Wilson et al. 2003; Leonard and Wayne 2008, p. 2; Fain et al. 
2010, p. 9), which placed the red wolf and C. lycaon on different 
branches separated by intervening coyote lineages. This suggests that 
the red wolf and C. lycaon may have evolved independently from common 
ancestors with modern coyotes, but does not support uniting them as a 
single species.

Genetic Composition of Wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region

    Estimates of the genetic composition of the wolves of the western 
Great Lakes region with respect to the two species (C. lupus and C. 
lycaon) are based on the frequencies of different paternal (Y-
chromosome) and maternal (mtDNA) markers specific to the each species 
in samples of wolves from the region. For mtDNA, 66 percent of sampled 
wolves had C. lycaon haplotypes (Fain et al. 2010, p. 13; Wheeldon et 
al. 2010). For Y-chromosome haplotypes, 54 percent (Wheeldon et al. 
2010) or 50 percent (Fain et al. 2010, p. 7) of sampled wolves had 
haplotypes of C. lycaon. Male wolves carry both paternal and maternal 
markers. Of male wolves sampled by Fain et al. (2010, p. 12), 41 
percent had both maternal and paternal haplotypes of C. lycaon, and 13 
percent had both maternal and paternal haplotypes of C. lupus. Based on 
a larger sample that also included some wolves from western Ontario, 
Wheeldon et al. (2010) reported 42 percent of the sampled male wolves 
had both maternal and paternal haplotypes of C. lycaon and 21 percent 
had both maternal and paternal haplotypes of C. lupus. Maternal and 
paternal haplotypes were mixed with respect to the two species for the 
remaining wolves in both studies.
    Although it is clear that C. lycaon and C. lupus have hybridized in 
the western Great Lakes region, same-species combinations of paternal 
and maternal markers in male wolves are more common than expected by 
random mating (Wheeldon et al. 2010). This suggests that there is some 
constraint on complete hybridization between the two species and that 
complete blending of the two components of the population is not 
inevitable. The limited number of historical specimens from the western 
Great Lakes region that have been genetically characterized all have 
mtDNA indicative of C. lycaon (Leonard and Wayne 2008, pp. 2-3; 
Wheeldon and White 2009, p. 1), but four of these from the early 20th 
century also had C. lupus Y-chromosome haplotypes, which indicates that 
hybridization had occurred by that time. The opportunity for 
hybridization between C. lycaon, which belongs to a North American 
lineage, and C. lupus, which evolved in Eurasia, has existed since C. 
lupus entered North America about 500,000 years ago (Kurt[eacute]n and 
Anderson 1980), yet a predominantly C. lycaon population of wolves 
still persists in the western Great Lakes region.

Wolf-Coyote Relationships

    For a discussion on interpretations of wolf-coyote relationships in 
the western Great Lakes, see the discussion under Factor E. Other 
Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence in this 
proposed rule.

Procedural Aspects of Proposal Applying to the Gray Wolf (C. lupus)

    When the Service revised the endangered species list in 1978 to 
include the species Canis lupus in the lower 48 States and Mexico, 
regulatory protections were applied to all gray wolves in the lower 48 
States, including all subspecies of gray wolves, which were subsumed at 
that time into C. lupus. That rule classified the Minnesota gray wolf 
population as a threatened ``species'' and gray wolves elsewhere in the 
lower 48 States and Mexico as another ``species'' with endangered 
status. The best scientific information available supports the 
existence of distinct taxa and populations within the C. lupus listing 
and changes our understanding of North American wolf taxonomy. With 
regard to the WGL wolf population, current scientific data indicate 
that Canis lycaon, which was understood in 1978 to be a subspecies of 
C. lupus, should be recognized as a full species, and that C. lycaon 
and C. lupus both occur, and to some extent, interbreed in the western 
Great Lakes area (see Taxonomy of Wolves in the Western Great Lakes 
Region).
    The existence of this new information does not by itself change the 
regulatory status of the gray wolf (C. lupus) under the Act--such 
changes must be made through rulemaking. This proposed rule recognizes 
the taxonomic changes and the improved status of the WGL gray wolf 
populations and proposes those appropriate and necessary administrative 
changes for the gray wolf in the WGL and portions of the eastern United 
States.
    Based on our current understanding of wolf systematics, we 
recognize that not all individual wolves in the WGL region are in fact, 
gray wolves, Canis lupus. Within this rule we are proposing changes to 
the listing for C. lupus and are initiating a status review for C. 
lycaon. These two actions combined will address all wolves in the WGL 
region.
    The procedural aspects of this proposed rule (e.g., the revision of 
the 1978 listing of the group of gray wolves in Minnesota as a 
``species'' to a DPS and the delisting of that DPS) refer to the gray 
wolf (C. lupus), because that is the named entity currently on the List 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Our proposed action here is to 
establish the existence of a WGL distinct population segment of C. 
lupus and to determine that the DPS is neither endangered nor 
threatened, despite its proximity to a closely related species, C. 
lycaon--a species whose status we will evaluate for possible protection 
under the Act in the near future.

Biology and Ecology of Wolves in the Western Great Lakes

    Gray wolves are the largest wild members of the Canidae, or dog 
family, with adults ranging from 18 to 80 kilograms (kg) (40 to 175 
pounds (lb)) depending upon sex and subspecies (Mech 1974). The average 
weight of male wolves in Wisconsin is 35 kg (77 lb) and ranges from 26 
to 46 kg (57 to 102 lb), while females average 28 kg (62 lb) and range 
from 21 to 34 kg (46 to 75 lb) (Wisconsin Department of Natural 
Resources (WI DNR) 1999). Wolves' fur color is frequently a grizzled 
gray, but it can vary from pure white to coal black. Wolves may appear 
similar to coyotes (Canis latrans) and some domestic dog breeds (such 
as the German shepherd or Siberian husky) (C. lupus familiaris). 
Wolves' longer legs, larger feet, wider head and snout, and straight 
tail distinguish them from both coyotes and dogs.
    Wolves primarily are predators of medium and large mammals. Wild 
prey species in North America include white-tailed deer (Odocoileus 
virginianus) and mule deer (O. hemionus), moose (Alces alces), elk 
(Cervus elaphus), woodland caribou (Rangifer caribou) and barren

[[Page 26095]]

ground caribou (R. arcticus), bison (Bison bison), muskox (Ovibos 
moschatus), bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) and Dall sheep (O. dalli), 
mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus), beaver (Castor canadensis), 
snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), and muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), 
with small mammals, birds, and large invertebrates sometimes being 
taken (Chavez and Gese 2005, Mech 1974, Stebler 1944, WI DNR 1999, 
Huntzinger et al. 2005). In the WGL DPS, during the last 25 years, 
wolves have also killed domestic animals including horses (Equus 
caballus), cattle (Bos taurus), sheep (Ovis aries), goats (Capra 
hircus), llamas (Lama glama), pigs (Sus scrofa), geese (Anser sp.), 
ducks (Anas sp.), turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), chickens (Gallus sp.), 
guinea fowl (Numida meleagris), pheasants (Phasianus colchicus), dogs, 
cats (Felis catus), and captive white-tailed deer (Paul 2004, 2005; 
Wydeven 1998; Wydeven et al. 2001; Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 1999, 2000, 
2001, 2005).
    Wolves are social animals, normally living in packs of 2 to 12 
wolves. Winter pack size in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP) averaged 
from 2.7 to 4.6 wolves during the 1995 through 2005 period and ranged 
from 2 to 14 wolves per pack (Huntzinger et al. 2005). Pack size in 
Wisconsin is similar, averaging 3.8 to 4.1 wolves per pack, and ranging 
from 2 to 11 wolves in winter 2004-05 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2005). 
In Minnesota the average pack size found in the 1988-89, 1997-98, and 
2003-04 winter surveys was higher--5.55, 5.4, and 5.3 wolves per pack, 
respectively (Erb and Benson 2004).
    Packs are primarily family groups consisting of a breeding pair, 
their pups from the current year, offspring from one or two previous 
years, and occasionally an unrelated wolf. Packs typically occupy, and 
defend from other packs and individual wolves, a territory of 20 to 214 
square (sq) miles (mi) (50 to 550 sq kilometers (km)). Midwest wolf 
packs tend to occupy territories on the lower end of this size range. 
Michigan Upper Peninsula territories averaged 103 sq mi (267 sq km in 
2000-01 (Drummer et al. 2002), Wisconsin territories 37 sq mi (96 sq 
km) in 2004-05 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2005), and Minnesota territory 
size averaged 39 sq mi (102 sq km) in 2003-04 (Erb and Benson 2004). 
Normally, only the top-ranking (``alpha'') male and female in each pack 
breed and produce pups. Litters are born from early April into May; 
they range from 1 to 11 pups, but generally include 4 to 6 pups 
(Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MI DNR) 1997; USFWS 1992; 
USFWS et al. 2001). Normally a pack has a single litter annually, but 
the production of 2 or 3 litters in one year has been routinely 
documented in Yellowstone National Park (USFWS et al. 2002; Smith et 
al. 2005).
    Yearling wolves frequently disperse from their natal packs, 
although some remain with their natal pack. Adult wolves and pups older 
than 5 months also may disperse but at much lower frequencies (Fuller 
1989). Dispersers may range over large areas as lone animals after 
leaving their natal pack or they may locate suitable unoccupied habitat 
and a member of the opposite sex and begin their own pack. These 
dispersal movements allow a wolf population to quickly expand and 
colonize areas of suitable habitat that are nearby or even those that 
are isolated by a broad area of unsuitable habitat. Additional details 
on extraterritorial movements are found in Delineating the Boundaries 
of the Proposed WGL Gray Wolf DPS, below.

Recovery of Western Great Lakes Wolves

Recovery Criteria

    Recovery plans are not regulatory documents and are instead 
intended to provide guidance to the Service, States, and other partners 
on methods of minimizing threats to listed species and achieving 
recovery. These documents include, among other elements required under 
section 4(f) of the Act, criteria for determining when a species can be 
delisted. There are many paths to accomplishing recovery of a species; 
in fact, recovery of a species is a dynamic process requiring adaptive 
management that may, or may not, strictly adhere to the guidance 
provided in a recovery plan.
    We use recovery criteria in concert with evidence that threats have 
been minimized sufficiently and populations have achieved long-term 
viability to judge when a species can be reclassified from endangered 
to threatened or delisted. Recovery plans, including recovery criteria, 
are subject to change based upon new information and are revised 
accordingly and when practicable. In a similar sense, implementation of 
planned actions is subject to changing information and availability of 
resources. We have taken these considerations into account in the 
following discussion.
    The 1978 Recovery Plan (hereafter Recovery Plan) and the 1992 
Revised Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf (hereafter Revised 
Recovery Plan) contain the same two recovery criteria. The first 
recovery criterion states that the survival of the wolf in Minnesota 
must be assured. We, and the Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team 
(Peterson in litt. 1997, 1998, 1999a, 1999b), have concluded that this 
recovery criterion remains valid. It addresses a need for reasonable 
assurances that future state, Tribal, and Federal wolf management and 
protection will maintain a viable recovered population of wolves within 
the borders of Minnesota for the foreseeable future.
    The Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf was based on the best 
available information on wolf taxonomy at the time of its original 
publication and subsequent revision. As discussed above in Taxonomy of 
Wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region, since the publication of 
those plans, several studies have produced conflicting results 
regarding the taxonomic identity of the wolf that historically occupied 
the eastern States. Currently, the Service subscribes to the view that 
what was formerly recognized as the subspecies C. lupus lycaon should 
be recognized as a unique species, C. lycaon. Regardless of its 
taxonomic identity, however, this recovery program has always focused 
on recovering the wolf population that survived in, and has expanded 
outward from, northeastern Minnesota. Thus, the Plans guide our 
analysis of recovery of the wolves in the western Great Lakes area.
    Although the recovery criteria identified in the Recovery Plan 
predate the scientific field of conservation biology, the conservation 
principles of representation (conserving the genetic diversity of a 
taxon), resilience (the ability to withstand demographic and 
environmental variation), and redundancy (sufficient populations to 
provide a margin of safety) were incorporated into these criteria. 
Maintenance of the Minnesota wolf population is vital in terms of 
representation and resilience, because the remaining genetic diversity 
of wolves in the eastern United States (other than red wolves) was 
carried by the several hundred wolves that survived in Minnesota into 
the early 1970s. The Recovery Team insisted that the remnant Minnesota 
wolf population be maintained and protected to achieve wolf recovery in 
the eastern United States. The successful growth of the remnant 
Minnesota population has maintained and maximized the representation of 
that genetic diversity among wolves in the WGL. Although the Revised 
Recovery Plan did not establish a specific numerical criterion for the 
Minnesota wolf population, it did identify, for planning purposes only, 
a population goal of 1,251-1,400

[[Page 26096]]

animals for that Minnesota population (USFWS 1992, p. 28). A population 
of this size would increase the likelihood of maintaining its genetic 
diversity over the long term. This large Minnesota wolf population also 
provides resiliency to reduce the adverse impacts of unpredictable 
demographic and environmental events. Furthermore, the Revised Recovery 
Plan specifies a wolf population that is spread across about 40 percent 
of Minnesota (Zones 1 through 4) (USFWS 1992, p. 28), adding a 
geographic component to the resiliency of the Minnesota wolf 
population.
    The second recovery criterion in the Recovery Plan states that at 
least one viable wolf population should be reestablished within the 
historical range of the eastern timber wolf outside of Minnesota and 
Isle Royale, Michigan (USFWS 1992, pp. 24-26). The reestablished 
population enhances both the resiliency and redundancy of the WGL 
metapopulation.
    The Recovery Plan provides two options for reestablishing this 
second population. If it is an isolated population, that is, located 
more than 100 mi (160 km) from the Minnesota wolf population, the 
second population should consist of at least 200 wolves for at least 5 
years, based upon late-winter population estimates, to be considered 
viable. Late-winter estimates are made at a time when most winter 
mortality has already occurred and before the birth of pups, thus, the 
count is made at the annual low point of the population. Alternatively, 
if the second population is located within 100 mi (160 km) of a self-
sustaining wolf population (for example, the Minnesota wolf 
population), it should be maintained at a minimum of 100 wolves for at 
least 5 years, based on late-winter population estimates, to be 
considered viable. A nearby second population would be considered 
viable at a smaller size because it would be geographically close 
enough to exchange wolves with the Minnesota population (that is, they 
would function as a metapopulation), thereby bolstering the smaller 
second population both genetically and numerically.
    The original Recovery Plan did not specify where in the eastern 
United States the second population should be re-established. 
Therefore, the second population could have been established anywhere 
within the triangular Minnesota-Maine-Florida area covered by the 
Recovery Plan and the Revised Recovery Plan, except on Isle Royale 
(Michigan) or within Minnesota. The Revised Recovery Plan identified 
potential gray wolf reestablishment areas in northern Wisconsin, the UP 
of Michigan, the Adirondack Forest Preserve of New York, a small area 
in eastern Maine, and a larger area of northwestern Maine and adjacent 
northern New Hampshire (USFWS 1992, pp. 56-58). Neither the 1978 nor 
the 1992 recovery criteria suggest that the restoration of the gray 
wolf throughout all or most of what was thought to be its historical 
range in the eastern United States, or to all of these potential re-
establishment areas, is necessary to achieve recovery under the Act.
    In 1998, the Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team clarified the 
application of the recovery criterion for the second population to the 
wolf population that had developed in northern Wisconsin and the 
adjacent UP of Michigan. This second population is less than 100 mi 
(160 km) from the Minnesota wolf population. The Recovery Team 
recommended that the numerical recovery criterion for the Wisconsin-
Michigan population be considered met when consecutive late-winter wolf 
surveys document that the population equals or exceeds 100 wolves 
(excluding Isle Royale wolves) for the 5 consecutive years between the 
first and last surveys (Peterson in litt. 1998).

Recovery Trends for Wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region

Minnesota Recovery
    During the pre-1965 period of wolf bounties and legal public 
trapping, wolves persisted in the remote northeastern portion of 
Minnesota but were eliminated from the rest of the State. Estimated 
numbers of Minnesota wolves before their listing under the Act in 1974 
include 450 to 700 wolves in 1950-53 (Fuller et al. 1992, p. 43, based 
on data in Stenlund 1955, p. 19), 350 to 700 wolves in 1963 (Cahalane 
1964, p. 10), 750 wolves in 1970 (Leirfallom 1970, p. 11), 736 to 950 
wolves in 1971-72 (Fuller et al. 1992, p. 44), and 500 to 1,000 wolves 
in 1973 (Mech and Rausch 1975, p. 85). Although these estimates were 
based on different methodologies and are not directly comparable, each 
puts the pre-listing abundance of wolves in Minnesota at 1,000 or less. 
This was the only significant wolf population in the United States 
outside Alaska during those time periods.
    After the gray wolf was listed as endangered under the Act in 1974, 
the Minnesota population estimates increased (see table 1 below). Mech 
estimated the population to be 1,000 to 1,200 wolves in 1976 (USFWS 
1978, pp. 4, 50-52), and Berg and Kuehn (1982, p. 11) estimated that 
there were 1,235 wolves in 138 packs in the winter of 1978-79. In 1988-
89, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) repeated the 
1978-79 survey and also used a second method to estimate wolf numbers 
in Minnesota. The resulting independent estimates were 1,500 and 1,750 
wolves in at least 233 packs; the lower number was derived by a method 
comparable to the 1978-79 survey (Fuller et al. 1992, pp. 50-51).
    During the winter of 1997-98, the MN DNR repeated a statewide wolf 
population and distribution survey, using methods similar to those of 
the two previous surveys. Field staff of Federal, State, Tribal, and 
county land management agencies and wood products companies were 
queried to identify occupied wolf range in Minnesota. Data from 5 
concurrent radio telemetry studies tracking 36 packs, representative of 
the entire Minnesota wolf range, were used to determine average pack 
size and territory area. Those figures were then used to calculate a 
statewide estimate of wolf and pack numbers in the occupied range, with 
single (non-pack) wolves factored into the estimate (Berg and Benson 
1999, pp. 1-2).

Table 1--Minimum Winter Wolf Populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (Excluding Isle Royale) From 1976
 Through 2010. (Note That There are Several Years Between the First Three estimates. Minnesota Does Not Conduct
                                                Annual Surveys.)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         Number of wolves
                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------
                      Year                                                                         Wisconsin and
                                                     Minnesota       Wisconsin       Michigan     Michigan total
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1976............................................     1,000-1,200  ..............  ..............  ..............
1978-79.........................................           1,235  ..............  ..............  ..............
1988-89.........................................     1,500-1,750              31               3              34

[[Page 26097]]

 
1989-90.........................................  ..............              34              10              44
1990-91.........................................  ..............              40              17              57
1991-92.........................................  ..............              45              21              66
1992-93.........................................  ..............              40              30              70
1993-94.........................................  ..............              57              57             114
1994-95.........................................  ..............              83              80             163
1995-96.........................................  ..............              99             116             215
1996-97.........................................  ..............             148             113             261
1997-98.........................................           2,445             180             139             319
1998-99.........................................  ..............             205             169             374
1999-2000.......................................  ..............             248             216             464
2000-01.........................................  ..............             257             249             506
2001-02.........................................  ..............             327             278             604
2002-03.........................................  ..............             335             321             656
2003-04.........................................           3,020             373             360             733
2004-05.........................................  ..............             435             405             840
2005-06.........................................  ..............             467             434             899
2006-07.........................................  ..............             546             509           1,055
2007-08.........................................           2,921             549             520           1,069
2008-09.........................................  ..............             637             577           1,214
2009-10.........................................  ..............             690             557           1,247
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The 1997-98 survey concluded that approximately 2,445 wolves 
existed in about 385 packs in Minnesota during that winter period (90 
percent confidence interval from 1,995 to 2,905 wolves) (Berg and 
Benson 1999, p. 4). This figure indicated the continued growth of the 
Minnesota wolf population at an average rate of about 3.7 percent 
annually from 1970 through 1997-98. Between 1979 and 1989 the annual 
growth rate was approximately 3 percent, and it increased to between 4 
and 5 percent in the next decade (Berg and Benson 1999, p. 5; Fuller et 
al. 1992, p. 51). As of the 1998 survey, the number of Minnesota wolves 
had reached approximately twice the number specified in the recovery 
planning goal for Minnesota (USFWS 1992, p. 28).
    Minnesota DNR conducted another survey of the State's wolf 
population and range during the winter of 2003-04, again using 
methodology similar to the previous surveys. That survey concluded that 
an estimated 3,020 wolves in 485 packs occurred in Minnesota (90 
percent confidence interval for this estimate is 2,301 to 3,708 wolves) 
(Erb and Benson 2004, pp. 7, 9). The MN DNR conducted its most recent 
survey of wolf population and range during the winter of 2007-08. That 
survey concluded that an estimated 2,921 wolves in 503 packs occurred 
in Minnesota (90 percent confidence interval for this estimate is 2,192 
to 3,525 wolves). The results of the past three surveys suggest that 
the wolf population has been numerically stable over the past 10 or 
more years (Erb 2008, p. 6).
    As wolves increased in abundance in Minnesota, they also expanded 
their distribution. During 1948-53, the primary wolf range was 
estimated at 11,954 sq mi (31,080 sq km) (Stenlund 1955, p. 19). A 1970 
questionnaire survey in Minnesota resulted in an estimated wolf range 
of 14,769 sq mi (38,400 sq km) (calculated by Fuller et al. 1992, p. 
43, from Leirfallom 1970). Fuller et al. (1992, p. 44), using data from 
Berg and Kuehn (1982), estimated that Minnesota primary wolf range 
encompassed 14,038 sq mi (36,500 sq km) during the winter of 1978-79. 
By 1982-83, pairs or breeding packs of wolves were estimated to occupy 
an area of 22,000 sq mi (57,050 sq km) in northern Minnesota (Mech et 
al. 1988, p. 86). That study also identified an additional 15,577 sq mi 
(40,500 sq km) of peripheral range, where habitat appeared suitable but 
no wolves or only lone wolves existed. The 1988-89 study produced an 
estimate of 23,165 sq mi (60,200 sq km) as the contiguous wolf range at 
that time in Minnesota (Fuller et al. 1992, pp. 48-49; Berg and Benson 
1999, p. 3, 5), an increase of 65 percent over the primary range 
calculated for 1978-79.
    The 1997-98 study concluded that the contiguous wolf range had 
expanded to 33,971 sq mi (88,325 sq km), a 47 percent increase in 9 
years (Berg and Benson 1999, p. 5). By that time the Minnesota wolf 
population was using most of the available primary and peripheral range 
identified by Mech et al. (1988, p. 86). The wolf population in 
Minnesota had increased in abundance and distribution to the point that 
its contiguous range covered approximately 40 percent of the State 
during 1997-98. In contrast, the 2003-04 survey failed to show a 
continuing expansion of wolf range in Minnesota, and any actual 
increase in wolf numbers since 1997-98 was attributed to increased wolf 
density within a stabilized range (Erb and Benson 2004, p. 7). The 
results of the 2007-08 survey also indicated that wolf range in 
Minnesota remained ``essentially unchanged'' since 2004 (Erb 2008, not 
paginated).
    Although the Minnesota DNR does not conduct a formal wolf 
population survey annually, it includes the species in its annual 
carnivore track survey. This survey, standardized and operational since 
1994, provides an annual index of abundance for several species of 
large carnivores by counting their tracks along 20-mile (32-km) long 
standardized survey routes in northern Minnesota. In 2009, wolves were 
detected on 71 percent of the 58 routes surveyed, and the resulting 
indices of abundance and distribution were not appreciably different 
from recent years (Erb 2009, not paginated).

[[Page 26098]]

Summary for Minnesota
    The Minnesota wolf population has increased from an estimated 1,000 
individuals in 1976 to nearly 3,000 today and the estimated wolf range 
in the State has expanded by approximately 225 percent (from 
approximately 15,000 sq mi (24,100 sq km) to approximately 34,000 sq mi 
(54,700 sq km)) since 1970. Over the past 10-12 years, the population 
size and range have remained stable, as most of the primary and 
peripheral habitat has been occupied. Based on the current abundance 
and distribution of the Minnesota wolf population, we believe its 
continued survival is ensured, and it achieves the first recovery 
criterion of the Revised Recovery Plan.
Wisconsin Recovery
    Wolves were considered to have been extirpated from Wisconsin by 
1960. No formal attempts were made to monitor the State's wolf 
population from 1960 through 1978. Although individual wolves and an 
occasional wolf pair were reported from 1960 through 1975, (Thiel 1978, 
Thiel 1993), there was no documentation of wolf reproduction occurring 
in Wisconsin, and the wolves that were reported may have been 
dispersing animals from Minnesota.
    Wolves are believed to have reestablished breeding packs in 
Wisconsin in the winter of 1975-76. The Wisconsin Department of Natural 
Resources (WI DNR) began wolf population monitoring in 1979-80, 
estimating a statewide population of 25 wolves at that time (Wydeven 
and Wiedenhoeft 2000, pp. 151, 159; Wydeven et al. 2009c, pp. 93-97). 
This population remained relatively stable for several years, and then 
declined to approximately 15 to 19 wolves in the mid-1980s. In the late 
1980s, the Wisconsin wolf population began an increase that has 
continued into 2010, when 690 wolves were counted (Wydeven et al. 2010, 
Figure 3).
    Since 1979, WI DNR has intensively surveyed its wolf population on 
an annual basis using a combination of aerial, ground, and satellite 
radio telemetry complemented by snow tracking and wolf sign surveys 
(Wydeven et al. 2006a, pp. 4-5; Wydeven et al. 2009c, pp. 90-91). 
Wolves are trapped from May through September and fitted with radio 
collars, with a goal of having at least one radio collared wolf in 
approximately half of the wolf packs in Wisconsin. Aerial locations are 
obtained from each functioning radio collar about once per week, and 
pack territories are estimated and mapped from the movements of the 
individuals who exhibit localized patterns. From December through 
March, the pilots make special efforts to visually locate and count the 
individual wolves in each radio-tracked pack.
    Snow tracking is used to supplement the information gained from 
aerial sightings and to provide pack size estimates for packs lacking a 
radio-collared wolf. Tracking is done by assigning survey blocks to 
trained trackers, who then drive snow-covered roads in their blocks and 
follow all wolf tracks they encounter. Snowmobiles are used to locate 
wolf tracks in more remote areas with few roads. The results of the 
aerial and ground surveys are carefully compared to properly separate 
packs and to avoid over-counting (Wydeven et al. 2006a, pp. 4-5). The 
estimated number of wolves in each pack is based on the aerial and 
ground observations made of the individual wolves in each pack over the 
winter.
    Because the monitoring methods focus on wolf packs, lone wolves are 
likely undercounted in Wisconsin. As a result, the annual population 
estimates are probably slight underestimates of the actual wolf 
population within the State during the late-winter period. Fuller 
(1989, p. 19) noted that lone wolves are estimated to compose from 2 to 
29 percent of the total population in the area. Wisconsin DNR surveys 
have estimated 2-15 percent of the winter population as loners (Wydeven 
et al. 2009c, p. 96). These surveys, however, are focused on heavily 
forested portions of northern and central Wisconsin; therefore, 
dispersing wolves traveling other portions of the State are less likely 
to be detected, and often such wolves are only documented after vehicle 
collisions or accidental shootings. Broader use of trail cameras by 
members of the public is improving the WI DNR's ability to detect lone 
wolves across the State.
    As previously stated, population estimates are made at the low 
point of the annual wolf population cycle. Thus, Wisconsin wolf 
population estimates are conservative in two respects. They undercount 
lone wolves, and the count is made at the annual low point of the 
population. This methodology is consistent with the recovery criteria 
established in the Revised Recovery Plan, which established numerical 
criteria to be measured with data obtained by late-winter surveys. 
Based on these considerations, an estimated 690 to 733 wolves in 181 
packs, including 35 wolves on Native American reservations, were in 
Wisconsin in early 2010, representing an 8 percent increase from 2009 
(Wydeven et al. 2010, pp. 12-13).
    In the winter of 1994-95, wolves were first documented in Jackson 
County, Wisconsin, well to the south of the area occupied by other 
Wisconsin wolf packs in the northern part of the State (Thiel et al. 
2009, pp. 109-110). The number of wolves in this central Wisconsin area 
has dramatically increased since that time. During the winter of 2009-
10, there were 100-106 wolves in 25 packs in the central forest wolf 
range (Zone 2 in the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan; Wydeven et al. 
2010, p. 5) and an additional 46 to 48 wolves in 12 or 13 packs in the 
marginal habitat in Zone 3, located between Zone 1 (northern forest 
wolf range) and Zones 2 and 4 (Wydeven et al. 2010, p. 5).
    During the winter of 2004-05, 11 to 13 wolves were believed to be 
primarily occupying Native American reservation lands in Wisconsin 
(Wydeven in litt. 2005); this increased to 16 to 17 in 2005-06, 17 to 
19 in 2007-08 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2008, Summary), approximately 27 
in 2008-2009 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2008, p. 1), and approximately 35 
in 2009-10 (Wydeven et al. 2010, p. 1). The 2009-10 survey consisted of 
3 packs totaling 10-11 wolves on the Bad River Chippewa Reservation and 
a pack of 2 wolves on the Lac Courtes Oreilles Chippewa Reservation, 
both in northwestern Wisconsin. There also were two packs of five 
wolves each on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation in north-central 
Wisconsin. A pack of four wolves and three pairs occurred on the 
Menominee Reservation and a three-wolf pack occurred on the Stockbridge 
Reservation, both in northeastern Wisconsin (Wydeven et al. 2010, Table 
6). A pack of four to five wolves spent time on portions of the Red 
Cliff Chippewa Reservation along the Lake Superior shoreline. Wolf 
packs also used scattered lands of the St. Croix Chippewa in northwest 
Wisconsin, the Ho Chunk Nation in central Wisconsin, and Potawatomi in 
northeast Wisconsin. The Tribal land of the Ho-Chunk, St. Croix 
Chippewa, and Potawatomi are composed mostly of scattered parcels of 
land, and are not likely to provide significant amounts of wolf 
habitat. About 90 percent of packs in northern Wisconsin Zone 1, and 
northern portions of Zone 3 are located in ceded territory where 
Chippewa Bands have retained hunting and gathering rights.
    In 2002, wolf numbers in Wisconsin alone surpassed the 1992 Revised 
Recovery Plan criterion for a second population within 100 miles of the 
Minnesota population (100 wolves for a minimum of 5 consecutive years 
(USFWS 1992, p. 4)). Furthermore, in 2004, Wisconsin wolf numbers

[[Page 26099]]

exceeded the 1992 recovery criterion of 200 animals for 6 successive 
late-winter surveys for an isolated wolf population (USFWS 1992, p. 4). 
Wisconsin population estimates for 1985 to 2010 increased from 15 to 
690 wolves (see table 1 above) and from 4 to 181 packs (Wydeven et al. 
2010, figure 3). This represents an annual population increase of 21 
percent through 2000, and an average annual increase of 6 percent for 
the most recent 6 years. The slower rates of increase since 2000 are an 
indication that the State's wolf population growth and geographic 
expansion are beginning to level off.
Michigan Recovery
    Except for Isle Royale, wolves were extirpated from Michigan as a 
reproducing species long before they were listed as endangered under 
the Act in 1974. Prior to 1989, the last known breeding population of 
wild Michigan wolves outside Isle Royale occurred in the mid-1950s. 
However, as wolves began to reoccupy northern Wisconsin, the Michigan 
Department of Natural Resources (MI DNR) began noting single wolves at 
various locations in the UP of Michigan. Wolf recovery in Michigan 
began with the documentation of three wolves traveling together and 
making territorial marks in the central UP during the fall of 1988; and 
the subsequent birth of pups in this territory during spring 1989 
(Beyer et al. 2009, p. 73). Since that time, wolf packs have spread 
throughout the UP, with immigration occurring from Wisconsin on the 
west and possibly from Ontario on the east. Wolves now are found in 
every county of the UP, with the possible exception of Keweenaw County 
(Huntzinger et al. 2005, p. 6; Roell 2009, pers. comm.).
    The MI DNR annually monitors the wolf population in the UP by 
conducting a winter survey. Roads and trails are searched intensively 
and extensively for wolf tracks and other wolf sign using trucks and 
snowmobiles (Potvin et al. 2005). Complete surveys conducted from 1999 
to 2006 provided an opportunity to evaluate multiple sampling 
approaches (MI DNR 2008). Based on these evaluations, it was determined 
that a geographically stratified sampling protocol produced unbiased, 
precise estimates of wolf abundance (Potvin et al. 2005; Drummer, 
unpublished data). The sampling protocol implemented in 2007 allows 
trackers to spend more time in smaller areas (MI DNR 2008).
    The UP is divided into 21 survey units from which a stratified 
random sample is drawn, covering roughly 50 percent of the UP every 
year (MI DNR 2008). Pack locations are derived from previous surveys, 
citizen reports, and extensive ground and aerial tracking of radio-
collared wolves. During the winter of 2009-10, 557 wolves in 109 packs 
were resident in the UP (MI DNR in litt. 2010, Table 1). Surveys along 
the border of adjacent survey units are coordinated to avoid double 
counting of wolves and packs occupying those border areas. In areas 
with a high density of wolves, ground surveys by four to six surveyors 
with concurrent aerial tracking are used to accurately delineate 
territories of adjacent packs and count their members (Beyer et al. 
2004, pp. 2-3; Huntzinger et al. 2005, pp. 3-6; Potvin et al. 2005, p. 
1661). As with Wisconsin, the Michigan surveys likely miss lone wolves, 
thus underestimating the actual population.
    Based on annual surveys in late winter, estimates of wolves in the 
UP increased from 57 wolves in 1994 to 557 in late winter 2009-10 (see 
table 1 above). Over the last 10 years, the annualized rate of increase 
has been about 12 percent (MI DNR in litt. 2010, table 1). This rate 
has varied from year to year, but there appear to be two distinct 
phases of population growth, with relatively rapid growth (25.8 percent 
average) from 1995 through 2000 and slower growth (10.1 percent 
average) from 2001 through 2010. In 2005, the number of wolves in the 
Michigan population alone surpassed the recovery criterion for an 
isolated wolf population of 200 animals for 6 successive late-winter 
surveys, as specified in the Revised Recovery Plan (USFWS 1992, pp. 24-
26).
    To date, no wolf packs are known to be primarily using Tribal-owned 
lands in Michigan (Roell 2011, pers. comm.). Native American Tribes in 
the UP of Michigan own small, scattered parcels of land relative to the 
size of wolf pack territories. Thus, no one Tribal property would 
likely support a wolf pack. However, as wolves occur in all counties in 
the UP and are wide-ranging, Tribal land is likely used periodically by 
wolves.
    In October 2004, a coyote trapper mistakenly captured and killed a 
wolf in Presque Isle County in the northern Lower Peninsula (LP) of 
Michigan. This was the first verification of a wolf in the northern LP 
in at least 65 years (Roell et al. 2010, p. 4). This wolf had been 
trapped and radio-collared by the MI DNR the previous year (2003) while 
it was a member of an eastern UP pack. Since 2004, Michigan has 
surveyed the northern LP to determine whether wolves had successfully 
colonized the area. From 2005 through 2007, the survey had two 
components: A prioritized area search and a targeted area search based 
on citizen reports of wolves or wolf sign. USDA-Wildlife Services, 
Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, and Central Michigan 
University worked cooperatively on the surveys. Nine units ranging in 
size from 200-400 sq mi (322-644 sq km) were surveyed; however, no wolf 
sign was found (Roell et al. 2010, p. 4). Beginning in 2008, a targeted 
search approach was used. The MI DNR issued a press release asking 
citizens to report any wolves or wolf sign; again, no wolves were 
detected in winters of 2008-10 (Roell et al. 2009, p. 5; Roell 2010, 
pers. comm.).
    In the summer of 2009, video images of single wolves were recorded 
in two of the three northern LP counties nearest to the UP (Roell et 
al. 2010, p. 4). The videos, taken in Emmet County in May 19, 2009, and 
Presque Isle County in July 27, 2009, may have been of the same animal 
(Roell 2009, pers. comm.). In 2010, USDA Wildlife Services and MI DNR 
staff confirmed a single breeding pair with three pups in Cheboygan 
County in the northern LP (MI DNR 2010). This is the first time a wolf 
pack has been verified in the LP since the early 1900s. In 2008, the 
DNR recognized the likelihood that small numbers of wolves would 
eventually move into the northern LP and form persistent packs (Potvin 
2003, pp. 29-30; Gehring and Potter 2005, p. 1242; Beyer et al. 2006, 
p. 35), and revised its Wolf Management Plan in part to incorporate 
provisions for wolf management in the northern LP (MI DNR 2008a, p. 
46).
    The wolf population of Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, is not 
considered to be an important factor in the recovery of wolves in the 
WGL. The Park population is small and isolated and lacks genetic 
uniqueness (Wayne et al. 1991, pp. 47-49). In addition, this island 
population probably has not had any contact with mainland wolf 
populations since its founding pair crossed the Lake Superior ice in 
the late 1940s (Peterson et al. 1998, p. 828). For genetic reasons and 
constraints on expansion due to the island's small size, this wolf 
population does not contribute significantly towards meeting numerical 
recovery criteria; however, long-term research on this wolf population 
has added a great deal to our knowledge of the species. The wolf 
population on Isle Royale has ranged from 12 to 50 wolves since 1959, 
and was 19 wolves in the winter of 2009-2010 (Vucetich and Peterson 
2010, p. 5).
Summary for Wisconsin and Michigan
    The two-State wolf population, excluding Isle Royale wolves, has

[[Page 26100]]

exceeded 100 wolves since late-winter 1993-94 and has exceeded 200 
wolves since late-winter 1995-96. Therefore, the combined wolf 
population for Wisconsin and Michigan has exceeded the second recovery 
criterion of the 1992 Revised Recovery Plan for a nonisolated wolf 
population, since 1999. Furthermore, the two-State population has 
exceeded the recovery criterion for an isolated second population since 
2001.
Other Areas In and Near the Proposed Western Great Lakes DPS
    No surveys have been conducted to document the number of wolves 
present in North Dakota or South Dakota, but an increasing number of 
wolves has apparently been detected in the eastern portions of these 
States. The eastern boundaries of North Dakota and South Dakota are 
approximately 19 and 81 mi (30 and 130 km), respectively, from occupied 
habitat in Minnesota. Biologists who are familiar with wolves in these 
States, however, generally agree that the wolves found there are 
primarily lone dispersers, although there were reports of pups being 
seen in the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota, in 1994 (Collins in litt. 
1998).
    Other records include an adult male shot near Devil's Lake, North 
Dakota in 2002, another adult male shot in Richland County in extreme 
southeastern North Dakota in 2003 (Fain in litt. 2006), and a vehicle-
killed adult male found near Sturgis, South Dakota, in 2006 (Larson in 
litt. 2006). In contrast to the other South Dakota wolves of the last 
25 years, the animal found near Sturgis was genetically identified as 
having come from the Greater Yellowstone area (Fain in litt. 2006). 
Most recently, a wolf was shot in Roberts County, South Dakota in 
January 2009 (reportedly running with two or three other wolves) 
(Prieksat in litt. 2009), and another wolf was found dead in a foothold 
trap that was set as part of an ongoing USDA Wildlife Service's coyote 
control operation in southeastern Eddy County, North Dakota (Bicknell 
in litt. 2009). See Delineating the Boundaries of the Proposed WGL Gray 
Wolf DPS in this proposed rule for a detailed discussion of movement of 
wolves.
    Wolf dispersal is expected to continue as wolves travel away from 
the more saturated habitats in the primary range into peripheral areas 
where wolves are extremely sparse or absent. Unless they return to the 
primary range and join or start a pack there, they are unlikely to 
contribute to long-term maintenance of WGL wolf populations.
    Although it is possible for these dispersers to encounter and mate 
with a mature wolf outside the primary range, the lack of large 
expanses of unfragmented habitat make it unlikely that wolf packs will 
persist in these peripheral areas; lack of contiguous habitat is 
expected to seriously impede further expansion. The only exception is 
the northern LP of Michigan, where several studies indicate that a 
persistent wolf population may develop (Gehring and Potter 2005, p. 
1242; Potvin 2003, pp. 29-30), albeit dependent on occasional to 
frequent immigration of UP wolves. Despite the constraints on further 
expansion described here, however, current wolf populations in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the UP of Michigan have already greatly 
exceeded the recovery levels defined in the 1992 Revised Recovery Plan, 
and maintenance of these numbers is not contingent on recruitment of 
wolves from areas outside the primary range that has been established 
for the WGL.

Summary of Wolf Recovery in the Western Great Lakes Region

    Wolves in the proposed WGL DPS greatly exceed the recovery criteria 
(USFWS 1992, pp. 24-26) for (1) a secure wolf population in Minnesota, 
and (2) a second population outside Minnesota and Isle Royale 
consisting of 100 wolves for 5 successive years. Based on the criteria 
set by the Eastern Wolf Recovery Team in 1992 and reaffirmed in 1997 
and 1998 (Peterson in litt. 1997, in litt. 1998), the proposed DPS 
contains sufficient wolf numbers and distribution to ensure their long-
term survival within the DPS.
    The maintenance and expansion of the Minnesota wolf population has 
maximized the preservation of the genetic diversity that remained in 
the proposed WGL DPS when its wolves were first protected in 1974. 
Furthermore, the Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population has exceeded the 
numerical recovery criterion even for a completely isolated second 
population. Therefore, even in the unlikely event that this two-State 
population was to become totally isolated and wolf immigration from 
Minnesota and Ontario completely ceased, it would still remain a viable 
wolf population for the foreseeable future, as defined by the Revised 
Recovery Plan (USFWS 1992, pp. 25-26). Finally, each of the wolf 
populations in Wisconsin and Michigan has exceeded 200 animals for 11 
and 10 years, respectively, so if either were somehow to become 
isolated, they would remain viable, and each State has committed to 
manage its wolf population at or above viable population levels. The 
wolf's numeric and distributional recovery criteria in the WGL have 
been met.

Have the Wolves of the Western Great Lakes Region Been Restored?

    Leonard and Wayne (2008, p. 3) have stated that Great Lakes wolves 
have not been restored based on absence of certain historical mtDNA 
haplotypes from the current population, an estimated historical 
population size far greater than the current population size, and the 
admixture of coyote and western wolf haplotypes in the current 
population.
    The spatial representativeness of both the historical and recent 
samples reported by Leonard and Wayne (2008) has been questioned by 
Mech (2009). For example, 16 recent but no historical samples from 
Minnesota were included in the study. Leonard and Wayne (2009) 
responded that they did not believe that genetic differences were 
likely to be pronounced at the geographic scale discussed by Mech and 
Paul (2008) and Mech (2009).
    The current population of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and 
Michigan is derived from expansion of the remnant population in 
northeastern Minnesota (Fain et al. 2010, p. 12), which was likely to 
have included both C. lupus and C. lycaon (Mech and Frenzel 1971; Mech 
2010, p. 135), and in the case of UP Michigan, with possible 
contributions from C. lycaon from southern Ontario (Fain et al. 2010, 
p. 12).
    Subsequent studies with larger samples of the current wolf 
population find, despite acknowledged influence of western wolves, the 
current population is generally representative of the historical 
population (Fain et al. 2010, p. 14; Wheeldon et al. 2010). 
Koblm[uuml]ller et al. (2009, pp. 10-11) found ``comparatively slight'' 
differentiation at autosomal microsatellite DNA loci between historical 
and current Great Lakes wolves. Wheeldon and White (2009, p. 4) present 
microsatellite DNA evidence that the hybridization processes noted by 
Leonard and Wayne (2008) were taking place over a century ago, so that 
the current population is comparable to the historical population with 
respect to admixture. Hybridization between eastern wolves and western 
wolves in the western Great Lakes region occurred prior to significant 
human effects on population size or habitat (Fain et al. 2010, p. 14). 
According to Fain et al. (2010, p. 14), the current population of 
wolves in the western Great Lakes ``represents an ancient component of 
the northeast ecosystem and have been

[[Page 26101]]

established throughout the region for thousands of years.''
    The loss of mtDNA haplotypes found in historical but not the 
current western Great Lakes wolf population reported by Leonard and 
Wayne (2008, pp. 2-3) and the loss of allelic diversity (Fain et al. 
2010, p. 11), indicate that a genetic bottleneck occurred when wolves 
were nearly extirpated from the western Great Lakes region and the 
period of slow recovery that immediately followed. Despite these 
``founder effects'' on the genetic composition of the western Great 
Lakes population, various measures of genetic diversity remain 
comparable to other wolf populations (Koblm[uuml]ller et al. 2009; Fain 
et al. 2010, p. 12; Wheeldon et al. 2010), at least partially owing to 
contributions from western wolves (C. lupus).
    Wolves in the WGL region display a healthy level of heterozygosity 
(Fain et al. 2010, p. 12), and show no evidence of genetic bottlenecks 
(Koblmuller et al. 2009, p. 1). Schwartz and Vucetich (2009, p. 2) have 
stated that ``By all accounts, the return of wolves to the Great Lakes 
region has been successful * * * they are doing superbly--both in terms 
of population viability and ecological function.'' Cronin and Mech 
(2009, p. 2) state, ``We suggest that wolves in the [W]GL region can 
simply be called a wolf population with mixed ancestry.'' They further 
state that, ``It is generally acknowledged that the Great Lakes wolf 
population is fit, with abundant genetic variation'' (Cronin and Mech 
2009, p. 2).

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment Policy Overview

    Pursuant to the Act, we consider whether information is sufficient 
to indicate that listing, reclassifying, or delisting any species, 
subspecies, or, for vertebrates, any DPS of these taxa may be 
warranted. To interpret and implement the DPS provision of the Act and 
congressional guidance, the Service and the National Marine Fisheries 
Service (NMFS) published a policy regarding the identification of 
distinct vertebrate population segments under the Act (Policy Regarding 
the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments Under the 
Endangered Species Act, 61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996) (hereafter DPS 
Policy). Under the DPS policy, two factors are considered in a decision 
regarding the potential identification of a DPS: (1) Discreteness of 
the population segment in relation to the remainder of the taxon, and 
(2) the significance of the population segment to the taxon to which it 
belongs. If a population meets both tests, it can be identified as a 
DPS. Then a third factor, the DPS's conservation status, is evaluated 
in relation to the Act's standards for listing, delisting, or 
reclassification, meaning that we undertake an analysis to determine 
whether the DPS is endangered or threatened or does not meet the 
criteria for listing. All three steps are necessary components of a 
complete DPS analysis.

Past Practice and History of Using DPSs

    As of February 1, 2011, of the 392 native vertebrate listings, 85 
are listed as less than an entire taxonomic species or subspecies 
(henceforth referred to in this discussion as populations) under one of 
several authorities, including the ``distinct population segment'' 
language in the Act's definition of species (section 3(16)). Thirty-
three of these 85 populations, which span 52 different taxa, predate 
the 1996 DPS Policy; as such, the final listing determinations for 
these populations did not include formal policy-based analyses or 
expressly designate the listed entity as a DPS. In several instances, 
however, the Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have 
established a DPS and revised the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife in a single action, as shown in the following examples.
    In February 1985, the Service delisted the brown pelican (Pelecanus 
occidentalis) in the southeastern United States and continued to 
identify it as endangered throughout the remainder of its range (50 FR 
4938). In June 1994, NMFS revised the entry for the gray whale 
(Eschrichtius robustus) to remove the eastern North Pacific population 
from the List while retaining the western North Pacific population as 
endangered (59 FR 31094). In July 2003, the Service established two 
DPSs of the Columbian white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus 
leucurus)--the Douglas County DPS and the Columbia River DPS--and 
delisted only the Douglas County DPS, while listing the Columbia River 
DPS (68 FR 43647). In March 2007, the Service established a DPS of the 
grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) for the Greater Yellowstone Area 
and surrounding area within the existing grizzly bear listing in the 
lower 48 States, and delisted this DPS (72 FR 14865). Also in March 
2007, the Service identified the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) 
in Florida as a DPS within the existing endangered listing of the 
American crocodile in the United States and reclassified the Florida 
DPS from endangered to threatened (71 FR 13027). Revising and delisting 
the WGL DPS of wolves is consistent with the Service's past practice 
and does not represent a change in agency position.

Proposed Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment

    In 1978, based on what was at that time the ``best available 
biological data,'' the Service stated that there were two ``species'' 
of gray wolves in the conterminous United States: ``For purposes of 
this rulemaking, the gray wolf (Canis lupus) group in Mexico and the 48 
conterminous States of the United States, other than Minnesota, is 
being considered as one ``species,'' and the gray wolf group in 
Minnesota is being considered as another ``species.'' (43 FR 9607, 
9610, March 9, 1978). The Service then assigned a different status 
under the Act to each of those two ``species,'' finding the Minnesota 
gray wolf ``species'' to be threatened, while the other gray wolf 
``species'' (the 48 conterminous States, except Minnesota, and in 
Mexico) to be endangered. The 1978 rule referred to the Minnesota 
listing as the listing of a ``species'' when, clearly, based on the 
information available at that time, the Minnesota wolves did not 
taxonomically constitute a separate species of wolf. Therefore, the 
1978 listing either effectively established a Minnesota DPS or listed 
an entity in a portion of its broader range.
    The DPS Policy (61 FR 4725, February 7, 1996) expressly provides 
for reexamining pre-policy DPS listings: ``Any DPS of a vertebrate 
taxon that was listed prior to implementation of this policy will be 
reevaluated on a case-by-case basis as recommendations are made to 
change the listing status for that distinct population segment. The 
appropriate application of the policy will also be considered in the 5-
year reviews of the status of listed species required by section 
4(c)(2) of the Act.'' Based on this provision, we are, within this 
proposed rule, (1) recognizing that a Minnesota DPS was established in 
1978, (2) reevaluating that DPS listing, and (3) proposing to revise 
that DPS to meet the criteria in the DPS policy and to reflect the 
``best available biological data.''
    A gray wolf DPS that includes only Minnesota does not meet the 
criteria in the DPS policy because it is not discrete ``* * * in 
relation to the remainder of the species to which it belongs'' (61 FR 
4725, February 7, 1996). The Minnesota wolf population has expanded 
beyond State boundaries and is connected to the wolf population in 
Wisconsin and Michigan, as evidenced by frequent movements of wolves 
among the States (Van Deelen 2009, p. 140; Treves at al. 2009, pp. 192-
195) and genetic analyses

[[Page 26102]]

that demonstrate the Wisconsin and Michigan wolves are mostly from the 
same genetic mix as Minnesota wolves (Wheeldon and White 2009, p. 4; 
Fain et al. 2010). Therefore, we are proposing to revise the boundaries 
of the Minnesota DPS to meet the criteria in the DPS policy as 
discussed under the Distinct Population Segment Analysis, below.

Geographical Area of the Proposed Western Great Lakes DPS

    The geographical area of the proposed WGL DPS is shown in figure 1, 
below, and is described as all of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan; 
the portion of North Dakota north and east of the Missouri River 
upstream to Lake Sakakawea and east of the centerline of Highway 83 
from Lake Sakakawea to the Canadian border; the portion of South Dakota 
north and east of the Missouri River; the portions of Iowa, Illinois, 
and Indiana north of the centerline of Interstate Highway 80; and the 
portion of Ohio north of the centerline of Interstate Highway 80 and 
west of the Maumee River at Toledo.
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP05MY11.124

BILLING CODE 4310-55-C

Distinct Population Segment Analysis

Analysis for Discreteness
    Under the 1996 DPS Policy (61 FR 4722), a population segment of a 
vertebrate taxon may be considered discrete if it satisfies either of 
the following conditions: (1) it is markedly separated from other 
populations of the same taxon as a consequence of physical, 
physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors (quantitative measures 
of genetic or morphological discontinuity may provide evidence of this 
separation); or (2) it is delimited by international governmental 
boundaries within which differences in control of exploitation, 
management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms 
exist that are significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the Act.
    Markedly Separated from Other Populations of the Same Taxon--The 
western boundaries of the proposed WGL DPS are approximately 400 mi 
(644 km) from the nearest known gray wolf packs in Wyoming and Montana. 
The distance between those western packs and the nearest packs within 
the proposed WGL DPS is nearly 600 mi

[[Page 26103]]

(966 km). The area between Minnesota packs and northern Rocky Mountain 
(NRM) packs largely consists of unsuitable habitat, with only scattered 
islands of possibly suitable habitat, such as the Black Hills of 
eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota. There are no known 
populations of gray wolves to the south or east of the proposed WGL DPS 
within the United States.
    As discussed in the previous section, wolves are known to disperse 
over vast distances, but straight line documented dispersals of 400 mi 
(644 km) or more are very rare. Although we cannot rule out the 
possibility of a WGL wolf traveling 600 mi (966 km) or more and joining 
or establishing a pack in the northern Rockies, such a movement has not 
been documented and is expected to happen very infrequently, if at all. 
Similar movements from the NRM wolf population into the proposed WGL 
DPS are unknown and are expected to happen infrequently. The 2006 
Sturgis (South Dakota) wolf is the closest that an NRM wolf has come to 
entering the proposed WGL DPS (Fain in litt. 2006); however, the 
Sturgis wolf would still have had to travel over 300 mi (500 km) before 
encountering the nearest wolf pack in the proposed WGL DPS. As the 
discreteness criterion requires that the DPS be ``markedly separated'' 
from other populations of the taxon rather than requiring complete 
isolation, this high degree of physical separation between the WGL DPS 
and the northern Rocky Mountains satisfies the discreteness criterion.
    Delimited by International Boundaries with Significant Management 
Differences--The DPS policy allows us to use international borders to 
delineate the boundaries of a DPS if there are differences in control 
of exploitation, conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms between 
the countries. The border between the United States and Canada has been 
used as the northern boundary of the listed entity since gray wolves 
were reclassified in the lower 48 States and Mexico in 1978. There 
remain significant cross-border differences in exploitation, 
management, conservation status, and regulatory mechanisms. About 
52,000 to 60,000 wolves occur in Canada, where suitable habitat is 
abundant (Boitani 2003, p. 322). Because of this abundance, wolves in 
Canada are not protected by Federal laws and are only minimally 
protected in most Canadian provinces (Pletscher et al. 1991, p. 546). 
In the United States, unlike Canada, Federal protection and intensive 
management has been necessary to recover the wolf (Carbyn 1983).
    In general, Canadian gray wolf populations are sufficiently large 
and healthy so that population regulation, rather than protection and 
close monitoring, is the management focus. There are an estimated 4,000 
wolves in Manitoba (Manitoba Conservation undated). Hunting is allowed 
nearly province-wide, including in those provincial hunting zones 
adjoining northwestern Minnesota, with last year's season running from 
August 31, 2009, through March 31, 2010 (Manitoba Conservation 2009a). 
Trapping wolves is allowed province-wide, except in and immediately 
around Riding Mountain National Park (southwestern Manitoba), with last 
year's season running from October 14, 2008, through February 28 or 
March 31, 2009 (varies with trapping zone) (Manitoba Conservation 
2009b).
    The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources estimates there are 8,850 
wolves in the province, based on prey composition and abundance, 
topography, and climate and wolf numbers in most parts of the province 
are believed to be stable or increasing since about 1993 (Ontario MNR 
2005a, pp. 7-9). In 2005, Ontario limited hunting and trapping of 
wolves by closing the season from April 1 through September 14 in 
central and northern Ontario (Ontario MNR 2005b). In southern Ontario, 
the portion of the province that is adjacent to the proposed WGL DPS, 
wolf hunting and trapping is permitted year round (Ontario MNR 2005c). 
If delisted, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan would carefully monitor 
and manage wolves to retain populations at or above the recovery goal 
(see Factor D). Therefore, even though biologically the WGL wolf 
population is simply a well-connected southern extension of wolves in 
Canada, we will continue to use the United States-Canada border to mark 
the northern boundary of the DPS due to the difference in control of 
exploitation, conservation status, and regulatory mechanisms between 
the two countries.
    Conclusion--We find, based on our analysis of the best available 
scientific information, that the proposed WGL DPS is markedly separated 
from other United States populations of gray wolves and difference in 
control of exploitation, conservation status, and regulatory mechanisms 
justifies discreteness between United States and Canadian wolf 
populations. Therefore, the proposed WGL DPS meets the criterion for 
discreteness under the DPS policy.
Analysis for Significance
    If we determine that a population segment is discrete, we next 
consider available scientific evidence of its significance to the taxon 
to which it belongs. Our DPS policy states that this consideration may 
include, but is not limited to, the following: (1) Persistence of the 
discrete population segment in an ecological setting unusual or unique 
for the taxon; (2) evidence that loss of the discrete population 
segment would result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon; 
(3) evidence that the discrete population segment represents the only 
surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more abundant 
elsewhere as an introduced population outside its historic range; and/
or (4) evidence that the discrete population segment differs markedly 
from other populations of the species in its genetic characteristics. 
Factor 2 applies to the proposed WGL DPS and is included in our 
analysis for significance. Factors 1, 3, and 4 do not apply to the 
proposed WGL DPS and thus are not included in our analysis for 
significance.
    Significant Gap in the Range of the Taxon--Wolves once lived 
throughout most of North America. Wolves have been extirpated from most 
of the southern portions of their historical North American range. The 
successful restoration of a viable wolf metapopulation to large parts 
of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan has filled a significant gap in 
the holarctic range of gray wolves in the United States, and it 
provides an important extension of the range of gray wolves in North 
America. The loss of the WGL wolf population would, therefore, 
represent a significant gap in the species' holarctic range in that the 
WGL wolf population is the only wolf population in the conterminous 
States east of the Rocky Mountains, except for the red wolves (a 
different species) being restored along the Atlantic Coast, and 
currently holds about 40 percent of North American gray wolves known to 
occur south of Canada.
    Finding--We find, based on our analysis of the best available 
scientific information, that the proposed WGL DPS is significant to the 
taxon to which it belongs because its loss would result in a 
significant gap in the range of the taxon. Therefore, the proposed WGL 
DPS meets the criterion for significance under the DPS policy.
Discrete Vertebrate Population Segment Conclusion
    We propose, based on our review of the best available scientific 
data, that the WGL DPS is discrete from other gray

[[Page 26104]]

wolf populations as a result of physical separation from other gray 
wolf populations in the United States and the international border with 
Canada. The DPS is significant to the taxon to which it belongs because 
it contains a wolf metapopulation that fills a large gap in the 
historical range of the taxon in the conterminous States. Therefore, we 
have determined that this population segment of wolves satisfies the 
discreteness and significance criteria required for a DPS. The 
evaluation of the appropriate conservation status for the proposed WGL 
DPS is found below.

Delineating the Boundaries of the Proposed WGL Gray Wolf DPS

    In contrast to a species or a subspecies, a DPS is a biological 
population that is delineated by a boundary that is based on something 
other than established taxonomic distinctions. Therefore, the starting 
point for delineating a DPS is the biological population or 
metapopulation, and a geographical delineation of the DPS must 
reasonably represent the population or metapopulation and its 
biological characteristics and recovery needs.
    To delineate the boundary of the proposed WGL DPS, we considered 
the current distribution of wolves in the Midwest and the 
characteristic movements of those wolves and of wolves elsewhere. We 
examined the best available scientific data on long-distance movements, 
including long-distance movements followed by return movements to the 
vicinity of the natal pack. We concluded that wolf behavior and the 
nature of wolf populations require that we include within the area of 
the DPS some subset of known long-distance movement locations. However, 
as explained below, wolf biology and common sense argue against 
including all known or potential long-distance movements within the 
DPS's boundaries.
    The analysis detailed below resulted in the proposed boundaries of 
the WGL DPS that are shown in figure 1. This DPS has been delineated to 
include the core recovered wolf population plus a wolf movement zone 
around the core wolf populations. This geographic delineation is not 
intended to include all areas to which wolves have moved from the Great 
Lakes population. Rather, it includes the area currently occupied by 
wolf packs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan; the nearby areas in 
these States in which wolf packs may become established in the 
foreseeable future; and a surrounding area into which Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, and Michigan wolves occasionally move but where persistent 
packs are not expected to be established because suitable habitat is 
rare and exists only as small patches. The area surrounding the core 
wolf populations includes the locations of most known dispersers from 
the core populations, especially the shorter and medium-distance 
movements from which wolves are most likely to return to the core areas 
and contribute to the wolf population. Therefore, the DPS encompasses 
the current range of the population, which is considered to be viable, 
including the primary range and the peripheral range.
    The WGL areas that are regularly occupied by wolf packs are well 
documented in Minnesota (Erb and Benson 2004, p. 12, fig. 3; Erb and 
Don Carlos 2009, pp. 57-60), Wisconsin (Wydeven et al. 2006, p. 33, 
fig. 1; Wydeven et al. 2009c, pp. 93-98), and the UP of Michigan 
(Huntzinger et al. 2005, pp. 25-27, figs. 4-6; Beyer et al. 2009, pp. 
73-75). Wolves have successfully colonized most, perhaps all, suitable 
habitat in Minnesota. Minnesota data from the winter of 2007-08 
indicate that wolf numbers and density have stabilized since 1997-98, 
and there was no expansion of occupied range in the State (Erb 2008, 
pp. 5-7). Wisconsin wolves now occupy most habitat areas believed to 
have a high probability of wolf occurrence except for some areas of 
northeastern Wisconsin, and the State's wolf population continues to 
annually increase in numbers and, to a lesser degree, in area (Wydeven 
and Wiedenhoeft 2009, p. 2). The UP of Michigan has wolf packs 
throughout the peninsula. In the last 22 years, the wolf population in 
the UP has grown every year except 1997 and 2010 (Roell 2010, pers. 
comm.). Over the past 5 years, the average annual growth has been about 
7 percent. While the population trend continues to increase, the rate 
of increase has slowed, consistent with any population expanding into 
and then filling available habitat. The population may continue to grow 
or remain steady; however, a small or even negative growth rate may 
occur any year and should be considered a natural fluctuation seen in 
any wildlife population.
    When delineating the proposed WGL DPS, we had to consider the high 
degree of mobility shown by wolves. The dispersal of wolves from their 
natal packs and territories is a normal and important behavioral 
attribute of the species that facilitates the formation of new packs, 
the occupancy of vacant territories, and the expansion of occupied 
range by the ``colonization'' of vacant habitat. Data on wolf dispersal 
rates from numerous North American studies (summarized in Fuller et al. 
2003, p. 179, Table. 6.6; Boyd and Pletscher 1999, p. 1102, Table 6) 
show dispersal rates of 13 to 48 percent of the individuals in a pack. 
Sometimes the movements are temporary, and the wolf returns to a 
location in or near its natal territory. In some cases, a wolf may 
continue its movement for scores or even hundreds of miles until it 
locates suitable habitat, where it may establish a territory or join an 
existing pack. In other cases, a wolf is found dead at a distance from 
its original territory, leaving unanswered the questions of how far it 
would have gone and whether it eventually would have returned to its 
natal area or population.
    Minnesota--The current record for a documented movement by a wolf 
in North America is held by a Minnesota wolf that moved a minimum (that 
is, the straight-line distance from known starting point to most 
distant point) of at least 550 mi (886 km) northwest into Saskatchewan 
(Fritts 1983, pp. 166-167). Nineteen other primarily Minnesota 
movements summarized by Mech (in litt. 2005) averaged 154 mi (248 km). 
Their minimum distance of travel ranged from 32 to 532 mi (53-886 km) 
with the minimum dispersal distance shown by known returning wolves 
ranging from 54 mi (90 km) to 307 mi (494 km).
    Wisconsin--In 2004, a wolf tagged in Michigan was killed by a 
vehicle in Rusk County in northwestern Wisconsin, 295 mi (475 km) west 
of his original capture location in the eastern UP (Wydeven et al. 
2005b, p. 4). A north-central Wisconsin yearling female wolf traveled a 
similar distance (298 mi, 480 km) to the Rainy Lake region of Ontario 
during 1988-89 (Wydeven et al. 1995, p. 149).
    Michigan--Drummer et al. (2002, pp. 14-15) reported 10 long-
distance dispersal events involving UP wolves. One of these wolves 
moved to north-central Missouri and another to southeastern Wisconsin, 
both beyond the core wolf areas in the WGL. The average straight-line 
distance traveled by those two wolves was 377 mi (608 km), while the 
average straight-line distance for all 10 of these wolves was 232 mi 
(373 km). Their straight-line distances ranged from 41 to 468 mi (66 to 
753 km).
    Illinois and Indiana--In December 2002, a Marshall County 
(Illinois) wolf likely dispersed from the Wisconsin wolf population, 
nearly 200 mi (322 km) to the north (Great Lakes Directory 2003). The 
Randolph County (Indiana) wolf had traveled a minimum distance of at 
least 428 mi (689 km) to get around

[[Page 26105]]

Lake Michigan from its central Wisconsin birthplace; it likely traveled 
much farther than that unless it went through the city or suburbs of 
Chicago (Wydeven et al. 2004, pp. 10-11; Treves et al. 2009, p. 194). 
The Pike County (Illinois) wolf that was shot in late 2005 was about 
300 mi (180 km) from the nearest wolf packs in central Wisconsin.
    North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska--Licht and Fritts (1994, 
p. 77) tabulated seven wolves found dead in North Dakota and South 
Dakota from 1981 through 1992 that are believed to have originated from 
Minnesota, based on skull morphometrics. Although none of these wolves 
were marked or radio-tracked, making it impossible to determine the 
point of initiation of their journey, a minimum travel distance for the 
seven can be determined from the nearest wolf breeding range in 
Minnesota. For the seven, the average distance to the nearest wolf 
breeding range was 160 mi (257 km) and ranged from 29 to 329 mi (46 to 
530 km). One of these seven wolves moved west of the Missouri River 
before it died.
    Genetic analysis of a wolf killed in Harding County, in extreme 
northwestern South Dakota, in 2001 indicated that it originated from 
the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan wolf populations (Fain in litt. 2006). 
The straight-line travel distance to the nearest Minnesota wolf pack is 
nearly 400 mi (644 km).
    The wolf from the Greater Yellowstone area that was killed by a 
vehicle on Interstate 90 near Sturgis, South Dakota, in March of 2006 
traveled a minimum straight-line distance of about 270 mi (435 km) from 
the nearest known Greater Yellowstone pack before it died (USFWS et al. 
2006, in USFWS Program Report, Figure 1).
    A large canid was shot by a Boyd County (Nebraska) rancher in late 
1994 or early 1995, likely after crossing the frozen Missouri River 
from South Dakota (Anschutz in litt. 2006, Jobman in litt. 1995). It 
was determined to be a wolf that originated from the Great Lakes wolf 
populations (Fain in litt. 2006), whose nearest pack would have been 
about 300 mi (480 km) away. A wolf illegally killed near Spalding, 
Nebraska, in December of 2002 also originated from the Minnesota-
Wisconsin-Michigan wolf population, as determined by genetic analysis 
(Anschutz in litt. 2003, Fain in litt. 2006). The nearest Minnesota 
wolf pack is nearly 350 mi (563 km) from this location.
    Other notable extra-territorial movements--The extra-territorial 
movements of several wolves were radio-tracked in sufficient detail to 
provide insight into their actual travel routes and total travel 
distances for each trek, rather than only documenting straight-line 
distance from beginning to end-point. Merrill and Mech (2000, pp. 429-
431) reported on four such Minnesota wolves with documented travel 
distances ranging from 305 to 2,640 mi (490 to 4,251 km) and an average 
travel route length of 988 mi (1590 km). Wydeven (1994, pp. 20-22) 
described a Wisconsin wolf that moved from northwestern Wisconsin to 
the northern suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota, for 2 weeks (apparently 
not seen or reported to authorities by the local residents), then moved 
back to north-central Wisconsin. The total travel distance was 278 mi 
(447km) from her natal pack into Minnesota and on to the north-central 
Wisconsin location where she settled down.
    While investigating the origins of Scandinavian wolf populations, 
Linnell et al. (2005, p. 387) compiled wolf dispersal data from 21 
published studies, including many cited separately here. Twenty-two of 
298 compiled dispersals (7.4 percent) were over 300 km (186 mi). Eleven 
dispersals (3.7 percent) were over 500 km (311 mi). Because of the 
likelihood that many long-distance dispersers are never reported, they 
conclude that the proportion of long-distance dispersers is probably 
severely underestimated.
    From these extra-territorial movement records, we conclude that 
wolf movements of over 200 mi (320 km) straight-line distance have been 
documented on numerous occasions, while shorter distance movements are 
more frequent. Movements of 300 mi (480 km) straight-line distance or 
more are less common, but include one Minnesota wolf that journeyed a 
straight-line distance of 300 mi (480 km) and a known minimum-travel 
distance of 2,640 mi (4,251 km) before it reversed direction, as 
determined by its satellite-tracked collar. This wolf ultimately 
returned to a spot only 24 mi (40 km) from its natal territory (Merrill 
and Mech 2000, p. 430). Although much longer movements have been 
documented, including some by midwestern wolves, return movements to 
the vicinity of natal territories have not been documented for extra-
territorial movements beyond 300 mi (480 km).
    Based on these extra-territorial movement data, we conclude that 
affiliation with the midwestern wolf population is diminished and 
essentially lost when dispersal takes a Midwest wolf a distance of 250 
to 300 mi (400 to 480 km) beyond the outer edge of the areas that are 
continuously occupied by wolf packs. Although some WGL wolves will move 
beyond this distance, available data indicate that longer distance 
dispersers are unlikely to return to their natal population. Therefore, 
they have lost their functional connection with, and potential 
conservation value to, the WGL wolf population.
    Wolves moving substantial distances outward from the core areas of 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will encounter landscape features 
that are at least partial barriers to further wolf movement and that 
may, if crossed, impede attempts of wolves to return toward the WGL 
core areas. If such partial barriers are in a location that has 
separate utility in delineating the biological extent of a wolf 
population, they can and should be used to delineate the DPS boundary. 
Such landscape features are the Missouri River in North Dakota and 
downstream to Omaha, Nebraska, and Interstate Highway 80 from Omaha 
eastward through Illinois, Indiana, and into Ohio, ending where this 
highway crosses the Maumee River in Toledo, Ohio. We do not believe 
these are absolute barriers to wolf movement. There is evidence that 
several Minnesota-origin wolves have crossed the Missouri River (Licht 
and Fritts 1994, pp. 75 & 77, Fig. 1 and Table 1; Anschutz in litt. 
2003, 2006) and some Midwest wolves have crossed interstate highways 
(Merrill and Mech 2000, p. 430). There is also evidence that some 
wolves are hesitant to cross highways (Whittington et al. 2004, pp. 7, 
9; Wydeven et al. 2005b, p. 5; but see Blanco et al. 2005, pp. 315-316, 
319-320 and Kohn et al. 2000, p. 22). Interstate highways and smaller 
roads are a known mortality factor for wolves and, therefore, pose a 
partial barrier to wolf movements (Blanco et al. 2005, p. 320). The 
death of a NRM wolf near Sturgis in western South Dakota (Fain in litt. 
2006) suggests that the area of the Dakotas west of the Missouri River 
may be traversed by a small number of wolves coming from both the NRM 
and WGL wolf populations, as well as wolves from Canada (Licht and 
Fritts 1994, pp. 75-77). Wolves in this area cannot be assumed to 
belong to the WGL wolf population, supporting our belief that the 
boundary should not be designed to include the locations of all known 
dispersers.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for listing species, reclassifying 
species, or removing species from listed status.

[[Page 26106]]

``Species'' is defined by the Act as including any species or 
subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct vertebrate 
population segment of fish or wildlife that interbreeds when mature (16 
U.S.C. 1532(16)). Once the ``species'' is identified, we then evaluate 
whether that species may be endangered or threatened because of one or 
more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act. We 
must consider these same five factors in delisting a species. We may 
delist a species according to 50 CFR 424.11(d) if the best available 
scientific and commercial data indicate that the species is neither 
endangered nor threatened because (1) the species is extinct, (2) the 
species has recovered and is no longer endangered or threatened, or (3) 
the original scientific data used at the time the species was 
classified were in error.
    A recovered species is one that no longer meets the Act's 
definition of threatened or endangered. The analysis for a delisting 
due to recovery must be based on the five factors outlined in section 
4(a)(1) of the Act. This analysis must include an evaluation of threats 
that existed at the time of listing, those that currently exist, and 
those that could potentially affect the species once the protections of 
the Act are removed.
    In the context of the Act, the term ``threatened species'' means 
any species or subspecies or, for vertebrates, Distinct Population 
Segment (DPS) that is likely to become an endangered species within the 
foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. The term ``endangered species'' means any species that is in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range. The Act does not define the term ``foreseeable future.'' For the 
purpose of this proposal, we define the ``foreseeable future'' to be 
the extent to which, given the amount and substance of available data, 
we can anticipate events or effects, or reliably extrapolate threat 
trends that relate to the status of the WGL DPS. For the proposed WGL 
DPS, the foreseeable future differs for each factor potentially 
affecting the DPS.
    It took a considerable length of time for public attitudes and 
regulations to result in a social climate that promoted and allowed for 
wolf recovery in the proposed WGL DPS. The length of time over which 
this shift occurred, and the ensuing stability in those attitudes, 
gives us confidence that this social climate will persist. Also, the 
States have had a solid history of cooperating and assisting in wolf 
recovery and have made a commitment, through legislative actions, to 
continue these activities. We believe this commitment will continue. 
When evaluating the available information, with respect to foreseeable 
future, we take into account reduced confidence as we forecast further 
into the future. As explained previously, our analysis of the factors 
affecting the WGL DPS refer to the gray wolf (C. lupus), because that 
is the named entity currently on the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife (see Procedural Aspects of Proposal Applying to the Gray Wolf 
above).

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    A common misconception is that wolves inhabit only remote pristine 
forests or mountainous areas, where human developments and other 
activities have produced negligible change to the natural landscape. 
Their extirpation south of Canada and Alaska, except for the heavily 
forested portions of northeastern Minnesota, reinforced this popular 
belief. However, the primary reason wolves survived in those areas was 
not because of habitat conditions, but, rather, because remote areas 
were sufficiently free of the human persecution that elsewhere killed 
wolves faster than the species could reproduce (Mech 1995a, p. 271).
    In the western Great Lakes region, wolves in the densely forested 
northeastern corner of Minnesota have expanded into the more 
agricultural portions of central and northwestern Minnesota, northern 
and central Wisconsin, and the entire UP of Michigan. Habitats 
currently being used by wolves span the broad range from the mixed 
hardwood-coniferous forest wilderness area of northern Minnesota, 
through sparsely settled, but similar habitats in Michigan's UP and 
northern Wisconsin, and into more intensively cultivated and livestock-
producing portions of central and northwestern Minnesota and central 
Wisconsin.
    Wolf research and the expansion of wolf range over the last three 
decades have shown that wolves can successfully occupy a wide range of 
habitats, and they are not dependent on wilderness areas for their 
survival. In the past, for instance, wolf populations occupied nearly 
every type of habitat north of mid-Mexico that contained large ungulate 
prey species, including bison, elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, 
moose, and woodland caribou; thus, wolves historically occupied the 
entire Midwest. Inadequate prey density or high levels of human-caused 
mortality appear to be the only factors that limit wolf distribution 
(Mech 1995a, p 271; 1995b, p. 544).

Suitable Habitat Within the Proposed Western Great Lakes DPS

    Various researchers have investigated habitat suitability for 
wolves in the central and eastern portions of the United States. In 
recent years, most of these efforts have focused on using a combination 
of human density, density of agricultural lands, deer density or deer 
biomass, and road density, or have used road density alone to identify 
areas where wolf populations are likely to persist or become 
established (Mladenoff et al. 1995, pp. 284-285; 1997, pp. 23-27; 1998, 
pp. 1-8, 1999; pp. 39-43; Harrison and Chapin 1997, p. 3; 1998, p. 769-
770; Wydeven et al. 2001a, pp. 110-113; Erb and Benson 2004, p. 2; 
Potvin et al. 2005, pp. 1661-1668; Mladenoff et al. 2009, pp. 132-135).
    To a large extent, road density has been adopted as the best 
predictor of habitat suitability in the Midwest due to the connection 
between roads and human-related wolf mortality. Several studies 
demonstrated that wolves generally did not maintain breeding packs in 
areas with a road density greater than about 0.9 to 1.1 linear miles 
per sq mi (0.6 to 0.7 km per sq km) (Thiel 1985, pp. 404-406; Jensen et 
al. 1986, pp. 364-366; Mech et al. 1988, pp. 85-87; Fuller et al. 1992, 
pp. 48-51). Work by Mladenoff and associates indicated that colonizing 
wolves in Wisconsin preferred areas where road densities were less than 
0.7 mi per sq mi (0.45 km per sq km) (Mladenoff et al. 1995, p. 289). 
However, recent work in the UP of Michigan indicates that, in some 
areas with low road densities, low deer density appears to limit wolf 
occupancy (Potvin et al. 2005, pp. 1667-1668) and may prevent 
recolonization of portions of the UP. In Minnesota, a combination of 
road density and human density is used by MN DNR to model suitable 
habitat. Areas with a human density up to 8 people per sq km are 
suitable if they also have a road density less than 0.5 km per sq km. 
Areas with a human density of less than 4 people per sq km are suitable 
if they have road densities up to 0.7 km per sq km (Erb and Benson 
2004, Table 1).
    Road density is a useful parameter because it is easily measured 
and mapped, and because it correlates directly and indirectly with 
various forms of other human-related wolf mortality factors. A rural 
area with more roads generally has a greater human density, more 
vehicular traffic, greater access by hunters and trappers, more farms 
and residences, and more domestic animals. As a result, there is

[[Page 26107]]

a greater likelihood that wolves in such an area will encounter humans, 
domestic animals, and various human activities. These encounters may 
result in wolves being hit by motor vehicles, being controlled by 
government agents after becoming involved in depredations on domestic 
animals, being shot intentionally by unauthorized individuals, being 
trapped or shot accidentally, or contracting diseases from domestic 
dogs (Mech et al. 1988, pp. 86-87; Mech and Goyal 1993, p. 332; 
Mladenoff et al. 1995, pp. 282, 291). Based on mortality data from 
radio-collared Wisconsin wolves from 1979 to 1999, natural causes of 
death predominate (57 percent of mortalities) in areas with road 
densities below 1.35 mi per sq mi (0.84 km per sq km), but human-
related factors produced 71 percent of the wolf deaths in areas with 
higher road densities (Wydeven et al. 2001a, pp. 112-113).
    Some researchers have used a road density of 1 mi per sq mi (0.6 km 
per sq km) of land area as an upper threshold for suitable wolf 
habitat. However, the common practice in more recent studies is to use 
road density to predict probabilities of persistent wolf pack presence 
in an area. Areas with road densities less than 0.7 mi per sq mi (0.45 
km per sq km) are estimated to have a greater than 50 percent 
probability of wolf pack colonization and persistent presence, and 
areas where road density exceeded 1 mi per sq mi (0.6 km per sq km) 
have less than a 10 percent probability of occupancy (Mladenoff et al. 
1995. pp. 288-289; Mladenoff and Sickley 1998, p. 5; Mladenoff et al. 
1999, pp. 40-41). Wisconsin researchers view areas with greater than 50 
percent probability as ``primary wolf habitat,'' areas with 10 to 50 
percent probability as '''secondary wolf habitat,'' and areas with less 
than 10 percent probability as unsuitable habitat (WI DNR 1997, pp. 47-
48).
    The territories of packs that do occur in areas of high road 
density, and hence with low expected probabilities of occupancy, are 
generally near broad areas of more suitable habitat that are likely 
serving as a source of wolves, thereby assisting in maintaining wolf 
presence in the higher road density and, therefore, less-suitable areas 
(Mech 1989, pp. 387-388; Wydeven et al. 2001a, p. 112). The predictive 
ability of this model was questioned (Mech 2006a, 2006b) and responded 
to (Mladenoff et al. 2006), and an updated analysis of Wisconsin pack 
locations and habitat has been completed (Mladenoff et al. 2009). This 
new model maintains that road density is still an important indicator 
of suitable wolf habitat; however, lack of agricultural land is also a 
strong predictor of habitat wolves occupy.
    It appears that essentially all suitable habitat in Minnesota is 
now occupied, range expansion has slowed or possibly ceased, and the 
wolf population within the State has stabilized (Erb and Benson 2004, 
p. 7; Erb and Don Carlos 2009, pp. 57, 60). This suitable habitat 
closely matches the areas designated as Wolf Management Zones 1 through 
4 in the Revised Recovery Plan (USFWS 1992, p. 72), which are identical 
in area to Minnesota Wolf Management Zone A (see Figure 2, below; MN 
DNR 2001, Appendix III).
    Recent surveys for Wisconsin wolves and wolf packs show that wolves 
have now recolonized the areas predicted by habitat models to have high 
and moderate probability of occupancy (primary and secondary wolf 
habitat). The late-winter 2008-09 Wisconsin wolf survey identified 
packs occurring throughout the central Wisconsin forest area (Wolf 
Management Zone 2, Figure 3) and across the northern forest zone (Zone 
1, Figure 3), with highest pack densities in the northwest and north-
central forest; pack densities are lower, but increasing, in the 
northeastern corner of the State (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2009, Figure 
1).
    Michigan wolf surveys in winter 2009-10 continue to show wolf pairs 
or packs (defined by Michigan DNR as two or more wolves traveling 
together) in every UP county except Keweenaw County (Huntzinger et al. 
2005, p. 6; Roell 2011, pers. comm.), which probably lacks a suitable 
ungulate prey base during winter months (Potvin et al. 2005, p. 1665).
    Habitat suitability studies in the Upper Midwest indicate that the 
only large areas of suitable or potentially suitable habitat areas that 
are currently unoccupied by wolves are located in the northern LP of 
Michigan (Mladenoff et al. 1997, p. 23; Mladenoff et al. 1999, p. 39; 
Potvin 2003, pp. 44-45; Gehring and Potter 2005, p. 1239). One 
published Michigan study (Gehring and Potter 2005, p. 1239) estimates 
that these areas could host 46 to 89 wolves; a graduate thesis 
estimates that 110-480 wolves could exist in the northern LP (Potvin 
2003, p. 39). The northern LP is separated from the UP by the Straits 
of Mackinac, whose 4-mile (6.4-km) width freezes during mid- and late-
winter in some years. In recent years there have been several 
documented occurrences of wolves in the northern LP, but until 2010, 
there had been no indication of persistence beyond several months. 
Prior to those occurrences, the last recorded wolf in the LP was in 
1910.
    In the first instance a radio-collared female wolf from the eastern 
UP was trapped and killed by a coyote trapper in Presque Isle County in 
late October 2004. In late November 2004, tracks from two wolves were 
verified in the same northern LP county. Follow-up winter surveys by 
the DNR in early 2005 failed to find additional wolf tracks in the 
northern LP (Huntzinger et al. 2005, p. 7); additional surveys 
conducted in 2006-10 also failed to find evidence of continued northern 
LP wolf presence (Roell et al. 2009, p. 5; Roell 2010, pers. comm.). A 
video of a single wolf was taken near Mackinac City in Cheboygan County 
in May 2009, and another trail-camera video-recorded a wolf in Presque 
Isle County in July 2009. These two sightings may have been the same 
animal (Roell 2009, pers. comm.). In 2010, USDA Wildlife Services and 
MI DNR staff confirmed a single breeding pair with pups in Cheboygan 
County in the northern LP (MI DNR 2010).
    These northern LP patches of potentially suitable habitat contain a 
great deal of private land, are small in comparison to the occupied 
habitat on the UP and in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and are intermixed 
with agricultural and higher road density areas (Gehring and Potter 
2005, p. 1240). Therefore, continuing wolf immigration from the UP may 
be necessary to maintain a future northern LP population. The Gehring 
and Potter study (2005, p. 1239) predicted 850 sq mi (2,198 sq km) of 
suitable habitat (areas with greater than a 50 percent probability of 
wolf occupancy) in the northern LP. Potvin (2003, p. 21), using deer 
density in addition to road density, believes there are about 3,090 sq 
mi (8,000 sq km) of suitable habitat in the northern LP. Gehring and 
Potter (2005, p. 1239) exclude from their calculations those northern 
LP low-road-density patches that are less than 19 sq mi (50 sq km), 
while Potvin (2003, pp. 10-15) does not limit habitat patch size in his 
calculations. Both of these area estimates are well below the minimum 
area described in the Revised Recovery Plan, which states that 10,000 
sq mi (25,600 sq km) of contiguous suitable habitat is needed for a 
viable isolated gray wolf population, and half that area (5,000 sq mi 
or 12,800 sq km) is needed to maintain a viable wolf population that is 
subject to wolf immigration from a nearby population (USFWS 1992, pp. 
25-26).
    Based on the above-described studies and the guidance of the 1992 
Revised Recovery Plan, the Service has concluded that suitable habitat 
for wolves in the proposed WGL DPS can be determined by considering 
four

[[Page 26108]]

factors: Road density, human density, prey base, and size. An adequate 
prey base is an absolute requirement, but in much of the proposed WGL 
DPS the white-tailed deer density is well above adequate levels, 
causing the other factors to become the determinants of suitable 
habitat. Prey base is primarily of concern in the UP where severe 
winter conditions cause deer to move away from some lakeshore areas, 
making otherwise suitable areas locally and seasonally unsuitable. Road 
density and human density frequently are highly correlated; therefore, 
road density is the best single predictor of habitat suitability. 
However, areas with higher road density may still be suitable if the 
human density is very low, so a consideration of both factors is 
sometimes useful (Erb and Benson 2004, p. 2).
    Finally, although the territory of individual wolf packs can be 
relatively small, packs are not likely to persist as a viable 
population if they occupy a small isolated island of otherwise 
unsuitable habitat. The 1992 Revised Recovery Plan indicates that a 
wolf population needs to occupy at least 10,000 contiguous sq mi 
(25,600 sq km) to be considered viable if it is isolated from other 
wolf populations, and must occupy at least half that area if it is not 
isolated from another self-sustaining population (USFWS 1992, pp. 25-
26).
    Based on the information discussed above, we conclude that 
Minnesota Wolf Management Zone A (Federal Wolf Management Zones 1-4, 
Figure 2), Wisconsin Wolf Zones 1 and 2 (Figure 3), and the UP of 
Michigan contain a sufficient amount of suitable wolf habitat. The 
other areas within the DPS are unsuitable habitat, or are potentially 
habitat that is too small or too fragmented to be suitable for 
maintaining a viable wolf population.

Wolf Populations on Federal Lands

    National forests, and the prey species found in their various 
habitats, have been important to wolf conservation and recovery in the 
core areas of the proposed WGL DPS. There are five national forests in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (Superior, Chippewa, Chequamegon-
Nicolet, Ottawa, and Hiawatha National Forests) with wolf packs that 
exclusively or partially reside on them. Their wolf populations range 
from approximately 484 on the Superior National Forest in northeastern 
Minnesota, to an estimated 182 on the UP's Ottawa National Forest, 164 
on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northeastern Wisconsin, 
and another estimated 49 on the Hiawatha National Forest in the eastern 
UP (Delphey 2009, pers. comm.; Eklund 2009, pers. comm.; Roell 2011, 
pers. comm., Wydeven 2011, pers. comm.).
    Voyageurs National Park, along Minnesota's northern border, has a 
land base of nearly 340 sq mi (882 sq km). As of the last survey in 
2008, there were 31 to 46 wolves within 7 to 9 packs that exclusively 
or partially reside within the park, and at least 5 packs are located 
wholly inside the Park boundaries (Ethier et al. 2008, p. 5). The 2008 
estimates fall within the range of wolf estimates for the Park from the 
1990s (Gogan et al. 2004) and early 2000s (Fox et al. 2001, pp. 6-7).
    Within the boundaries of the proposed WGL DPS, we currently manage 
seven units within the National Wildlife Refuge System with significant 
wolf activity. Primary among these are Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge 
(NWR), Tamarac NWR, and Rice Lake NWR in Minnesota; Seney NWR in the UP 
of Michigan; and Necedah NWR in central Wisconsin. Agassiz NWR has had 
as many as 20 wolves in 2 to 3 packs in recent years. Although in 1999 
mange and illegal shootings reduced them to a single pack of five 
wolves and a separate lone wolf, since 2001, two packs with a total of 
10 to 12 wolves have been using the Refuge. About 60 percent of the 
packs' territories are located on the Refuge or on an adjacent State-
owned wildlife management area (Huschle in litt. 2005).
    Data collected by Agassiz NWR staff during winter wolf sign surveys 
conducted in cooperation with the MN DNR during both the winters of 
2007-08 and 2008-09 support the above wolf totals. Winter track data 
from 2007-08 suggest that one pack on Agassiz had a minimum size of 
five and one had a minimum size of six. The following winter's survey 
information suggested a minimum pack size of five for both packs 
(Knutson 2009, pers. comm.). Two packs of wolves that currently include 
about eight and five members, respectively, use Tamarac NWR and the 
territory of a third occurs partly on the Refuge (Brininger 2009, pers. 
comm.). The size of the one pack using Rice Lake NWR, in Minnesota, has 
been reported at six to nine in previous years; in 2009 a maximum of 
three wolves were confirmed on the Refuge (McDowell 2009, pers. comm.), 
although total pack size may be greater.
    Other single or paired wolves pass through the Refuge frequently 
(Stefanski 2004, pers. comm.; McDowell in litt. 2005). Seney NWR has 
three packs, representing 8-10 wolves, which partially reside on the 
Refuge (Roell 2010, pers. comm.). In 2010, two packs of six wolves each 
and at least one loner were detected on Necedah NWR (Wydeven et al. 
2010, p. 41). Over the past 10 years, Sherburne and Crane Meadows NWR 
Complex in central Minnesota have had intermittent, but reliable, 
observations and signs of individual wolves each year. To date, no 
established packs have been documented on either of those Refuges. The 
closest established packs are within 15 mi (24 km) of Crane Meadows NWR 
at Camp Ripley Military Installation and 30 mi (48 km) north of 
Sherburne NWR at Mille Lacs State Wildlife Management Area (Berkley 
2009, pers. comm.).

Suitable Habitat Ownership and Protection

    In Minnesota, public lands, including national forests, a national 
park, national wildlife refuges, tax-forfeit lands (managed mostly by 
counties), State forests, State wildlife management areas, and State 
parks, encompass approximately 42 percent of current wolf range. 
American Indians and Tribes own 3 percent, an additional 1,535 sq mi 
(2,470 sq km), in Minnesota's wolf range (see Erb and Benson 2004, 
Table 1). In its 2001 Minnesota Wolf Management Plan, MN DNR states 
that it ``will continue to identify and manage currently occupied and 
potential wolf habitat areas to benefit wolves and their prey on public 
and private land, in cooperation with landowners and other management 
agencies'' (MN DNR 2001, p. 25). MN DNR will monitor deer and moose 
habitat and, when necessary and appropriate, improve habitat for these 
species. MN DNR maintains that several large public land units of State 
parks and State forests along the Wisconsin border will likely ensure 
that the connection between the two States' wolf populations will 
remain open to wolf movements. Nevertheless, MN DNR stated that it 
would cooperate with Wisconsin DNR to incorporate the effects of future 
development ``into long-term viability analyses of wolf populations and 
dispersal in the interstate area'' (MN DNR 2001, p. 27).
    The MN DNR Divisions of Forestry and Wildlife directly administer 
approximately 5,330 sq mi (13,805 sq km) of land in Minnesota's wolf 
range. The DNR has set goals of enlarging and protecting its forested 
land base by, in part, ``minimizing the loss and fragmentation of 
private forest lands'' (MN DNR 2000, p. 20) and by connecting forest 
habitats with natural corridors (MN DNR 2000, p. 21). It plans to 
achieve these goals and objectives via several strategies, including 
the development of (Ecological) Subsection

[[Page 26109]]

Forest Resource Management Plans (SFRMP) and to expand its focus on 
corridor management and planning.
    In 2005, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified that 4.84 
million acres (1.96 million hectares) of State-administered forest land 
are ``well managed'' (FSC 2005); the Sustainable Forestry Initiative 
(SFI) also certified that MN DNR was managing these lands to meet its 
standards. For the FSC certification, independent certifiers assessed 
forest management against FSC's Lakes States Regional Standard, which 
includes a requirement to maximize habitat connectivity to the extent 
possible at the landscape level (FSC 2005, p. 22).
    Efforts to maximize habitat connectivity in the range of wolves 
would complement measures the MN DNR described in its State wolf plan 
(MN DNR 2001, pp. 26-27). If the Service ultimately delists the DPS as 
proposed, the Service will review certification evaluation reports 
issued by FSC to assess MN DNR's ongoing efforts in this area as part 
of its post-delisting monitoring.
    Counties manage approximately 3,860 sq mi (9,997 sq km) of tax 
forfeit land in Minnesota's wolf range (MN DNR unpublished data). We 
are aware of no specific measures that any county in Minnesota takes to 
conserve wolves. If most of the tax-forfeit lands are maintained for 
use as timber lands or natural areas, however, and if regional prey 
levels are maintained, management specifically for wolves on these 
lands will not be necessary. MN DNR manages ungulate populations ``on a 
regional basis to ensure sustainable harvests for hunters, sufficient 
numbers for aesthetic and nonconsumptive use, and to minimize damage to 
natural communities and conflicts with humans such as depredation of 
agricultural crops'' (MN DNR 2001, p. 17). Moreover, although counties 
may sell tax-forfeit lands subject to Minnesota State law, they 
generally manage these lands to ensure that they will retain their 
productivity as forests into the future. For example, Crow Wing 
County's mission for its forest lands includes the commitment to 
``sustain a healthy, diverse, and productive forest for future 
generations to come.'' In addition, at least four counties in 
Minnesota's wolf range--Beltrami, Carlton, Koochiching, and St. Louis--
are certified by SFI, and four others (Aitkin, Cass, Itasca, and Lake) 
have been certified by FSC. About ten private companies with industrial 
forest lands in Minnesota's wolf range have also been certified by FSC.
    There are no legal or regulatory requirements for the protection of 
wolf habitat, per se, on private lands in Minnesota. Land management 
activities such as timber harvest and prescribed burning carried out by 
public agencies and by private land owners in Minnesota's wolf range 
incidentally and significantly improves habitat for deer, the primary 
prey for wolves in the State. The impact of these measures is apparent 
from the continuing high deer densities in Minnesota's wolf range. The 
State's second largest deer harvest occurred in 2006, and approximately 
one-half of the Minnesota deer harvest is in the Forest Zone, which 
encompasses most of the occupied wolf range in the State (MN DNR 2009, 
Table 1).
    Given the extensive public ownership and management of land within 
Minnesota's wolf range, as well as the beneficial habitat management 
expected from Tribal lands, we believe suitable habitat, and especially 
an adequate wild prey base, will remain available to the State's wolf 
population for the foreseeable future. Management of private lands for 
timber production will provide additional habitat suitable for wolves 
and white-tailed deer.
    Similarly, current lands in northern and central Wisconsin that are 
judged to be primary and secondary wolf habitat are well protected from 
significant adverse development and habitat degradation due to public 
ownership or protective management that preserves the habitat and wolf 
prey base. Primary habitat (that is, areas with greater than 50 percent 
probability of wolf pack occupancy; Wydeven et al. 1999, pp. 47-48) 
totals 5,812 sq mi (15,053 sq km). The 1999 Wisconsin wolf plan listed 
land ownership of primary and secondary wolf habitat (Wydeven et al. 
1999, p. 48). In 2006, Sickley (2006, pers. comm.) provided an update 
of the data with more accurate land ownership data. That data show that 
about 55 percent of primary habitat was in public land including, 
Federal, State, or county ownership, and 7 percent was on Tribal land. 
County lands, mostly county forests, comprised 29 percent of the 
primary habitat, and Federal lands mostly the Chequamegon-Nicolet 
National Forest, included another 17 percent.
    Most Tribal land (7 percent of primary habitat), while not public 
land, will likely remain as suitable deer and wolf habitat for the 
foreseeable future. State forest ownership protects 10 percent. Private 
industrial forest lands comprised another 10 percent of the primary 
habitat, although some of these lands have been subdivided for second 
or vacation home sites, reducing this acreage in recent years. The 
remaining 29 percent is in other forms of private ownership and is 
vulnerable to loss from the primary habitat category to an unknown 
extent (Sickley in litt. 2006, unpublished data updating Table C2 of WI 
DNR 1999, p. 48).
    Areas judged to be secondary wolf habitat by WI DNR (10 to 50 
percent probability of occupancy by wolf packs; Wydeven et al. 1999, 
pp. 47-48) were somewhat more developed or fragmented habitats and were 
less well protected overall, because only 43 percent were in public 
ownership and 5 percent were in Native American reservations. Public 
land that maintained secure habitat included county (17 percent) and 
national (18 percent) forests ownership protecting the largest 
segments, and State land protected 7 percent. Private industrial forest 
ownership provided protection to 5 percent, and the remaining 47 
percent was in other forms of private ownership (Sickley in litt. 
2006).
    County forest lands represent the single largest category of 
primary wolf habitat in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Statute 28.11 guides the 
administration of county forests, and directs management for production 
of forest products together with recreational opportunities, wildlife, 
watershed protection, and stabilization of stream flow. This Statute 
also provides a significant disincentive to conversion for other uses. 
Any proposed withdrawal of county forest lands for other uses must meet 
a standard of a higher and better use for the citizens of Wisconsin, 
and be approved by two-thirds of the County Board. As a result of this 
requirement, withdrawals are infrequent, and the county forest land 
base is actually increasing.
    This analysis shows that nearly three-quarters of the primary 
habitat in Wisconsin receives substantial protection due to ownership 
or management for sustainable timber production. Over half of the 
secondary habitat is similarly protected. Portions of the primary 
habitat in northeastern Wisconsin remained sparsely populated with wolf 
packs until recently, but are filling in lately (Wydeven et al. 2010, 
Fig. 2, p. 66), although still allowing for some continuing wolf 
population expansion. In general, we believe this degree of habitat 
protection is more than adequate to support a viable wolf population in 
Wisconsin for the foreseeable future.
    In the UP of Michigan, State and Federal ownership comprises 2.0 
and 2.1 million acres respectively, representing 19.3 percent and 20.1 
percent of the land surface of the UP. The Federal ownership is 
composed of

[[Page 26110]]

87 percent national forest, 8 percent national park, and 5 percent 
national wildlife refuge. The management of these three categories of 
Federal land is discussed elsewhere, but clearly will benefit wolves 
and their prey.
    State lands on the UP are 94 percent State forest land, 6 percent 
State park, and less than 1 percent in fishing and boating access areas 
and State game areas. Part 525, Sustainable Forestry on State 
Forestlands, of the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental 
Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended, directs State forestland 
management in Michigan. It requires the MI DNR to manage the State 
forests in a manner consistent with sustainable forestry, to prepare 
and implement a management plan, and to seek and maintain a third party 
certification that the lands are managed in a sustainable fashion (MI 
DNR 2005c, p. 1).
    Much of the private land on the UP is managed or protected in a 
manner that will maintain forest cover and provide suitable habitat for 
wolves and white-tailed deer. Nearly 1.9 million acres (0.8 million 
hectares) of large-tract industrial forest lands and another 1.9 
million acres (0.8 million hectares) of smaller private forest land are 
enrolled in the Commercial Forest Act (CFA). These 3.7 million acres 
(1.5 million hectares) are managed for long-term sustainable timber 
production under forest management plans written by certified 
foresters; in return, the landowners benefit from a reduction in 
property taxes. In addition, nearly 37,000 acres on the UP are owned by 
The Nature Conservancy, and continue to be managed to restore and 
preserve native plant and animal communities. Therefore, these private 
land management practices currently are preserving an additional 36 
percent of the UP as suitable habitat for wolves and their prey 
species.
    In total, 39 percent of the UP is Federally and State-owned land 
whose management will benefit wolf conservation for the foreseeable 
future, and another 36 percent is private forest land that is being 
managed, largely under the incentives of the CFA, in a way that 
provides suitable habitat and prey for wolf populations. Therefore, a 
minimum of nearly three-quarters of the UP should continue to be 
suitable for wolf conservation, and we do not envision UP habitat loss 
or degradation as a problem for wolf population viability in the 
foreseeable future.
    Hearne et al. (2003), determined that a viable wolf population (one 
having less than 10 percent chance of extinction over 100 years), 
should consist of at least 175 to 225 wolves (p. 170), and they modeled 
various likely scenarios of habitat conditions in the UP of Michigan 
and northern Wisconsin through the year 2020 to determine whether 
future conditions would support a wolf population of that size. Most 
scenarios of future habitat conditions resulted in viable wolf 
populations in each State through 2020. When the model analyzed the 
future conditions in the two States combined, all scenarios produced a 
viable wolf population through 2020. Their scenarios included increases 
in human population density, changes in land ownership that may result 
in decreased habitat suitability, and increased road density (pp. 101-
151).
    The large areas of unsuitable habitat in the eastern Dakotas; the 
northern portions of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio; and the 
southern areas of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan; as well as the 
relatively small areas of unoccupied potentially suitable habitat, will 
not contribute to the viability of wolves in the proposed WGL DPS. 
Therefore, we have determined that the existing and likely future 
threats to wolves outside the currently occupied areas, and especially 
to wolves outside of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the UP, do not rise to 
the level that they threaten the long-term viability of wolf 
populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the UP of Michigan.
    In summary, wolves currently occupy the vast majority of the 
suitable habitat in the proposed WGL DPS, and that habitat is 
adequately protected for the foreseeable future. Unoccupied areas that 
have the characteristics of suitable habitat exist in small and 
fragmented parcels and are not likely to develop viable wolf 
populations. Threats to those habitat areas will not adversely impact 
the recovered wolf metapopulation in the DPS.

Prey

    Wolf density is heavily dependent on prey availability (for 
example, expressed as ungulate biomass, Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 170-
171), but prey availability is not likely to threaten wolves in the 
proposed WGL DPS. Conservation of primary wolf prey in the proposed WGL 
DPS, white-tailed deer and moose, is clearly a high priority for State 
conservation agencies. As Minnesota DNR points out in its wolf 
management plan (MN DNR 2001, p. 25), it manages ungulates to ensure a 
harvestable surplus for hunters, nonconsumptive users, and to minimize 
conflicts with humans. To ensure a harvestable surplus for hunters, MN 
DNR must account for all sources of natural mortality, including loss 
to wolves, and adjust hunter harvest levels when necessary. For 
example, after severe winters in the 1990's, MN DNR modified hunter 
harvest levels to allow for the recovery of the local deer population 
(MN DNR 2001, p. 25). In addition to regulation of human harvest of 
deer and moose, MN DNR also plans to continue to monitor and improve 
habitat for these species.
    Land management carried out by other public agencies and by private 
land owners in Minnesota's wolf range, including timber harvest and 
prescribed fire, incidentally and significantly improves habitat for 
deer, the primary prey for wolves in the State. The success of these 
measures is apparent from the continuing high deer densities in the 
Forest Zone of Minnesota, and the fact that the State's five largest 
deer harvests have occurred in the last 6 years, with a deer harvest 
averaging 241,000 deer over the last 5 years. Approximately one-half of 
the Minnesota deer harvest is in the Forest Zone, which encompasses 
most of the occupied wolf range in the State (Cornicelli 2008, pp. 208-
209). There is no indication that harvest of deer and moose or 
management of their habitat will significantly depress abundance of 
these species in Minnesota's core wolf range. Therefore, lack of prey 
availability is not likely to pose a threat to wolves in the 
foreseeable future in the State.
    The deer populations in Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan declined 
somewhat from historically high levels in recent years. Wisconsin's 
preseason deer population has exceeded 1 million animals since 1984 (WI 
DNR undated a; Rolley 2007, p. 6; Rolley 2008, p. 6), and hunter 
harvest has exceeded 400,000 deer in 10 of the last 12 years (WI DNR 
2010, p.57). Across northern Wisconsin wolf range (Zone 1), winter deer 
density in northern deer management units averaged from 22-30 deer per 
sq mi (8.5-11.6 deer per sq km) between 2001-07, but declined to 17-18 
deer per sq mi (6.6-6.9 deer per sq km) in 2009 and 2010. In Central 
Forest wolf range (Zone 2), winter deer density in deer management 
units averaged 29-50 deer per sq mi (11.2-19.3 deer per sq km) from 
2001 to 2007, and was 35 deer per sq mi (13.5 deer per sq km) in 2009, 
and 26 deer per sq mi (10.0 deer per sq km) in 2010 (WI DNR data).
    Michigan's 2009 October forecast for the deer population was 
approximately 1.8 million deer, with about 312,800 residing in the UP; 
the 2010 estimates projected a slightly higher UP deer population 
(Doepker 2010, pers. comm.; Rudolph 2010, pers. comm.). Because of 
severe winter conditions (persistent, deep snow) in the UP, deer 
populations

[[Page 26111]]

can change dramatically from year to year. Recently (2010) the MI DNR 
finalized a new deer management plan, to address ecological, social, 
and regulatory shifts. An objective of this plan is to manage deer at 
the appropriate scale, considering impacts of deer on the landscape and 
on other species, in addition to population size (MI DNR 2010, p. 20). 
Additionally, the Michigan wolf management plan addresses maintaining a 
sustainable population of wolf prey (MI DNR 2008, p. 36). Short of a 
major, and unlikely, shift in deer management and harvest strategies, 
there will be no shortage of prey for Wisconsin and Michigan wolves for 
the foreseeable future.

Summary of Factor A

    The wolf population in the proposed WGL DPS currently occupies all 
the suitable habitat area identified for recovery in the Midwest in the 
1978 Recovery Plan and 1992 Revised Recovery Plan and most of the 
potentially suitable habitat in the WGL DPS. Viable wolf populations 
are unlikely to develop and persist in unsuitable habitat and the small 
fragmented areas of suitable habitat away from these core areas. 
Although they may have been historical habitat, many of these areas are 
no longer suitable for wolves and they have not been considered 
necessary for the recovery of the proposed DPS.
    The wolf population in the proposed WGL DPS exceeds its numerical, 
temporal, and distributional goals for recovery. The amount of habitat 
likely to support a delisted wolf population is considered to be 
adequate for maintaining the WGL population at or above recovery levels 
for the foreseeable future. Because much important wolf habitat in the 
DPS is in public ownership, the States will likely continue to manage 
for high ungulate populations, and the States, Tribes, and Federal land 
management agencies will adequately regulate human-caused mortality of 
wolves and wolf prey. This will allow these States to easily support a 
recovered and viable wolf metapopulation into the foreseeable future. 
We conclude that wolves within this proposed DPS are not in danger of 
extinction now, or likely to be in danger of extinction in the 
foreseeable future, as a result of destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of the species' habitat or range.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Threats to wolves resulting from uses for scientific or educational 
purposes are not likely to increase substantially following delisting 
of the proposed WGL DPS, and any increased use for these purposes will 
be regulated and monitored by the States and Tribes in the core 
recovery areas. Since their listing under the Act, no wolves have been 
legally killed or removed from the wild in any of the nine States 
included in the proposed WGL DPS for either commercial or recreational 
purposes. Some wolves may have been illegally killed for commercial use 
of the pelts and other parts, but illegal commercial trafficking in 
wolf pelts or parts and illegal capture of wolves for commercial 
breeding purposes happens rarely. State wolf management plans for 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan help ensure that wolves will not be 
killed for commercial or recreational purposes for many years following 
the proposed Federal delisting, so these forms of mortality will not 
likely emerge as new threats upon delisting. See Factor D for a 
detailed discussion of State wolf management plans, and for applicable 
regulations in States without wolf management plans.
    We do not expect the use of wolves for scientific purposes to 
increase in proportion to total wolf numbers in the proposed WGL DPS 
after delisting. While listed, the intentional or incidental killing, 
or capture and permanent confinement, of endangered or threatened 
wolves for scientific purposes has only legally occurred under permits 
or subpermits issued by the Service (under section 10(a)(1)(A)) or by a 
State agency operating under a cooperative agreement with the Service 
pursuant to section 6 of the Act (50 CFR 17.21(c)(5) and 17.31(b)). 
Although exact figures are not available, throughout the conterminous 
48 States, such permanent removals of wolves from the wild have been 
very limited and probably comprise an average of not more than two 
animals per year since the species was first listed as endangered. In 
the proposed WGL DPS, these animals were either taken from the 
Minnesota wolf population during long-term research activities (about 
15 wolves) or were accidental takings as a result of research 
activities in Wisconsin (5 to 6 mortalities and 1 long-term 
confinement) and in Michigan (4 mortalities) (Berg in litt. 1998; Mech 
in litt. 1998; Roell in litt. 2004; Roell in litt. 2005a; Roell 2011, 
pers. comm.; Wydeven 2009, pers. comm.).
    The Minnesota DNR plans to encourage the study of wolves with 
radio-telemetry after delisting, with an emphasis on areas where they 
expect wolf-human conflicts and where wolves are expanding their range 
(MN DNR 2001, p. 19). Similarly, Wisconsin and Michigan DNRs plan to 
continue to trap wolves for radio-collaring, examination, and health 
monitoring for the foreseeable future (WI DNR 1999, pp. 19-21; MI DNR 
2008a, pp. 31-32; WI DNR 2006a, p. 14). The continued handling of wild 
wolves for research, including the administration of drugs, may result 
in some accidental deaths of wolves. We believe that capture and radio-
telemetry-related injuries or mortalities will not increase 
significantly above the level observed to date in proportion to wolf 
abundance; adverse effects to wolves associated with such activities 
have been minimal and would not constitute a threat to wolves in the 
proposed WGL DPS.
    No wolves have been legally removed from the wild for educational 
purposes in recent years. Wolves that have been used for such purposes 
are the captive-reared offspring of wolves that were already in 
captivity for other reasons, and this is not likely to change as a 
result of Federal delisting. We do not expect taking for educational 
purposes to constitute any threat to Midwest wolf populations in the 
proposed DPS for the foreseeable future.
    See Factor E for a discussion of Taking of Wolves by Native 
Americans for Certain Purposes. See the Depredation Control Programs 
sections under Factor D for discussion of other past, current, and 
potential future forms of intentional and accidental take by humans, 
including depredation control, public safety, and under public harvest. 
While public harvest may include recreational harvest, it is likely 
that public harvest will also serve as a management tool, so it is 
discussed in Factor D.

Summary of Factor B

    Taking wolves for scientific or educational purposes in the other 
States in the proposed WGL DPS may not be regulated or closely 
monitored in the future, but the threat to wolves in those States will 
not be significant to the long-term viability of the wolf population in 
the proposed WGL DPS. The potential limited commercial and recreational 
harvest that may occur in the DPS will be regulated by State and/or 
Tribal conservation agencies and is discussed under Factor D. 
Therefore, we conclude that overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes will not be a threat 
sufficient to cause wolves in the proposed WGL DPS to be in danger of 
extinction in the foreseeable future in all or a significant portion of 
the range within the proposed WGL DPS.

[[Page 26112]]

C. Disease or Predation.

Disease

    Many diseases and parasites have been reported for the wolf, and 
several of them have had significant impacts during the recovery of the 
species in the 48 conterminous States (Brand et al. 1995, p. 419; WI 
DNR 1999, p. 61). If not monitored and controlled by States, these 
diseases and parasites, and perhaps others, may threaten wolf 
populations in the future. Thus, to avoid a future decline caused by 
diseases or parasites, States and their partners will have to 
diligently monitor the prevalence of these pathogens in order to 
effectively respond to significant outbreaks.
    Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a relatively new disease that infects 
wolves, domestic dogs, foxes, coyotes, skunks, and raccoons. Recognized 
in the United States in 1977 in domestic dogs, it appeared in Minnesota 
wolves (based upon retrospective serologic evidence) live-trapped as 
early as 1977 (Mech et al. 1986, p. 105). Minnesota wolves, however, 
may have been exposed to the virus as early as 1973 (Mech and Goyal 
1995, p. 568). Serologic evidence of wolf exposure to CPV peaked at 95 
percent for a group of Minnesota wolves live-trapped in 1989 (Mech and 
Goyal 1993, p. 331). In a captive colony of Minnesota wolves, pup and 
yearling mortality from CPV was 92 percent of the animals that showed 
indications of active CPV infections in 1983 (Mech and Fritts 1987, p. 
6), demonstrating the substantial impacts this disease can have on 
young wolves. It is believed that the population impacts of CPV occur 
via diarrhea-induced dehydration leading to abnormally high pup 
mortality (WI DNR 1999, p. 61). CPV has been detected in nearly every 
wolf population in North America including Alaska (Bailey et al. 1995, 
p. 443) and exposure in wolves is now believed to be almost universal.
    There is no evidence that CPV has caused a population decline or 
has had a significant impact on the recovery of the Minnesota wolf 
population. Mech and Goyal (1995, p. 566, Table 1, p. 568, Fig. 3), 
however, found that high CPV prevalence in the wolves of the Superior 
National Forest in Minnesota occurred during the same years in which 
wolf pup numbers were low. Because the wolf population did not decline 
during the study period, they concluded that CPV-caused pup mortality 
was compensatory, that is, it replaced deaths that would have occurred 
from other causes, especially starvation of pups. They theorized that 
CPV prevalence affects the amount of population increase and that a 
wolf population will decline when 76 percent of the adult wolves 
consistently test positive for CPV exposure. Their data indicate that 
CPV prevalence in adult wolves in their study area increased by an 
annual average of 4 percent during 1979-93 and was at least 80 percent 
during the last 5 years of their study (Mech and Goyal 1995, pp. 566, 
568).
    Additional data gathered since 1995 suggests that CPV reduced pup 
survival both in the Superior National Forest and statewide, between 
1984 and 2004; however, statewide there is some evidence of a slight 
increase in pup survival since about 1995. These conclusions are based 
on an inverse relationship between pup numbers in summer captures and 
seroprevalence of CPV antibodies in summer-captured adult wolves (Mech 
et al. 2008, pp. 827-830).
    In a more recent study, Mech and Goyal (2010) looked more 
specifically at CPV influence on the Superior National Forest 
population by evaluating five 7-year periods to determine when CPV had 
its greatest effects. They found the strongest effect on wolf pup 
survival was from 1981 to 1993, and that after that time, little effect 
was seen despite the continued seroprevalence of CPV antibodies (Mech 
and Goyal 2010, pp. 6-7). They conclude that after CPV became endemic 
in the population, the population developed immunity and was able to 
withstand severe effects from the disease (Mech and Goyal 2010, p. 7). 
The observed population effects in the Superior National Forest 
population are consistent with results for studies in smaller, isolated 
populations in Wisconsin and on Isle Royale, Michigan (Wydeven et al. 
1995; Peterson et al. 1998), but indicate that CPV also had only a 
temporary population effect in a larger population.
    The WI DNR and the WI DNR Wildlife Health, in conjunction with the 
U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, 
Wisconsin, (formerly the National Wildlife Health Laboratory) have an 
extensive dataset on the incidence of wolf diseases, beginning in 1981. 
Canine parvovirus exposure was evident in 5 of 6 wolves tested in 1981, 
and probably stalled wolf population growth in Wisconsin during the 
early and mid-1980s when numbers there declined or were static; at that 
time 75 percent of 32 wolves tested positive for CPV. During the 
following years of population increase (1988-96), only 35 percent of 
the 63 wolves tested positive for CPV (WI DNR 1999, p. 62). More recent 
exposure rates for CPV continue to be high in Wisconsin wolves, with 
annual rates ranging from 60 to 100 percent among wild wolves handled 
from 2001 through mid-2006. Part of the reason for high exposure 
percentages is likely an increased emphasis in sampling pups and 
Central Forest wolves starting in 2001, so comparisons of post- and 
pre-2001 data are of limited value.
    CPV appears not to be a significant cause of mortality, as only a 
single wolf (male pup) is known to have died from CPV during this 
period (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2002, p. 8 Table 4; 2003a, pp. 11-12 
Table 4; 2004a, pp. 11-12 Table 5; 2005, pp. 19-20 Table 4; 2006, pp. 
23-25 Table 4; 2009, Table 2; Wydeven et al. 2007, pp. 12-14; 2008, pp. 
19-21). While the difficulty of discovering CPV-killed pups must be 
considered, and it is possible that CPV-caused pup mortality is being 
underestimated, the continuing increase of the Wisconsin wolf 
population indicates that CPV mortality is no longer impeding wolf 
population growth in the State. It may be that many Wisconsin wolves 
have developed some degree of resistance to CPV, and this disease is no 
longer a significant threat in the State.
    Similar to Wisconsin wolves, serological testing of Michigan wolves 
captured from 1992 through 2001 (most recent available data) shows that 
the majority of UP wolves have been exposed to CPV. Fifty-six percent 
of 16 wolves captured from 1992 to 1999 and 83 percent of 23 wolves 
captured in 2001 showed antibody titers at levels established as 
indicative of previous CPV exposure that may provide protection from 
future infection from CPV (Beheler in litt. undated, in litt. 2004). 
There are no data showing any CPV-caused wolf mortality or population 
impacts to the wolf population on the UP, but few wolf pups are handled 
in the UP (Hammill in litt. 2002, Beyer in litt. 2006a), so low levels 
of CPV-caused pup mortality may go undetected there. Mortality data are 
primarily collected from collared wolves, which until 2004 received CPV 
inoculations. Therefore, mortality data for the UP should be 
interpreted cautiously.
    Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite (Sarcoptes scabiei) infection 
of the skin. The irritation caused by the feeding and burrowing mites 
results in scratching and then severe fur loss, which in turn can lead 
to mortality from exposure during severe winter weather. The mites are 
spread from wolf to wolf by direct body contact or by common use of 
``rubs'' by infested and uninfested animals. Thus, mange is frequently 
passed from infested females to their young pups, and from older pack 
members to their pack mates. In a long-

[[Page 26113]]

term Alberta, Canada, wolf study, higher wolf densities were correlated 
with increased incidence of mange, and pup survival decreased as the 
incidence of mange increased (Brand et al. 1995, p. 428).
    From 1991 to 1996, 27 percent of live-trapped Wisconsin wolves 
exhibited symptoms of mange. During the winter of 1992-93, 58 percent 
showed symptoms, and a concurrent decline in the Wisconsin wolf 
population was attributed to mange-induced mortality (WI DNR 1999, p. 
61). Seven Wisconsin wolves died from mange from 1993 through October 
15, 1998, and severe fur loss affected five other wolves that died from 
other causes. During that period, mange was the third largest cause of 
death in Wisconsin wolves, behind trauma (usually vehicle collisions) 
and shooting (Thomas in litt. 1998). Largely as a result of mange, pup 
survival was only 16 percent in 1993, compared to a normal 30 percent 
survival rate from birth to one year of age (WI DNR 1999, p. 61).
    Mange continues to occur on wolves in Wisconsin. From 2003 through 
2007, 25 percent of live-trapped wolves showed signs of mange, but that 
declined to 11 percent of wolves handled in 2009 and 2010. Mortality 
data from closely monitored radio-collared wolves provides a relatively 
unbiased estimate of mortality factors, especially those linked to 
disease or illegal actions, because nearly all carcasses are located 
within a few days of deaths. Diseased wolves suffering from hypothermia 
or nearing death generally crawl into dense cover and may go 
undiscovered if they are not radio-tracked (Wydeven et al. 2001b, p. 
14). Data from those closely monitored radio-collared wolves show that 
mange mortality ranged from 22 percent of deaths in 2006 and 12 percent 
in 2007 to 21 percent of deaths in 2008 (Wydeven in litt. 2009), 15 
percent in 2009 (Wydeven et al. 2010, p. 13), and 6 percent in 2010 
(Wydeven et al. 2011, p. 2).
    Mange mortality does appear to be stabilizing or perhaps declining 
in Wisconsin. Not all mangy wolves succumb; other observations showed 
that some mangy wolves are able to survive the winter (Wydeven et al. 
2001b, p. 14). Mange has been detected in Wisconsin wolves every year 
since 1991 when 45 to 52 wolves occurred in the State, and may have 
slowed the growth of the wolf population in the early 1990s (Wydeven et 
al. 2009c), but despite its constant presence as an occasional 
mortality factor, the wolf population grew to its present (2010) level 
of 690 or more wolves.
    The survival of pups during their first winter is believed to be 
strongly affected by mange. The highest to date wolf mortality (30 
percent of radio-collared wolves; Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2004a, p. 12) 
from mange in Wisconsin in 2003 may have had more severe effects on pup 
survival than in previous years. The prevalence of the disease may have 
contributed to the relatively small population increase in 2003 (2.4 
percent in 2003 as compared to the average 18 percent to that point 
since 1985). However, mange has not caused a decline in the State's 
wolf population, and even though the rate of population increase has 
slowed in recent years, the wolf population continues to increase 
despite the continued prevalence of mange in Wisconsin wolves. Although 
mange mortality may not be the primary limiting factor for wolf 
population growth in the State, the impacts of mange in Wisconsin need 
to be closely monitored, as identified and addressed in the Wisconsin 
wolf management plan (WI DNR 1999, p. 21; 2006a, p. 14).
    Disease monitoring in Wisconsin has identified a second form of 
mange in the wild wolf population--demodectic mange (Wydeven and 
Wiedenhoeft 2008, p. 8). Demodectic mange mites are relatively common 
in domestic dogs, where symptoms are often minor. The WI DNR is closely 
monitoring wolf pups and examining all dead wolves to determine if this 
becomes a significant new cause of wolf mortality.
    Seven Michigan wolves died from mange during 1993-97, making it 
responsible for 21 percent of all mortalities, and all disease-caused 
deaths, during that period (MI DNR 1997, p. 39). During bioyears (mid-
April to mid-April) 1999-2009, mange-induced hypothermia killed 18 
radio-collared Michigan wolves, representing 15 percent of the total 
mortality during those years. Since 2004, 11 radio-collared wolves are 
known to have died from mange in the State (Roell 2010, pers. comm.). 
Before 2004, MI DNR treated all captured wolves with Ivermectin if they 
showed signs of mange. In addition, MI DNR vaccinated all captured 
wolves against CPV and canine distemper virus (CDV). These inoculations 
were discontinued in 2004 to provide more natural biotic conditions and 
to provide biologists with an unbiased estimate of disease-caused 
mortality rates in the population (Roell in litt. 2005b).
    Wisconsin wolves similarly had been treated with Ivermectin and 
vaccinated for CPV and CDV when captured, but the practice was stopped 
in 1995 to allow the wolf population to experience more natural biotic 
conditions. Since that time, Ivermectin has been administered only to 
captured wolves with severe cases of mange. In the future, Ivermectin 
and vaccines will be used sparingly on Wisconsin wolves, but will be 
used to counter significant disease outbreaks (Wydeven in litt. 1998).
    Among Minnesota wolves, mange may always have been present at low 
levels and may currently infect less than 10 percent of the State's 
wolves. Of the 407 wolves trapped by Wildlife Services during 2006-08 
in response to depredation complaints, 52 (13 percent) exhibited signs 
of mange (Hart 2009, pers. comm.); the proportion of wolves with signs 
of mange decreased from 17 percent in 2006 to 10 percent in 2008. 
During the previous 3-year period (2003-05), the proportion of trapped 
wolves with signs of mange was also about 13 percent, suggesting that 
mange has not increased in prevalence among wolves in Minnesota since 
2003. The incidence of mange among wolves targeted by Wildlife Services 
is likely not representative of the prevalence of the disease in the 
statewide wolf population; wolves targeted for depredation control 
appear to be more likely to carry the disease (Hart 2009, pers. comm.).
    In a separate study, mortality data from 12 years (1994-05) of 
monitoring radio-collared wolves in 7 to 9 packs in north-central 
Minnesota show that 11 percent died from mange (DelGiudice in litt. 
2005). However, the sample size (17 total mortalities, 2 from mange in 
1998 and 2004) is far too small to deduce trends in mange mortality 
over time. Furthermore, these data are from mange mortalities, while 
the Wildlife Services' data are based on mange symptoms, not 
mortalities.
    It is hypothesized that the current incidence of mange is more 
widespread than it would have otherwise been, because the WGL wolf 
range has experienced a series of mild winters beginning with the 
winter of 1997-98 (Van Deelen 2005, Fig. 2). Mange-induced mortality is 
chiefly a result of winter hypothermia, thus the less severe winters 
resulted in higher survival of mangy wolves, and increased spread of 
mange to additional wolves during the following spring and summer. The 
high wolf population, and especially higher wolf density on the 
landscape, may also be contributing to the increasing occurrence of 
mange in the WGL wolf population.
    Lyme disease, caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, is 
another relatively recently recognized disease, first documented in New 
England in 1975, although it may have

[[Page 26114]]

occurred in Wisconsin as early as 1969. It is spread by ticks that pass 
the infection to their hosts when feeding. Host species include humans, 
horses, dogs, white-tailed deer, white-footed mice, eastern chipmunks, 
coyotes, and wolves. The prevalence of Lyme disease exposure in 
Wisconsin wolves averaged 70 percent of live-trapped animals in 1988-
91, dropped to 37 percent during 1992-97 and was back up to 56 percent 
(32 of 57 tested) in 2002-04 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2004b, pp. 23-24 
Table 7; 2005, pp. 23-24 Table 7). Clinical symptoms have not been 
reported in wolves, but infected dogs can experience debilitating 
conditions, and abortion and fetal mortality have been reported in 
infected humans and horses. It is possible that individual wolves may 
be debilitated by Lyme disease, perhaps contributing to their 
mortality; however, Lyme disease is not believed to be a significant 
factor affecting wolf populations (Kreeger 2003, p. 212).
    The dog louse (Trichodectes canis) has been detected in wolves in 
Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alaska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (Mech et al 
1985, pp. 404-405; Kreeger 2003, p. 208; Paul in litt. 2005). Dogs are 
probably the source of the initial infections, and subsequently wild 
canids transfer lice by direct contact with other wolves, particularly 
between females and pups. Severe infestations result in irritated and 
raw skin, substantial hair loss, particularly in the groin. However, in 
contrast to mange, lice infestations generally result in loss of guard 
hairs but not the insulating under fur, thus, hypothermia is less 
likely to occur and much less likely to be fatal (Brand et al. 1995, p. 
426). Even though observed in nearly 4 percent in a sample of 391 
Minnesota wolves in 2003-05 (Paul in litt. 2005), dog lice infestations 
have not been confirmed as a cause of wolf mortality, and are not 
expected to have a significant impact even at a local scale.
    Canine distemper virus (CDV) is an acute disease of carnivores that 
has been known in Europe since the sixteenth century and is now 
infecting dogs worldwide (Kreeger 2003, p. 209). CDV generally infects 
dog pups when they are only a few months old, so mortality in wild wolf 
populations might be difficult to detect (Brand et al 1995, pp. 420-
421). CDV mortality among wild wolves has been documented only in two 
littermate pups in Manitoba (Carbyn 1982, pp. 111-112), in two Alaskan 
yearling wolves (Peterson et al. 1984, p. 31), and in two Wisconsin 
wolves (an adult in 1985 and a pup in 2002 (Thomas in litt. 2006; 
Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2003b, p. 20). Carbyn (1982, pp. 113-116) 
concluded that CDV was a contributor to a 50 percent decline of the 
wolf population in Riding Mountain National Park (Manitoba, Canada) in 
the mid-1970s. Serological evidence indicates that exposure to CDV is 
high among some Midwest wolves--29 percent in northern Wisconsin wolves 
and 79 percent in central Wisconsin wolves in 2002-04 (Wydeven and 
Wiedenhoeft 2004b, pp. 23-24 Table 7; 2005, pp. 23-24 Table 7). 
However, the continued strong recruitment in Wisconsin and elsewhere in 
North American wolf populations indicates that distemper is not likely 
a significant cause of mortality (Brand et al. 1995, p. 421).
    Other diseases and parasites, including rabies, canine heartworm, 
blastomycosis, bacterial myocarditis, granulomatous pneumonia, 
brucellosis, leptospirosis, bovine tuberculosis, hookworm, coccidiosis, 
and canine hepatitis have been documented in wild wolves, but their 
impacts on future wild wolf populations are not likely to be 
significant (Brand et al. 1995, pp. 419-429; Hassett in litt. 2003; 
Johnson 1995, pp. 431, 436-438; Mech and Kurtz 1999, pp. 305-306; 
Thomas in litt. 1998, Thomas in litt. 2006, WI DNR 1999, p. 61; Kreeger 
2003, pp. 202-214). Continuing wolf range expansion, however, likely 
will provide new avenues for exposure to several of these diseases, 
especially canine heartworm, raccoon rabies, and bovine tuberculosis 
(Thomas in litt. 2000, in litt. 2006), further emphasizing the need for 
disease monitoring programs.
    In addition, the possibility of new diseases developing and 
existing diseases, such as chronic wasting disease (CWD), West Nile 
Virus (WNV) and canine influenza (Crawford et al. 2005, 482-485), 
moving across species barriers or spreading from domestic dogs to 
wolves must all be taken into account, and monitoring programs will 
need to address such threats. Currently there is no evidence that CWD 
can directly affect canids (Thomas in litt. 2006). Wisconsin wolves 
have been tested for WNV at necropsy since the first spread of the 
virus across the State: To date, all results have been negative. 
Although experimental infection of dogs produced no ill effects, WNV is 
reported to have killed two captive wolf pups, so young wolves may be 
at some risk (Thomas in litt. 2006).
    In aggregate, diseases and parasites were the cause of 21 percent 
of the diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared wolves in Michigan from 
1999 through 2004 (Beyer 2005, unpublished data) and 27 percent of the 
diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared wolves in Wisconsin from 
October 1979 through December 2009 (Wydeven et al. 2010, p. 45). In 
recent years (2006-10), disease has been the cause of death for 14 
percent (10 of 70 dead wolves) of the diagnosed mortalities of radio-
collared wolves in Wisconsin and 3 to 7 percent of all wolves (radio-
collared and not collared) found dead in the State (72 to 94 wolves). 
During that time period, disease was the cause of death of 12 percent 
(5 of 43) of the diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared wolves in 
Michigan, and of 3 percent (6 of 199) of the total known wolf 
mortalities in Minnesota.
    Many of the diseases and parasites are known to be spread by wolf-
to-wolf contact. Therefore, the incidence of mange, CPV, CDV, and 
canine heartworm may increase as wolf densities increase in the more 
recently colonized areas (Thomas in litt. 2006). Because wolf densities 
generally are relatively stable following the first few years of 
colonization, wolf-to-wolf contacts will not likely lead to a 
continuing increase in disease prevalence in areas that have been 
occupied for several years or more and are largely saturated with wolf 
packs (Mech in litt. 1998).
    Disease and parasite impacts may increase because several wolf 
diseases and parasites are carried and spread by domestic dogs. This 
transfer of pathogens from domestic dogs to wild wolves may increase as 
wolves continue to colonize non-wilderness areas (Mech in litt. 1998). 
Heartworm, CPV, and rabies are the main concerns (Thomas in litt. 1998) 
but dogs may become significant vectors for other diseases with 
potentially serious impacts on wolves in the future (Crawford et al. 
2005, pp. 482-485). However, to date wolf populations in Wisconsin and 
Michigan have continued their expansion into areas with increased 
contacts with dogs and have shown no adverse pathogen impacts since the 
mid-1980s impacts from CPV.
    Disease and parasite impacts are a recognized concern of the 
Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin DNRs. The Michigan Gray Wolf 
Recovery and Management Plan states that necropsies will be conducted 
on all dead wolves, and that all live wolves that are handled will be 
examined, with blood, skin, and fecal samples taken to provide disease 
information. The Michigan Plan states that the Michigan DNR will 
continue to monitor the prevalence and impact of disease on wolf health 
following Federal delisting (MI DNR 2008, pp. 32, 40-42).
    Similarly, the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan states that as long 
as the wolf is State-listed as a threatened

[[Page 26115]]

or endangered species, the WI DNR will conduct necropsies of dead 
wolves and test a sample of live-captured wolves for diseases and 
parasites, with a goal of screening 10 percent of the State wolf 
population for diseases annually. However, the plan anticipates that 
since State delisting (which occurred on March 24, 2004), disease 
monitoring will be scaled back because the percentage of the wolf 
population that is live-trapped each year will decline. Disease 
monitoring of captured wolves currently is focusing on diseases known 
to be causing noteworthy mortality, such as mange, and other diseases 
for which data are judged to be sparse, such as Lyme disease and 
ehrlichiosis (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2006, p. 8). The State will 
continue to test for disease and parasite loads through periodic 
necropsy and scat analyses. The 2006 update to the 1999 plan also 
recommends that all wolves live-trapped for other studies should have 
their health monitored and reported to the WI DNR wildlife health 
specialists (WI DNR 1999, p. 21; 2006c, p. 14). Furthermore, the 2006 
update identifies a need for ``continued health monitoring to document 
significant disease events that may impact the wolf population and to 
identify new diseases in the population * * *.'' (WI DNR 2006a, p. 24).
    The Minnesota Wolf Management Plan states that MN DNR ``will 
collaborate with other investigators and continue monitoring disease 
incidence, where necessary, by examination of wolf carcasses obtained 
through depredation control programs, and also through blood or tissue 
physiology work conducted by the MN DNR and the U.S. Geological Survey. 
The DNR will also keep records of documented and suspected incidence of 
sarcoptic mange (MN DNR 2001, p. 32).'' In addition, it will initiate 
``(R)egular collection of pertinent tissues of live captured or dead 
wolves'' and periodically assess wolf health ``when circumstances 
indicate that diseases or parasites may be adversely affecting portions 
of the wolf population (MN DNR 2001, p. 19).'' Unlike Michigan and 
Wisconsin, Minnesota has not established minimum goals for the 
proportion of its wolves that will be assessed for disease nor does it 
plan to treat any wolves, although it does not rule out these measures. 
Minnesota's less intensive approach to disease monitoring and 
management seems warranted in light of its much greater abundance of 
wolves than in the other two States.
    In areas within the proposed WGL DPS, but outside Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, and Michigan, we lack data on the incidence of diseases or 
parasites in transient wolves. However, the boundary of the proposed 
WGL DPS is laid out in a manner such that the vast majority of, and 
perhaps all, wolves that will occur in the DPS in the foreseeable 
future will have originated from the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan wolf 
metapopulation. Therefore, they will be carrying the ``normal'' 
complement of Midwest wolf parasites, diseases, and disease resistance 
with them. For this reason, any new pairs, packs, or populations that 
develop within the DPS are likely to experience the same low to 
moderate adverse impacts from pathogens that have been occurring in the 
core recovery areas.
    The most likely exceptions to this generalization would arise from 
exposure to sources of novel diseases or more virulent forms that are 
being spread by other canid species that might be encountered by wolves 
dispersing into currently unoccupied areas of the DPS. To increase the 
likelihood of detecting such novel or more virulent diseases and 
thereby reduce the risk that they might pose to the core meta-
population after delisting, we will encourage these States and Tribes 
to provide wolf carcasses or suitable tissue, as appropriate, to the 
USGS Madison Wildlife Health Center or the Service's National Wildlife 
Forensics Laboratory for necropsy. This practice should provide an 
early indication of new or increasing pathogen threats before they 
reach the core metapopulation or impact future transient wolves to 
those areas.
Disease Summary
    We believe that several diseases have had noticeable impacts on 
wolf population growth in the Great Lakes region in the past. These 
impacts have been both direct, resulting in mortality of individual 
wolves, and indirect, by reducing longevity and fecundity of 
individuals or entire packs or populations. Canine parvovirus stalled 
wolf population growth in Wisconsin in the early and mid-1980s and has 
been implicated in the decline in the mid-1980s of the isolated Isle 
Royale wolf population in Michigan, and in attenuating wolf population 
growth in Minnesota (Mech in litt. 2006). Sarcoptic mange has affected 
wolf recovery in Michigan's UP and in Wisconsin over the last 12 years, 
and it is recognized as a continuing issue.
    Despite these and other diseases and parasites, the overall trend 
for wolf populations in the proposed WGL DPS continues to be upward. 
Wolf management plans for Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin include 
disease monitoring components that we expect will identify future 
disease and parasite problems in time to allow corrective action to 
avoid a significant decline in overall population viability. We 
conclude that diseases and parasites will not prevent continued 
population growth or the maintenance of viable wolf populations in the 
DPS. Delisting of wolves in the proposed WGL DPS will not significantly 
change the incidence or impacts of disease and parasites on these 
wolves. Furthermore, we conclude that diseases and parasites will not 
be threats sufficient to cause wolves in the proposed WGL DPS to be 
likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future in all or a 
significant portion of the range within the proposed WGL DPS.

Natural Predation

    No wild animals habitually prey on wolves. Large prey such as deer, 
elk, or moose (Mech and Nelson 1989, pp. 207-208; Smith et al. 2001, p. 
3), or other predators, such as mountain lions (Felis concolor) or 
grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) where they are extant (USFWS 
2005, p. 3), occasionally kill wolves, but this has only been rarely 
documented. This very small component of wolf mortality will not 
increase with delisting.
    Wolves frequently are killed by other wolves, most commonly when 
packs encounter and attack a dispersing wolf as an intruder or when two 
packs encounter each other along a territorial boundary (Mech 1994, p. 
201). This form of mortality is likely to increase as more of the 
available wolf habitat becomes saturated with wolf pack territories, as 
is the case in northeastern Minnesota, but such a trend is not yet 
evident from Wisconsin or Michigan data. From October 1979 through June 
1998, 7 (12 percent) of the mortalities of radio-collared Wisconsin 
wolves resulted from wolves killing wolves, and 8 of 73 (11 percent) 
mortalities were from this cause during 2000-05 (Wydeven 1998, p. 16 
Table 4; Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2001, p. 8 Table 5; 2002, pp. 8-9 
Table 4; 2003a, pp. 11-12 Table 4; 2004a, pp. 11-12 Table 5, 2005, p. 
21 Table 5).
    Among radio-collared wolves dying from known causes between October 
1979 and December 2009, overall rate of intraspecific strife was 
similar at 17 of 151 mortalities or 11 percent (Wydeven et al. 2010, p. 
45). Gogan et al. (2004, p. 7) studied 31 radio-collared wolves in 
northern Minnesota from 1987 to 1991 and found that 4 (13 percent) were 
killed by other wolves, representing 29 percent of the total mortality 
of radio-collared wolves. Intra-specific strife

[[Page 26116]]

caused 50 percent of mortality within Voyageurs National Park and 20 
percent of the mortality of wolves adjacent to the Park (Gogan et al. 
2004, p. 22). The DelGiudice data (in litt. 2005) show a 17 percent 
mortality rate from other wolves in another study area in north-central 
Minnesota from 1994 to 2005. This behavior is normal in healthy wolf 
populations and is an expected outcome of dispersal conflicts and 
territorial defense, as well as occasional intra-pack strife. This form 
of mortality is something with which the species has evolved and it 
should not pose a threat to wolf populations in the proposed WGL DPS if 
this DPS is delisted.

Human Predation

    Because our concern about human predation is its overall effect on 
wolf mortality, the following discussion addresses the major human 
causes of wolf mortality, including illegal killing, depredation 
control, and vehicle collisions.
    Humans have functioned as highly effective predators of the wolf in 
North America for several hundred years. European settlers in the 
Midwest attempted to eliminate the wolf entirely in earlier times, and 
the U.S. Congress passed a wolf bounty that covered the Northwest 
Territories in 1817. Bounties on wolves subsequently became the norm 
for States across the species' range. In Michigan, an 1838 wolf bounty 
became the ninth law passed by the First Michigan Legislature; this 
bounty remained in place until 1960. A Wisconsin bounty was instituted 
in 1865 and was repealed about the time wolves were extirpated from the 
State in 1957. Minnesota maintained a wolf bounty until 1965.
    Subsequent to the gray wolf's listing as a Federally endangered 
species, the Act and State endangered species statutes prohibited the 
killing of wolves except under very limited circumstances, such as in 
defense of human life, for scientific or conservation purposes, or 
under special regulations intended to reduce wolf depredations of 
livestock or other domestic animals. The resultant reduction in human-
caused wolf mortality is the main cause of the wolf's reestablishment 
in large parts of its historical range. It is clear, however, that 
illegal killing of wolves has continued in the form of intentional 
mortality and incidental deaths.
    Illegal killing of wolves occurs for a number of reasons. Some of 
these killings are accidental (for example, wolves are hit by vehicles, 
mistaken for coyotes and shot, or caught in traps set for other 
animals); some of these accidental killings are reported to State, 
Tribal, and Federal authorities. It is likely that most illegal 
killings, however, are intentional and are never reported to government 
authorities. Because they generally occur in remote locations and the 
evidence is easily concealed, we lack reliable estimates of annual 
rates of intentional illegal killings.
    In Wisconsin, all forms of human-caused mortality accounted for 56 
percent of the diagnosed deaths of radio-collared wolves from October 
1979 through December 2009 (Wydeven et al. 2010, p. 45). Thirty-four 
percent of the diagnosed mortalities, and 62 percent of the human-
caused mortalities, were from illegal killing (mainly shootings). 
Another 9 percent of all the diagnosed mortalities (15 percent of the 
human-caused mortalities) resulted from vehicle collisions. (These 
percentages and those in the following paragraphs exclude seven radio-
collared Wisconsin wolves that were killed in depredation control 
actions by USDA-APHIS--Wildlife Services. The wolf depredation control 
programs in the Midwest are discussed separately under Depredation 
Control, below.) Data from 2006 through 2010 (68 diagnosed mortalities 
of radio-collared wolves) show the mortality percentages for disease to 
be slightly lower and illegal kills to be similar, with 14 percent of 
the mortalities resulting from mange or disease and 35 percent from 
being illegally killed. The mortality percentage for vehicle collisions 
during this time period remained constant (13 percent) (Wydeven et al. 
2007, p. 10; and Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2008, Summary). Most recently 
for 2010, mortality data from actively monitored wolves show that of 
wolves that died, 38 percent were killed illegally (all shootings); 12 
percent were euthanized for human safety concerns; 6 percent of the 
deaths were disease related; 6 percent died from apparent old age, 6 
percent from intraspecific strife, and 12 percent from vehicle 
collisions; and the causes for 19 percent of the deaths were unknown 
(Wydeven et al. 2011, p. 2).
    During the periods that wolves were Federally delisted (from March 
2007 through September 2008 and from April through early July 2009), 92 
wolves were killed for depredation control, including 8 legally shot by 
private landowners (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2008, p. 8; Wydeven et al. 
2009b, p. 6; Wydeven et al. 2010, p. 13).
    As the Wisconsin population has increased in numbers and range, 
vehicle collisions have increased as a percentage of radio-collared 
wolf mortalities. During the October 1979 through June 1992 period, 
only 1 of 27 (4 percent) known mortalities was from that cause; but 
from July 1992 through June 1998, 5 of the 26 (19 percent) known 
mortalities resulted from vehicle collisions (Wydeven 1998, p. 6). From 
2002 through 2004, 7 of 45 (16 percent) known mortalities were from 
that cause (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2003a, pp. 11-12 Table 4; 2004a, 
pp. 11-12 Table 5; 2005, pp. 19-20 Table 4); and from 2005 through 
2009, 126 of 459 (27 percent) known mortalities were from that cause 
(Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2005, p. 20; Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2006, p. 
20; Wydeven et al. 2007a, p. 7; Wydeven et al. 2007b, p. 10; Wydeven 
and Wiedenhoeft 2008, p. 7; Wydeven et al. 2009a, pp. 19-21; Wydeven 
and Wiedenhoeft 2009, Table 3; Wydeven et al. 2010, Table 7).
    A comparison over time for diagnosed mortalities of radio-collared 
Wisconsin wolves shows that 18 of 57 (32 percent) were illegally killed 
from October 1979 through 1998, while 12 of 42 (29 percent) were 
illegally killed from 2002 through 2004 and 24 of 72 (33 percent) were 
illegally killed from 2005 to March 2007 (WI DNR 1999, p. 63; Wydeven 
and Wiedenhoeft 2003a, pp. 11-12 Table 4; 2004a, pp. 11-12 Table 4; 
2005. pp. 19-20 Table 4; Wydeven et al. 2006a, p. 6; 2006b, p. 8; 2007, 
pp. 6-7; 2008a, p. 10). In 2006, prior to the Federal delisting the 
following year, 17 of 72 wolves found dead in the state were killed 
illegally. Among nine radio-collared wolves that had died in 2006, six 
(67 percent) were illegally killed. In 2007, after Federal delisting, 
10 of 90 dead wolves found in the State were illegally killed, and 3 
(19 percent) of the radio-collared wolves found dead were illegally 
killed. In 2008, 14 of 94 dead wolves found in Wisconsin were illegally 
killed, and 4 (28 percent) of 14 radio-collared wolves found dead were 
illegal kills. In 2009, when wolves were again Federally listed for 
most of the year, 20 of the 72 dead wolves found in Wisconsin were 
illegally killed, and 8 (62 percent) of 13 radio-collared wolves found 
dead were illegal kills. In 2010, when wolves continued to be Federally 
listed, 14 of 72 dead wolves were illegally killed, and 6 (38 percent) 
of 16 radio-collared wolves were illegally killed.
    Thus the number of known illegally killed wolves declined slightly 
from 17 in 2006, to 10 in 2007 and 14 in 2008, increased to 20 in 2009, 
and declined to 14 in 2010. Among radio-collared wolves found dead, 
illegal killing represented 67 percent of all mortality in 2006, 19 
percent in 2007, 23 percent in 2008, 62 percent in 2009, and 38

[[Page 26117]]

percent in 2010 (Wydeven et al. 2010, p. 13; Wydeven et al. 2011, p. 
2).
    In the UP of Michigan, human-caused mortalities accounted for 75 
percent of the diagnosed mortalities, based upon 34 wolves recovered 
from 1960 to 1997, including mostly non-radio-collared wolves. Twenty-
eight percent of all the diagnosed mortalities and 38 percent of the 
human-caused mortalities were from shooting. In the UP during that 
period, about one-third of all the known mortalities were from vehicle 
collisions (MI DNR 1997, pp. 5-6). During the 1998 Michigan deer 
hunting season, three radio-collared wolves were shot and killed, 
resulting in one arrest and conviction (Hammill in litt. 1999, Michigan 
DNR 1999). During the subsequent 3 years, eight additional wolves were 
killed in Michigan by gunshot, and the cut-off radio-collar from a 
ninth animal was located, but the animal was never found. These 
incidents resulted in six guilty pleas, with three cases remaining 
open.
    Data collected from radio-collared wolves from the 1999 to 2009 
bioyears (mid-April to mid-April) show that human-caused mortalities 
still account for the majority of the wolf mortalities (66 percent) in 
Michigan. Deaths from vehicular collisions were about 18 percent of 
total mortality (27 percent of the human-caused mortality) and showed 
no trend over this 11-year period. Deaths from illegal killing 
constituted 39 percent of all mortalities (60 percent of the human-
caused mortality) over the period. From 1999 through 2001, illegal 
killings were 31 percent of the mortalities, but this increased to 42 
percent during the 2002 through 2004 bioyears and to 40 percent during 
bioyears 2005 through 2010 (Roell 2010, pers. comm.).
    Most Michigan residents place a high priority on wolf management 
actions that address public concerns for human safety (Beyer et al. 
2006). Quick and professional responses to wolf conflicts have been 
important for wolf recovery (Ruid et al. 2009, p. 280). In most cases, 
people can take simple, sensible measures to avoid those situations and 
protect themselves against harm. Other cases may warrant higher levels 
of concern and professional assistance. Michigan DNR solved most wolf-
human conflicts using nonlethal methods (Roell 2010, pers. comm.). 
However, in a few incidents lethal control was warranted and carried 
out under Federal regulations (50 CFR 17.21, which allows the take of 
an endangered species when there is a ``demonstrable but nonimmediate 
threat'' to protect human safety, or to euthanize a sick or injured 
wolf, but only if it is not reasonably possible to translocate the 
animal alive), or while wolves were not Federally protected (Roell 2010 
et al., p. 9). Since 2004 the Michigan DNR and USDA-Wildlife Services 
have killed 13 animals (12 involving human safety and 1 sick wolf) 
under the authority of this regulation (Roell 2010 et al., p. 9). Two 
others were killed for human safety concerns while wolves were 
Federally delisted (Roell 2010, pers. comm.).
    North-central Minnesota data from 16 diagnosed mortalities of 
radio-collared wolves over a 12-year period (1994-2005) show that 
human-causes resulted in 69 percent of the diagnosed mortalities. This 
includes 1 wolf accidentally snared, 2 vehicle collisions, and 8 (50 
percent of all diagnosed mortalities) that were shot (DelGiudice in 
litt. 2005). However, this data set of only 16 mortalities over 12 
years is too small for reliable comparison to Wisconsin and Michigan 
data.
    A smaller mortality dataset is available from a 1987-91 study of 
wolves in, and adjacent to, Minnesota's Voyageurs National Park, along 
the Canadian border. Of 10 diagnosed mortalities, illegal killing 
outside the Park was responsible for a minimum of 60 percent of the 
deaths (Gogan et al. 2004, p. 22).
    Two Minnesota studies provide some limited insight into the extent 
of human-caused wolf mortality before and after the species' listing. 
On the basis of bounty data from a period that predated wolf protection 
under the Act by 20 years, Stenlund (1955, p. 33) found an annual 
human-caused mortality rate of 41 percent. Fuller (1989, pp. 23-24) 
provided 1980-86 data from a north-central Minnesota study area and 
found an annual human-caused mortality rate of 29 percent, a figure 
that includes 2 percent mortality from legal depredation control 
actions. Drawing conclusions from comparisons of these two studies, 
however, is difficult due to the confounding effects of habitat 
quality, exposure to humans, prey density, differing time periods, and 
vast differences in study design. Although these figures provide 
support for the contention that human-caused mortality decreased after 
the wolf's protection under the Act, it is not possible at this time to 
determine if human-caused mortality (apart from mortalities from 
depredation control) has significantly changed over the nearly 35-year 
period that the gray wolf has been listed as threatened or endangered.
    Wolves were largely eliminated from the Dakotas in the 1920s and 
1930s and were rarely reported from the mid-1940s through the late 
1970s. Ten wolves were killed in these two States from 1981 to 1992 
(Licht and Fritts 1994, pp. 76-77). Seven more were killed in North 
Dakota since 1992, with four of these mortalities occurring in 2002 and 
2003; in 2001, one wolf was killed in Harding County in extreme 
northwestern South Dakota. The number of reported sightings of wolves 
in North Dakota is increasing. From 1993 to 1998, six wolf depredation 
reports were investigated in North Dakota, and adequate signs were 
found to verify the presence of wolves in two of the cases. A den with 
pups was also documented in extreme north-central North Dakota near the 
Canadian border in 1994. From 1999 to 2003, residents of North Dakota 
reported 16 wolf sightings or depredation incidents to USDA-APHIS-
Wildlife Services, and 9 of these incidents were verified. 
Additionally, one North Dakota wolf sighting was confirmed in early 
2004, two wolf depredation incidents were verified north of Garrison in 
late 2005, and one wolf was found dead in Eddy County in 2009. USDA-
APHIS-Wildlife Services also confirmed a wolf sighting along the 
Minnesota border near Gary, South Dakota, in 1996, and a trapper with 
the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department sighted a lone wolf 
in the western Black Hills in 2002.
    Several other unconfirmed sightings have been reported from these 
States, including two reports in South Dakota in 2003. Wolves killed in 
North and South Dakota were most often shot by hunters after being 
mistaken for coyotes, or were killed by vehicles. The 2001 mortality in 
South Dakota and one of the 2003 mortalities in North Dakota were 
caused by M-44 devices that had been legally set in response to 
complaints about coyotes.
    In and around the core recovery areas in the Midwest, a continuing 
increase in wolf mortalities from vehicle collisions, both in actual 
numbers and as a percent of total diagnosed mortalities, is expected as 
wolves continue their colonization of areas with more human 
developments and a denser network of roads and vehicle traffic. In 
addition, the growing wolf populations in Wisconsin and Michigan are 
producing greater numbers of dispersing individuals each year, and this 
also will contribute to increasing numbers of wolf-vehicle collisions. 
This increase in accidental deaths would be unaffected by a removal of 
wolves in the proposed WGL DPS from the protections of the Act.
    In those areas of the proposed WGL DPS that are beyond the areas 
currently occupied by wolf packs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, 
we expect that human-caused wolf mortality in the form of vehicle 
collisions, shooting, and

[[Page 26118]]

trapping have been removing all, or nearly all, the wolves that 
disperse into these areas. We expect this to continue after Federal 
delisting. Road densities are high in these areas, with numerous 
interstate highways and other freeways and high-speed thoroughfares 
that are extremely hazardous to wolves attempting to move across them. 
Shooting and trapping of wolves also is likely to continue as a threat 
to wolves in these areas for several reasons. Especially outside of 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, hunters will not expect to 
encounter wolves, and may easily mistake them for coyotes from a 
distance, resulting in unintentional shootings.
    It is important to note that, despite the difficulty in measuring 
the extent of illegal killing of wolves, all sources of wolf mortality, 
including legal (for example, depredation control) and illegal human-
caused mortality, have not been of sufficient magnitude to stop the 
continuing growth of the wolf population in Wisconsin and Michigan, nor 
to cause a wolf population decline in Minnesota. This indicates that 
total wolf mortality does not threaten the continued viability of the 
wolf population in these three States, or in the proposed WGL DPS.
Human Predation Summary
    The high reproductive potential of wolves allows wolf populations 
to withstand relatively high mortality rates, including human-caused 
mortality. The principle of compensatory mortality is believed to occur 
in wolf populations. This means that human-caused mortality is not 
simply added to ``natural'' mortality, but rather replaces a portion of 
it. For example, some of the wolves that are killed during depredation 
control actions would have otherwise died during that year from 
disease, intraspecific strife, or starvation. Thus, the addition of 
intentional killing of wolves to a wolf population will reduce the 
mortality rates from other causes on the population. Based on 19 
studies by other wolf researchers, Fuller et al. (2003, pp. 182-186) 
concludes that human-caused mortality can replace about 70 percent of 
other forms of mortality.
    Fuller et al. (2003, p. 182 Table 6.8) has summarized the work of 
various researchers in estimating mortality rates, especially human 
harvest, that would result in wolf population stability or decline. 
They provide a number of human-caused and total mortality rate 
estimates and the observed population effects in wolf populations in 
the United States and Canada. While variability is apparent, in 
general, wolf populations increased if their total average annual 
mortality was 30 percent or less, and populations decreased if their 
total average annual mortality was 40 percent or more. Four of the 
cited studies showed wolf population stability or increases with human-
caused mortality rates of 24 to 30 percent. The clear conclusion is 
that a wolf population with high pup productivity--the normal situation 
in a wolf population--can withstand levels of overall and of human-
caused mortality without suffering a long-term decline in numbers.
    The wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will 
stop growing when they have saturated the suitable habitat and are 
curtailed in less suitable areas by natural mortality (disease, 
starvation, and intraspecific aggression), depredation management, 
incidental mortality (for example, road kill), illegal killing, and 
other means. At that time, we should expect to see population declines 
in some years followed by short-term increases in other years, 
resulting from fluctuations in birth and mortality rates. Adequate wolf 
monitoring programs, however, as described in the Michigan, Wisconsin, 
and Minnesota wolf management plans, are likely to identify high 
mortality rates or low birth rates that warrant corrective action by 
the management agencies (see Regulatory Mechanisms in Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, and Michigan, below). The goals of all three State wolf 
management plans are to maintain wolf populations well above the 
numbers recommended in the Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf to 
ensure long-term viable wolf populations. The State management plans 
recommend a minimum wolf population of 1,600 in Minnesota, 350 in 
Wisconsin, and 200 in Michigan.
    Despite human-caused mortalities of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, 
and Michigan, these wolf populations have continued to increase in both 
numbers and range. If wolves in the proposed WGL DPS are delisted, as 
long as other mortality factors do not increase significantly and 
monitoring is adequate to document, and if necessary counteract (see 
Post-Delisting Monitoring, below), the effects of excessive human-
caused mortality should that occur, the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Michigan 
wolf population will not decline to nonviable levels in the foreseeable 
future as a result of human-caused killing or other forms of predation. 
Therefore, we conclude that predation, including all forms of human-
caused mortality, will not be a sufficient future threat to cause 
wolves in the proposed WGL DPS to be likely to become endangered in the 
foreseeable future in all or a significant portion of the range within 
the proposed WGL DPS.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms is one of five 
factors that, under the Endangered Species Act (Act), may result in a 
determination as to whether a species should be listed or not. In 
analyzing whether the existing regulatory mechanisms are adequate, the 
Service reviews relevant Federal, state, and Tribal laws, plans, 
regulations, Memorandum of Understandings, Cooperative Agreements and 
other such factors that influence conservation of the species in 
question, including analyzing the extent those mechanism can be relied 
upon. Other examples include State governmental actions enforced under 
a State statute or constitution, or Federal action under statute.
    Strongest weight is given to statutes and their implementing 
regulations, and management direction that stems from those laws and 
regulations. Some other agreements are more voluntary in nature; in 
those cases we analyze the specific facts to determine the extent to 
which it can be relied on in the future, including how it addresses 
threats to the species. We consider all pertinent information, 
including the efforts and conservation practices of State governments, 
whether or not these are enforceable by law. Regulatory mechanisms, if 
they exist, may preclude the need for listing if such mechanisms are 
judged to adequately address the threat to the species such that 
listing is not warranted. Conversely, threats on the landscape are 
exacerbated when not addressed by existing regulatory mechanisms, or 
when the existing mechanisms are not adequate (or not adequately 
implemented or enforced).
    The following sections discuss the adequacy of regulatory 
mechanisms that would be implemented if the WGL DPS were delisted, that 
is, removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. For 
the reasons described in the following section, the Service has 
determined that, if delisted, adequate regulatory mechanisms would be 
in place to ensure that this DPS of wolves is neither threatened nor 
endangered.

Regulatory Mechanisms in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan

State Wolf Management Planning
    During the 2000 legislative session, the Minnesota Legislature 
passed wolf

[[Page 26119]]

management provisions addressing wolf protection, taking of wolves, and 
directing MN DNR to prepare a wolf management plan. The MN DNR revised 
a 1999 draft wolf management plan to reflect the legislative action of 
2000, and completed the Minnesota Wolf Management Plan (MN Plan) in 
early 2001 (MN DNR 2001, pp. 8-9).
    The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB) approved the Wisconsin 
Wolf Management Plan in October 1999 (WI Plan). In 2004 and 2005 the 
Wisconsin Wolf Science Advisory Committee and the Wisconsin Wolf 
Stakeholders group reviewed the 1999 Plan, and the Science Advisory 
Committee subsequently developed updates and recommended modifications 
to the 1999 Plan. The WI DNR presented the Plan updates and 
modifications to the Wisconsin NRB on June 28, 2006, and the NRB 
approved them at that time, with the understanding that some numbers 
would be updated and an additional reference document would be added 
(Holtz in litt. 2006). The updates were completed and received final 
NRB approval on November 28, 2006 (WI DNR 2006a, p. 1).
    In late 1997, the Michigan Wolf Recovery and Management Plan (MI 
Plan) was completed and received the necessary State approvals. It 
primarily focused on wolf recovery, rather than long-term management of 
a large wolf population and the conflicts that result as a consequence 
of successful wolf restoration. In 2006 the MI DNR convened a Michigan 
Wolf Management Roundtable committee (Roundtable) to provide guiding 
principles to the DNR on changes and revisions to the 1997 Plan and to 
guide management of Michigan wolves and wolf-related issues following 
Federal delisting of the species. The MI DNR relied heavily on those 
guiding principles as it drafted a new wolf management plan. The 
Roundtable was composed of representatives from 20 Michigan stakeholder 
interests in wolf recovery and management, and its membership is 
roughly equal in numbers from the UP and the LP. During 2006, the 
Roundtable provided its ``Recommended Guiding Principles for Wolf 
Management in Michigan'' to the DNR in November (Michigan Wolf 
Management Roundtable 2006. p. 2). Based on those Roundtable 
recommendations, a revised Michigan Wolf Management Plan was completed 
in July 2008 (MI DNR 2008a). The complete text of the Wisconsin, 
Michigan, and Minnesota wolf plans can be found on our Web site (see 
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
The Minnesota Wolf Management Plan
    The Minnesota Plan is based, in part, on the recommendations of a 
State wolf management roundtable (MN DNR 2001, Appendix V) and on a 
State wolf management law enacted in 2000 (MN DNR 2001, Appendix I). 
This law and the Minnesota Game and Fish Laws constitute the basis of 
the State's authority to manage wolves. The Plan's stated goal is ``to 
ensure the long-term survival of wolves in Minnesota while addressing 
wolf-human conflicts that inevitably result when wolves and people live 
in the same vicinity'' (MN DNR 2001, p. 2). It establishes a minimum 
goal of 1,600 wolves in the State. Key components of the plan are 
population monitoring and management, management of wolf depredation of 
domestic animals, management of wolf prey, enforcement of laws 
regulating take of wolves, public education, and increased staffing to 
accomplish these actions. Following the proposed delisting, Minnesota 
DNR's management of wolves would differ from their current management 
while listed as threatened under the Act. Most of these differences 
deal with the control of wolves that attack or threaten domestic 
animals.
    The Minnesota Plan divides the State into two wolf management 
zones--Zones A and B (see Figure 2 below). Zone A corresponds to 
Federal Wolf Management Zones 1 through 4 (approximately 30,000 sq mi 
(48,000 sq km) in northeastern Minnesota) in the Service's Recovery 
Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf, whereas Zone B constitutes Zone 5 in 
that recovery plan (MN DNR 2001, pp. 19-20 and Appendix III; USFWS 
1992, p. 72). Within Zone A, wolves would receive strong protection by 
the State, unless they were involved in attacks on domestic animals. 
The rules governing the take of wolves to protect domestic animals in 
Zone B would be less protective than in Zone A (see Post-delisting 
Depredation Control in Minnesota below).
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP05MY11.125

BILLING CODE 4310-55-C
    The MN DNR plans to allow wolf numbers and distribution to 
naturally expand, with no maximum population goal, and if any winter 
population estimate is below 1,600 wolves, it would take actions to 
``assure recovery'' to 1,600 wolves (MN DNR 2001 p. 19). The MN DNR 
plans to continue to monitor wolves in Minnesota to determine whether 
such intervention is necessary. The MN DNR plans to conduct another 
statewide population survey in the winter of 2012-13 and at subsequent 
5-year intervals. In addition to these statewide population surveys, MN 
DNR annually reviews data on depredation incident frequency and 
locations provided by Wildlife Services and winter track survey indices 
(see Erb 2008) to help ascertain annual trends in wolf population or 
range (MN DNR 2001, pp. 18-19). The agency is currently evaluating 
alternatives to its current methodology with the potential to improve 
the efficiency and accuracy of its statewide population estimates 
(Stark 2009a, pers. comm.).
    Minnesota (MN DNR 2001, pp. 21-24, 27-28) plans to reduce or 
control illegal mortality of wolves through education, increased 
enforcement of the State's wolf laws and regulations, discouraging new 
road access in some areas, and maintaining a depredation control 
program that includes compensation for livestock losses. The MN DNR 
plans to use a variety of methods to encourage and support education of 
the public about the effects of wolves on livestock, wild ungulate 
populations, and human activities and the history and ecology of wolves 
in the State (MN DNR 2001, pp. 29-30). These are all measures that have 
been in effect for years in Minnesota, although increased enforcement 
of State laws against take of wolves would replace enforcement of the 
Act's take prohibitions. Financial compensation for livestock losses 
has increased to the full market value of the animal, replacing 
previous caps of $400 and $750 per animal (MN DNR 2001, p. 24). We do 
not expect the State's efforts to result in the reduction of illegal 
take of wolves from existing levels, but we believe these measures will 
be crucial in ensuring that illegal mortality does not significantly 
increase if this proposed delisting is finalized.
    The likelihood of illegal take increases in relation to road 
density and human population density, but

[[Page 26121]]

changing attitudes towards wolves may allow them to survive in areas 
where road and human densities were previously thought to be too high 
(Fuller et al. 2003, p. 181). The MN DNR does not plan to reduce 
current levels of road access, but would encourage managers of land 
areas large enough to sustain one or more wolf packs to ``be cautious 
about adding new road access that could exceed a density of one mile of 
road per square mile of land, without considering the potential effect 
on wolves'' (MN DNR 2001, pp. 27-28).
    Under Minnesota law, the illegal killing of a wolf is a gross 
misdemeanor and is punishable by a maximum fine of $3,000 and 
imprisonment for up to one year. The restitution value of an illegally 
killed wolf is $2,000 (MN DNR 2001, p. 29). The MN DNR acknowledges 
that increased enforcement of the State's wolf laws and regulations 
would be dependent on increases in staff and resources, additional 
cross-deputization of Tribal law enforcement officers, and continued 
cooperation with Federal law enforcement officers. Minnesota DNR has 
designated three conservation officers who are stationed in the State's 
wolf range as the lead officers for implementing the wolf management 
plan (MN DNR 2001, pp. 29, 32; Stark 2009a, pers. comm.).
    Minnesota DNR will consider wolf population management measures, 
including public hunting and trapping seasons and other methods, in the 
future. However, State law and the Minnesota Plan state that such 
consideration will occur no sooner than 5 years after Federal 
delisting, and there would be opportunity for full public comment on 
such possible changes at that time (Minnesota Statutes 97B.645 Subdiv. 
9, see MN DNR 2001 Appendix 1, p. 6; MN DNR 2001, p. 20). The Minnesota 
Plan requires that these population management measures be implemented 
in such a way to maintain a statewide late-winter wolf population of at 
least 1,600 animals (MN DNR 2001, pp. 19-20), well above the planning 
goal of 1,251 to 1,400 wolves for the State in the Revised Recovery 
Plan (USFWS 1992, p. 28), therefore, implementing such management 
measures under that requirement would ensure the wolf's continued 
survival in Minnesota.
    Depredation Control in Minnesota--Although Federally protected as a 
threatened species in Minnesota (since their 1978 reclassification), 
wolves that have attacked domestic animals have been killed by 
designated government employees under the authority of a special 
regulation (50 CFR 17.40(d)) under section 4(d) of the Act. However, no 
control of depredating wolves was allowed in Federal Wolf Management 
Zone 1, comprising about 4,500 sq mi (7,200 sq km) in extreme 
northeastern Minnesota (USFWS 1992, p. 72). In Federal Wolf Management 
Zones 2 through 5, employees or agents of the Service (including USDA-
APHIS-Wildlife Services) have taken wolves in response to depredations 
of domestic animals within one-half mile of the depredation site. 
Young-of-the-year captured on or before August 1 must be released. The 
regulations that allow for this take (50 CFR 17.40(d)(2)(i)(B)(4)) do 
not specify a maximum duration for depredation control, but Wildlife 
Services personnel have followed internal guidelines under which they 
trap for no more than 10-15 days, except at sites with repeated or 
chronic depredation, where they may trap for up to 30 days (Paul 2004, 
pers. comm.).
    During the period 1980-2009, the Federal Minnesota wolf depredation 
control program euthanized from 20 (in 1982) to 216 (in 1997) wolves 
annually. Annual averages (and percentage of statewide population) were 
30 (2.2 percent) wolves killed from 1980 to 1984, 49 (3.0 percent) from 
1985 to 1989, 115 (6.0 percent) from 1990 to 1994, 152 (6.7 percent) 
from 1995 to 1999, and 128 wolves (4.2 percent) from 2000 to 2005. 
During 2006-10 an average of 157 wolves were killed each year--
approximately 5.4 percent of wolves in the State (Erb 2008; USDA-
Wildlife Services 2010, p. 3). Since 1980, the lowest annual percentage 
of Minnesota wolves killed under this program was 1.5 percent in 1982; 
the highest percentage was 9.4 in 1997 (Paul 2004, pp. 2-7; 2006, p. 
1). Following the return of wolves in Minnesota to the list of 
threatened species in 2009, 195 and 192 wolves were killed in 2009 and 
2010, respectively, in response to depredation of domestic animals in 
Minnesota. This is the highest 22-year consecutive total since 
authorization to control depredating wolves was allowed by special 
regulation under section 4(d) of the Act while wolves were Federally 
listed.
    This level of wolf removal for depredation control has not 
interfered with wolf recovery in Minnesota, although it may have slowed 
the increase in wolf numbers in the State, especially since the late-
1980s, and may be contributing to the possibly stabilized Minnesota 
wolf population suggested by the 2003-04 and 2007-08 estimates (see 
additional information in Minnesota Recovery). Minnesota wolf numbers 
grew at an average annual rate of nearly 4 percent between 1989 and 
1998 while the depredation control program was taking its highest 
percentages of wolves (Paul 2004, pp. 2-7).
    Under a Minnesota statute, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture 
(MDA) compensates livestock owners for full market value of livestock 
that wolves have killed or severely injured. An authorized investigator 
must confirm that wolves were responsible for the depredation. The 
Minnesota statute also requires MDA to periodically update its Best 
Management Practices (BMPs) to incorporate new practices that it finds 
would reduce wolf depredation (Minnesota Statutes 2010, Section 3.737, 
subdivision 5).
    Post-delisting Depredation Control in Minnesota--If the WGL DPS is 
delisted, depredation control will be authorized under Minnesota State 
law and conducted in conformance with the Minnesota Wolf Management 
Plan (MN DNR 2001). The Minnesota Plan divides the State into Wolf 
Management Zones A and B. Zone A is composed of Federal Wolf Management 
Zones 1-4, covering 30,728 sq mi (49,452 sq km), approximately the 
northeastern third of the State. Zone B is identical to the current 
Federal Wolf Management Zone 5, and contains the 54,603 sq mi (87,875 
sq km.) that make up the rest of the State (MN DNR 2001, pp. 19-20 and 
Appendix III; USFWS 1992, p. 72). The statewide survey conducted during 
the winter of 2003-04 estimated that there were approximately 2,570 
wolves in Zone A and 450 in Zone B (Erb in litt. 2005). As discussed in 
Recovery Criteria above, the Federal planning goal is 1,251-1,400 
wolves for Zones 1-4 and no wolves in Zone 5 (USFWS 1992, p. 28).
    In Zone A wolf depredation control is limited to situations of (1) 
immediate threat and (2) following verified loss of domestic animals. 
In this zone, if the DNR verifies that a wolf destroyed any livestock, 
domestic animal, or pet, and if the owner requests wolf control be 
implemented, trained and certified predator controllers may take wolves 
(specific number to be determined on a case-by-case basis) within a 1-
mile radius of the depredation site (depredation control area) for up 
to 60 days. In contrast, in Zone B, predator controllers may take 
wolves (specific number to be determined on a case-by-case basis) for 
up to 214 days after MN DNR opens a depredation control area, depending 
on the time of year. Under State law, the DNR may open a control area 
in Zone B anytime within 5 years of a verified depredation loss upon 
request of the landowner, thereby providing more of a preventative 
approach than is allowed in Zone A, in

[[Page 26122]]

order to head off repeat depredation incidents (MN DNR 2001, p. 22).
    State law and the Minnesota Plan will also allow for private wolf 
depredation control throughout the State. Persons may shoot or destroy 
a wolf that poses ``an immediate threat'' to their livestock, guard 
animals, or domestic animals on lands that they own, lease, or occupy. 
Immediate threat is defined as ``in the act of stalking, attacking, or 
killing.'' This does not include trapping because traps cannot be 
placed in a manner such that they trap only wolves in the act of 
stalking, attacking, or killing. Owners of domestic pets may also kill 
wolves posing an immediate threat to pets under their supervision on 
lands that they do not own or lease, although such actions are subject 
to local ordinances, trespass law, and other applicable restrictions. 
The MN DNR will investigate any private taking of wolves in Zone A (MN 
DNR 2001, p. 23).
    To protect their domestic animals in Zone B, individuals do not 
have to wait for an immediate threat or a depredation incident in order 
to take wolves. At any time in Zone B, persons who own, lease, or 
manage lands may shoot wolves on those lands to protect livestock, 
domestic animals, or pets. They may also employ a predator controller 
to trap a wolf on their land or within 1 mile of their land (with 
permission of the landowner) to protect their livestock, domestic 
animals, or pets (MN DNR 2001, p. 23-24).
    The Minnesota Plan will also allow persons to harass wolves 
anywhere in the State within 500 yards of ``people, buildings, dogs, 
livestock, or other domestic pets or animals.'' Harassment may not 
include physical injury to a wolf.
    Depredation control will be allowed throughout Zone A, which 
includes an area (Federal Wolf Management Zone 1) where such control 
has not been permitted under the Act's protection. Depredation in Zone 
1, however, has been limited to 2 to 4 reported incidents per year, 
mostly of wolves killing dogs, although Wildlife Services received one 
livestock depredation complaint in Zone 1 in 2008 (Hart pers. comm. 
2009), and some dog kills in this zone probably go unreported. In 2009, 
there was one probable and one verified depredation of a dog near Ely, 
Minnesota, and in 2010 Wildlife Services confirmed three dogs killed by 
wolves in Zone 1 (USDA-Wildlife Services 2009, p. 3; USDA-Wildlife 
Services 2010, p. 3). There are few livestock in Zone 1; therefore, the 
number of verified future depredation incidents in that Zone is 
expected to be low, resulting in a correspondingly low number of 
depredating wolves being killed there after delisting.
    The final change in Zone A is the ability for owners or lessees to 
respond to situations of immediate threat by shooting wolves in the act 
of stalking, attacking, or killing livestock or other domestic animals. 
We believe this is not likely to result in the killing of many 
additional wolves, as opportunities to shoot wolves ``in the act'' will 
likely be few and difficult to successfully accomplish, a belief shared 
by the most experienced wolf depredation agent in the lower 48 States 
(Paul in litt. 2006, p. 5). It is also possible that illegal killing of 
wolves in Minnesota will decrease, because the expanded options for 
legal control of problem wolves may lead to an increase in public 
tolerance for wolves (Paul in litt. 2006, p. 5).
    Within Zone B, State law and the Minnesota Plan provide broad 
authority to landowners and land managers to shoot wolves at any time 
to protect their livestock, pets, or other domestic animals on land 
owned, leased, or managed by the individual. Such takings can occur in 
the absence of wolf attacks on the domestic animals. Thus, the 
estimated 450 wolves in Zone B could be subject to substantial 
reduction in numbers, and at the extreme, wolves could be eliminated 
from Zone B. However, there is no way to reasonably evaluate in advance 
the extent to which residents of Zone B will use this new authority, 
nor how vulnerable Zone B wolves will be. While wolves were under State 
management in 2007-08, landowners in Zone B shot six wolves under this 
authority. One additional wolf was trapped and euthanized in Zone B by 
a State certified predator controller in 2009 (Stark 2009b, pers. 
comm.).
    The limitation of this broad take authority to Zone B is fully 
consistent with the Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf's advice 
that wolves should be restored to the rest of Minnesota but not to Zone 
B (Federal Zone 5) because that area ``is not suitable for wolves'' 
(USFWS 1992, p. 20). The Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf 
envisioned that the Minnesota numerical planning goal would be achieved 
solely in Zone A (Federal Zones 1-4) (USFWS 1992, p. 28), and that has 
occurred. Wolves outside of Zone A are not necessary to the 
establishment and long-term viability of a self-sustaining wolf 
population in the State, and therefore there is no need to establish or 
maintain a wolf population in Zone B. Accordingly, there is no need to 
maintain significant protection for wolves in Zone B in order to 
maintain a Minnesota wolf population that continues to satisfy the 
Federal recovery criteria after Federal delisting.
    This expansion of depredation control activities will not threaten 
the continued survival of wolves in the State or the long-term 
viability of the wolf population in Zone A, the large part of wolf 
range in Minnesota. Significant changes in wolf depredation control 
under State management will primarily be restricted to Zone B, which is 
outside of the area necessary for wolf recovery (USFWS 1992, pp. 20, 
28). Furthermore, wolves may still persist in Zone B despite the likely 
increased take there. The Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Team concluded 
that the changes in wolf management in the State's Zone A would be 
``minor'' and would not likely result in ``significant change in 
overall wolf numbers in Zone A.'' They found that, despite an expansion 
of the individual depredation control areas and an extension of the 
control period to 60 days, depredation control will remain ``very 
localized'' in Zone A. The requirement that such depredation control 
activities be conducted only in response to verified wolf depredation 
in Zone A played a key role in the team's evaluation (Peterson in litt. 
2001). While wolves were under State management in 2007 and 2008, the 
number of wolves killed for depredation control (133 wolves in 2007 and 
143 wolves in 2008) remained consistent with those killed under the 
special regulation under section 4(d) of the Act while wolves were 
Federally listed (105, in 2004; 134, in 2005; and 122, in 2006).
    Minnesota will continue to monitor wolf populations throughout the 
State and will also monitor all depredation control activities in Zone 
A (MN DNR 2001, p. 18). These and other activities contained in their 
plan will be essential in meeting their population goal of a minimum 
statewide winter population of 1,600 wolves, well above the planning 
goal of 1,251 to 1,400 wolves that the Revised Recovery Plan identifies 
as sufficient to ensure the wolf's continued survival in Minnesota 
(USFWS 1992, p. 28).
The Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan
    Both the Wisconsin and Michigan Wolf Management Plans are designed 
to manage and ensure the existence of wolf populations in the States as 
if they are isolated populations and are not dependent upon immigration 
of wolves from an adjacent State or Canada, while still maintaining 
connections to those other populations. We support this approach and 
believe it provides strong assurances that the wolf in both States

[[Page 26123]]

will remain a viable component of the proposed WGL DPS for the 
foreseeable future.
    The WI Plan allows for differing levels of protection and 
management within four separate management zones (see figure 3). The 
Northern Forest Zone (Zone 1) and the Central Forest Zone (Zone 2) now 
contain most of the State's wolf population, with approximately 6 
percent of the Wisconsin wolves in Zones 3 and 4 (Wydeven and 
Wiedenhoeft 2009, Table 1). Zones 1 and 2 contain all the larger 
unfragmented areas of suitable habitat (see Wolf Range Ownership and 
Protection, above), so most of the State's wolf packs will continue to 
inhabit those parts of Wisconsin for the foreseeable future. At the 
time the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan was completed, it recommended 
immediate reclassification from State-endangered to State-threatened 
status, because Wisconsin's wolf population had already exceeded its 
reclassification criterion of 80 wolves for 3 years. That state 
reclassification occurred in 1999, after the population exceeded that 
level for 5 years.
    The Wisconsin Plan further recommends that the State manage for a 
wolf population of 350 wolves outside of Native American reservations, 
and specifies that the species should be delisted by the State once the 
population reaches 250 animals outside of reservations. The species was 
proposed for State delisting in late 2003, and the State delisting 
process was completed in 2004. Upon State delisting, the species was 
classified as a ``protected nongame species,'' a designation that 
continues State prohibitions on sport hunting and trapping of the 
species (Wydeven and Jurewicz 2005, p. 1; WI DNR 2006b, p. 71). The 
Wisconsin Plan includes criteria that would trigger State relisting to 
threatened (a decline to fewer than 250 wolves for 3 years) or 
endangered status (a decline to fewer than 80 wolves for 1 year). The 
Wisconsin Plan will be reviewed annually by the Wisconsin Wolf Advisory 
Committee and will be reviewed by the public every 5 years. Recently 
the WI DNR began work on updating the State's wolf management plan, 
which may include increasing the State management goal (Wydeven and 
Wiedenhoeft 2009, p. 3).
    The WI Plan was updated during 2004-06 to reflect current wolf 
numbers, additional knowledge, and issues that have arisen since its 
1999 completion. This update is in the form of text changes, revisions 
to two appendices, and the addition of a new appendix to the 1999 plan, 
rather than as a major revision to the plan. Several components of the 
plan that are key to our delisting evaluation are unchanged. The State 
wolf management goal of 350 animals and the boundaries of the four wolf 
management zones remain the same as in the 1999 Plan. The updated 2006 
Plan continues access management on public lands and the protection of 
active den sites. Protection of pack rendezvous sites, however, is no 
longer considered to be needed in areas where wolves have become well 
established, due to the transient nature of these sites and the larger 
wolf population. The updated Plan states that rendezvous sites may need 
protection in areas where wolf colonization is still underway or where 
pup survival is extremely poor, such as in northeastern Wisconsin (WI 
DNR 2006a, p. 17). The guidelines for the wolf depredation control 
program did not undergo significant alteration during the update 
process. The only substantive change to depredation control practices 
is to expand the area of depredation control trapping in Zones 1 and 2 
to 1 mi (1.6 km) outward from the depredation site, replacing the 
previous 0.5 mi (0.8 km) radius trapping zone (WI DNR 2006a, pp. 3-4).
    An important component of the WI Plan is the annual monitoring of 
wolf populations by radio collars and winter track surveys in order to 
provide comparable annual data to assess population size and growth for 
at least 5 years after Federal delisting. This monitoring will include 
health monitoring of captured wolves and necropsies of dead wolves that 
are found. Wolf scat will be collected and analyzed to monitor for 
canine viruses and parasites. Health monitoring will be part of the 
capture protocol for all studies that involve the live capture of 
Wisconsin wolves (WI DNR 2006a, p. 14).
    Cooperative habitat management will be promoted with public and 
private landowners to maintain existing road densities in Zones 1 and 
2, protect wolf dispersal corridors, and manage forests for deer and 
beaver (WI DNR 1999, pp. 4, 22-23; 2006a, pp. 15-17). Furthermore, in 
Zone 1, a year-round prohibition on tree harvest within 330 feet (100 
m) of den sites, and seasonal restrictions to reduce disturbance within 
one-half mile of dens, will be WI DNR policy on public lands and will 
be encouraged on private lands (WI DNR 1999, p. 23; 2006a, p. 17).
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

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BILLING CODE 4310-55-C
    The 1999 WI Plan contains, and the 2006 update retains, other 
recommendations that will provide protection to assist in maintenance 
of a viable wolf population in the State: (1) Continue the protection 
of the species as a ``protected wild animal'' with penalties similar to 
those for unlawfully killing large game species (fines of $1,000-
$2,000, loss of hunting privileges for 3-5 years, and a possible 6-
month jail sentence), (2) maintain closure zones where coyotes cannot 
be shot during deer hunting season in Zone 1, (3) legally protect wolf 
dens under the Wisconsin Administrative Code, (4) require State permits 
to possess a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid, and (5) establish a restitution 
value to be levied in addition to fines and other penalties for wolves 
that are illegally killed (WI DNR 1999, pp. 21, 27-28, 30-31; 2006a, 
pp. 3-4).
    The 2006 update of the WI Plan continues to emphasize the need for 
public education efforts that focus on living with a recovered wolf 
population, ways to manage wolves and wolf-human conflicts, and the 
ecosystem role of wolves. The Plan continues the State reimbursement 
for depredation losses (including dogs and missing calves), citizen 
stakeholder involvement in the wolf management program, and 
coordination with the Tribes in wolf management and investigation of 
illegal killings (WI DNR 1999, pp. 24, 28-29; 2006a, pp. 22-23).
    Given the decline and ultimate termination in Federal funding for 
wolf monitoring that would occur upon delisting, Wisconsin and Michigan 
DNRs are seeking an effective, yet cost-efficient, method for detecting 
wolf population changes to replace the current labor-intensive and 
expensive monitoring protocols. Both DNRs have considered implementing 
a ``Minnesota-type'' wolf survey. Such methodology is less expensive 
for larger wolf populations than the intensive radio monitoring and 
track survey methods currently used by the two States, and if the wolf 
population continues to grow there will be increased need to develop 
and implement a less expensive method. However, each State conducted 
independent field testing of the Minnesota method several years ago and 
found that method to be unsuitable for both States' lower wolf 
population density and uneven pack distribution. In both States the 
application of that method resulted in an overestimate of wolf 
abundance, possibly due to the more patchy distribution of wolves and 
packs in these States and the difficulty in accurately delineating 
occupied wolf range in areas where wolf pack density is relatively low 
in comparison to Minnesota and where agricultural lands are 
interspersed with forested areas (Wiedenhoeft 2005, pp. 11-12; Beyer in 
litt. 2006b).
    Both States remain interested in developing accurate but less 
costly alternate survey methods. WI DNR might test other methods 
following any Federal delisting, but the State will not replace its 
traditional radio tracking/snow tracking surveys during the 5 year 
post-delisting monitoring period (Wydeven in litt. 2006b). The 2006 
update to the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan has not changed the

[[Page 26125]]

WI DNR's commitment to annual wolf population monitoring in a manner 
that ensures accurate and comparable data (WI DNR 1999, pp.19-20), and 
we are confident that adequate annual monitoring will continue for the 
foreseeable future.
    Depredation Control in Wisconsin--The rapidly expanding Wisconsin 
wolf population has resulted in an increased need for depredation 
control. From 1979 through 1989, there were only five cases (an average 
of 0.4 per year) of verified wolf depredations in Wisconsin. Between 
1990 and 1997, there were 27 verified depredation incidents in the 
State (an average of 3.4 per year), and 82 incidents (an average of 
16.4 per year) occurred from 1998 to 2002. Depredation incidents 
increased to 23 cases (including 50 domestic animals killed and 4 
injured) in 2003, 35 cases (53 domestic animals killed, 3 injured, and 
6 missing) in 2004, and to 45 cases (53 domestic animals killed and 11 
injured) in 2005 (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2004a, pp. 2-3, 7-8 Table 3; 
Wydeven et al. 2005b, p. 7; Wydeven et al. 2006b, p. 7). From 2005 to 
2008, depredation incidents continued to increase, with 52 cases (92 
domestic animals killed (includes 50 chickens) and 16 injured) in 2006, 
60 cases (51 domestic animals killed, 18 injured, and 14 missing) in 
2007, and 57 cases (67 domestic animals killed and 10 injured) in 2008 
(Wydeven et al. 2007a, p. 7; Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2008, pp. 8, 25-
32; Wydeven et al. 2009a, p. 6). Similar levels of depredations 
continued to occur in 2009, with 55 cases (65 domestic animals killed 
and 11 injured), but increased again to 81 cases (99 domestic animals 
killed and 20 injured) in 2010 (Wydeven et al. 2010, pp. 9-10; Wydeven 
et al. 2011, p. 3).
    The number of farms experiencing wolf depredations has increased 
from 5 farms in 2000, to 28-32 farms from 2007 to 2009, and to 47 farms 
in 2010, a nearly ten-fold increase in the number of farms experiencing 
depredations during the last decade. The number of counties with wolf 
depredations on farms also grew during that time period from 5 to 17 
counties, indicating that wolf depredation problems on farms are 
continuing to expand (Wydeven in litt. 2009; Wydeven et al. 2009a, p. 
23; Wydeven et al. 2011, p.3). Between 1995 and 2002, an average of 7 
percent of packs in Wisconsin were involved in livestock depredations 
(Wydeven et al. 2004, p.36), and between 2002 and 2010, an average of 
13 percent (from 7 to 17) of the State's packs were involved in 
livestock depredation (WI DNR data). More aggressive lethal controls 
possible in 2007 and 2008 through State management following a 
temporary period of Federal delisting appear to have started to 
stabilize levels of livestock depredation in 2007-09, but loss of those 
control methods allowed major increases in levels of depredation in 
2010.
    A significant portion of depredation incidents in Wisconsin involve 
attacks on dogs, primarily those engaged in bear hunting activities or 
dogs being trained in the field for hunting. In most cases, these have 
been hunting dogs that were being used for, or being trained for, 
hunting bears, bobcats, coyotes, and snowshoe hare (Ruid et al. 2009, 
pp. 285-286). It is believed that the dogs entered the territory of a 
wolf pack and may have been close to a den, rendezvous site, or feeding 
location, thus triggering an attack by wolves defending their territory 
or pups. The frequency of attacks on hunting dogs has increased as the 
State's wolf population has grown. Between 1986 and 2010, 206 dogs were 
killed and 80 were injured by wolves in Wisconsin (WI DNR data files 
and summary of wolf survey reports). Generally about 90 percent of dogs 
killed were hunting hounds and about 50 percent of dogs injured were 
pet dogs attacked near homes (Ruid et al. 2009).
    More than 80 percent of the dog kills occurred since 2001, with an 
average of 17.2 dogs killed annually (range 6 to 25 dogs killed per 
year), and 6.8 injured each year (range 1 to 14 dogs) during the period 
2001-10 (WI DNR files). Data on recent depredations in 2009 and 2010 
show a continued increase in wolf attacks on dogs, with 23 dogs killed 
and 11 injured by 20 wolf packs (12 percent of Wisconsin packs) in 
2009, and 24 dogs killed and 14 injured by 21 wolf packs in 2010 
(Wydeven et al. 2010, pp. 51-52; Wydeven et al. 2011 p.3). While the WI 
DNR compensates dog owners for mortalities and injuries to their dogs, 
the DNR takes no action against the depredating pack unless the attack 
was on a dog that was leashed, confined, or under the owner's control 
on the owner's land. Instead, the DNR issues press releases to warn 
bear hunters and bear dog trainers of the areas where wolf packs have 
been attacking bear dogs (WI DNR 2008, p. 5) and provides maps and 
advice to hunters on the WI DNR Web site (see http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/mammals/wolf/dogdepred.htm). In 2010, 
14 wolf attacks on dogs had occurred near homes, which was the highest 
level seen of this type of depredation (Wydeven et al. 2011, p.3).
    Post-delisting Depredation Control in Wisconsin--Following the 
proposed Federal delisting, wolf depredation control in Wisconsin will 
be carried out according to the 2006 Updated Wisconsin Wolf Management 
Plan (WI DNR 2006a, pp. 19-23), Guidelines for Conducting Depredation 
Control on Wolves in Wisconsin Following Federal Delisting (WI DNR 
2008), and any Tribal wolf management plans or guidelines that may be 
developed for reservations in occupied wolf range. The 2006 updates 
have not significantly changed the 1999 State Plan, and the State wolf 
management goal of 350 wolves outside of Indian reservations (WI DNR 
2006a, p. 3) is unchanged. Verification of wolf depredation incidents 
will continue to be conducted by USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services, working 
under a cooperative agreement with WI DNR, or at the request of a 
Tribe, depending on the location of the suspected depredation incident. 
If determined to be a confirmed or probable depredation by a wolf or 
wolves, one or more of several options will be implemented to address 
the depredation problem. These options include technical assistance, 
loss compensation to landowners, translocating or euthanizing problem 
wolves, and private landowner control of problem wolves in some 
circumstances (WI DNR 2006a, pp. 3- 4, 20-22).
    Technical assistance, consisting of advice or recommendations to 
prevent or reduce further wolf conflicts, will be provided. This may 
also include providing to the landowner various forms of noninjurious 
behavior modification materials, such as flashing lights, noise makers, 
temporary fencing, and fladry (a string of flags used to contain or 
exclude wild animals). Monetary compensation is also provided for all 
verified and probable losses of domestic animals and for a portion of 
documented missing calves (WI DNR 2006a, pp. 22-23).
    The WI DNR compensates livestock and pet owners for confirmed 
losses to depredating wolves. The compensation is made at full market 
value of the animal (up to a limit of $2,500 for dogs) and can include 
veterinarian fees for the treatment of injured animals (WI DNR 2006c 
12.54). Compensation costs have been funded from the endangered 
resources tax check-off and sales of the endangered resources license 
plates. Current Wisconsin law requires the continuation of the 
compensation payment for wolf depredation regardless of Federal listing 
or delisting of the species (WI DNR 2006c 12.50). In recent years 
annual depredation compensation payments have ranged from $68,907.88 
(2007) to $203,943.51 (2010). From 1985 through December 24, 2010, the 
WI DNR had spent $1,083,162.62 on

[[Page 26126]]

reimbursement for damage caused by wolves in the State, with 82 percent 
of that total spent since 2000 (http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/er/mammals/wolf/pdfs/wolf_damage_payments_2010.pdf).
    For depredation incidents in Wisconsin Zones 1 through 3, where all 
wolf packs currently reside, wolves may be trapped by Wildlife Services 
or WI DNR personnel and, if feasible, translocated and released at a 
point distant from the depredation site. If wolves are captured 
adjacent to an Indian reservation or a large block of public land, the 
animals may be translocated locally to that area. As noted above, long-
distance translocating of depredating wolves has become increasingly 
difficult in Wisconsin and is likely to be used infrequently in the 
future as long as the off-reservation wolf population is above 350 
animals. In most wolf depredation cases where technical assistance and 
nonlethal methods of behavior modification are judged to be 
ineffective, wolves will be shot or trapped and euthanized by Wildlife 
Services or DNR personnel. Trapping and euthanizing will be conducted 
within a 1-mi (1.6-km) radius of the depredation in Zones 1 and 2, and 
within a 5-mi (8-km) radius in Zone 3. There is no distance limitation 
for depredation control trapping in Zone 4, and all wolves trapped in 
Zone 4 will be euthanized, rather than translocated (WI DNR 2006a, pp. 
22-23).
    Following the proposed Federal delisting, Wisconsin landowners who 
have had a verified wolf depredation will be able to obtain limited-
duration permits from WI DNR to kill a limited number of depredating 
wolves on land they own or lease, based on the size of the pack causing 
the local depredations (WI DNR 2008, p. 8). Such permits would be 
issued to: (1) Landowners with verified permits on their property 
within the last 2 years; (2) landowners within 1 mile of properties 
with verified wolf depredations during the calendar year; (3) 
landowners with vulnerable livestock within WI DNR-designated proactive 
control areas; (4) landowners with human safety concerns on their 
property, and (5) landowners with verified harassment of livestock on 
their property (WI DNR 2008, p. 8). Limit on number of wolves to 
control will be based on estimated number of wolves in the pack causing 
depredation problems. In addition, landowners and lessees of land 
statewide will be allowed to kill a wolf without obtaining a permit 
``in the act of killing, wounding, or biting a domestic animal,'' the 
incident must be reported to a conservation warden within 24 hours and 
the landowners are required to turn any dead wolves over to the WI DNR 
(WI DNR 2006a, pp. 22-23; WI DNR 2008, p. 6). During the 19 months 
wolves were Federally delisted in 2007 and 2008, 5 wolves were shot in 
the act of depredations on domestic animals, and 2 wolves were shot by 
one landowner out of 67 permits issued. One wolf was shot in the act of 
attack on domestic animals during 2 months when wolves were delisted in 
2009.
    The updated Wisconsin Plan also envisions the possibility of 
intensive control management actions in sub-zones of the larger wolf 
management zones (WI DNR 2006a, pp. 22-23). Triggering actions and type 
of controls planned for these ``proactive control areas'' are listed in 
recent versions of the WI DNR depredation control guidelines (WI DNR 
2008, pp. 7-9). Controls on these actions would be considered on a 
case-by-case basis to address specific problems, and would likely be 
carried out only in areas that lack suitable habitat, have extensive 
agricultural lands with little forest interspersion, in urban or 
suburban settings, and only when the State wolf population is well 
above the management goal of 350 wolves outside Indian reservations in 
late-winter surveys. The use of intensive population management in 
small areas will be adapted as experience is gained with implementing 
and evaluating localized control actions (Wydeven 2006, pers. comm.).
    We have evaluated future lethal depredation control based upon 
verified depredation incidents over the last decade and the impacts of 
the implementation of similar lethal control of depredating wolves 
under 50 CFR 17.40(d) for Minnesota, Sec.  17.40(o) for Wisconsin and 
Michigan, and section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act for Wisconsin and 
Michigan. Under those authorities, WI DNR and Wildlife Services trapped 
and euthanized 17 wolves in 2003, 24 in 2004, 29 in 2005, 18 in 2006, 
37 in 2007, 39 in 2008, 9 in 2009, and 16 in 2010 (WI DNR 2006a, p. 32; 
Wydeven et al. 2008, pp. 8-9; Wydeven et al. 2009, pp. 6-7; Wydeven et 
al. 2010, p. 15; Wydeven et al. 2011, p. 3). Although these lethal 
control authorities applied to Wisconsin and Michigan DNRs for only a 
portion of 2003 (April through December) and 2005 (all of January for 
both States; April 1 and April 19, for Wisconsin and Michigan 
respectively, through September 13), they covered nearly all of the 
verified wolf depredations during 2003-05, and thus provide a 
reasonable measure of annual lethal depredation control. Lethal control 
authority only occurred for about 3.5 months in 2006.
    For 2003, 2004, and 2005, this represents 5.1 percent, 6.4 percent, 
7.4 percent (including the several possible wolf-dog hybrids), 
respectively, of the late-winter population of Wisconsin wolves during 
the previous winter. Note that some of the wolves euthanized after 
August 1 were young-of-the-year who were not present during the late-
winter survey, so the cited percentages are overestimates.
    This level of lethal depredation control was followed by a wolf 
population increase of 11 percent from 2003 to 2004, 17 percent from 
2004 to 2005, and 7 percent from 2005 to 2006 (Wydeven and Jurewicz 
2005, p. 5; Wydeven et al. 2006a, p. 10). Limited lethal control 
authority was granted to WI DNR in 2006 by a section 10 permit 
resulting in removal of 18 wolves (3.9 percent of winter wolf 
population), and this permit remained in effect for 3.5 months (Wydeven 
et al. 2007, p. 7). Lethal depredation control was again authorized in 
the State while wolves were delisted in 2007 (9.5 months) and 2008 (9 
months). During those times, 40 and 43 wolves, respectively, were 
killed for depredation control (by Wildlife Services or by legal 
landowner action), representing 7 and 8 percent of the late-winter 
population of Wisconsin wolves during the previous year.
    This level of lethal depredation control was followed by a wolf 
population increase of 0.5 percent from 2007 to 2008, and 12 percent 
from 2008 to 2009, (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2008, pp. 19-22; Wydeven et 
al. 2009a, p. 6). Authority for lethal control on depredating wolves 
only occurred for 2 months in 2009. During that time, eight wolves were 
euthanized for depredation control by USDA-WS, and one wolf was shot by 
a landowner; additionally a wolf was captured and euthanized by USDA-WS 
for human safety concerns later in 2009 after relisting (Wydeven et al. 
2010, p. 15). Thus in 2009, 10 wolves, or 2 percent of the winter wolf 
population, were removed in control activities.
    The Wisconsin wolf population in winter 2010 grew to 690 wolves, an 
increase of 8 percent from the wolf population in 2009 (Wydeven et al. 
2010, pp. 12-13). In 2010, authority for lethal control of wolves 
depredating livestock was not available in Wisconsin, but 16 wolves or 
2 percent of the winter population were removed for human safety 
concerns (Wydeven et al. 2011, p. 3). This provides strong evidence 
that this form and magnitude of depredation control will not adversely 
impact the viability of the Wisconsin wolf population. The locations of 
depredation incidents provide additional evidence that lethal control 
will not have an adverse impact

[[Page 26127]]

on the State's wolf population. Most livestock depredations are caused 
by packs near the northern forest-farm land interface. Few depredations 
occur in core wolf range and in large blocks of public land. Thus, 
lethal depredation control actions will not impact most of the 
Wisconsin wolf population (WI DNR 2006a, p. 30).
    Control actions in Wisconsin also resulted in removal of wolf-dog 
hybrids from the wild that had begun associating with packs. Wolf-dog 
hybrid removal in depredation control activity by USDA-WS included 3 in 
2005, 1 in 2007, 2 in 2008, and 1 in 2010 (WI DNR files).
    One substantive change to lethal control that will result from the 
proposed Federal delisting is the ability of a small number of private 
landowners, whose farms have a history of recurring wolf depredation, 
to obtain DNR permits to kill depredating wolves (WI DNR 2006a, p. 23; 
WI DNR 2008, p. 8). During the time wolves were Federally delisted from 
March 12, 2007 through September 29, 2008, the DNR issued 67 such 
permits, resulting in 2 wolves being killed. Some landowners received 
permits more than once and permits were issued for up to 90 days at a 
time and restricted to specific calendar years. During that same time 
period, under Wisconsin depredation management guidelines, landowners 
were allowed to shoot wolves in the act of attacks on domestic animals 
on private land without a permit; under that authority, landowners 
killed a total of five wolves. The death of these seven additional 
wolves--only one percent of the State's wolves in 2008--did not affect 
the viability of the population. Another substantive change after the 
proposed delisting may be potential proactive trapping or ``intensive 
control'' of wolves in limited areas as described above. We are 
confident that the number of wolves killed by these actions will not 
impact the long-term viability of the Wisconsin wolf population, 
because generally less than 15 percent of packs cause depredations that 
would initiate such controls, and ``proactive'' controls will be 
carried out only if the State's late-winter wolf population exceeds 350 
animals outside Indian reservations.
    The State's current guidelines for conducting depredation control 
actions say that no control trapping will be conducted on wolves that 
kill ``dogs that are free-roaming, roaming at large, hunting, or 
training on public lands, and all other lands except land owned or 
leased by the dog owner'' (WI DNR 2008, p. 5). Controls would be 
applied on wolves depredating pet dogs attacked near homes and wolves 
attacking livestock, which in 2010 included 25 packs attacking 
livestock (23 packs that were also documented in the previous winter 
surveys), 8 packs attacking dogs at homes, and 5 packs attacking both 
livestock and dogs. Thus control would have been applied to 31 packs 
(17 percent of State packs) previously detected and 2 new packs. 
Because of these state-imposed limitations, we believe that lethal 
control of wolves depredating on hunting dogs will be rare and, 
therefore, will not be a significant additional source of mortality in 
Wisconsin.
    Lethal control of wolves that attack captive deer is included in 
the WI DNR depredation control program, because farm-raised deer are 
considered to be livestock under Wisconsin law (WI DNR 2008, pp. 5-6; 
2006c, 12.52). However, Wisconsin regulations for deer farm fencing 
have been strengthened, and it is unlikely that more than an occasional 
wolf will need to be killed to end wolf depredations inside deer farms 
in the foreseeable future. Claims for wolf depredation compensation are 
rejected if the claimant is not in compliance with regulations 
regarding farm-raised deer fencing or livestock carcass disposal 
(Wisconsin Statutes 90.20 & 90.21, WI DNR 2006c 12.54).
    Data from verified wolf depredations in recent years indicate that 
depredation on livestock is likely to increase as long as the Wisconsin 
wolf population increases in numbers and range. Wolf packs establishing 
in more marginal habitat with high acreage of pasture land are more 
likely to become depredators (Treves et al. 2004, p. 121-122). Most 
large areas of forest land and public lands are included in Wisconsin 
Wolf Management Zones 1 and 2, and they have already been colonized by 
wolves. Therefore, new areas likely to be colonized by wolves in the 
future will be in Zones 3 and 4, where they will be exposed to much 
higher densities of farms, livestock, and residences. During 2008, of 
farms experiencing wolf depredation, 25 percent (8 of 32) were in Zone 
3, yet only 4 percent of the State wolf population occurs in this zone 
(Wydeven et al. 2009a, p. 23). Further expansion of wolves into Zone 3 
would likely lead to an increase in depredation incidents and an 
increase in lethal control actions against Zone 3 wolves. However, 
these Zone 3 mortalities will have no impact on wolf population 
viability in Wisconsin because of the much larger wolf populations in 
Zones 1 and 2.
    For the foreseeable future, the wolf population in Zones 1 and 2 
will continue to greatly exceed the recovery goal in the Recovery Plan 
for the Eastern Timber Wolf of 200 late-winter wolves for an isolated 
population and 100 wolves for a subpopulation connected to the larger 
Minnesota population, regardless of the extent of wolf mortality from 
all causes in Zones 3 and 4. Ongoing annual wolf population monitoring 
by WI DNR will provide timely and accurate data to evaluate the effects 
of wolf management under the Wisconsin Plan.
    The possibility of a public harvest of wolves is acknowledged in 
the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan and in plan updates (WI DNR 1999, 
Appendix D; 2006c, p. 23). However, the question of whether a public 
harvest will be initiated and the details of such a harvest are far 
from resolved. Public attitudes toward a wolf population in excess of 
350 would have to be fully evaluated, as would the impacts from other 
mortalities, before a public harvest could be initiated.
    The Wisconsin Conservation Congress, a group that advises the WI 
DNR on issues of fishing and hunting regulations, held hearings in 2008 
(while wolves were Federally delisted in the WGL) to gather information 
on the public's attitudes toward a public harvest of wolves in the 
State. Of the people attending those meetings, 86 percent recommended 
that efforts begin to develop public harvest regulations for wolves in 
the State, indicating a strong interest among hunters and anglers to 
begin such development. Establishing a public harvest, however, would 
be preceded by extensive public input, including public hearings, and 
would require legislative authorization and approval by the Wisconsin 
Natural Resources Board. Because of the steps that must precede a 
public harvest of wolves and the uncertainty regarding the possibility 
of, and the details of, any such program, we consider public harvest of 
Wisconsin wolves to be highly speculative at this time. The Service 
will closely monitor any steps taken by States and Tribes within the 
proposed WGL DPS to establish any public harvest of wolves during our 
post-delisting monitoring program.
    Future updates for the Wisconsin wolf management and conservation 
plan will likely contain more specific language on any potential public 
harvest for the State. The WI DNR is committed to maintaining a wolf 
population at 350 wolves outside of Indian reservations, which 
translates to a statewide population of 361 to 385 wolves in late 
winter. No harvest would be considered if the wolf population fell 
below this goal (WI DNR 1999, pp. 15, 16). Any harvest would consist of 
limited permits

[[Page 26128]]

on limited portions of the wolf range to reduce wolf-human conflict, 
and extensive areas in wolf range would be closed to harvest of wolves 
(WI DNR 1999, p. 21). Also, the fact that the Wisconsin Plan calls for 
State relisting of the wolf as a threatened species if the population 
falls to fewer than 250 for 3 years provides a strong assurance that 
any future public harvest is not likely to threaten the persistence of 
the population (WI DNR 1999, pp. 15-17). Based on wolf population data, 
the current Wisconsin Plan and the 2006 updates, we believe that any 
public harvest plan would continue to maintain the State wolf 
population well above the recovery goal of 200 wolves in late winter.
The Michigan Wolf Management Plan
    In 1997, the Michigan DNR finalized the Michigan Gray Wolf Recovery 
and Management Plan (MI DNR 1997). That plan was developed when the 
number of wolves in the State was relatively small, and focused on 
recovery. In 2001, the MI DNR began reevaluating the 1997 Plan and 
appointed a committee to evaluate wolf recovery and management in the 
State. As a result of that evaluation, MI DNR concluded that the 1997 
Plan needed revising, which prompted a more formal review, including 
extensive stakeholder input. Recognizing that wolf recovery had been 
achieved in Michigan, additional scientific knowledge had been gained, 
and new social issues had arisen since the 1997 Plan was drafted, the 
focus of the revised plan shifted from a recovery plan to a wolf 
management plan. To assist in this endeavor, the DNR convened a 
Michigan Wolf Management Roundtable, composed of a diverse group of 
citizens spanning the spectrum of those interested in, and impacted by, 
wolf recovery and management in Michigan, including Tribal entities and 
organizations focused on agriculture, hunting and trapping, the 
environment, animal protection, law enforcement and public safety, and 
tourism.
    The Roundtable was asked to review the 1997 wolf management goal, 
to set priorities for management issues, and to recommend strategic 
goals or policies the DNR should use in addressing the management 
issues. The Roundtable provided ``guiding principles'' for managing 
wolves and wolf-related issues following Federal delisting (Michigan 
Wolf Management Roundtable 2006, pp. 6-7). Those guiding principles 
strongly influenced the 2008 Michigan Wolf Management Plan (MI Plan) 
(MI DNR 2008a).
    The 2008 MI Plan describes the wolf recovery goals and management 
actions needed to maintain a viable wolf population in the UP of 
Michigan, while facilitating wolf-related benefits and minimizing 
conflicts. The four principal goals are to ``1) maintain a viable 
Michigan wolf population above a level that would warrant its 
classification as threatened or endangered; 2) facilitate wolf-related 
benefits; 3) minimize wolf-related conflicts; and 4) conduct science-
based wolf management with socially acceptable methods'' (MI DNR 2008a, 
p. 22). The Michigan Plan details wolf management actions, including 
public education and outreach activities, annual wolf population and 
health monitoring, research, depredation control, ensuring adequate 
legal protection for wolves, and prey and habitat management. It does 
not address the potential need for wolf recovery or management in the 
Lower Peninsula, nor wolf management within Isle Royale National Park 
(where the wolf population is fully protected by the National Park 
Service).
    As with the WI Plan, the MI DNR has chosen to manage the State's 
wolves as though they are an isolated population that receives no 
genetic or demographic benefits from immigrating wolves, even though 
their population will continue to be connected with populations in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Canada. The Michigan wolf population must 
exceed 200 wolves in order to achieve the Plan's first goal of 
maintaining a viable wolf population in the UP. This number is 
consistent with the Federal Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf's 
definition of a viable, isolated wolf population (USFWS 1992, p. 25). 
The MI Plan, however, clearly states that 200 wolves is not the target 
population size, and that a larger population may be necessary to meet 
the other goals of the Plan. Therefore, the State will maintain a wolf 
population that will ``provide all of the ecological and social 
benefits valued by the public'' while ``minimizing and resolving 
conflicts where they occur'' (MI DNR 2008a, pp. 22-23). We strongly 
support this approach, as it provides assurance that a viable wolf 
population will remain in the UP regardless of the future fate of 
wolves in Wisconsin or Ontario.
    The 2008 Michigan Plan identifies wolf population monitoring as a 
priority activity, and specifically states that the WI DNR will monitor 
wolf abundance annually for at least 5 years post-delisting (MI DNR 
2008a, pp. 31-32). This includes monitoring to assess wolf presence in 
the northern Lower Peninsula. As discussed previously, the size of the 
wolf population in Michigan is determined by extensive radio and snow 
tracking surveys. Recently the MI DNR also conducted a field evaluation 
of a less expensive ``Minnesota-type'' wolf survey. However, similar to 
WI DNR's experience, the evaluation concluded that the method 
overestimated wolf numbers, and is not suitable for use on the State's 
wolf population as it currently is distributed (Beyer in litt. 2006b).
    From 1989 through 2006, the WI DNR attempted to count wolves 
throughout the entire UP. As the wolf population increased, this method 
became more difficult. In the winter of 2006-07, the MI DNR implemented 
a new sampling approach based on an analysis by Potvin et al. (2005, p. 
1668) to increase the efficiency of the State survey. The new approach 
is based on a geographically based stratified random sample and 
produces an unbiased, regional estimate of wolf abundance. The UP was 
stratified into three sampling areas, and within each stratum the DNR 
intensively surveys roughly 40 to 50 percent of the wolf habitat area 
annually. Computer simulations have shown that such a geographically 
stratified monitoring program will produce unbiased and precise 
estimates of the total wolf population which can be statistically 
compared to estimates derived from the previous method to detect 
significant changes in the UP wolf population (Beyer in litt 2006b, see 
attachment by Drummer; Lederle in litt. 2006; Roell et al. 2009, p. 3).
    Another component of wolf population monitoring is monitoring wolf 
health. The MI DNR will continue to monitor the impact of parasites and 
disease on the viability of wolf populations in the State through 
necropsies of dead wolves and analyzing biological samples from 
captured live wolves. Prior to 2004, MI DNR vaccinated all captured 
wolves for canine distemper and parvovirus and treated them for mange. 
These inoculations were discontinued to provide more natural biotic 
conditions and to provide biologists with an unbiased estimate of 
disease-caused mortality rates in the population (Roell in litt. 
2005b). Since diseases and parasites are not currently a significant 
threat to the Michigan wolf population, the MI DNR is continuing the 
practice of not actively managing disease. If monitoring indicates that 
diseases or parasites may pose a threat to the wolf population, the MI 
DNR will again consider more active management similar to that 
conducted prior to 2004.
    The 2008 Plan includes maintaining habitat and prey necessary to 
sustain a viable wolf population in the State as a management 
component. This includes maintaining prey populations required

[[Page 26129]]

for a viable wolf population while providing for sustainable human 
uses, maintaining habitat linkages to allow for wolf dispersal, and 
minimizing disturbance at known, active wolf dens (MI DNR 2008a, pp. 
36-41).
    The Plan does not determine whether a public harvest will be used 
as a management strategy in Michigan, but it discusses developing a 
``socially and biologically responsible policy regarding public 
harvest'' (MI DNR 2008a, p. 65). Instituting public harvest during a 
regulated season would first require that the wolf be classified as a 
``game animal'' in the State. Game-animal status in Michigan may be 
designated only by the State Legislature and, additionally, only the 
State Legislature could authorize the first harvest season. If such 
designation and authorization were conferred, the Michigan Natural 
Resources Commission would then need to enact regulations pertaining to 
the methods of a public harvest.
    To minimize illegal take, the 2008 Plan calls for enacting and 
enforcing regulations to ensure adequate legal protection for wolves in 
the State. Under State regulations, wolves could be classified as 
threatened, endangered, game, or protected animal, all of which 
prohibit killing (or harming) the species except under a permit, 
license, or specific conditions. As discussed above, designating a 
species as a ``game animal'' would require action by the State 
Legislature. Michigan reclassified wolves from endangered to threatened 
in June 2002, and in April 2009, removed gray wolves from the State's 
Threatened and Endangered species list and amended the Wildlife 
Conservation Order to grant ``protected animal'' status to the gray 
wolf in the State (Roell 2009, pers. comm.). A person who commits a 
violation regarding the possession or taking of most wildlife species 
with the four legal designations (threatened, endangered, game, or 
protected animal) in Michigan is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by 
imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or a fine of not less than $100 
or more than $1,000, or both. Penalties may also include costs of 
prosecution, loss of hunting privileges, and reimbursing the value of 
the animal ($1,500 for a threatened or endangered species, $100 to $500 
for most game species, and $100 for protected animals) (MI DNR 2008a, 
p. 35).
    The 2008 Plan emphasizes the need for public education efforts that 
focus on living with a recovered wolf population and ways to manage 
wolves and wolf-human interaction (both positive and negative). The 
Plan recommends continuing reimbursement for depredation losses, 
citizen stakeholder involvement in the wolf management program, 
continuing important research efforts, and minimizing the impacts of 
captive wolves and wolf-dog hybrids on the wild wolf population (MI DNR 
2008a, pp. 31, 59, 61, and 66).
    The 2008 Michigan Plan calls for establishing a wolf management 
advisory group that would meet annually to monitor the progress made 
toward implementing the Plan. Furthermore, the Plan will be reviewed 
and updated at 5-year intervals, to address ``ecological, social, and 
regulatory'' changes (MI DNR 2008a, p. 66). The plan also addresses 
currently available and potential new sources of funding to offset 
costs associated with wolf management.
    The MI DNR has long been an innovative leader in wolf recovery 
efforts, exemplified by its initiation of the nation's first attempt to 
reintroduce wild wolves to vacant historical wolf habitat in 1974 
(Weise et al. 1975). The MI DNR's history of leadership in wolf 
recovery and its repeated written commitments to ensure the continued 
viability of a Michigan wolf population above a level that would 
trigger State or Federal listing as threatened or endangered further 
reinforces that the revised 2008 Michigan Wolf Management Plan will 
provide adequate regulatory mechanisms for Michigan wolves. The DNR's 
primary goal remains to conduct management to maintain the wolf 
population in Michigan above the minimum size that is biologically 
required for a viable, isolated population and to provide for 
ecological and social benefits valued by the public while resolving 
conflicts where they occur (MI DNR 2008a, p. 22).
    Depredation Control in Michigan--Data from Michigan show a general 
increase in confirmed events of wolf depredations on livestock (Table 
2). These livestock depredations occurred at 59 different UP farms 
(approximately 7 percent of the existing farms); 16 (27 percent) of 
those 59 farms have experienced more than one depredation event. Over 
80 percent of the depredation events were on cattle, with the rest on 
sheep, poultry, rabbits, and captive cervids (Roell et al. 2009, pp. 9, 
11). In 2010, 26 (57 percent) of the depredation events occurred on a 
single farm. The relationship between the number of wolves and the 
number of depredation events suggests that for every 100 additional 
wolves in the population there will be about 3 additional livestock 
depredation events per year (Roell et al. 2010, p. 6).

  Table 2--Number of Verified Livestock Depredation Events by Wolves in
                            Michigan by Year
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                   Year                       Number of animals killed
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1998......................................                             3
1999......................................                             1
2000......................................                             5
2001......................................                             3
2002......................................                             5
2003......................................                            13
2004......................................                            11
2005......................................                             5
2006......................................                            10
2007......................................                            14
2008......................................                            14
2009......................................                            12
2010......................................                            46
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Michigan has not experienced as high a level of attacks on dogs by 
wolves as Wisconsin, although a slight increase in such attacks has 
occurred over the last decade. Yearly losses vary and actions of a 
single pack of wolves can be an important influence. In Michigan, there 
is not a strong relationship between wolf depredation on dogs and wolf 
abundance (Roell et al. 2010, p. 7). The number of dogs killed in the 
State between 1996 and 2010 was 34; 12 additional dogs were injured in 
wolf attacks during that same period. Of the 34 wolf-related dog deaths 
during that time, 50 percent involved hounds used to hunt bears (Roell 
2010, pers. comm.). Similar to Wisconsin, MI DNR has guidelines for its 
depredation control program, stating that lethal control will not be 
used when wolves kill dogs that are free-roaming, hunting, or training 
on public lands. Lethal control of wolves, however, would be considered 
if wolves have killed confined pets and remain in the area where more 
pets are being held (MI DNR 2005a, p. 6). However, in 2008, the 
Michigan Legislature passed a law that would allow dog owners or their 
designated agents to remove, capture, or, if deemed necessary, use 
lethal means to destroy a gray wolf that is in the act of preying upon 
the owner's dog, which includes dogs free-roaming or hunting on public 
lands.
    During the several years that lethal control of depredating wolves 
had been conducted in Michigan, there is no evidence of resulting 
adverse impacts to the maintenance of a viable wolf population in the 
UP. A total of 41 wolves were killed by the MI DNR and USDA -Wildlife 
Services in response to depredation events during the time period when 
permits or special rules were in effect or while wolves were not on the 
Federal list of threatened and endangered species (Roell et al. 2010, 
p. 8). Four, five, two, seven, fourteen, eight, and one wolves, 
respectively,

[[Page 26130]]

were euthanized in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 (2 
months) (Beyer et al. 2006, p. 88; Roell in litt. 2006, p. 1; Roell et 
al. 2010, p. 19; Roell 2010, pers. comm.). This represents 1.2 percent, 
1.7 percent, 0.5 percent, 1.6 percent, 2.7 percent, 2.5 percent, and 
0.2 percent, respectively, of the UP's late-winter population of wolves 
during the previous winter. Following this level of lethal depredation 
control, the UP wolf population increased 12 percent from 2003 to 2004, 
13 percent from 2004 to 2005, 7 percent from 2005 to 2006, 17 percent 
from 2006 to 2007, 2 percent from 2007 to 2008, and 11 percent from 
2008 to 2009, demonstrating that the wolf population continues to 
increase at a healthy rate (Huntzinger et al. 2005, p. 6; MI DNR 2006a, 
Roell et al. 2009, p. 4). Lethal control of wolves during livestock 
depredation was not available in 2010.
    Post-delisting Depredation Control in Michigan--Following the 
proposed Federal delisting, wolf depredation control in Michigan would 
be carried out according to the 2008 Michigan Wolf Recovery and 
Management Plan (MI DNR 2008) and any Tribal wolf management plans that 
may be developed in the future for reservations in occupied wolf range.
    To provide depredation control guidance when lethal control is an 
option, MI DNR has developed detailed instructions for incident 
investigation and response (MI DNR 2005a). Verification of wolf 
depredation incidents will be conducted by MI DNR or USDA-APHIS--
Wildlife Services personnel (working under a cooperative agreement with 
MI DNR or at the request of a Tribe, depending on the location) who 
have been trained in depredation investigation techniques. The MI DNR 
specifies that the verification process will use the investigative 
techniques that have been developed and successfully used in Minnesota 
by Wildlife Services (MI DNR 2005a, Append. B, pp. 9-10). Following 
verification, one or more of several options will be implemented to 
address the depredation problem. Technical assistance, consisting of 
advice or recommendations to reduce wolf conflicts, will be provided. 
Technical assistance may also include providing to the landowner 
various forms of noninjurious behavior modification materials, such as 
flashing lights, noise makers, temporary fencing, and fladry.
    Trapping and translocating depredating wolves has been used in the 
past, resulting in the translocation of 23 UP wolves during 1998-2003 
(Beyer et al. 2006, p. 88), but as with Wisconsin, suitable relocation 
sites are becoming rarer, and there is local opposition to the release 
of translocated depredators. Furthermore, none of the past translocated 
depredators have remained near their release sites, making this a 
questionable method to end the depredation behaviors of these wolves 
(MI DNR 2005a, pp. 3-4). Therefore, reducing depredation problems by 
relocation is no longer recommended as a management tool in Michigan 
(MI DNR 2008a, p. 57).
    Lethal control of depredating wolves is likely to be the most 
common future response in situations when improved livestock husbandry 
and wolf behavior modification techniques (for example, flashing 
lights, noise-making devices) are judged to be inadequate. As wolf 
numbers continue to increase on the UP, the number of verified 
depredations will also increase, and will probably do so at a rate that 
exceeds the rate of wolf population increase. This will occur as wolves 
increasingly disperse into and occupy areas of the UP with more 
livestock and more human residences, leading to additional exposure to 
domestic animals. In a previous application for a lethal take permit 
under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act, MI DNR requested authority to 
euthanize up to 10 percent of the late-winter wolf population annually 
(MI DNR 2005b, p. 1). However, based on 2003-05 and 2007-09 depredation 
data, it is likely that significantly less than 10 percent lethal 
control will be needed over the next several years.
    The MI Plan provides recommendations to guide management of various 
conflicts caused by wolf recovery, including depredation on livestock 
and pets, human safety, and public concerns regarding wolf impacts on 
other wildlife. We view the MI Plan's depredation and conflict control 
strategies to be conservative, in that they commit to nonlethal 
depredation management whenever possible, oppose preventative wolf 
removal where problems have not yet occurred, encourage incentives for 
best management practices that decrease wolf-livestock conflicts 
without impacting wolves, and support closely monitored and enforced 
take by landowners of wolves ``in the act of livestock depredation'' or 
under limited permits if depredation is confirmed and nonlethal methods 
are determined to be ineffective. Based on these components of the 
revised MI Plan and the stated goal for maintaining wolf populations at 
or above recovery goals, the Service believes any wolf management 
changes implemented following the proposed delisting would not be 
implemented in a manner that results in significant reductions in 
Michigan wolf populations. The MI DNR remains committed to ensuring a 
viable wolf population above a level that would trigger relisting as 
either threatened or endangered in the future (MI DNR 2008a, p. 9).
    Similar to Wisconsin, Michigan livestock owners are compensated 
when they lose livestock as a result of a confirmed wolf depredation. 
Currently there are two complementary compensation programs in 
Michigan, one funded by the MI DNR and implemented by Michigan 
Department of Agriculture (MI DA) and another set up through donations 
(from Defenders of Wildlife and private citizens) and administered by 
the International Wolf Center (IWC), a nonprofit organization. From the 
inception of the program to 2000, MI DA has paid 90 percent of full 
market value of depredated livestock at the time of loss. The IWC 
account was used to pay the remaining 10 percent from 2000 to 2002 when 
MI DA began paying 100 percent of the full market value of depredated 
livestock. The IWC account continues to be used to pay the difference 
between value at time of loss and the full fall market value for 
depredated young-of-the-year livestock, and together the two funds have 
provided nearly $38,000 in livestock loss compensation through 2008 
(Roell et al., p. 15). Neither of these programs provides compensation 
for pets or for veterinary costs to treat wolf-inflicted livestock 
injuries. The MI DNR plans to continue cooperating with MI DA and other 
organizations to maintain the wolf depredation compensation program (MI 
DNR 2008a, pp. 59-60).
    In 2009, Michigan passed two House Bills that would become 
effective after Federal delisting. Those bills authorized a livestock 
or dog owner (or a designated agent) to ``remove, capture, or use 
lethal means to destroy a wolf that is in the act of preying upon'' the 
owner's livestock or dog. During the 2 months that wolves were 
Federally and State delisted in 2009, no wolves were killed under these 
authorizations. We are confident that the limited number of wolves 
expected to be taken under these Bills would not affect the viability 
of the Michigan wolf population.

Regulatory Mechanisms in Other States and Tribal Areas Within the 
Proposed WGL DPS

North Dakota and South Dakota
    North Dakota lacks a State endangered species law or regulation. 
Any wolves in the State currently are classified as furbearers, with a 
closed season. North

[[Page 26131]]

Dakota Game and Fish Department is unlikely to change the species' 
State classification immediately following the proposed Federal 
delisting. Wolves are included in the State's Wildlife Action Plan as a 
``Level 3'' Species of Conservation Priority. Level 3 species are those 
``having a moderate level of conservation priority, but are believed to 
be peripheral or do not breed in North Dakota.'' Placement on this list 
gives species greater access to conservation funding, but does not 
afford any additional regulatory or legislative protection (Bicknell in 
litt. 2009).
    Currently any wolves that may be in South Dakota are not State 
listed as threatened or endangered, nor is there a hunting or trapping 
season for them. Upon the effective date of any Federal delisting, gray 
wolves in eastern South Dakota will fall under general protections 
afforded all State wildlife. These protections require specific 
provisions--seasons and regulations--be established prior to initiating 
any form of legal take. Thus, the State could choose to implement a 
hunting or trapping season for wolves east of the Missouri River; 
however, absent some definitive action to establish a season, wolves 
would remain protected. Following the proposed Federal delisting, any 
verified depredating wolves east of the Missouri will likely be trapped 
and killed by the USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services program (Larson in litt. 
2005). Non-depredating wolves in North and South Dakota not on the 
Federal list will continue to receive protection by the States' 
wildlife protection statutes unless specific action is taken to open a 
hunting or trapping season or otherwise remove existing protections.
    Post-delisting Depredation Control in North and South Dakota--Since 
1993, five incidents of verified wolf depredation have occurred in 
North Dakota, with one in September 2003 and two more in December 2005. 
There have been no verified wolf depredations in South Dakota in recent 
decades. Following the proposed Federal delisting we assume that lethal 
control of a small number of depredating wolves will occur in one or 
both of these States. Lethal control of depredating wolves may have 
adverse impacts on the ability of wolves to occupy any small areas of 
suitable or marginally suitable habitat that may exist in the States. 
However, lethal control of depredating wolves in these two States will 
have no adverse effects on the long-term viability of wolf populations 
in the proposed WGL DPS as a whole, because the existence of a wolf or 
a wolf population in the Dakotas will not make a meaningful 
contribution to the maintenance of the current viable, self-sustaining, 
and representative metapopulation of wolves in the proposed WGL DPS.
Other States in the Western Great Lakes DPS
    The proposed DPS includes the portion of Iowa that is north of 
Interstate Highway 80, which is approximately 60 percent of the State. 
The Iowa Natural Resource Commission currently lists wolves as 
furbearers, with a closed season (Howell in litt. 2005). If the State 
retains this listing following the proposed Federal delisting of the 
DPS, wolves dispersing into northern Iowa will be protected by State 
law.
    The portion of Illinois that is north of Interstate Highway 80, 
less than one-fifth of the State, is included in the DPS, and is part 
of the geographic area where wolves are proposed for removal from 
Federal protection. Gray wolves are currently protected in Illinois as 
a threatened species under the Illinois Endangered Species Protection 
Act (520 ILCS 10). Thus, following the proposed Federal delisting, 
wolves dispersing into northern Illinois would continue to be protected 
from human take by State law.
    The extreme northern portions of Indiana and northwestern Ohio are 
included within the proposed DPS. If this proposal is made final, any 
wolves that are found in this area would no longer be Federally 
protected under the Act. The State of Ohio classifies the gray wolf as 
``extirpated,'' and there are no plans to reintroduce or recover the 
species in the State. The species lacks State protection, but State 
action is likely to apply some form of protection if wolves begin to 
disperse into the State (Caldwell in litt. 2005). Indiana DNR lists the 
gray wolf as extirpated in the State, and the species would receive no 
State protection under this classification following any Federal 
delisting. The only means to provide State protection would be to list 
them as State-endangered, but that is not likely to occur unless wolves 
become resident in Indiana (Johnson in litt. 2005, in litt. 2006). 
Thus, if this proposal is made final, Federally delisted wolves that 
might disperse into Indiana and Ohio would lack State protection there, 
unless these two States take specific action to provide new 
protections.
    Because the portions of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio within 
the proposed WGL DPS do not contain suitable habitat or currently 
established packs, depredation control in these States would not have 
any significant impact on the continued viability of wolf populations 
in the proposed WGL DPS.
Tribal Management and Protection of Wolves
    Native American Tribes and inter-Tribal resource management 
organizations have indicated to the Service that they will continue to 
conserve wolves on most, and probably all, Native American reservations 
in the core recovery areas of the proposed WGL DPS. The wolf retains 
great cultural significance and traditional value to many Tribes and 
their members (additional discussion is found in Factor E), and to 
retain and strengthen cultural connections, many Tribes oppose 
unnecessary killing of wolves on reservations and on ceded lands, even 
following any Federal delisting (Hunt in litt. 1998; Schrage in litt. 
1998a; Schlender in litt. 1998). Some Native Americans view wolves as 
competitors for deer and moose, whereas others are interested in 
harvesting wolves as furbearers (Schrage in litt. 1998a). Many Tribes 
intend to sustainably manage their natural resources, wolves among 
them, to ensure that they are available to their descendants. 
Traditional natural resource harvest practices, however, often include 
only a minimum amount of regulation by the Tribal governments (Hunt in 
litt. 1998).
    Although not all Tribes with wolves that visit or reside on their 
reservations have completed management plans specific to the wolf, 
several Tribes have informed us that they have no plans or intentions 
to allow commercial or recreational hunting or trapping of the species 
on their lands after the proposed Federal delisting. The Red Lake Band 
of Chippewa Indians (Minnesota) and the Little Traverse Bay Band of 
Odawa Indians (Michigan) have developed wolf monitoring and/or 
management plans. The Service has also awarded a grant to the Ho-Chunk 
Nation to identify wolf habitat on reservation lands.
    As a result of many past contacts with, and previous written 
comments from, the Midwestern Tribes and their inter-Tribal natural 
resource management agencies--the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife 
Commission (GLIFWC), the 1854 Authority, and the Chippewa Ottawa Treaty 
Authority--it is clear that their predominant sentiment is strong 
support for the continued protection of wolves at a level that ensures 
that viable wolf populations remain on reservations and throughout the 
treaty-ceded lands surrounding the reservations. While several Tribes 
stated that their members may be interested in killing small numbers of 
wolves for spiritual or other

[[Page 26132]]

purposes, this would be carried out in a manner that would not impact 
reservation or ceded territory wolf populations.
    The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians (Minnesota) completed a wolf 
management plan in 2010 (Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians 2010). A 
primary goal of the management plan is to maintain wolf numbers at a 
level that will ensure the long-term survival of wolves on Red Lake 
lands. Key components of the plan are habitat management, public 
education, and law enforcement. To address human-wolf interactions, the 
plan outlines how wolves may be taken on Red Lake lands. Wolves thought 
to be a threat to public safety may be harassed at any time, and if 
they must be killed, the incident must be reported to Tribal law 
enforcement. Agricultural livestock are not common on Red Lake lands, 
and wolf-related depredation on livestock or pets is unlikely to be a 
significant management issue. If such events do occur, Tribal members 
may protect their livestock or pets by lethal means, but ``* * * all 
reasonable efforts should be made to deter wolves using non-lethal 
means'' (Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians 2010, p. 15). Hunting or 
trapping of wolves on Tribal lands will be prohibited. The Reservation 
currently has seven or eight packs with an estimated 40-48 wolves 
within its boundaries (Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians 2010, p. 12).
    In 2009, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB) 
finalized a management plan for the 1855 Reservation and portions of 
the 1936 ceded territory in the northern LP of Michigan (Little 
Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Natural Resource Department 2009). 
The plan provides the framework for managing wolves on the LTBB 
Reservation with the goal of maintaining a viable wolf presence on the 
LTBB Reservation or within the northern LP should a population become 
established by (1) prescribing scientifically sound biological wolf 
management, research, and monitoring strategies; (2) addressing wolf-
related conflicts; (3) facilitating wolf-related benefits; and (4) 
developing and implementing wolf-related education and public 
information.
    The Tribal Council of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Ojibwe 
(Council) approved a resolution that describes the sport and 
recreational harvest of wolves as an inappropriate use of the animal. 
That resolution supports limited harvest of wolves to be used for 
traditional or spiritual uses by enrolled Tribal members if the harvest 
is done in a respectful manner and would not negatively affect the wolf 
population. The Council is revising the Reservation Conservation Code 
to allow Tribal members to harvest some wolves after Federal delisting 
(Googgleye, Jr. in litt. 2004). The Tribe is currently developing a 
wolf management plan (Mortensen 2011, pers. comm.). In 2005, the Leech 
Lake Reservation was home to an estimated 75 wolves, the largest 
population of wolves on a Native American reservation in the 48 
conterminous States (Mortensen 2006, pers. comm.; White in litt. 2003). 
Although no recent surveys have been conducted, the number of wolves on 
the reservation likely remains the same (Mortensen 2009, pers. comm.).
    The Fond du Lac Band (Minnesota) believes that the ``well being of 
the wolf is intimately connected to the well being of the Chippewa 
People'' (Schrage in litt. 2003). In 1998, the Band passed a resolution 
opposing Federal delisting and any other measure that would permit 
trapping, hunting, or poisoning of the wolf (Schrage in litt. 1998b; in 
litt. 2003; 2009, pers. comm.). If this prohibition is rescinded, the 
Band's Resource Management Division will coordinate with State and 
Federal agencies to ensure that any wolf hunting or trapping would be 
``conducted in a biologically sustainable manner'' (Schrage in litt. 
2003).
    The Red Cliff Band (Wisconsin) has strongly opposed State and 
Federal delisting of the gray wolf. Current Tribal law protects wolves 
from harvest, although harvest for ceremonial purposes would likely be 
permitted after Federal delisting (Symbal in litt. 2003).
    The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin is committed to 
establishing a self-sustaining wolf population, continuing restoration 
efforts, ensuring the long-term survival of the wolf in Menominee, 
placing emphasis on the cultural significance of the wolf as a clan 
member, and resolving conflicts between wolves and humans. They are 
currently working on developing a Menominee Wolf Management Plan (Cox 
2011, pers. comm.).
    The Tribe has shown a great deal of interest in wolf recovery and 
protection. In 2002, the Tribe offered their Reservation lands as a 
site for translocating seven depredating wolves that had been trapped 
by WI DNR and Wildlife Services. Tribal natural resources staff 
participated in the soft release of the wolves on the Reservation and 
helped with the subsequent radio-tracking of the wolves. Although by 
early 2005 the last of these wolves died on the reservation, the Tribal 
conservation department continued to monitor another pair that had 
moved onto the Reservation, as well as other wolves near the 
reservation (Wydeven in litt. 2006a). When that pair produced pups in 
2006, but the adult female was killed, Reservation biologists and staff 
worked diligently with the WI DNR and the Wildlife Science Center 
(Forest Lake, Minnesota) to raise the pups in captivity in the hope 
that they could later be released to the care of the adult male. 
However, the adult male died prior to pup release, and they were moved 
back to the Wildlife Science Center (Pioneer Press 2006), and were 
subsequently transferred to the International Wolf Center in Ely, 
Minnesota, where they remain in captivity.
    The Menominee Tribe continues to support wolf conservation and 
monitoring activity in Wisconsin. In recent years the Menominee Tribe 
has assisted the WI DNR in radio-telemetry wolf flights, allowing more 
regular flights to occur across all of northern Wisconsin.
    The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (Michigan) will continue to list 
the wolf as a protected animal under the Tribal Code following any 
Federal delisting, with hunting and trapping prohibited (Mike Donofrio 
1998, pers. comm.). Furthermore, the Keweenaw Bay Community plans to 
develop a management plan that will address wolves (Donofrio in litt. 
2003; Warner 20010, pers. comm.). At least three other Tribes (Stock-
bridge Munsee Community, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe, the Mille 
Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) 
have indicated that they are currently developing Tribal wolf 
management plans.
    Several Midwestern Tribes (for example, the Bad River Band of Lake 
Superior Chippewa Indians and the LTBB) have expressed concern that 
Federal delisting will result in increased mortality of wolves on 
reservation lands, in the areas immediately surrounding the 
reservations, and in lands ceded by treaty to the Federal Government by 
the Tribes (Kiogama and Chingwa in litt. 2000). The Tribe's goal is to 
reduce the threats to reservation wolf packs when they are temporarily 
off the reservation. Other Tribes have expressed interest in such an 
agreement. If this and similar agreements are implemented, they will 
provide additional protection to certain wolf packs in the western 
Great Lakes area.
    The GLIFWC has stated its intent to work closely with the States to 
cooperatively manage wolves in the ceded territories in the core areas, 
and will not develop a separate wolf

[[Page 26133]]

management plan (Schlender in litt. 1998). Furthermore, the Voigt 
Intertribal Task Force of GLIFWC has expressed its support for strong 
protections for the wolf, stating ``[delisting] hinges on whether 
wolves are sufficiently restored and will be sufficiently protected to 
ensure a healthy and abundant future for our brother and ourselves'' 
(Schlender in litt. 2004).
    According to the 1854 Authority, ``attitudes toward wolf management 
in the 1854 Ceded Territory run the gamut from a desire to see total 
protection to unlimited harvest opportunity.'' However, the 1854 
Authority would not ``implement a harvest system that would have any 
long-term negative impacts to wolf populations'' (Edwards in litt. 
2003). In comments submitted for our 2004 delisting proposal for a 
larger Eastern DPS of the gray wolf, the 1854 Authority stated that the 
Authority is ``confident that under the control of State and Tribal 
management, wolves will continue to exist at a self-sustaining level in 
the 1854 Ceded Territory. Sustainable populations of wolves, their prey 
and other resources within the 1854 Ceded Territory are goals to which 
the 1854 Authority remains committed. As such, we intend to work with 
the State of Minnesota and other Tribes to ensure successful state and 
Tribal management of healthy wolf populations in the 1854 Ceded 
Territory'' (Myers in litt. 2004). The 1854 Authority is currently 
developing a wolf management plan for the 1854 Ceded Territory, based 
on the above principles (Edwards 2011, pers. comm.).
    While there are few written Tribal protections currently in place 
for wolves, the highly protective and reverential attitudes that have 
been expressed by Tribal authorities and members have assured us that 
any post-delisting harvest of reservation wolves would be very limited 
and would not adversely impact the delisted wolf populations. 
Furthermore, any off-reservation harvest of wolves by Tribal members in 
the ceded territories would be limited to a portion of the harvestable 
surplus at some future time. Such a harvestable surplus would be 
determined and monitored jointly by State and Tribal biologists, and 
would be conducted in coordination with the Service and the Bureau of 
Indian Affairs, as is being successfully done for the ceded territory 
harvest of inland and Great Lakes fish, deer, bear, moose, and 
furbearers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Therefore, we 
conclude that any future Native American take of delisted wolves will 
not significantly impact the viability of the wolf population, either 
locally or across the proposed WGL DPS.
    The Service and the Department of the Interior recognize the unique 
status of the Federally recognized Tribes, their right to self-
governance, and their inherent sovereign powers over their members and 
territory. If we ultimately determine that delisting the WGL DPS is 
supported by the best available science, the Department, the Service, 
the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and other Federal agencies, as 
appropriate, will take the needed steps to ensure that Tribal authority 
and sovereignty within reservation boundaries are respected as the 
States implement their wolf management plans and revise those plans in 
the future. Furthermore, there may be Tribal activities or interests 
associated with wolves encompassed within the Tribes' retained rights 
to hunt, fish, and gather in treaty-ceded territories. The Department 
is available to assist in the exercise of any such rights. If 
biological assistance is needed, the Service may provide it via our 
field offices. Upon delisting, the Service would remain involved in the 
post-delisting monitoring of the wolves in the WGL, but all Service 
management and protection authority under the Act would end. Legal 
assistance would be provided to the Tribes by the Department of the 
Interior, and the BIA will be involved, when needed. If this proposal 
is finalized, we strongly encourage the States and Tribes to work 
cooperatively toward post-delisting wolf management.
    Consistent with our responsibilities to Tribes and our goal to have 
the most comprehensive data available for our post-delisting 
monitoring, if the proposal to delist the WGL DPS is made final, we 
will annually contact Tribes and their designated intertribal natural 
resource agencies within the DPS during the 5-year post-delisting 
monitoring period to obtain any information they wish to share 
regarding wolf populations, the health of those populations, or changes 
in their management and protection. Reservations within the WGL DPS 
that may have significant wolf data to provide during the post-
delisting period include Bois Forte, Bad River, Fond du Lac, Grand 
Portage, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Lac Courte Oreilles, Lac du 
Flambeau, Leech Lake, Menominee, Oneida, Red Lake, Stockbridge-Munsee 
Community, and White Earth. Throughout the 5-year post-delisting 
monitoring period, the Service will annually contact the natural 
resource agencies of each of these reservations and that of the 1854 
Treaty Authority and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. 
We encourage the States and Tribes within the WGL DPS to work together 
on management and monitoring issues post-delisting.
Federal Lands
    The five national forests with resident wolves (Superior, Chippewa, 
Chequamegon-Nicolet, Hiawatha, and Ottawa National Forests) in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are all operating in conformance 
with standards and guidelines in their management plans that follow the 
1992 Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf's recommendations for 
the eastern timber wolf (USDA FS 2004a, chapter 2, p. 31; USDA FS 
2004b, chapter 2, p. 28; USDA FS 2004c, chapter 2, p. 19; USDA FS 
2006a, chapter 2, p. 17; USDA FS 2006b, chapter 2, pp. 28-29). 
Delisting is not expected to lead to an immediate change in these 
standards and guidelines; in fact, the Regional Forester for U.S. 
Forest Service Region 9 is expected to maintain the classification of 
the wolf as a Regional Forester Sensitive Species for at least 5 years 
after Federal delisting (Moore in litt. 2003). Under these standards 
and guidelines, a relatively high prey base will be maintained, and 
road densities will be limited to current levels or decreased. For 
example, on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin, the 
standards and guidelines specifically include the protection of den 
sites and key rendezvous sites, and management of road densities in 
existing and potential wolf habitat (USDA 2004c, Chap. 2, p. 19).
    The trapping of depredating wolves would likely be allowed on 
national forest lands under the guidelines and conditions specified in 
the respective State wolf management plans. However, there are 
relatively few livestock raised within the boundaries of national 
forests in the upper Midwest, so wolf depredation and lethal control of 
wolves is neither likely to be a frequent occurrence, nor constitute a 
significant mortality factor, for the wolves in the proposed WGL DPS. 
Similarly, in keeping with the practice for other State-managed game 
species, any public hunting or trapping season for wolves that might be 
opened in the future by the States would likely include hunting and 
trapping within the national forests (Lindquist in litt. 2005; 
Williamson in litt. 2005; Piehler in litt. 2005; Evans in litt. 2005). 
The continuation of current national forest management practices will 
be important in ensuring the long-term viability of wolf populations in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

[[Page 26134]]

    Wolves regularly use four units of the National Park System in the 
proposed WGL DPS and may occasionally use three or four other units. 
Although the National Park Service (NPS) has participated in the 
development of some of the State wolf management plans in this area, 
NPS is not bound by States' plans. Instead, the NPS Organic Act and the 
NPS Management Policy on Wildlife generally require the agency to 
conserve natural and cultural resources and the wildlife present within 
the parks. National Park Service management policies require that 
native species be protected against harvest, removal, destruction, 
harassment, or harm through human action, although certain parks may 
allow some harvest in accordance with State management plans. 
Management emphasis in National Parks after delisting will continue to 
minimize the human impacts on wolf populations. Thus, because of their 
responsibility to preserve all native wildlife, units of the National 
Park System are often the most protective of wildlife. In the case of 
the wolf, the NPS Organic Act and NPS policies will continue to provide 
protection following the proposed Federal delisting.
    Management and protection of wolves in Voyageurs National Park, 
along Minnesota's northern border is not likely to change after 
delisting. The park's management policies require that ``native animals 
will be protected against harvest, removal, destruction, harassment, or 
harm through human action.'' No population targets for wolves will be 
established for the National Park (Holbeck in litt. 2005). To reduce 
human disturbance, temporary closures around wolf denning and 
rendezvous sites will be enacted whenever they are discovered in the 
park. Sport hunting is already prohibited on park lands, regardless of 
what may be allowed beyond park boundaries (West in litt. 2004). A 
radio-telemetry study conducted between 1987 and 1991 of wolves living 
in and adjacent to the park found that all mortality inside the park 
was due to natural causes (for example, killing by other wolves or 
starvation), whereas the majority (60-80 percent) of mortality outside 
the park was human-induced (for example, shooting and trapping) (Gogan 
et al. 2004, p. 22). If there is a need to control depredating wolves 
outside the park, which seems unlikely due to the current absence of 
agricultural activities adjacent to the park, the park would work with 
the State to conduct control activities where necessary (West in litt. 
2004).
    The wolf population in Isle Royale National Park is described above 
(see Michigan Recovery). The NPS has indicated that it will continue to 
closely monitor and study these wolves. This wolf population is very 
small and isolated from the other wolf populations in the proposed WGL 
DPS; as described above, it is not considered to be significant to the 
recovery or long-term viability of the wolf (USFWS 1992, p. 28).
    Two other units of the National Park System, Pictured Rocks 
National Lakeshore and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, are 
regularly used by wolves. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a narrow 
strip of land along Michigan's Lake Superior shoreline. Lone wolves 
periodically use, but do not appear to be year-round residents of, the 
Lakeshore. If denning occurs after delisting, the Lakeshore would 
protect denning and rendezvous sites at least as strictly as the 
Michigan Plan recommends (Gustin in litt. 2003). Harvesting wolves on 
the Lakeshore may be allowed (if the Michigan DNR allows for harvest in 
the State), but trapping is not allowed. The St. Croix National Scenic 
Riverway, in Wisconsin and Minnesota, is also a mostly linear 
ownership. Approximately 54-58 wolves from 11 packs used the Riverway 
on the Wisconsin side in 2010 (Wydeven 2011, pers. comm.). The Riverway 
is likely to limit public access to denning and rendezvous sites and to 
follow other management and protective practices outlined in the 
respective State wolf management plans, although trapping is not 
allowed on NPS lands except possibly by Native Americans (Maercklein in 
litt. 2003).
    At least one pack of 4-5 wolves used the shoreline areas of the 
Apostle Islands National Lake Shore, with a major deer yard area 
occurring on portions of the Park Service land. Wolf tracks have been 
detected on Sand Island, and a wolf was photographed by a trail camera 
on the island in September 2009. It is not known if wolves periodically 
swim to this and other islands, or if they only travel to islands on 
ice in winter.
    Wolves occurring on NWRs in the proposed WGL DPS will be monitored, 
and refuge habitat management will maintain the current prey base for 
them for a minimum of 5 years after delisting. Trapping or hunting by 
government trappers for depredation control will not be authorized on 
NWRs. Because of the relatively small size of these NWRs, however, most 
or all of these packs and individual wolves also spend significant 
amounts of time off these NWRs.
    Wolves also occupy the Fort McCoy military installation in 
Wisconsin. In 2003, one pack containing five adult wolves occupied a 
territory that included the majority of the installation; in 2004 and 
2006, the installation had one pack with two adults; in 2005 there was 
a single pack with four wolves. In 2008-09, there were seven wolves 
using the installation (Wilder 2009, pers. comm.). In 2010 a pack of 
three wolves occurred in the northern portions of the Fort, and a pack 
of two occurred on the south side (Wydeven et al. 2010, p. 42). 
Management and protection of wolves on the installation would not 
change significantly after Federal or State delisting. Den and 
rendezvous sites would continue to be protected, hunting seasons for 
other species (coyote) would be closed during the gun-deer season, and 
current surveys would continue, if resources are available. Fort McCoy 
has no plans to allow a public harvest of wolves on the installation 
(Nobles in litt. 2004; Wydeven et al. 2005a, p. 25; 2006a, p. 25).
    Minnesota National Guard's (MNG) Camp Ripley contains parts of two 
pack territories, which typically include 10 to 20 wolves. MNG wildlife 
managers try to have at least one wolf in each pack radio-collared and 
to fit an additional one or two wolves in each pack with satellite 
transmitters that may record long-distance movements. There have been 
no significant conflicts with military training or with the permit-only 
public deer-hunting program at the camp, and no new conflicts are 
expected following delisting. Long-term and intensive monitoring has 
detected only two wolf mortalities within the camp boundaries--both 
were of natural causes (Dirks 2009, pers. comm.).
    The protection afforded to resident and transient wolves, their den 
and rendezvous sites, and their prey by five national forests, four 
National Parks, two military facilities, and numerous National Wildlife 
Refuges in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan would further ensure the 
conservation of wolves in the three States after delisting. In 
addition, wolves that disperse to other units of the National Refuge 
System or the National Park System within the proposed WGL DPS will 
also receive the protection afforded by these Federal agencies.

Summary of Factor D

    In summary, if this proposed delisting of the WGL DPS of gray 
wolves is made final, there would be varying State and Tribal 
classifications and protections provided to wolves. The wolf management 
plans currently in place for Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan

[[Page 26135]]

will be more than sufficient to retain viable wolf populations in each 
State that are above the Federal recovery criteria for wolf 
metapopulation subunits, and even for three completely isolated wolf 
populations. These State plans provide a very high level of assurance 
that wolf populations in these three States will not decline to 
nonviable levels in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the 2006 
Update to the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan (WI DNR 2006a, p. 3-4) 
demonstrates the State's commitment by retaining the previous 
management goal of 350 wolves, and it did not weaken any significant 
component of the original 1999 Plan. Similarly, the 2008 revised 
Michigan wolf plan continues to maintain the State's commitments to 
maintain viable wolf populations after Federal delisting. While these 
State plans recognize there may be a need to control or even reduce 
wolf populations at some future time, none of the plans include a 
public harvest of wolves, and all would maintain sufficient numbers of 
wolves to ensure their continued survival.
    If Federally delisted, wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan 
would continue to receive protection from general human persecution by 
State laws and regulations. Michigan met the criteria established in 
their management plan for State delisting and in April 2009 removed 
gray wolves from the State's threatened and endangered species list and 
amended the Wildlife Conservation Order to grant ``protected animal'' 
status to the gray wolf in the State (Roell 2009, pers. comm.). That 
status ``prohibit[s] take, establish[es] penalties and restitution for 
violations of the Order, and detail[s] conditions under which lethal 
depredation control measures could be implemented'' (Humphries in litt. 
2004).
    Since 2004 wolves have been listed as a ``protected wild animal'' 
by the WI DNR, allowing no lethal take unless special authorization is 
requested from the WI DNR (Wydeven et al. 2009c). Following the 
proposed Federal delisting, Wisconsin will fully implement that 
``protected wild animal'' status for the species, including protections 
that provide for fines of $1,000 to $2,000 for unlawful hunting.
    Minnesota DNR will consider population management measures, 
including public hunting and trapping, but this will not occur sooner 
than 5 years after Federal delisting, and MN DNR will maintain a wolf 
population of at least 1,600 animals (MN DNR 2001, p. 2). In the 
meantime, wolves may be taken legally in Zone A only when they pose an 
immediate threat to pets, domestic animals, or livestock or to protect 
human safety (MN DNR 2001, pp. 3-4). Since the wolf management plan was 
completed in 2001, MN DNR has fully staffed its conservation officer 
corps in the State's wolf range (Stark 2009a, pers. comm.).
    Except for the very small portions of Indiana and Ohio, if 
delisted, wolves in the proposed WGL DPS are likely to remain protected 
by various State designations for the immediate future. States within 
the boundaries of the DPS either currently have mechanisms in place to 
kill depredating wolves (North Dakota and South Dakota) or can be 
expected to develop mechanisms following the proposed Federal delisting 
of the DPS, in order to deal with wolf-livestock conflicts in areas 
where wolf protection would no longer be required by the Act. Because 
these States (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, North Dakota, and South 
Dakota) constitute only about one-third of the land area within the 
DPS, and contain virtually no suitable habitat of sufficient size to 
host viable wolf populations, it is clear that even complete protection 
for wolves in these areas would neither provide significant benefits to 
wolf recovery in the DPS, nor to the long-term viability of the 
recovered populations that currently reside in the DPS. Therefore, 
although current and potential future regulatory mechanisms may allow 
the killing of wolves in these six States, these threats, and the area 
in which they will be, will not impact the recovered wolf populations 
in the DPS now or in the foreseeable future.
    Finally, based on our review of the completed Tribal management 
plans and communications with Tribes and Tribal organizations, 
Federally delisted wolves are very likely to be adequately protected on 
Tribal lands. Furthermore, the numerical recovery criteria (and for 
Minnesota, the numerical planning goal) in the Recovery Plan would be 
achieved and maintained (based on the population and range of off-
reservation wolves) even without Tribal protection of wolves on 
reservation lands. In addition, on the basis of information received 
from other Federal land management agencies in Minnesota, Wisconsin, 
and Michigan, we expect National Forests, units of the National Park 
System, military bases, and National Wildlife Refuges will provide 
protections to wolves in the areas they manage if delisted that will 
match, and in some cases will exceed, the protections provided by State 
wolf management plans and State protective regulations.
    Therefore, we conclude that the regulatory mechanisms that will be 
in place subsequent to Federal delisting are adequate to control 
threats to wolves in the proposed WGL DPS such that wolves in the 
proposed WGL DPS are not likely to become endangered in the foreseeable 
future in all or a significant portion of the range.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

Taking of Wolves by Native Americans for Certain Purposes

    As noted elsewhere in this proposed rule, the wolf has great 
significance to many Native Americans in the western Great Lakes area, 
especially to Wolf Clan members, and has a central role in their 
creation stories. The wolf, Ma''ingan, is viewed as a brother to the 
Anishinaabe people, and their fates are believed to be closely linked. 
Ma''ingan is a key element in many of their beliefs, traditions, and 
ceremonies, and wolf pack systems are used as a model for Anishinaabe 
families and communities. We are not aware of any takings of wolves in 
the Midwest for use in these traditions or ceremonies while the wolf 
has been listed as a threatened or endangered species. While wolves 
have been listed as threatened in Minnesota, we have instructed 
Wildlife Services to provide, upon request, wolf pelts and other parts 
from wolves killed during depredation control actions to Tribes in 
order to partially serve these traditional needs.
    Some Tribal representatives, as well as the GLIFWC, have indicated 
that if wolves are delisted, there is likely to be interest in the 
taking of small numbers of wolves for traditional ceremonies (King in 
litt. 2003; White in litt. 2003). This take could occur on reservation 
lands where it could be closely regulated by a Tribe to ensure that it 
does not affect the viability of the reservation wolf population. Such 
takings might also occur on off-reservation treaty lands on which 
certain Tribes retained hunting, fishing, and gathering rights when the 
land was ceded to the Federal Government in the 19th Century. Native 
American taking of wolves from ceded lands would be limited to a 
specified portion of a harvestable surplus of wolves that is 
established in coordination with the Tribes, consistent with past 
Federal court rulings on treaty rights. Such taking would not occur 
until such time as a harvestable surplus has been documented based on 
biological data, and regulations and monitoring have been established 
by the States and Tribes to ensure a harvest can be carried out in a 
manner that ensures the continued viability of the wolf

[[Page 26136]]

population in that State. Previous court rulings have ensured that 
Native American treaty harvest of fish or wildlife species have not 
risked endangering the resource.
    If requested by the Tribes, multitribal natural resource agencies, 
or the States, the Service or other appropriate Federal agencies will 
work with these parties to help determine if a harvestable surplus 
exists, and if so, to assist in devising reasonable and appropriate 
methods and levels of harvest for delisted wolves for traditional 
cultural purposes.
    We conclude that the small number of wolves that may be taken by 
Native Americans would not be a threat sufficient to cause the wolves 
in the proposed WGL DPS to be in danger of extinction in the 
foreseeable future.

Public Attitudes Toward the Wolf

    Human behavior has had a tremendous effect on wolf populations 
around the world. Theory and social science research have identified 
attitudes, and the beliefs on which they are based, as important 
drivers of behavior. Therefore, understanding public attitudes toward 
wolves is a key component of wolf management. The success of the United 
States wolf-eradication programs of the late-nineteenth and early 
twentieth centuries are often accepted as evidence of negative public 
attitudes that were based on perceptions and beliefs brought by 
European settlers that portrayed the wolf as an evil, menacing threat 
(Browne-Nunez and Taylor 2002, p. 1; Fogleman 1988; Kellert 1986; 
Schanning 2009, pp. 252-253) and were perpetuated by exaggerated 
accounts of marauding wolves preying on livestock (Schanning 2009, p. 
253).
    As the wolf arrived on the brink of extinction, there was a shift 
in management and a parallel shift in attitudes (Kellert et al. 1996; 
Schanning 2009, pp. 253-254; Williams et al. 2002, p. 581). In the 
Great Lakes region, bounty systems were repealed (Wisconsin in 1957, 
Michigan in 1960, and Minnesota in 1965) and, in 1972, the first of 
many attitudinal studies regarding wolves was carried out in Minnesota 
(Johnson 1974). In the last three decades, investigations of attitudes 
toward wolves and wolf management have burgeoned.
Minnesota
    The first empirical examination of attitudes toward wolves was 
conducted using a convenience sample of 1,692 attendees of the 
Minnesota State Fair (Johnson 1974). It was based on the premise that 
children's stories, which typically cast the wolf as a villainous 
creature, shape attitudes from an early age. Although it found children 
to be more negative toward the wolf, a vast majority of adults held 
positive beliefs and attitudes. Most respondents felt that wolves were 
not a danger to humans, should not be exterminated, had value for 
Minnesota, and are good for the deer and moose populations.
    Llewellyn (1978) reported the results of a content analysis of 
1,083 public comment letters received by the Service regarding the 
proposed reclassification of the timber wolf in Minnesota from 
endangered to threatened. Of the 700 letters from Minnesota residents 
(the other letters were from out-of-state), 23 percent favored 
retention of endangered status, 7 percent supported reclassification, 
and 70 percent were in favor of delisting and return to State 
management. Of note were differences between urban and rural residents, 
with a large majority (78 percent) of urban residents and a minority 
(16 percent) of rural residents in favor of continued Federal 
protection of wolves. Support for delisting was largely based on 
concern for livestock and fear of wolves.
    Kellert (1986) conducted a statewide phone survey of Minnesota 
residents' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors toward the wolves. The 
study sample comprised the general public (Minneapolis-St. Paul 
residents and mostly rural, northern county residents), deer hunters, 
trappers, and livestock producers. Most respondents held favorable 
attitudes toward wolves (except farmers), supported protection of 
wolves and their habitat as long it did not interfere with human needs, 
and supported control of problem wolves. Urban residents expressed more 
protectionist attitudes, while rural residents' attitudes were more 
utilitarian in nature. There was ``somewhat-limited'' factual knowledge 
among the general public, but a higher knowledge level among trappers 
and, to a lesser degree, hunters and individuals with a higher income. 
Fear of wolves was expressed by some respondents, although most did not 
feel that wolves are a threat to people. Rather large percentages of 
farmers (12 percent) and trappers (17 percent) reported capturing or 
killing a wolf, and a majority of farmer, hunter, trapper, and northern 
county respondents reported knowing someone who captured or killed a 
wolf. Additionally, almost one-third of farmers, hunters, and trappers 
and a quarter of northern county respondents indicated that, given the 
opportunity, they might shoot a wolf while deer hunting.
    In 1999, a second statewide phone survey of Minnesota residents was 
conducted, similar to the 1985 study, using a stratified random sample 
of northern residents, southern residents, farmers, hunters, and 
trappers (Kellert 1999). During this study period, Minnesota wolves 
were being considered for Federal delisting. Compared to the 1985 
survey, this study found an overall increase in positive perceptions of 
the wolf. The general public expressed more affection and ethical 
concern for wolves than did farmers, although there was not a 
significant difference between groups in level of dislike of wolves. 
Over 70 percent of respondents believed wolves symbolize the beauty in 
nature and a large portion of the sample perceived other values of 
wolves, including ecological, scientific, and moral. Suburban and urban 
residents, the college educated, and younger respondents were more 
likely to have positive attitudes. Farmers were more knowledgeable 
about the wolf and more likely to support delisting. Of note was a 
substantial increase in the number of northern Minnesota residents who 
reported either killing a wolf themselves or knowing someone who did.
    Chavez et al. (2005) assessed attitudes of residents of 
northwestern Minnesota. The sample of 600 rural residents was 
stratified by location: inside wolf range and outside but adjacent to 
wolf range. The study did not find large differences between geographic 
groups or farmers and non-farmers, with all groups indicating slightly 
unfavorable attitudes toward wolves. The authors suggest this could be 
attributable to shared rural cultural values and utilitarian attitudes. 
They also consider the possible influence of immigrant roots in Europe 
where folklore and early conflicts with wolves fostered negative 
attitudes. Both geographic groups agreed that wolves cause unacceptable 
levels of damage to northwest Minnesota's livestock industry, although 
predators were perceived as less of an agricultural threat than other 
threats (e.g., livestock diseases, crop pests).
    Using a random sample of 909 respondents (18 percent response 
rate), Schanning (2005) reported ``pragmatic/utilitarian'' beliefs 
regarding wolves among Minnesota residents. Most respondents supported 
compensation to livestock owners and having problem wolves shot by the 
DNR. Counter to Kellert's earlier findings, there was a significant 
level of fear of wolves among Schanning's sample, including fear for 
personal safety (31 percent), the safety of children (64 percent), and 
pets (70 percent).

[[Page 26137]]

Michigan
    In Michigan, Hook and Robinson (1982, pp. 388-391) found that only 
a small percentage of respondents scored high on their anti-predator 
scale and most respondents were in favor of wolf restoration. Hunters 
were more positive toward predators than nonhunters. Fear of the wolf 
was the most important factor related to an anti-predator attitude, 
followed by negativistic attitudes toward all animals, and age, with 
older people holding more negative attitudes.
    Kellert (1990) conducted a statewide mail survey of Michigan 
residents' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors toward wolves. There 
were 639 respondents from the Upper (UP) and Lower (LP) peninsulas and 
members of three special interest groups: hunters, trappers, and 
livestock producers. Livestock producers were the most likely of the 
special interest groups to hold negative attitudes toward the wolf. LP 
residents were more likely than UP residents to express fear and 
dislike of wolves. A majority of respondents in each group, except 
livestock producers, supported restoration (64 percent of UP residents, 
57 percent of LP residents, 76 percent of hunters, 66 percent of 
trappers, and 37 percent of livestock producers). Support was primarily 
motivated by the existence, ecological, and cultural values of the 
wolf.
    A 2002 statewide survey of 557 Michigan residents' attitudes toward 
wolf recovery found that support for recovery by UP residents had 
declined since Kellert's 1990 study (Mertig 2004). At the time this 
study was conducted, the UP's wolf population had risen to about 250 
animals (Hammill 2007), but in the LP, where wolves were not known to 
be present, there was increased support for wolf recovery in the UP. 
Other differences from Kellert's (1990) findings included increased 
support for wolf control and for hunting and trapping for pelts.
    Based on a sample of 1,017 Michigan residents (20 percent response 
rate), Schanning (2004) found that a majority of respondents in his 
survey agreed with pro-wolf statements including ``wolves are a part of 
our vanishing wilderness and should be protected'' (51 percent). 
Similar to his 2005 study of Minnesota residents and his 2003 study of 
Wisconsin residents (reported below), Schanning found a substantial 
level of fear of wolves among the Michigan sample. Respondents reported 
fear for their personal safety (40 percent), the safety of children (70 
percent), pets (7 percent), and livestock (66 percent).
    Using a stratified random sample of respondents from five regions 
in Michigan, Beyer (2006) measured tolerance of wolves using a scale 
for social carrying capacity. The scale was based on Michigan wolves' 
perceived range, numbers, and the type and number of interactions with 
people. The study found that most people were at the most tolerant end 
of the scale, with smaller percentages classified as intolerant (7 
percent) or least tolerant (20 percent).
Wisconsin
    Knight (1985, reported in Schanning 2009, p. 257) surveyed hunter 
attitudes in two Wisconsin counties in wolf range where a minority (20 
percent) of hunters reported negative attitudes toward wolves and most 
(69 percent) believed that wolves should not be eliminated.
    In 1988, when there were only 20 wolves in Wisconsin, Nelson and 
Franson (1988) compared farmer' and non-farmers' attitudes toward 
wolves and wolf recovery in six Wisconsin counties. A series of agree-
disagree belief statements was used to gauge attitudes toward wolves. 
Non-farmers were more positive than farmers, and a majority agreed that 
the wolf ``symbolizes the beauty and wonder in nature'' and ``it would 
be wonderful to hear the wolf howl in the wild'' (64 percent and 62 
percent respectively). Almost half of farmers agreed with the same 
statements. Both groups disagreed that they would be afraid of an 
attack if they saw a wolf while walking in the woods. Farmers and non-
farmers were divided about wolf restoration, with half of farmers and 
about one-third of non-famers opposed. Both groups favored trapping and 
removal of problem wolves.
    Wilson (1999) examined knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors toward 
wolves in a 1997 survey of two random samples: all Wisconsin license 
plate owners and those who purchased an Endangered Resources (ER) 
license plate. Fifty percent of all license plate owners and almost 90 
percent of ER license plate owners supported efforts to increase the 
State wolf population. There were slight differences between hunters 
(47 percent) and non-hunters (54 percent) who support wolf recovery.
    Naughton et al. (2003) assessed tolerance of wolves among 535 rural 
Wisconsin residents using a mail-back questionnaire (82 percent 
response rate). They examined the influence of compensation for 
livestock losses to wolves and preferences for wolf management actions 
among different segments of the sample, including livestock producers, 
bear hunters, general residents, wolf damage complainants, recipients 
of compensation, and demographic segments. The strongest predictor of 
tolerance was social group. A large majority of bear hunters (73 
percent) were in favor of reducing or eliminating the wolf population, 
compared to 45 percent of the livestock producers and 29 percent of 
general residents. Individuals who had lost a domestic animal to a 
predator were less tolerant of wolves than those who had not. 
Preferences for management actions depended on the conflict situation. 
Approval for lethal control was highest for depredation on livestock 
and pets. Bear hunters also were highly in favor of lethal control when 
hunting hounds are killed, but other groups did not muster a majority 
for this option. Compensation was not associated with higher tolerance 
when comparing recipients to nonrecipients among those who reported 
losing a domestic animal to wolves.
    Similar to his studies in Minnesota and Michigan, Schanning (2003) 
surveyed 644 Wisconsin residents' (13 percent response rate) attitudes 
toward wolves. He found a majority of respondents held pro-wolf 
attitudes based on their agreement with three belief statements: ``the 
wolf is a symbol of the beauty and wonder in nature,'' ``wolves are 
part of our vanishing wilderness and should be protected,'' and 
``wolves are essential to maintaining the balance in nature'' (72 
percent, 56 percent, and 62 percent in agreement, respectively). There 
was substantial support for wolf hunting (41 percent), and a majority 
(60 percent) indicated they would shoot a wolf if it threatened their 
pet.
    In a followup to Naughton et al. (2001), Treves et al. (2009) 
reported attitudes of 1,364 respondents (62 percent response rate) 
toward compensation after wolf recovery. They compared the attitudes of 
individuals who contributed to Wisconsin's voluntary compensation fund 
with those of noncontributors and found that attitudes of each group 
differed in several ways. Contributors favored nonlethal over lethal 
problem wolf management actions and supported all types of payments 
more strongly with the exception of payment for hunting dogs injured or 
killed by wolves on public land, but a majority of respondents of both 
groups supported compensation ``even when wolves are no longer 
threatened or endangered.'' Noncontributors were more likely to believe 
that wolf damages were part of raising livestock and should not be 
compensated.

[[Page 26138]]

    Treves et al. (in review) report the first longitudinal results for 
change in individual attitudes over time using findings from surveys 
conducted in 2001 (Naughton et al. 2003), 2004 (Treves et al. 2009), 
and 2009. During the data collection period, wolf numbers nearly 
tripled and greatly exceeded the State population goal, the level of 
wolf depredation on pets increased and became the third most frequent 
conflict after attacks on beef calves and bear-hunting dogs, and wolf 
management authority was granted to State governments and subsequently 
revoked several times after Federal court challenges. The 2009 survey 
found attitudes toward wolves had become less favorable, and fear of 
wolves, perceived competition for deer, and reported inclination to 
illegally kill wolves increased. In the 2009 survey, 18 percent of 
hunters indicated they would shoot a wolf if they saw one while 
hunting. Nearly half of respondents agreed their tolerance for wolves 
in Wisconsin would increase if people could hunt them.
    Shelley et al. (in review) compared attitudes of Ojibwe Indians and 
nontribal residents of Wisconsin's wolf range. Tribal membership was 
the best predictor of attitudes. Ojibwe respondents had more positive 
attitudes toward wolves, were more supportive of wolf protection 
policy, and were less supportive of a public wolf harvest and lethal 
control of problem wolves. A considerable percentage (Ojibwe 33 
percent, nontribal 44 percent) of each group indicated they would be 
afraid if wolves lived near their homes. Fewer Ojibwe (8 percent) than 
nontribal respondents (16 percent) indicated that they would shoot a 
wolf if they saw one while hunting. Nontribal respondents (57 percent) 
were more likely than Ojibwe respondents (26 percent) to believe that 
wolves threaten deer hunting opportunities. Shelley et al. (in review) 
point out the potential significance of treaty rights, which grant the 
Tribe half of any harvest, including wolves, within the territories 
ceded by them in nineteenth century Federal treaties upheld by Federal 
courts in the 1980s.
    Treves and Martin (2011) examined the attitudes of 2,320 
respondents, hunters and nonhunters, living within or adjacent to wolf 
range in surveys conducted in Wisconsin in 2001 and 2004 (reported 
above) and the northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) States of Idaho, Montana, 
and Wyoming. A majority of respondents supported regulated, public wolf 
hunting, although support was dependent on potential justifications for 
a hunting season.
    In Wisconsin, bear hunters in 2001, followed by other hunters, were 
most likely to support an immediate hunt, whereas nonhunters in favor 
of wolf hunting were more likely to be supportive when managers 
estimate the wolf population could sustain harvests or when the 
majority of the public believe damages have become intolerable. There 
was a shift in 2004 when a majority of hunters indicated they would 
support wolf hunting when the population was deemed to be at a level 
that could sustain harvests. More nonhunters agreed with a hunt when 
the public felt damages had become intolerable. Inclination to kill a 
wolf illegally in Wisconsin in 2001 and 2004 was high among hunters, 
particularly among likely carnivore-hunters. These two groups favored a 
significant reduction (up to half) of the Wisconsin wolf population.
    In addition to the studies summarized above, citizen input on the 
wolf management plans of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan has 
provided additional insight on public support for wolf recovery. 
Namely, it shows strong support for wolf recovery if the adverse 
impacts on recreational activities and livestock production can be 
minimized (MI DNR 1997, pp. 13-14, 50-56; MN DNR 1998, p. 2; WI DNR 
1999, pp. 51-55; WI DNR 2006c, pp. 9-11).
Summary of Public Attitudes
    While there is a lack of empirical data on early attitudes toward 
wolves, historical accounts describe an antagonist view of wolves 
during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Attitudinal research 
conducted throughout the lower 48 States in the last three decades has 
shown that a shift toward more positive attitudes took place during the 
20th century (Browne-Nu[ntilde]ez and Taylor 2002, Kellert et al. 1996, 
Williams et al. 2002). Although the basis for this shift is not 
understood, suggested causes include changes in the portrayal of wolves 
in the media (Kellert et al. 1996) and a broader shift in societal 
values of wildlife (Manfredo et al. 2003).
    Although direct comparisons cannot be made of each study summarized 
here, given different research methods and contextual circumstances, we 
can summarize some common findings and general conclusions. Similar to 
research conducted outside the Great Lakes region (summarized in 
Williams et al. 2002), many of the studies reviewed here demonstrate 
urban-rural differences in attitudes, with urban residents displaying 
more positive attitudes; farmers and livestock producers are more 
negative toward wolves; those with higher education levels have more 
positive attitudes; and compensation does not translate into increased 
tolerance.
    In several studies, hunters were mostly positive toward wolves 
(Hook and Robinson 1982, Kellert 1990, Knight 1985), with the exception 
of Wisconsin bear hunters who were the most negative among special 
interest groups (Naughton et al. 2003). Cross-sectional studies suggest 
increasing support for control of problem wolves and public harvest of 
wolves (Kellert 1985, Mertig 2004, Naughton et al. 2003), and one 
recent study shows this support has increased among individuals re-
sampled over time (Treves et al., in review). Some respondents 
indicated they had or would kill a wolf illegally (Kellert 1985; Treves 
et al., in review).
    While most respondents were positive toward wolves, it is evident 
that there have long been competing attitudes toward wolves. While 
attitudes in other regions have been shown to be relatively stable 
(Williams et al. 2002, Wilson and Bruskotter 2009), a troubling finding 
for managers in the Great Lakes region is the most recent research 
showing declining support for wolves (Hammill 2007; Mertig 2004; Treves 
et al., in review) and an increasing inclination to kill wolves 
illegally (Treves et al., in review). Possible explanations for this 
decline include increasing wolf numbers, negative interactions with 
humans, and negative media coverage (Hammill 2007). It is unclear how 
delisting will affect attitudes and behavior toward wolves. Also in 
question is how public wolf harvest might affect attitudes and 
behaviors. While we do not believe the affects of public attitudes on 
wolves will be a significant threat to the species in the foreseeable 
future, as the status and management of the wolf evolves, there will be 
a need for continued collaboration between managers and researchers to 
monitor public attitudes toward wolves and their management.

Hybridization with Coyotes

    Genetic data relevant to possible interbreeding between North 
American wolves and coyotes was first reported in a study of mtDNA 
restriction fragment length polymorphisms by Lehman et al. (1991). They 
found mtDNA haplotypes in wolf populations in the Great Lakes region 
that they interpreted as being derived from coyotes (Lehman et al., p. 
108). As wolf haplotypes were not found in coyotes, the apparent 
introgression occurred through matings of wolf males with coyote 
females. They determined that a minimum of six instances of coyote-wolf 
hybridization

[[Page 26139]]

could account for the diversity of ``coyote-type'' haplotypes observed 
in wolves (p. 112). Their general interpretation was that introgression 
primarily occurred as coyotes expanded their ranges into the Great 
Lakes region within historical time, although they allow that two 
coyote-type haplotypes commonly observed in Great Lakes wolves may have 
been the result of ancient hybridization. Their data also indicated 
(Lehman et al., Figure 4) that coyote-type haplotypes were less common 
in the western part of the Great Lakes region than in the east.
    Wilson et al. (2000, Figure 6, p. 2165) provided a different 
interpretation of wolf-coyote relationships in the region. They found 
coyote-like mtDNA sequences in eastern Canadian wolves from Algonquin 
Provincial Park, Ontario, southern Manitoba, and northeastern Minnesota 
that were intermediate in sequence divergence between coyotes and gray 
wolves. As these haplotypes were apparently absent in coyotes, they 
were thought not to result from hybridization with coyotes, but to 
represent an eastern wolf species, Canis lycaon. They suggest that 
these Canis lycaon haplotypes may have been previously reported as 
``coyote-type'' in the study of Lehman et al. (1991).
    It is now generally agreed that historical and most contemporary 
Great Lakes wolves have unique mtDNA haplotypes that are distinct from 
those of other wolves, and more related to but still distinct from 
those of coyotes. Haplotypes specific to the early 20th century wolf 
population of the western Great Lakes region were identified by Leonard 
and Wayne (2008, pp. 2-3), from a study of 17 historical specimens from 
Michigan, Wisconsin, Ontario, and Quebec. Of the 17 specimens that gave 
conclusive results, 14 were either the same or most similar to the 
haplotypes described by Wilson et al. (2000) as C. lycaon. Only one had 
a coyote haplotype. Wheeldon and White (2009) reported haplotypes from 
three additional historical specimens from the western Great Lakes 
region. Two individuals from Minnesota (collected 1899 and 1900) had 
the same coyote-like haplotypes (C13) found in a late 19th century 
specimen from Maine, 50 years before recorded coyote sightings in Maine 
(Wilson et al. 2003), as well as in contemporary western Great Lakes 
wolves from Minnesota to Quebec (Leonard and Wayne 2008, pp. 2-3). The 
third specimen, collected in the winter of 1907-08 in Wisconsin, had 
the common Great Lakes wolf haplotype C1. Microsatellite DNA analysis 
of these three specimens grouped them with wolves rather than coyotes.
    Koblm[uuml]ller et al. (2009) addressed the issue of coyote 
hybridization in the Great Lakes region from analyses of mtDNA sequence 
and both Y-chromosome and autosomal microsatellite DNA. They found 
evidence of repeated incidences of ancient introgression of coyotes 
into Great Lakes wolves, although they also suggested that 
introgression by coyotes is recent and ongoing, especially north of the 
Great Lakes.
    Wheeldon and White (2009, p. 2) and Fain et al. (2010) concluded 
that the coyote-related haplotype C13 is actually a C. lycaon marker 
based on its presence mainly in C. lycaon-C. lupus hybrids in the 
western Great Lakes region, the absence of C13 in non-hybridizing 
coyotes, and its occurrence in historical eastern wolves. Assessments 
based on mtDNA, Y-chromosome, and autosomal microsatellite DNA data 
consistently found that the wolf population in the western Great Lakes 
region does not currently interbreed with coyotes (Fain et al. 2010, p. 
14; Wheeldon et al. 2010). Previous reports of coyote-wolf 
hybridization in the WGL region were based on the misidentification of 
coyote-like haplotypes, which are now understood to be unique markers 
for C. lycaon, as discussed above.
    Lehman et al.'s (1991, p. 114) interpretation of coyote 
introgression into Great Lakes wolves included an explanation that it 
occurred at a time when wolf population densities were low in the 
region, so that wolves would be less likely to find mates of the same 
species and mating with coyotes was more likely to take place. 
Conversely, Lehman et al. (1991) suggested that coyote introgression 
does not appear to occur when wolf densities are higher. If so, the 
increase in population size that has occurred over the last 30 years 
renders the western Great Lakes wolf population less vulnerable to 
whatever threat may have been presented by coyote introgression. The 
wolf population of the region has likely been exposed to this factor 
for centuries and has rebounded from near extirpation, yet retains 
essential genetic, behavioral, and other biological features of wolves 
without being displaced by coyotes. This fact suggests that the threat 
of coyote hybridization to a recovered wolf population is small.

Hybridization Between C. lupus and C. lycaon

    Although it is clear that C. lycaon and C. lupus have hybridized in 
the western Great Lakes region, same-species combinations of paternal 
and maternal markers in male wolves are more common than expected by 
random mating (Wheeldon et al. 2010). This suggests that there is some 
constraint on complete hybridization between the two species and that 
complete blending of the two components of the population is not 
inevitable. The limited number of historical specimens from the western 
Great Lakes region that have been genetically characterized all have 
mtDNA indicative of C. lycaon (Leonard and Wayne 2008, pp. 2-3; 
Wheeldon and White 2009, p. 1), but four of these from the early 20th 
century also had C. lupus Y-chromosome haplotypes, which indicates that 
hybridization had occurred by that time. The opportunity for 
hybridization between C. lycaon, which belongs to a North American 
lineage, and C. lupus, which evolved in Eurasia, has existed since C. 
lupus entered North America about 500,000 years ago (Kurt[eacute]n and 
Anderson 1980), yet a predominantly C. lycaon population of wolves 
still persists in the western Great Lakes region.
    Hybrid indices based on the co-occurrence of species specific mtDNA 
and nuclear markers have been used to assess the depth and extent of 
hybrid zones in tiger salamanders, cutthroat trout, red deer, and 
wolves (Abernathy 1994; Riley et al. 2003; Wheeldon and White 2009). 
Wheeldon and White (2009) used the mtDNA haplotype of an individual 
wolf in combination with the program STRUCTURE assignment of its 
microsatellite genotype to identify C. lupus--C. lycaon hybrids in 
historical WGL wolves. Applying this index, half of WGL females with C. 
lupus mtDNA also exhibited high assignment to C. lupus and half of WGL 
females with C. lycaon mtDNA were similarly assigned to C. lycaon. 
Considering both lineage markers in males, 44 percent of males with C. 
lupus mtDNA and Y-chromosome haplotypes exhibited high assignment to C. 
lupus, but only 28 percent of males exhibiting C. lycaon mtDNA and Y-
chromosome haplotypes also exhibited high assignment to C. lycaon. The 
8-12 microsatellite loci typically used in studies of C. lupus--C. 
lycaon introgression (Grewal et al. 2004; Wilson et al. 2000, 2009; 
Fain et al. 2010; Rutledge et al. 2010; Wheeldon et al. 2010) can 
effectively estimate the amount of mixing at the population level, but 
not the individual level (Allendorf et al. 2010). Based on the 
information presented in these studies, there is no evidence showing 
that hybridization between C. lupus and C. lycaon is a threat to C. 
lupus.

Conclusion of the 5-Factor Analysis

    As required by the Act, we considered the five potential threat 
factors to assess whether the wolves in the proposed

[[Page 26140]]

WGL DPS are threatened or endangered throughout all or a significant 
portion of their range. When considering the status of the species, the 
first step in the analysis is to determine whether the species is in 
danger of extinction or likely to become endangered in the foreseeable 
future throughout all of its range.
    Human-caused mortality is the most significant issue to the long-
term conservation status of the wolves in the proposed WGL DPS. 
Therefore, managing this source of mortality (i.e., human predation) 
remains the primary challenge to maintaining a recovered wolf 
population into the foreseeable future. We have concluded that 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will maintain their share and 
distribution of the WGL wolf population above recovery levels for the 
foreseeable future, and that the threats have been sufficiently 
reduced. All three States have wolf management laws, plans, and 
regulations that adequately regulate human-caused mortality. Each of 
the three States has committed to manage its wolf population at or 
above viable population levels, and this commitment is not expected to 
change.
    Regulatory mechanisms in all three States are adequate to 
facilitate the maintenance of, and in no way threaten, the recovered 
status of the wolves in the WGL DPS. If Federally delisted, wolves in 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan would continue to receive protection 
from general human persecution by State laws and regulations. Violation 
of regulations will be subject to prosecution.
    As long as populations are maintained well above minimal recovery 
levels, wolf biology (namely the species' reproductive capacity) and 
the availability of large, secure blocks of suitable habitat will 
maintain strong populations capable of withstanding all other 
foreseeable threats. In terms of habitat, the amount and distribution 
of suitable habitat in public ownership provides, and will continue to 
provide, large core areas that contain high-quality habitat of 
sufficient size to anchor a recovered wolf population. Our analysis of 
land management shows these areas will maintain their suitability into 
the foreseeable future, if not indefinitely.
    While disease and parasites can temporarily impact population 
stability, as long as populations are managed above recovery levels, 
these factors are not likely to threaten the wolf population at any 
point in the foreseeable future. Natural predation is also likely to 
remain an insignificant factor in population dynamics into the 
foreseeable future. Finally, we believe that other natural or manmade 
factors, such as potential hybridization with coyotes and public 
attitudes, are unlikely to threaten the wolves in the proposed WGL DPS 
in the foreseeable future in all portions of the range within the DPS.
    We find that the threat of habitat destruction or degradation or a 
reduction in the range of the wolf; utilization by humans; disease, 
parasites, or predatory actions by other animals or humans; regulatory 
measures by State, Tribal, and Federal agencies; or other threats will 
not individually or in combination cause wolves in the proposed WGL DPS 
to likely become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout 
all of the species' range in the DPS. Ongoing effects of recovery 
efforts over the past decades, which resulted in a significant 
expansion of the occupied range of wolves in the proposed WGL DPS, in 
conjunction with future State, Tribal, and Federal agency wolf 
management across that occupied range, will be adequate to ensure the 
conservation of the proposed WGL DPS. These activities will maintain an 
adequate prey base, preserve denning and rendezvous sites, monitor 
disease, restrict human take, and keep wolf populations well above the 
numerical recovery criteria established in the Revised Recovery Plan 
(USFWS 1992, pp. 25-28). Thus, the gray wolves in the proposed WGL DPS 
do not merit continued listing as threatened or endangered throughout 
all of their range.

Is the Species Threatened or Endangered in a Significant Portion of Its 
Range?

    Having determined that wolves in the proposed WGL DPS do not meet 
the definition of endangered or threatened throughout their entire 
range, we must next consider whether they are in danger of extinction 
or are likely to become so in a significant portion of their range. The 
Act does not define the term ``significant portion of its range.'' 
Therefore, we must give meaning to this phrase based on our experience 
and expertise. We interpret a portion of a species' range as being 
significant if it is part of the current range of the species (species 
used here is as defined in the Act, to include species, subspecies, or 
DPS) and if it is important to the conservation of the species because 
it contributes meaningfully to the representation, resiliency, or 
redundancy of the species. The contribution must be at a level such 
that its loss would result in a decrease in the ability to conserve the 
species.
    Applying the definition described above for determining whether a 
species is endangered or threatened in a significant portion of its 
range, we first address whether any portions of the range of wolves in 
the WGL DPS warranted further consideration. We evaluated the WGL DPS 
in the context of whether any potential remaining threats are 
concentrated in one or more areas, such that if there were concentrated 
impacts, those wolves might be threatened, and further, whether any 
such area might constitute a significant portion of the species ranges.
    Wolves are highly adaptable habitat generalists, and their primary 
biological need is an adequate natural prey base of large ungulates. 
The primary current and likely future threats to wolves are excessive 
human-caused mortality and increased mortality from diseases and 
parasites. Based on the biology of the gray wolf, threats to its 
continued existence, and conservation biology principles, the Recovery 
Plan specifies that two populations (or what equates to a single 
metapopulation) are needed to ensure long-term viability (see Recovery 
Criteria, above). The Revised Recovery Plan states the importance of a 
large wolf population throughout Minnesota Wolf Management Zones 1 
through 4 (geographically identical to Zone A in the 2001 Minnesota 
Wolf Management Plan, see Figure 2 in this rule) and the need for a 
second viable wolf population occupying 10,000 sq mi or 5,000 sq mi 
elsewhere in the eastern United States (depending on its isolation from 
the Minnesota wolf population) (USFWS 1992, pp. 24-29).
    The Recovery Plan also discusses the importance of low-road-density 
areas, the importance of minimizing wolf-human conflicts, and the 
maintenance of an adequate natural prey base in the areas hosting these 
two necessary wolf populations. These portions of Minnesota (Management 
Zones 1 through 4) and the portions of the proposed DPS that support 
the second viable wolf population (Wisconsin Zones 1 and 2 and the 
entire UP of Michigan) provide an adequate wild prey base, suitably low 
levels of human-caused mortality, and sufficient representation, 
resiliency, and redundancy to buffer the impacts of disease and 
parasite-induced mortality (See the discussion under Recovery Criteria, 
above) regarding how achieving the goals of the Recovery Plan for the 
Eastern Timber Wolf assures a viable wolf population in terms of 
representation, resiliency, and redundancy).

[[Page 26141]]

    Post-delisting wolf protection, management, and population and 
health monitoring by the States, Tribes, and Federal land management 
agencies will ensure the continuation of viable wolf populations above 
the Federal recovery criteria for the foreseeable future. This is 
particularly true in Minnesota Zone A, Wisconsin Zones 1 and 2, and 
across the UP of Michigan, because the State management plans provide 
for greater protections for the species in that area (see the 
discussion of the three plans in State Wolf Management Planning, 
above).
    Post-delisting threats to wolves in Zone B in Minnesota, Zones 3 
and 4 in Wisconsin, and in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan will be more 
substantial, and may preclude the establishment of wolf packs in most 
or all of these areas in Wisconsin and Michigan. The Recovery Plan f 
specifically recommends against managing wolves in large areas of 
unsuitable habitat, stating that Minnesota Zone 5 (identical to 
Minnesota Wolf Management Zone B, Figure 2) should be managed with a 
goal of zero wolves there, because ``Zone 5 is not suitable for wolves. 
Wolves found there should be eliminated by any legal means'' (USFWS 
1992, p 20). Therefore, the Recovery Plan views Zone 5, which is 
roughly 60 percent of the State, as not an important part of the range 
of the wolf. This portion of the State is predominantly agricultural 
land, with high road densities, and high potential for wolves to 
depredate on livestock. Although individual wolves and some wolf packs 
occupy parts of Zone 5, these wolves are using habitat islands or are 
existing in other situations where conditions generally are not 
conducive to their long-term persistence.
    The northern LP of Michigan appears to have the only unoccupied 
potentially suitable wolf habitat in the Midwest that is of sufficient 
size to maintain wolf packs (Gehring and Potter 2005, p. 1239; Potvin 
2003, pp. 44-45), although its small size and fragmented nature may 
mean that northern LP wolf population viability would be dependent upon 
continuing immigration from the UP. The only part of Michigan's LP that 
may contain suitable habitat are those areas of fragmented habitat 
studied by Potvin (2003, pp. 44-45) and Gehring and Potter (2005, p. 
1239). However, these areas amount to less than half of the minimal 
area identified by the Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf as 
needed for the establishment of viable populations. These LP areas 
therefore might have difficulty maintaining wolf populations even with 
the help of occasional immigration of wolves from the UP (see Suitable 
Habitat Within the Proposed Western Great Lakes DPS, above, for 
additional discussion). While the UP wolves may be significant to any 
LP wolf population (occasional UP to LP movements may provide important 
genetic and demographic augmentation crucial to a small population 
founded by only a few individuals), the reverse will not be true--LP 
wolves would not be important to the wolf population in the UP, as that 
population is already large enough in size and range to be self-
sustaining.
    The lack of sufficient areas of suitable habitat in those parts of 
North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio that are 
within the proposed WGL DPS are expected to preclude the establishment 
of viable populations in these areas, although dispersing wolves and 
packs may temporarily occur in some of these areas. As a result, wolf 
numbers in these areas will have no impact on the continued viability 
of wolves in the proposed WGL DPS, and are not necessary to maintain 
adequate representation, resiliency, and redundancy for wolves in the 
proposed DPS.
    In conclusion, Minnesota Zone A, Wisconsin Zones 1 and 2, and the 
UP of Michigan provide an adequate wild prey base, suitably low levels 
of human-caused mortality, and sufficient numbers and distribution of 
wolves to ensure adequate representation, resiliency, and redundancy to 
buffer the impacts of disease and parasite-induced mortality. Post-
delisting wolf protection, management, and population and health 
monitoring by the States, Tribes, and Federal land management agencies 
will ensure the continuation of viable wolf populations in those areas 
above the recovery criteria established in the Recovery Plan for the 
foreseeable future.
    In coming to this determination, we considered the quality, 
quantity, and distribution of the habitat relative to the biological 
needs of the species, the need to maintain the remaining genetic 
diversity, the importance of geographic distribution in coping with 
catastrophes such as disease, the ability of the habitat to provide 
adequate wild prey, and the need to otherwise meet the conservation 
needs of the species. Reasonably foreseeable threats to wolves in all 
parts of the proposed WGL DPS are not likely to threaten wolf 
population viability in the WGL DPS in the foreseeable future. 
Therefore, we find that wolves in the WGL DPS are not in danger of 
extinction and are not likely to become endangered in the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of their range.

Proposed Determination

    After a thorough review of all available information and an 
evaluation of the five factors specified in section 4(a)(1) of the Act, 
as well as consideration of the definitions of ``threatened'' and 
``endangered'' contained in the Act and the reasons for delisting as 
specified in 50 CFR 424.11(d), we propose that revising the boundary of 
the 1978 Minnesota gray wolf listing and removing the WGL DPS of gray 
wolf (Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
(50 CFR 17.11) is appropriate. Wolves have recovered in the proposed 
WGL DPS as a result of the reduction of threats as described in the 
analysis of the five categories of threats and no longer are in danger 
of extinction, nor are likely to become so in the foreseeable future, 
throughout all or a significant portion of their range.
    We recognize recent taxonomic information indicating that the gray 
wolf subspecies Canis lupus lycaon should be elevated to the full 
species C. lycaon. Additionally, we acknowledge evidence that C. lycaon 
intercrosses with C. lupus in the western Great Lakes region, resulting 
in a mixed population composed of C. lupus, C. lycaon, and their 
hybrids. As discussed under Procedural Aspects of Proposal Applying to 
the Gray Wolf above, the procedural aspects of this proposed rule refer 
to the gray wolf (C. lupus), because that is the named entity currently 
on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Our proposed action 
here is to establish the existence of a WGL distinct population segment 
of C. lupus that is neither endangered nor threatened, despite its 
proximity to a closely related species, C. lycaon--a species whose 
status we will evaluate for possible protection under the Act in the 
near future.
    Because C. lycaon was recently recognized as a unique species 
(rather than a subspecies of C. lupus), a complete status review of 
this species has never been conducted. Therefore, we are initiating a 
status review for C. lycaon throughout its range in the United States 
and Canada.
    We also are proposing to revise the range of the gray wolf (the 
species C. lupus) by removing all or parts of 29 states (see Effects of 
the Rule, below) because this area is outside of the currently known 
historical range of the gray wolf (see Taxonomy and Historical Ranges 
of Wolves in the United States). These areas should not have been 
included in the original listing of the gray wolf because gray wolves 
did not historically occur there; they were either

[[Page 26142]]

red wolf (C. rufus) range or eastern wolf (C. lycaon) range.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing encourages and results in 
conservation actions by Federal, State, Tribal, and private agencies, 
groups, and individuals. The Act provides for possible land acquisition 
and cooperation with the States and requires that recovery actions be 
carried out for all listed species. This proposed rule, if made final, 
would remove these Federal conservation measures for gray wolves within 
the proposed WGL DPS.

Effects of the Rule

    This proposal, if made final, would revise the pre-DPS policy 
Minnesota ``species'' listing and establish it as a WGL DPS of the gray 
wolf (C. lupus), expand the boundaries of that DPS, and remove the 
protections of the Act for that WGL DPS by removing the gray wolf 
wolves in that DPS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
    This proposal, if made final, would remove the special regulations 
under section 4(d) of the Act for wolves in Minnesota. These 
regulations currently are found at 50 CFR 17.40(d).
    Critical habitat was designated for the gray wolf in 1978 (43 FR 
9607, March 9, 1978). That rule (codified at 50 CFR 17.95(a)) 
identifies Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, and Minnesota wolf 
management zones 1, 2, and 3, as delineated in 50 CFR 17.40(d)(1), as 
critical habitat. Wolf management zones 1, 2, and 3 comprise 
approximately 25,500 sq km (9,845 sq mi) in northeastern and north-
central Minnesota. This proposal, if made final, would remove the 
designation of critical habitat for gray wolves in Minnesota and on 
Isle Royale, Michigan.
    As described in the Taxonomy and Historical Ranges of Wolves in the 
United States section above, the species' historical range did not 
extend into many southern and eastern States. Therefore, our 1978 
listing of the gray wolf throughout the 48 States and Mexico was 
partially in error. This proposed rule, if made final, would revise the 
geographic boundaries for the gray wolf as described in the 1978 
listing by removing all or parts of 29 southern and eastern states 
(Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, 
Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, 
Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Ohio (the 
part outside WGL DPS), West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, 
Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas (east of Interstate Highway 35), Oklahoma 
(east of Interstate Highway 35 and southeast of Interstate Highway 44 
north of Oklahoma City), Arkansas, Missouri (southeast of Interstate 
Highway 44 and southeast of Interstate Highway 70 east of St. Louis), 
Indiana (the part outside WGL DPS), and Illinois (the part outside WGL 
DPS)) because this area is outside of the currently known historical 
range of the gray wolf.
    We also note that this proposed rule initiates a 5-year status 
review and request information for wolves in the western United States, 
which may inform future rulemakings to replace the remainder of the 
revised lower 48-State listing with more targeted regional units (as 
discussed above under National Wolf Strategy). This proposed rule does 
not apply to the separate listing and protection of the red wolf (C. 
rufus). Furthermore, the remaining protections of the gray wolf under 
the Act do not extend to gray wolf-dog hybrids.

Post-Delisting Monitoring

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act, added in the 1988 reauthorization, 
requires us to implement a system, in cooperation with the States, to 
monitor for not less than 5 years the status of all species that have 
recovered and been removed from the Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants (50 CFR 17.11 and 17.12). The purpose of this post-
delisting monitoring (PDM) is to verify that a species delisted due to 
recovery remains secure from risk of extinction after it no longer has 
the protections of the Act. To do this, PDM generally focuses on 
evaluating (1) demographic characteristics of the species, (2) threats 
to the species, and (3) implementation of legal and/or management 
commitments that have been identified as important in reducing threats 
to the species or maintaining threats at sufficiently low levels. We 
are to make prompt use of the emergency listing authorities under 
section 4(b)(7) of the Act to prevent a significant risk to the well-
being of any recovered species. Section 4(g) of the Act explicitly 
requires cooperation with the States in development and implementation 
of PDM programs, but we remain responsible for compliance with section 
4(g) and, therefore, must remain actively engaged in all phases of PDM. 
We also will seek active participation of other entities that are 
expected to assume responsibilities for the species' conservation, 
after delisting.
    We developed a PDM plan for the wolves in the proposed WGL DPS with 
the assistance of the Eastern Wolf Recovery Team. That document is 
available on our Web site (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    The PDM program will rely on a continuation of State monitoring 
activities, similar to those which have been conducted by Minnesota, 
Wisconsin, and Michigan DNR's in recent years, and Tribal monitoring. 
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan comprise the core recovery areas 
within the DPS, and, therefore, the numerical recovery criteria in the 
Recovery Plan apply only to the area encompassed by these States' 
boundaries. These activities will include both population and health 
monitoring of individual wolves. During the PDM period, the Service and 
the Recovery Team will conduct a review of the monitoring data and 
program. We will consider various relevant factors (including but not 
limited to mortality rates, population changes and rates of change, 
disease occurrence, range expansion or contraction) to determine if the 
population of wolves within the DPS warrants expanded monitoring, 
additional research, consideration for relisting as threatened or 
endangered, or emergency listing.
    Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan DNRs have monitored wolves for 
several decades with significant assistance from numerous partners, 
including the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, USDA-APHIS-
Wildlife Services, Tribal natural resource agencies, and the Service. 
To maximize comparability of future PDM data with data obtained before 
delisting, all three State DNRs have committed to continue their 
previous wolf population monitoring methodology, or will make changes 
to that methodology only if those changes will not reduce the 
comparability of pre- and post-delisting data.
    In addition to monitoring wolf population numbers and trends, the 
PDM will evaluate post-delisting threats, in particular human-caused 
mortality, disease, and implementation of legal and management 
commitments. If at any time during the monitoring period we detect a 
substantial downward change in the populations or an increase in 
threats to the degree that population viability may be threatened, we 
will work with the States and Tribes to evaluate and change (intensify, 
extend, and/or otherwise improve) the monitoring methods, if 
appropriate, and/or consider relisting the WGL DPS, if warranted.

[[Page 26143]]

    This monitoring program will extend for 5 years beyond the 
effective delisting date of the DPS. At the end of the 5-year period, 
we and the Recovery Team will conduct another review and post the 
results on our Web site. In addition to the above considerations, the 
review will determine whether the PDM program should be terminated or 
extended.

Required Determinations

Clarity of the Rule

    Executive Order 12866 requires agencies to write regulations that 
are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make this 
proposal easier to understand including answers to questions such as 
the following: (1) Is the discussion in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section of the preamble helpful to your understanding of the proposal? 
(2) Does the proposal contain technical language or jargon that 
interferes with its clarity? (3) Does the format of the proposal 
(groupings and order of sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) 
aid or reduce its clarity? What else could we do to make the proposal 
easier to understand? Send a copy of any comments on how we could make 
this rule easier to understand to: Office of Regulatory Affairs, 
Department of the Interior, Room 7229, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, 
DC 20240. You may also e-mail the comments to this address: 
Exsec@ios.doi.gov.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an environmental assessment or an 
environmental impact statement, as defined under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination 
in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR part 
1320 implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 
3501 et seq.). The OMB regulations at 5 CFR 1320.3(c) define a 
collection of information as the obtaining of information by or for an 
agency by means of identical questions posed to, or identical 
reporting, recordkeeping, or disclosure requirements imposed on, 10 or 
more persons. Furthermore, 5 CFR 1320.3(c)(4) specifies that ``ten or 
more persons'' refers to the persons to whom a collection of 
information is addressed by the agency within any 12-month period. For 
purposes of this definition, employees of the Federal Government are 
not included. The Service may not conduct or sponsor, and you are not 
required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.
    This proposal does not include any collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. As proposed 
under the Post-delisting Monitoring above, wolf populations in the 
Western Great Lakes DPS will be monitored by the States of Michigan, 
Minnesota, and Wisconsin in accordance with their wolf State management 
plans. There may also be additional voluntary monitoring activities 
conducted by a small number of Tribes in these three States. We do not 
anticipate a need to request data or other information from 10 or more 
persons during any 12-month period to satisfy monitoring information 
needs. If it becomes necessary to collect standardized information from 
10 or more non-Federal individuals, groups, or organizations per year, 
we will first obtain information collection approval from OMB.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments (59 FR 22951), E.O. 13175, and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
Tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that Tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to Tribes. We have coordinated the proposed rule 
with the affected Tribes and, furthermore, throughout several years of 
development of earlier related rules and this proposed rule, we have 
endeavored to consult with Native American Tribes and Native American 
organizations in order to both (1) provide them with a complete 
understanding of the proposed changes, and (2) to understand their 
concerns with those changes. If requested, we will conduct additional 
consultations with Native American Tribes and multitribal organizations 
subsequent to any final rule in order to facilitate the transition to 
State and Tribal management of wolves within the proposed WGL DPS. We 
will fully consider all of the comments on the proposed rule that are 
submitted by Tribes and Tribal members during the public comment period 
and will attempt to address those concerns, new data, and new 
information where appropriate.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this document is 
available upon request from the Ft. Snelling, Minnesota, Regional 
Office and is posted on our Web site (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).

Data Quality Act

    In developing this rule we did not conduct or use a study, 
experiment, or survey requiring peer review under the Data Quality Act 
(Pub. L. 106-554).

Authors

    The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff members of 
the Ft. Snelling, Minnesota, Regional Office (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT), with contributions from staff from Service 
Regions 2, 4, and 5. Staff from the Michigan DNR, Minnesota DNR, and 
Wisconsin DNR provided current information regarding wolves in their 
States. Staff from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at 
the University of Wisconsin-Madison compiled the current data on public 
attitudes toward the wolf.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we hereby propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth 
below:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.


Sec.  17.11  [Amended]

    2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by revising the entry for ``Wolf, gray'' 
under ``MAMMALS'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to 
read as follows:

[[Page 26144]]

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Mammals
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Wolf, gray.......................  Canis lupus.........  Holarctic..........  U.S.A.: All of CA,   E                 1, 6, 13,          N/A          N/A
                                                                               CO, KS, NE, NV,                          15, 35
                                                                               OR, UT, and WA;
                                                                               those portions of
                                                                               AZ, NM, TX, ID,
                                                                               MT, and WY not
                                                                               included in an
                                                                               experimental
                                                                               population as set
                                                                               forth below; and
                                                                               portions of IA,
                                                                               MO, ND, OK, SD,
                                                                               and TX as follows:
                                                                              (1) Southern IA,
                                                                               (that portion
                                                                               south of the
                                                                               centerline of
                                                                               Highway 80);.
                                                                              (2) Northwestern MO
                                                                               (that portion
                                                                               northwest of the
                                                                               centerline of
                                                                               Interstate Highway
                                                                               44 and northwest
                                                                               of the centerline
                                                                               of Interstate
                                                                               Highway 70 east of
                                                                               St. Louis);.
                                   ....................  ...................  (3) Western ND
                                                                               (that portion
                                                                               south and west of
                                                                               the Missouri River
                                                                               upstream to Lake
                                                                               Sakakawea and west
                                                                               of the centerline
                                                                               of Highway 83 from
                                                                               Lake Sakakawea to
                                                                               the Canadian
                                                                               border);
                                   ....................  ...................  (4) Western OK
                                                                               (that portion west
                                                                               of the centerline
                                                                               of Interstate
                                                                               Highway 35 and
                                                                               northwest of the
                                                                               centerline of
                                                                               Interstate Highway
                                                                               44 north of
                                                                               Oklahoma City);
                                   ....................  ...................  (5) Western SD
                                                                               (that portion
                                                                               south and west of
                                                                               the Missouri
                                                                               River); and
                                   ....................  ...................  (6) Western TX
                                                                               (that portion west
                                                                               of the centerline
                                                                               of Interstate
                                                                               Highway 35).
                                                                               Mexico.
Do...............................  do..................  do.................  U.S.A. (portions of  XN                      631          N/A     17.84(k)
                                                                               AZ, NM, and TX--
                                                                               see Sec.
                                                                               17.84(k)).

[[Page 26145]]

 
Do...............................  do..................  do.................  U.S.A. (portions of  XN                 561, 562          N/A    17.84(i),
                                                                               ID, MT, and WY--                                                17.84(n).
                                                                               see Sec.
                                                                               17.84(i)).
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sec.  17.40  [Amended]

    3. Amend Sec.  17.40 by removing and reserving paragraph (d).


Sec.  17.95  [Amended]

    4. Amend Sec.  17.95(a) by removing the critical habitat entry for 
``Gray Wolf (Canis lupus).''

    Dated: April 12, 2011.
Rowan W. Gould,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-9557 Filed 5-4-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P