[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 193 (Wednesday, October 5, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 61781-61823]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-25359]



[[Page 61781]]

Vol. 76

Wednesday,

No. 193

October 5, 2011

Part II





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; Removal of the Gray 
Wolf in Wyoming From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Removal of the Wyoming Wolf Population's Status as an 
Experimental Population; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 193 / Wednesday, October 5, 2011 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 61782]]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2011-0039; 92220-1113-0000-C6]
RIN 1018-AX94


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the 
Gray Wolf in Wyoming From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Removal of the Wyoming Wolf Population's Status as an 
Experimental Population

AGENCY: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of a public hearing.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or USFWS), are 
proposing to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in Wyoming from the 
List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This rule focuses on the 
Wyoming portion of the Northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) Distinct 
Population Segment (DPS), except where discussion of the larger Greater 
Yellowstone Area (GYA) or NRM metapopulation (a population that exists 
as partially isolated sets of subpopulations) is necessary to 
understand impacts to wolves in Wyoming. The best scientific and 
commercial data available indicate that wolves in Wyoming are recovered 
and no longer meet the definition of endangered or threatened under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Wyoming's wolf 
population is stable, threats are addressed, and a post-delisting 
monitoring and management framework has been developed. However, 
additional changes to Wyoming State law and Wyoming Game and Fish 
Commission regulations are necessary for implementation. We expect the 
State of Wyoming to adopt the necessary statutory and regulatory 
changes within the next several months. If this proposal is finalized, 
the gray wolf would be delisted in Wyoming, the nonessential 
experimental population designation would be removed, and future 
management for this species, except in National Parks and National 
Wildlife Refuges, would be conducted by the appropriate State or Tribal 
wildlife agencies. We seek information, data, and comments from the 
public about this proposal including the post-delisting monitoring and 
management framework.

DATES: Public Comments: We will accept comments received or postmarked 
on or before January 13, 2012. Please note that if you are using the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES), the deadline for submitting 
an electronic comment is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on this date.
    Public Hearing: We will hold a public hearing on this proposed rule 
on November 15, 2011, as well as an informational open house 
immediately preceding the public hearing. For more information, see 
``Public Hearing and Open House'' in SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Enter Keyword or ID box, enter FWS-R6-ES-
2011-0039, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the 
Search panel at the top of the screen, under the Document Type heading, 
check the box next to Proposed Rules to locate this document. You may 
submit a comment by clicking on ``Submit a Comment.''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2011-0039, 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 ``Public Comments'' in SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for more 
information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information on wolves in the 
northern Rocky Mountains see http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/, or contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Mountain-Prairie Region Office, Ecological Services Division, 134 Union 
Blvd., Lakewood, CO 80228; telephone 303-236-7400. Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Public Comments

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule 
will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request 
comments or information from other concerned government agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or any other interested party 
concerning this proposed rule. Specifically, we request information on 
the following questions:
    (1) Is our description and analysis of the biology, population, and 
distribution accurate?
    (2) Does the proposed rule provide accurate and adequate review and 
analysis of the factors relating to the threats?
    (3) Are the conclusions we reach, including their projection of 
maintenance of a viable population, logical and supported by the 
evidence provided?
    (4) Did we include all the necessary and pertinent literature to 
support our assumptions, arguments, and conclusions?
    (5) Is it reasonable for us to conclude that Wyoming's approach to 
wolf management is likely to maintain Wyoming's wolf population above 
recovery levels?
    (6) Is it reasonable for us to conclude that Wyoming's approach to 
wolf management is likely to provide for sufficient levels of gene flow 
(either natural or human assisted) to prevent genetic problems from 
negatively impacting the GYA's population or the larger NRM 
metapopulation in a manner that would meaningfully impact viability?
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule 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. If you submit a comment via http://www.regulations.gov, your 
entire comment--including your personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the Web site. If you submit a hardcopy comment that 
includes personal identifying information, 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. We will 
post all hardcopy comments on http://www.regulations.gov.
    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, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the Mountain-Prairie 
Region Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Public Hearing and Open House

    Section 4(b)(5)(E) of the Act requires that we hold one public 
hearing on the proposal, if requested. In anticipation of such a 
request, we have scheduled an informational meeting (a brief 
presentation about the proposed rule

[[Page 61783]]

with a question-and-answer period) from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., and a 
public hearing from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., on November 15, 2011, at 
the Robert A. Peck Arts Center, Central Wyoming College, 2660 Peck 
Avenue, Riverton, WY 82501; 307-855-2000.
    Anyone wishing to make an oral statement at the public hearing for 
the record is encouraged to provide a written copy of their statement 
to us at the hearing. In the event there is a large attendance, the 
time allotted for oral statements may be limited. Speakers can sign up 
at the informational meeting and hearing if they desire to make an oral 
statement. Oral and written statements receive equal consideration. 
There are no limits on the length of written comments submitted to us. 
If you have any questions concerning the public hearing or need 
reasonable accommodations to attend and participate in the public 
hearing, please contact the Denver Regional Office's Ecological 
Service's Division at 303-236-7400 [see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT 
section below], as soon as possible, but no later than 1 week before 
the hearing date, to allow sufficient time to process requests. 
Information regarding the proposal is available in alternative formats 
upon request.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy on peer review published in the 
Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we intend to subject 
this proposal to peer review. A peer review panel will conduct this 
assessment. We anticipate this assessment will be completed during the 
public comment period and posted online at http://www.regulations.gov 
to allow for public review and comment.
    We will consider all comments and information received during this 
comment period on this proposed rule during our preparation of a final 
determination. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this 
proposal.

Table of Contents

Background
    Delisting Wolves in Wyoming--The Focus of This Rule
    Previous Federal Actions
    Reengaging Wyoming and Changes to Their Wolf Management Plan
    Species Description and Basic Biology
    Recovery Planning and Implementation
    [cir] Recovery Planning and the Development of Recovery Criteria
    [cir] Monitoring and Managing Recovery
    [cir] Recovery by State
    [cir] Recovery by Recovery Area
    [cir] Genetic Exchange Relative to Our Recovery Criteria
    [cir] Conclusion on Progress Towards Our Recovery Goals
Summary of Factors Affecting the Species
    Factor A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, 
or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    [cir] Suitable Habitat
    [cir] Unoccupied Suitable Habitat
    [cir] Currently Occupied Habitat
    [cir] Potential Threats Affecting Habitat or Range
    Factor B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    [cir] Commercial or Recreational Uses
    [cir] Overutilization for Scientific or Educational Purposes
    Factor C. Disease or Predation
    [cir] Disease
    [cir] Natural Predation
    [cir] Human-caused Predation
    Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    [cir] National Park Service
    [cir] National Wildlife Refuges
    [cir] Tribal Lands
    [cir] Forest Service
    [cir] State Regulatory Mechanisms
    [cir] Environmental Protection Agency
    Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    [cir] Public Attitudes Toward the Gray Wolf
    [cir] Genetic Considerations
    [cir] Poison
    [cir] Climate Change
    [cir] Catastrophic Events
    [cir] Impacts to Wolf Pack Social Structure as a Result of 
Human-Caused Mortality
Conclusion (Including Cumulative Impacts)
Post-Delisting Monitoring
Effects of the Proposed Rule
Required Determinations
    Clarity of the Rule
    Paperwork Reduction Act
    National Environmental Policy Act
    Executive Order 13211
    Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes
References Cited
Authority
List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17
Proposed Regulation Promulgation

Background

Delisting Wolves in Wyoming--The Focus of This Rule

    This proposed rule focuses on the Wyoming portion of the NRM DPS, 
except where discussion of the larger GYA or NRM metapopulation is 
necessary to understand impacts to wolves in Wyoming. This rulemaking 
is separate and independent from, but additive to, the previous action 
delisting wolves in the NRM DPS (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009; 76 FR 
25590, May 5, 2011). We believe this approach is appropriate given the 
Congressional directive to reissue our 2009 delisting, which created a 
remnant piece of the NRM DPS. This approach is also consistent with our 
2009 delisting determination which stated that ``if Wyoming were to 
develop a Service-approved regulatory framework it would be delisted in 
a separate rule'' (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009, p. 15155). This proposal 
does not depend on, or implicate our previous, separate action to 
remove the other portions of the NRM DPS from the List of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife. Outside Wyoming, this rule will not affect the 
status of the gray wolf in the portions of the NRM DPS under State laws 
or suspend any other legal protections provided by State law.

Previous Federal Actions

    In 1967, we determined the eastern timber wolf (C. l. lycaon) in 
the Great Lakes region was threatened with extinction (32 FR 4001, 
March 11, 1967). In 1973, we added the NRM gray wolf (C. l. irremotus) 
to the U.S. List of Endangered Fish and Wildlife (38 FR 14678, June 4, 
1973). Both of these listings were pursuant to the Endangered Species 
Conservation Act of 1969. In 1974, these subspecies were listed as 
endangered under the Act of 1973 (39 FR 1158, January 4, 1974). We 
listed a third gray wolf subspecies, the Mexican wolf (C. l. baileyi) 
as endangered on April 28, 1976 (41 FR 17736) in Mexico and the 
southwestern United States. In 1976, we listed the Texas gray wolf 
subspecies (C. l. monstrabilis) as endangered in Texas and Mexico (41 
FR 24062, June 14, 1976).
    Due to questions about the validity of subspecies classification at 
the time and issues associated with the narrow geographic scope of each 
subspecies, we published a rule reclassifying the gray wolf as 
endangered at the species level (C. lupus) throughout the coterminous 
48 States and Mexico (43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978). The exception was 
Minnesota, where the gray wolf was reclassified to threatened. This 
rule also provided assurance that this reclassification would not alter 
our intention to focus recovery on each population as separate 
entities. Accordingly, recovery plans were developed for: The Great 
Lakes in 1978 (revised in 1992) (Service 1978, entire; Service 1992, 
entire); the NRM region in 1980 (revised in 1987) (Service 1980, 
entire; Service 1987, entire); and the Southwest in 1982 (Service 1982, 
entire). A revision to the southwest recovery plan is now under way.
    In 1994, we designated portions of Idaho and Montana, and all of 
Wyoming as nonessential experimental gray wolf populations under 
section 10(j) of the Act (50 CFR 17.84(i)), including the Yellowstone 
Experimental Population Area (59 FR 60252, November 22, 1994) and the 
Central Idaho Experimental Population Area (59 FR 60266,

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November 22, 1994). These designations assisted us in initiating gray 
wolf reintroductions in central Idaho and in Yellowstone National Park 
(YNP). The Yellowstone Experimental Population Area included the entire 
State of Wyoming. In 2005 and 2008, we revised these regulations to 
provide increased management flexibility for this recovered wolf 
population in States and on Tribal lands with Service-approved post-
delisting wolf management plans (70 FR 1286, January 6, 2005; 73 FR 
4720, January 28, 2008; 50 CFR 17.84(n)).
    The NRM gray wolf population achieved its numerical and 
distributional recovery goals at the end of 2000 (Service et al. 2011, 
Table 4). The temporal portion of the recovery goal was achieved in 
2002 when the numerical and distributional recovery goals were exceeded 
for the third successive year (Service et al. 2011, Table 4). In light 
of this success, we once reclassified and twice delisted all or part of 
this population (68 FR 15804, April 1, 2003; 73 FR 10514, February 27, 
2008; 74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009). These reclassification and delisting 
rules were overturned by Federal District courts (Defenders of 
Wildlife, et al. v. Norton, et al., 354 F.Supp.2d 1156 (D. Or. 2005); 
National Wildlife Federation, et al. v. Norton, et al., 386 F.Supp.2d 
553 (D. Vt. 2005); Defenders of Wildlife, et al. v. Hall, et al., 565 
F.Supp.2d 1160 (D. Mont. 2008); Defenders of Wildlife, et al. v. 
Salazar, et al., 729 F.Supp.2d 1207 (D. Mont. 2010). Each of these 
rulemakings and the subsequent litigation are discussed below.
    In 2003, we reclassified the coterminous 48-State listing into 
three DPSs including a threatened Western DPS, a threatened Eastern 
DPS, and an endangered Southwestern DPS (68 FR 15804, April 1, 2003). 
The Western DPS, centered around the recovered NRM gray wolf 
population, included California, northern Colorado, Idaho, Montana, 
Oregon, northern Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. This rule also removed 
the protections of the Act for gray wolves in all or parts of 16 
southern and eastern States where the species historically did not 
occur. Finally, this rule established a special 4(d) rule to respond to 
wolf-human conflicts in areas not covered by existing nonessential 
experimental population rules. In 2005, the U.S. District Courts in 
Oregon and Vermont concluded that the 2003 final rule was ``arbitrary 
and capricious'' and violated the Act (Defenders of Wildlife, et al. v. 
Norton, et al., 354 F.Supp.2d 1156 (D. Or. 2005); National Wildlife 
Federation, et al. v. Norton, et al., 386 F.Supp.2d 553 (D. Vt. 2005)). 
Both courts ruled the Service improperly downlisted entire DPSs based 
just on the viability of a core population. The courts' rulings 
invalidated the April 2003 changes to the gray wolf listing under the 
Act.
    In 2003, we also published an advanced notice of proposed 
rulemaking announcing our intention to delist the Western DPS as the 
recovery goals had been satisfied (68 FR 15879, April 1, 2003). This 
notice explained that delisting would require consideration of threats, 
and that the adequacy of State wolf management plans to address threats 
in the absence of protections of the Act would be a major determinant 
in any future delisting evaluation.
    In 2004, we determined that Montana's and Idaho's laws and wolf 
management plans were adequate to assure that their shares of the NRM 
wolf population would be maintained above recovery levels (Williams 
2004a, in litt.; Williams 2004b, in litt.). However, we also found the 
2003 Wyoming legislation and plan would not ensure maintenance of 
Wyoming's share of a recovered NRM gray wolf population (Williams 
2004c, in litt.). Wyoming challenged this determination, and the United 
States District Court in Wyoming dismissed the case (State of Wyoming, 
et al. v. United States Department of Interior, et al., 360 F.Supp.2d 
1214, (D. Wyoming 2005)). Wyoming's subsequent appeal was unsuccessful 
(State of Wyoming, et al. v. United States Department of Interior, et 
al., 442 F.Supp.3d 1262 (10th Cir. 2006)). Wyoming lost this case on 
procedural grounds because it failed to identify a final agency action 
necessary to confer standing prior to the litigation. To address this 
procedural shortcoming, in 2005, Wyoming petitioned us to revise the 
listing status for the gray wolf by recognizing a NRM DPS and to remove 
it from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Species 
(Freudenthal 2005, entire). In 2006, we announced a 12-month finding 
that Wyoming's petition (delisting wolves in all of Montana, Idaho, and 
Wyoming) was not warranted because the 2003 Wyoming State laws and its 
2003 wolf management plan did not provide adequate regulatory 
mechanisms to ensure that Wyoming's share of a recovered NRM wolf 
population would be conserved (71 FR 43410, August 1, 2006). Wyoming 
challenged this finding in Wyoming Federal District Court. This 
challenge was made moot by Wyoming's revisions to its laws and 
management plan in 2007, which allowed delisting to move forward. On 
February 27, 2008, a Wyoming Federal District Court issued an order 
dismissing the case (State of Wyoming, et al. v. United States 
Department of Interior, et al., U.S. District Court Case No. 2:06-CV-
00245).
    In 2008, we issued a final rule recognizing the NRM DPS and 
removing it from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (73 FR 
10514, February 27, 2008). This DPS included Idaho, Montana, eastern 
Oregon, north-central Utah, eastern Washington, and Wyoming. This DPS 
was smaller than the 2003 Western DPS and more closely approximates the 
historic range of the originally listed NRM gray wolf in the United 
States and the areas focused on in both NRM recovery plans (39 FR 1171, 
January 4, 1974; Service 1980, pp. 3, 7-8; Service 1987, pp. 2, 23). 
The Service removed protections across the entire DPS after Wyoming 
revised its wolf management plan and State law. At the time, we 
concluded this Wyoming framework provided adequate regulatory 
protections to conserve Wyoming's portion of a recovered wolf 
population into the foreseeable future (Hall 2007, in litt.).
    Environmental litigants challenged this final rule in the U.S. 
District Court for the District of Montana. The plaintiffs also moved 
to preliminarily enjoin the delisting. On July 18, 2008, the court 
granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and 
enjoined the Service's implementation of the final delisting rule 
(Defenders of Wildlife, et al., v. Hall, et al., 565 F.Supp.2d 1160 (D. 
Mont. 2008)). The court stated that we acted arbitrarily in delisting a 
wolf population that lacked evidence of natural genetic exchange 
between subpopulations. The court also stated that we acted arbitrarily 
and capriciously when we approved Wyoming's 2007 wolf management plan 
because the State failed to commit to managing for at least 15 breeding 
pairs, and Wyoming's 2007 statute allowed the Wyoming Game and Fish 
Commission (WGFC) to diminish the trophy game area if it ``determines 
the diminution does not impede the delisting of gray wolves and will 
facilitate Wyoming's management of wolves.'' In light of the court 
order, on September 22, 2008, we asked the court to vacate the final 
rule and remand it to us. On October 14, 2008, the court granted our 
request (Defenders of Wildlife v. Hall, 9:08-CV-00056-DWM (D. Mont 
2008)). The court's rulings invalidated the February 2008 rule 
designating and delisting the NRM DPS.
    Following the July 18, 2008 court ruling, we reexamined the NRM DPS 
and Wyoming's statutes, regulations, and management plan. This

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reevaluation considered several issues not considered in the previous 
evaluation. We determined that the best scientific and commercial data 
available demonstrated that: (1) The NRM DPS was not threatened or 
endangered throughout ``all'' of its range (i.e., not threatened or 
endangered throughout all of the DPS); and (2) the Wyoming portion of 
the range represented a significant portion of its range where the 
species remained in danger of extinction because of the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms. Thus, on April 2, 2009, we published a 
final rule recognizing the NRM DPS and removing the DPS from the List 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, except in Wyoming, where wolves 
continued to be regulated as a nonessential, experimental population 
under 50 CFR 17.84(i) and (n) (74 FR 15123). The decision to retain the 
Act's protections only in Wyoming was consistent with a March 16, 2007, 
Memorandum Opinion issued by the Solicitor of the Department of the 
Interior, ``The Meaning of `In Danger of Extinction Throughout All or a 
Significant Portion of Its Range' '' (M-Opinion) (Department of the 
Interior 2007, in litt.). The final rule determined that Wyoming's 
existing regulatory framework did not provide the necessary regulatory 
mechanisms to assure that Wyoming's share of a recovered NRM wolf 
population would be conserved if the protections of the Act were 
removed and stated that, until Wyoming revised its statutes, 
regulations, and management plan, and obtained Service approval, wolves 
in Wyoming would remain protected by the Act (74 FR 15123, April 2, 
2009).
    The April 2009 rule (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009) was challenged in 
the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana by environmental 
litigants and in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming by 
the State of Wyoming, the Wyoming Wolf Coalition, and Park County, 
Wyoming. On August 5, 2010, the U.S District Court for Montana ruled on 
the merits of the case and vacated our April 2009 final rule (Defenders 
of Wildlife, et al. v. Salazar, et al., 729 F. Supp.2d 1207 (D. Mont. 
2010)). The court concluded that the NRM DPS must be listed or delisted 
in its entirety. The court rejected the rule's approach allowing 
protection of only a portion of the species' range because it was 
inconsistent with the Act's definition of ``species.'' (The Department 
of Interior withdrew the M-Opinion on this topic on May 4, 2011 
(Department of the Interior 2011, in litt.)). Thus, before delisting 
could occur, Wyoming had to develop a regulatory framework that was 
determined by the Service to be adequate to maintain Wyoming's share of 
a recovered NRM gray wolf population. The court's ruling invalidated 
the April 2009 rule designating and delisting most of the NRM DPS.
    On October 26, 2010, in compliance with the order of the U.S. 
District Court for Montana, we published a final rule notifying the 
public that the Federal protections in place prior to the 2009 
delisting had been reinstated (75 FR 65574). Wolves in eastern 
Washington, eastern Oregon, northcentral Utah, the Idaho panhandle, and 
northern Montana were again listed as endangered. Former special rules 
designating the gray wolf in the remainder of Montana and Idaho as 
nonessential experimental populations were likewise reinstated. 
Additionally, the NRM gray wolf DPS established by the April 2, 2009, 
final rule was set aside. Because wolves in Wyoming were not delisted 
by the April 2, 2009 final rule, their listed status was not impacted 
by the October 26, 2010 rule.
    Following the Montana District Court decision, the United States 
Congress passed, and President Obama signed, H.R. 1473, Public Law 112-
10--The Department of Defense and Full Year Continuing Appropriations 
Act of 2011. Section 1713 of the law directed the Service to reissue 
its April 2009 delisting rule. The Service complied with this directive 
on May 5, 2011 (76 FR 25590). The constitutionality of H.R. 1473 was 
challenged by environmental plaintiffs (Alliance for the Wild Rockies 
et al., v. Salazar, et al., case no. CV 11-70-M-DWM). The United States 
District Court for Montana ruled on August 3, 2011, that the law was 
constitutional. This ruling was appealed to the Ninth Circuit (Alliance 
for the Wild Rockies, et al., v. Salazar, et al., case no. 11-35670). 
Plaintiffs also filed an emergency motion for injunction in order to 
stop Idaho's and Montana's planned fall 2011 hunts, which was denied. 
As of this writing, a decision on the appeal is pending.
    As for the Wyoming challenge to the April 2009 partial delisting 
rule (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009), a United States District Court for 
Wyoming ruled in favor of the three Wyoming plaintiffs on November 18, 
2010 (Wyoming et al., v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., 2010 
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122829). The court rejected the Service position that 
recommended the entire State of Wyoming be designated as a trophy game 
area and found this position to be arbitrary and capricious, as it was 
not supported by the administrative record. The court concluded that 
the record indicated only northwestern Wyoming, which has the vast 
majority of the State's suitable habitat, was biologically essential to 
maintenance of the NRM population. However, the court did not render an 
opinion on whether Wyoming's current plan, including the proposed size 
and location of its 2007 trophy game area, was sufficient. Instead, the 
court remanded the matter to us to reconsider whether Wyoming's 
regulatory framework would maintain its share of a recovered wolf 
population and provide adequate genetic connectivity. Subsequent to 
this order, the Service and the State reinitiated negotiations on 
revisions to their wolf management framework that would satisfy the 
standards of the Act and allow delisting to again move forward. The 
results of this process led to development of a revised wolf management 
plan and are incorporated in this proposal.

Reengaging Wyoming and Changes to Their Wolf Management Plan

    The April 2009 rule stated that ``until Wyoming revises their 
statutes, management plan, and associated regulations, and is again 
Service approved, wolves in Wyoming continue to require the protections 
of the Act'' (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009). This rule specifically 
expressed concern over: (1) The size and permanency of Wyoming's Wolf 
Trophy Game Management Area (WTGMA); (2) conflicting language within 
the State statutes concerning whether Wyoming would manage for at least 
15 breeding pairs and at least 150 wolves, exactly 15 breeding pairs 
and 150 wolves, or only 7 breeding pairs and 70 wolves; and (3) liberal 
depredation control authorizations and legislative mandates to 
aggressively manage the population down to minimum levels.
    In early 2011, we began discussions with Wyoming seeking to develop 
a strategy for each of these issues. In August 2011, the Service and 
the State of Wyoming announced the framework of an agreement that we 
believe will allow us to delist wolves in Wyoming (WGFC 2011, appendix 
I). Following this announcement, Wyoming revised their 2008 wolf 
management plan (WGFC 2008, entire) to reflect the terms of this 
agreement (WGFC 2011, entire). Below we summarize the key points in the 
agreement relative to the three overarching Service concerns 
highlighted above.
    First, this agreement commits Wyoming to make permanent the 
existing WTGMA. In total, Wyoming wolves will be permanently managed as 
game animals or protected (e.g., in

[[Page 61786]]

National Parks) in about 40,000 km\2\ (15,400 mi\2\) in the 
northwestern portion of the State (15.7 percent of Wyoming), including 
YNP, Grand Teton National Park, John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, 
adjacent U.S. Forest Service-designated Wilderness Areas, adjacent 
public and private lands, the National Elk Refuge, and the Wind River 
Indian Reservation (Lickfett 2011, in litt.). Wolves will be designated 
as predatory animals in the remainder of the State (predator area). The 
above protected and game areas (see Figure 1) include: 100 percent of 
the portion of the GYA recovery area within Wyoming (Service 1987, 
Figure 2); approximately 79 percent of the portion of the primary 
analysis area in Wyoming focused on by the 1994 reintroduction EIS 
(Service 1994, Figure 1.1); the entire home range for 24 of 27 breeding 
pairs in Wyoming and 24 of 34 packs in the State (Service et al. 2011, 
Figure 3); and approximately 76 percent of the State's suitable habitat 
as determined by Oakleaf et al. (2006, entire) (including 81 percent of 
the high-quality habitat (with an 80 percent or greater chance of 
supporting wolves) and 62 percent of the medium-high-quality habitat 
(with a 50 to 79 percent chance of supporting wolves) (Oakleaf 2011, in 
litt.)). This area is of sufficient size to support a recovered wolf 
population in Wyoming, under the management regime proposed for this 
area.
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

[[Page 61787]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP05OC11.000

BILLING CODE 4310-55-C
    The Service's prior concern that the size of the WTGMA would impact 
natural connectivity and genetic exchange was also addressed in the 
agreement. The agreement and the State's wolf management plan clearly 
articulate a goal for gene flow of at least one effective natural 
migrant per generation entering into the GYA, as measured over multiple 
generations (WGFC 2011, pp. 4, 9, 26-29, 54). To address our concerns 
about genetics and connectivity, Wyoming agreed to a seasonal expansion 
of the WTGMA. This seasonal adjustment expands the WTGMA approximately 
80 kilometers (km) (50 miles (mi)) south for four and a half months 
during peak wolf dispersal periods (WGFC 2011, pp. 2, 8, 52). We 
believe this will benefit natural dispersal. Furthermore, Wyoming 
commits to an adaptive management approach that adjusts management if 
the above minimum level of gene flow is not documented, as well as to 
use human-assisted migration if necessary (WGFC 2011, pp. 26-29). 
Collectively, these measures will ensure that inbreeding depression 
resulting from

[[Page 61788]]

the loss of genetic diversity never threatens the population.
    Next, Wyoming agreed to maintain a population of at least 10 
breeding pairs and at least 100 wolves in areas under State 
jurisdiction (WGFC 2011, pp. 1-5, 16-26, 52). Importantly, this 
commitment does not reflect an intention by Wyoming Game and Fish 
Department (WGFD) to reduce the population down to this minimum 
population level. Rather, Wyoming intends to maintain an adequate 
buffer above minimum population objectives to accommodate management 
needs (the desire to hunt wolves annually) and ensure uncontrollable 
sources of mortality (such as disease or take in defense of property) 
do not drop the population below this minimum population level (WGFC 
2011, p. 24). This management strategy will provide for the 
population's representation, resiliency, and redundancy (Shaffer and 
Stein 2000, entire) within the GYA as well as improve public acceptance 
for wolves outside YNP.
    The wolf populations in YNP and on the lands of sovereign nations 
will provide an additional buffer above the minimum recovery goal 
intended by the step-down management objective of at least 15 breeding 
pairs and at least 150 wolves Statewide (see ``Recovery Planning and 
Implementation'' below for more information). From 2001 to the end of 
2010, the wolf population in YNP ranged from 96 to 171 wolves, and 
between 6 to 16 breeding pairs, with an average of 9.8 breeding pairs. 
While a lower long-term future population level in YNP is predicted 
(Smith 2010, pers. comm.), YNP will always provide a large, secure wolf 
population providing a safety margin above the minimum recovery goal. 
The Wind River Indian Reservation typically contains a small number of 
wolves (single digits), which sometimes form packs that count toward 
Tribal population totals. On the whole, we expect the statewide wolf 
population in Wyoming will be maintained well above minimum recovery 
levels.
    Another substantial improvement is Wyoming's management framework 
inside the WTGMA. For example, Wyoming has committed to remove current 
statutory mandates for aggressive management of wolves (WGFC 2011, pp. 
24, 52). Current Wyoming law requires aggressive management until the 
population outside the National Parks falls to six breeding pairs or 
below. This issue was a major Service concern with Wyoming's existing 
law, and will be remedied.
    Additionally, Wyoming agreed wolves in the permanent or seasonal 
WTGMA would never be treated as predatory animals (WGFC 2011, pp. 3, 
16-17, 23). Existing State laws allow depredating wolves within the 
WTGMA to be treated as predatory animals under certain circumstances at 
the discretion of the State Fish and Game Commission (WGFC 2011, pp. 3, 
16-17, 23). Wyoming has indicated an intention to modify W.S. 23-1-
302(a)(ii) to ensure it does not apply to wolves in the WTGMA. This 
change is a substantial improvement over current Wyoming law that will 
help ensure that the wolf population in Wyoming (outside of YNP and the 
Wind River Indian Reservation) always remains at or above 10 breeding 
pairs and 100 individuals.
    Furthermore, Wyoming intends to establish defense-of-property 
regulations that are similar to our nonessential experimental 
population rules (50 CFR 17.84(n)) (WGFC 2011, pp. 4, 22-23, 30-31, 
53). Also, management of depredating wolves will be similar to Service 
management under the Act's protections (WGFC 2011, pp. 4, 22-23, 30-31, 
53). Such rules were in place in Montana and Idaho prior to delisting 
and allowed continued population growth. These management approaches 
are an additional improvement over the framework Wyoming had in place 
for most of 2008.
    These, and other improvements discussed in more detail below, have 
addressed the Service's concerns about wolf management in Wyoming and 
made this proposed delisting rule possible. Wyoming's wolf management 
plan was recently revised to reflect the new agreement (WGFC 2011, 
entire). However, conforming changes to Wyoming State law and WGFC 
regulations are also necessary to implement this plan. Wyoming 
recognizes statutory and regulatory changes will be required to 
implement this agreement and intends to pursue these changes. These 
changes will be made prior to any final decision that delists gray 
wolves in Wyoming.

Species Description and Basic Biology

    Gray wolves (Canis lupus) are the largest wild members of the dog 
family (Canidae). Adult gray wolves range from 18-80 kilograms (kg) 
(40-175 pounds (lb)) depending upon sex and geographic region (Mech 
1974, p. 1). In the NRM region, adult male gray wolves average just 
over 45 kg (100 lb), but may weigh up to 60 kg (130 lb). Females weigh 
about 20 percent less than males. Wolves' fur color is frequently a 
grizzled gray, but it can vary from pure white to coal black (Gipson et 
al. 2002, p. 821).
    Gray wolves have a circumpolar range including North America, 
Europe, and Asia. As Europeans began settling the United States, they 
poisoned, trapped, and shot wolves, causing this once-widespread 
species to be eradicated from most of its range in the 48 conterminous 
States (Mech 1970, pp. 31-34; McIntyre 1995, entire). Gray wolf 
populations were eliminated from Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, as well 
as adjacent southwestern Canada by the 1930s (Young and Goldman 1944, 
p. 414).
    Wolves primarily prey on medium and large mammals. Wolf prey in the 
NRM region is composed mainly of elk (Cervus canadensis), white tailed 
deer (Odocoileus virginianus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), moose 
(Alces alces), and (in the GYA) bison (Bison bison). Bighorn sheep 
(Ovis canadensis), mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), and pronghorn 
antelope (Antilocapra americana) also are common but less important, at 
least to date, as wolf prey.
    Wolves normally live in packs of 2 to 12 animals. In the NRM 
region, pack sizes average 7 wolves but are slightly larger in 
protected areas. A few complex packs have been substantially bigger in 
some areas of YNP (Smith et al. 2006, p. 243; Service et al. 2011, 
Tables 1-3). Packs typically occupy large distinct territories from 518 
to 1,295 square kilometers (km\2\) (200 to 500 square miles (mi\2\)) 
and defend these areas from other wolves or packs. Once a given area is 
occupied by resident wolf packs, it becomes saturated and wolf numbers 
become regulated by the amount of available prey, intra-species 
conflict, other forms of mortality, and dispersal. Dispersing wolves 
may cover large areas as they try to join other packs or attempt to 
form their own pack in unoccupied habitat (Mech and Boitani 2003, pp. 
11-17).
    Typically, only one male and female in each pack breed and produce 
pups (Packard 2003, p. 38; Smith et al. 2006, pp. 243-4; Service et al. 
2011, Tables 1-3). Females and males typically begin breeding as 2-
year-olds and may annually produce young until they are over 10 years 
old. In the NRM region, litters are typically born in mid to late April 
and range from 1 to 7 pups, but average around 5 pups (Service et al. 
1989-2011, Tables 1-3). Most years, four pups survive until winter 
(Service et al. 1989-2011, Tables 1-3). Wolves can live 13 years 
(Holyan et al. 2005, p. 446), but the average lifespan in the NRM 
region is less than 4 years (Smith et al. 2006, p. 245). Pup production 
and survival can increase when wolf density is lower and food 
availability per wolf increases (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 186). Pack 
social structure is very adaptable and resilient. Breeding members can 
be

[[Page 61789]]

quickly replaced either from within or outside the pack, and pups can 
be reared by another pack member should their parents die (Packard 
2003, p. 38; Brainerd et al. 2008; Mech 2006, p. 1482). Consequently, 
wolf populations can rapidly recover from severe disruptions, such as 
very high levels of human-caused mortality or disease. After severe 
declines, wolf populations can more than double in just 2 years if 
mortality is reduced; increases of nearly 100 percent per year have 
been documented in low-density suitable habitat (Fuller et al. 2003, 
pp. 181-183; Service et al. 2011, Table 4).
    For detailed information on the biology of this species see the 
``Biology and Ecology of Gray Wolves'' section of the April 1, 2003, 
final rule to reclassify and remove the gray wolf from the list of 
endangered and threatened wildlife in portions of the conterminous 
United States (2003 Reclassification Rule) (68 FR 15804).

Recovery Planning and Implementation

    This section discusses recovery planning and implementation. 
Specifically, this section includes a detailed discussion of the 
recovery criteria including their development, continuous evaluation, 
and revision as necessary. Finally, this section includes our summary 
of progress towards recovery including an assessment of whether the 
criteria are met. This section discusses the entire NRM population 
because the recovery criteria apply to the entire population.
    Recovery Planning and the Development of Recovery Criteria--Shortly 
after the gray wolf was listed, we formed the Interagency Wolf Recovery 
Team to complete a recovery plan for the NRM population (Service 1980, 
p. i; Fritts et al. 1995, p. 111). The NRM Wolf Recovery Plan (recovery 
plan) was approved in 1980 (Service 1980, p. i) and revised in 1987 
(Service 1987, p. i). Recovery plans are not regulatory documents, but 
are instead intended to provide guidance to the Service, States, and 
other partners on methods of minimizing threats to listed species and 
on criteria that may be used to determine when recovery is achieved. 
There are many paths to accomplishing recovery of a species, and 
recovery may be achieved without all criteria being fully met. For 
example, one or more criteria may have been exceeded while other 
criteria may not have been accomplished. In that instance, the Service 
may judge that the threats have been minimized sufficiently, and the 
species is robust enough to reclassify from endangered to threatened or 
to delist. In other cases, recovery opportunities may have been 
recognized that were not known at the time the recovery plan was 
finalized. These opportunities may be used instead of methods 
identified in the recovery plan. Likewise, information on the species 
may be learned that was not known at the time the recovery plan was 
finalized. The new information may change the extent that criteria need 
to be met for recognizing recovery of the species. Recovery of a 
species is a dynamic process requiring adaptive management that may, or 
may not, fully follow the guidance provided in a recovery plan.
    The 1980 recovery plan's objective was to reestablish and maintain 
viable populations of the NRM wolf (C. l. irremotus) in its former 
range where feasible (Service 1980, p. iii). This plan did not include 
recovery goals (i.e., delisting criteria). The 1980 plan covered an 
area similar to the NRM DPS, as it was once believed to be the range of 
the purported NRM wolf subspecies. It recommended that recovery actions 
be focused on the large areas of public land in northwestern Montana, 
central Idaho, and the GYA. The 1987 revised recovery plan (Service 
1987, p. 57) concluded that the subspecies designations may no longer 
be valid and simply referred to gray wolves in the NRM region. 
Consistent with the 1980 plan, it also recommended focusing recovery 
actions on the large blocks on public land in the NRM region.
    The 1987 plan specified a recovery criterion of a minimum of 10 
breeding pairs of wolves (defined as 2 wolves of opposite sex and 
adequate age, capable of producing offspring) for a minimum of 3 
successive years in each of 3 distinct recovery areas including: (1) 
Northwestern Montana (Glacier National Park; the Great Bear, Bob 
Marshall, and Lincoln Scapegoat Wilderness Areas; and adjacent public 
and private lands); (2) central Idaho (Selway-Bitterroot, Gospel Hump, 
Frank Church River of No Return, and Sawtooth Wilderness Areas; and 
adjacent, mostly Federal, lands); and (3) the YNP area (including the 
Absaroka-Beartooth, North Absaroka, Washakie, and Teton Wilderness 
Areas; and adjacent public and private lands). That plan recommended 
that wolf establishment not be promoted outside these distinct recovery 
areas, but it encouraged connectivity between recovery areas. However, 
no attempts were made to prevent wolf pack establishment outside of the 
recovery areas unless chronic conflict required resolution (Service 
1994, pp. 1-15, 16; Service 1999, p. 2). Since completion of the 1987 
recovery plan, we have expended considerable effort to develop, 
repeatedly reevaluate, and when necessary modify, the recovery goals 
(Service 1987, p. 12; Service 1994, Appendix 8 and 9; Fritts and Carbyn 
1995, p. 26; Bangs 2002, p. 1; 73 FR 10514, February 27, 2008; 74 FR 
15123, April 2, 2009, and this proposed rule).
    The 1994 Environmental Impact Statement on The Reintroduction of 
Gray Wolves to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho (EIS) 
reviewed wolf recovery in the NRM region and the adequacy of the 
recovery goals to assure that the 1987 goals were sufficient (Service 
1994, pp. 6:68-78). We were particularly concerned about the 1987 
definition of a breeding pair, since any male and female wolf are 
`capable' of producing offspring and lone wolves may not have 
territories. We also believed the relatively small recovery areas 
identified in the 1987 plan greatly reduced the amount of area that 
could be used by wolves and would almost certainly eliminate the 
opportunity for meaningful natural demographic and genetic 
connectivity. We conducted a thorough literature review of wolf 
population viability analysis and minimum viable populations, reviewed 
the recovery goals for other wolf populations, surveyed the opinions of 
the top 43 wolf experts in North America (of which 25 responded), and 
incorporated our own expertise into a review of the NRM wolf recovery 
goal. We published our analysis in the EIS and a peer-reviewed paper 
(Service 1994, Appendix 8 & 9; Fritts and Carbyn 1995, pp. 26-38).
    Our 1994 analysis concluded that the 1987 recovery goal was, at 
best, a minimum recovery goal, and that modifications were warranted on 
the basis of more recent information about wolf distribution, 
connectivity, and numbers. We also concluded ``Data on survival of 
actual wolf populations suggest greater resiliency than indicated by 
theory'' and theoretical treatments of population viability ``have 
created unnecessary dilemmas for wolf recovery programs by overstating 
the required population size'' (Fritts and Carbyn 1995, p. 26). Based 
on our analysis, we redefined a breeding pair as an adult male and an 
adult female wolf that have produced at least 2 pups that survived 
until December 31 of the year of their birth, during the previous 
breeding season. We also concluded that ``Thirty or more breeding pairs 
comprising some 300+ wolves in a metapopulation (a population that 
exists as partially isolated sets of subpopulations) with genetic 
exchange between subpopulations should have a high

[[Page 61790]]

probability of long-term persistence'' because it would contain enough 
individuals in successfully reproducing packs that were distributed 
over distinct but somewhat connected large areas, to be viable for the 
longterm (Service 1994, p. 6:75). We explicitly stated the required 
genetic exchange could occur by natural means or by human-assisted 
migration management and that dispersal of wolves between recovery 
areas was evidence of that genetic exchange (Service et al. 1994, 
Appendix 8, 9). In defining a ``Recovered Wolf Population'' we found 
``in the northern Rockies a recovered wolf population is 10 breeding 
pairs of wolves in each of 3 areas for 3 successive years with some 
level of movement between areas'' (Service 1994, pp. 6-7). We further 
determined that a metapopulation of this size and distribution among 
the three areas of core suitable habitat in the NRM DPS would result in 
a wolf population that would fully achieve our recovery objectives.
    For more than 15 years, we have concluded that movement of 
individuals between the metapopulation segments could occur either 
naturally or by human-assisted migration management (Service 1994, pp. 
7-67). Specifically, the 1994 EIS stated ``The importance of movement 
of individuals between sub-populations cannot be overemphasized. The 
dispersal ability of wolves makes such movement likely, unless wolves 
were heavily exploited between recovery areas, as could happen in the 
more developed corridor between central Idaho and YNP. Intensive 
migration management might become necessary if 1 of the 3 sub-
populations should develop genetic or demographic problems.'' (Service 
1994, pp. 7-67). The finding went on to say that human-assisted 
migration should not be viewed negatively and would be necessary in 
other wolf recovery programs (Service 1994, pp. 7-67). Furthermore, we 
found that the 1987 wolf recovery plan's population goal of 10 breeding 
pairs of wolves in 3 separate recovery areas for 3 consecutive years 
was reasonably sound and would maintain a viable wolf population into 
the foreseeable future. We did caution that the numerical recovery goal 
was somewhat conservative, and should be considered minimal (Service 
1994, pp. 6-75).
    We conducted another review of what constitutes a recovered wolf 
population in late 2001 and early 2002 to reevaluate and update our 
1994 analysis and conclusions (Service 1994, Appendix 9). We attempted 
to resurvey the same 43 experts we had contacted in 1994 as well as 43 
other biologists from North America and Europe who were recognized 
experts about wolves and conservation biology. We asked experts with a 
wide diversity of perspectives to participate in our review. In total, 
53 people provided their expert opinion regarding a wide range of 
issues related to the NRM recovery goal. We also reviewed a wide range 
of literature, including wolf population viability analyses from other 
areas (Bangs 2002, pp. 1-9).
    Despite varied professional opinions and a great diversity of 
suggestions, experts overwhelmingly thought the recovery goal derived 
in our 1994 analysis was more biologically appropriate than the 1987 
recovery plan's criteria for recovery and represented a viable and 
recovered wolf population. Reviewers also thought genetic exchange, 
either natural or human-facilitated, was important to maintaining the 
metapopulation configuration and wolf population viability. Reviewers 
also believed the proven ability of a breeding pair to show successful 
reproduction was a necessary component of a biologically meaningful 
breeding pair definition. Reviewers recommended other concepts/numbers 
for recovery goals, but most were slight modifications to those we 
recommended in our 1994 analysis. While experts strongly (78 percent) 
supported our 1994 conclusions regarding a viable wolf population, they 
also tended to believe that wolf population viability was enhanced by 
higher, rather than lower, population levels and longer, rather than 
shorter, demonstrated timeframes.
    A common minority recommendation was an alternative goal of 500 
wolves and 5 years. A slight majority of reviewers indicated that even 
the 1987 recovery goal of only 10 breeding pairs (defined as a male and 
female capable of breeding) in each of 3 distinct recovery areas may be 
viable, given the persistence of other small wolf populations in other 
parts of the world. The results of previous population viability 
analyses for other wolf populations varied widely, and as we had 
concluded in our 1994 analysis, reviewers in 2002 concluded theoretical 
results were strongly dependent on the variables and assumptions used 
in such models and conclusions often predicted different outcomes than 
actual empirical data had conclusively demonstrated. Based on that 
review, we reaffirmed our more relevant and stringent 1994 definition 
of wolf breeding pairs, population viability, and recovery (Service 
1994, p. 6:75; Bangs 2002, pp. 1-9).
    We measure the wolf recovery goal by the number of breeding pairs 
as well as by the number of wolves because wolf populations are 
maintained by packs that successfully raise pups. We use ``breeding 
pairs'' (packs that have at least one adult male and at least one adult 
female and that raised at least two pups until December 31) to describe 
successfully reproducing packs (Service 1994, p. 6:67; Bangs 2002, pp. 
7-8; Mitchell et al. 2008, p. 881; Mitchell et al. 2010, p. 101). The 
breeding pair metric includes most of the important biological concepts 
in wolf conservation, including the potential disruption of human-
caused mortality that might affect breeding success in social 
carnivores (Brainerd et al. 2008, p. 89; Wallach et al. 2009, p. 1; 
Creel and Rotella 2010, p. 1). Specifically, we thought it was 
important for breeding pairs to have: both male and female members 
together going into the February breeding season; successful occupation 
of a distinct territory (generally 500-1,300 km\2\ (200-500 mi\2\) and 
almost always in suitable habitat; enough pups to replace themselves; 
offspring that become yearling dispersers; at least four wolves 
following the point in the year with the highest mortality rates 
(summer and fall); all social structures and age classes represented 
within a wolf population; and adults that can raise and mentor younger 
wolves.
    We also have determined that an equitable distribution of wolf 
breeding pairs and individual wolves among the three States and the 
three recovery zones is an essential part of achieving recovery. Like 
peer reviewers in 1994 and 2002, we concluded that NRM wolf recovery 
and long-term wolf population viability is dependent on its 
distribution as well as maintaining the minimum numbers of breeding 
pairs and wolves. While uniform distribution is not necessary, a well-
distributed population with no one State/recovery area maintaining a 
disproportionately low number of packs or number of individual wolves 
is needed. This approach will maintain wolf distribution in and 
adjacent to all three recovery areas and most of the region's suitable 
habitat. Such an approach will facilitate natural connectivity.
    Following the 2002 review of our recovery criteria, we began to use 
States, in addition to recovery areas, to measure progress toward 
recovery goals (Service et al. 2003-2011, Table 4). Because Montana, 
Idaho, and Wyoming each contain the vast majority of one of the 
original three core recovery areas, we determined the metapopulation 
structure would be best conserved by

[[Page 61791]]

equally dividing the overall recovery goal between the three States (73 
FR 10514, February 27, 2008, p. 10522). This approach made each State's 
responsibility for wolf conservation fair, consistent, and clear. It 
avoided any possible confusion that one State might assume the 
responsibility for maintaining the required number of wolves and wolf 
breeding pairs in a shared recovery area that was the responsibility of 
the adjacent State. State regulatory authorities and traditional 
management of resident game populations occur on a State-by-State 
basis. We determined that management by State would still maintain a 
robust wolf population in each core recovery area because they each 
contain manmade or natural refugia from human-caused mortality (e.g., 
National Parks, wilderness areas, and remote Federal lands) that 
guarantee those areas remain the stronghold for wolf breeding pairs and 
source of dispersing wolves in each State. Recovery targets by State 
promote connectivity and genetic exchange between the metapopulation 
segments by avoiding management that focuses solely on wolf breeding 
pairs in relatively distinct core recovery areas. This approach also 
will increase the numbers of potential wolf breeding pairs in the GYA 
because it is shared by all three States. A large and well-distributed 
population within the GYA is especially important because it is the 
most isolated recovery segment within the NRM DPS (Oakleaf et al. 2005, 
p. 554; vonHoldt et al. 2007, p. 19) and the southern tip of a larger 
western gray wolf population that now contains more than 14,000 wolves 
when combined with western Canada (Boitani 2003, p. 322).
    The numerical component of the recovery goal represents the minimum 
number of breeding pairs and individual wolves needed to achieve and 
maintain recovery. To ensure that the NRM wolf population always 
exceeds the recovery goal of 30 breeding pairs and 300 wolves, we 
required that each State manage for at least 15 breeding pairs and at 
least 150 wolves in mid-winter in accordance with a step-down 
management objective. This 50 percent safety margin above minimum 
recovery levels was intended to provide an adequate safety margin 
recognizing that all wildlife populations, including wolves, can 
fluctuate widely over a relatively short period of time. Managing for a 
buffer above the minimum recovery target is consistent with our 1994 
determination that the addition of a few extra pairs would add security 
to the population and should be considered in the post-EIS management 
planning (Service 1994, pp. 6-75). Additionally, because the recovery 
goal components are measured in mid-winter when the wolf population is 
near its annual low point, the average annual wolf population will be 
higher than these minimal goals.
    Because Wyoming, unlike Montana and Idaho, has a large portion of 
its wolf population in areas outside the State's control (e.g., YNP and 
the Wind River Indian Reservation), we developed an alternative 
approach for Wyoming to achieve the desired safety margin above the 
minimum recovery goal. Specifically, we determined that at least 10 
breeding pairs and at least 100 wolves at mid-winter in Wyoming outside 
YNP and the Wind River Indian Reservation will satisfy Wyoming's 
contribution to NRM gray wolf recovery. Under this approach, the wolf 
populations in YNP and the Wind River Indian Reservation will provide 
the remaining buffer above the minimum recovery goal intended by the 
step-down management objective employed in Montana and Idaho (i.e., 
population targets 50 percent above minimum recovery levels).
    Wyoming's wolf population will be further buffered because WGFD 
intends to maintain an adequate buffer above minimum population 
objectives to accommodate management needs and ensure uncontrollable 
sources of mortality do not drop the population below the 10 breeding 
pair and 100 wolf minimum population level. The State of Wyoming is 
also committed to coordinate with YNP and the Wind River Indian 
Reservation to contribute to the step-down recovery target of at least 
15 breeding pairs and at least 150 wolves statewide, including YNP and 
the Wind River Indian Reservation. In our view, this alternative 
approach to the step-down wolf population target in Wyoming is 
biologically superior to a single statewide standard in that: It 
provides population stability outside the park, minimizing the chances 
of a bad year in YNP compromising maintenance of the recovery goal 
(such a scenario is described in our 2009 delisting rule's analysis of 
Wyoming's 2007 wolf plan (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009)); It adds an 
extra layer of representation, resiliency, and redundancy to the 
Greater Yellowstone Area's gray wolf population; and it builds public 
acceptance for a minimum wolf population outside YNP.
    To summarize, based on the information above, the current recovery 
goal for the NRM gray wolf population is: Thirty or more breeding pairs 
(an adult male and an adult female that raise at least 2 pups until 
December 31) comprising 300+ wolves well-distributed between Montana, 
Idaho, and Wyoming functioning as a metapopulation (a population that 
exists as partially isolated sets of subpopulations) with genetic 
exchange (either natural or, if necessary, agency-managed) between 
subpopulations. This overarching NRM recovery goal is stepped-down by 
State. The step-down recovery target requires Montana and Idaho to each 
maintain at least 10 breeding pairs and at least 100 wolves by managing 
for a safety margin of at least 15 breeding pairs and at least 150 
wolves in mid-winter. In Wyoming, the step-down recovery target is at 
least 10 breeding pairs and at least 100 wolves primarily within the 
State's jurisdiction while the YNP and the Wind River Indian 
Reservation provide the remainder of the buffer above the minimum 
recovery goal. Our recovery and post-delisting management goals were 
designed to provide the NRM gray wolf population with sufficient 
representation, resilience, and redundancy for their long-term 
conservation. After evaluating all available information, we conclude 
that the best scientific and commercial information available indicates 
the population will remain viable following delisting if the recovery 
targets continue to be met.
    Monitoring and Managing Recovery--In 1989, we formed an Interagency 
Wolf Working Group (Working Group) composed of Federal, State, and 
Tribal agency personnel (Bangs 1991, p. 7; Fritts et al. 1995, p. 109; 
Service et al. 1989-2009, p. 1). The Working Group conducted four basic 
recovery tasks (Service et al. 1989-2009, pp. 1-2), in addition to the 
standard enforcement functions associated with the take of a listed 
species. These tasks were: (1) Monitor wolf distribution and numbers; 
(2) control wolves that attacked livestock by moving them, conducting 
other nonlethal measures, or by killing them (Bangs et al. 2006, p. 7); 
(3) conduct research and publish scientific publications on wolf 
relationships to ungulate prey, other carnivores and scavengers, 
livestock, and people; and (4) provide accurate science-based 
information to the public and mass media so that people could develop 
their opinions about wolves and wolf management from an informed 
perspective.
    The size and distribution of the wolf population is estimated by 
the Working Group each year and, along with other information, is 
published in an interagency annual report (Service et al.

[[Page 61792]]

1989-2009, Table 4, Figure 1). Since the early 1980s, the Service and 
our cooperating partners have radio-collared and monitored 
approximately 2,000 wolves in the NRM region to assess population 
status, conduct research, and to reduce/resolve conflict with 
livestock. The Working Group's annual population estimates represent 
the best scientific and commercial data available regarding year-end 
NRM gray wolf population size and trends, as well as distributional and 
other information.
    Recovery by State--At the end of 2000, the NRM population first met 
its overall numerical and distributional recovery goal of a minimum of 
30 breeding pairs and more than 300 wolves well-distributed among 
Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming (68 FR 15804, April 1, 2003; Service et al. 
2011, Table 4). Because the recovery goal must be achieved for 3 
consecutive years, the temporal element of recovery was not achieved 
until the end of 2002 when 663 wolves and 49 breeding pairs were 
present (Service et al. 2003, Table 4). By the end of 2010, the NRM 
wolf population achieved its numerical and distributional recovery goal 
for 11 consecutive years (Service et al. 2001-2008, Table 4; 68 FR 
15804, April 1, 2003; 71 FR 6634, February 8, 2006). By the end of 
2010, the NRM gray wolf population included approximately 1,651 wolves 
(566 in Montana; 705 in Idaho; 343 in Wyoming; 16 in eastern 
Washington; 21 in eastern Oregon) in 111 breeding pairs (35 in Montana; 
46 in Idaho; 27 in Wyoming; 1 in Washington; 2 in Oregon). Distribution 
at the end of 2010 is illustrated in Figure 2. Population trends 
through the end of 2010 are illustrated in Figure 3.
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    Recovery by Recovery Area--As discussed previously, after the 2002 
peer review of the wolf recovery efforts, we began using States, in 
addition to recovery areas, to measure progress toward recovery goals 
(Service et al. 2003-2011, Table 4). However, because the 1987 Recovery 
Plan (Service 1987, pp. v, 12, 23) included goals for core recovery 
areas we have included the following discussion on the history of the 
recovery efforts and status of these core recovery areas, including how 
the wolf population's distribution and metapopulation structure is 
important to maintaining its viability and how the biological 
characteristics of each core recovery area differ (Service et al. 2011, 
Table 4).
    The Northwestern Montana Recovery Area's 84,800 km\2\ (33,386 
mi\2\) includes: Glacier National Park; the Great Bear, Bob Marshall, 
and Lincoln Scapegoat Wilderness Areas; and adjacent public and private 
lands in northern Montana and the northern Idaho panhandle. Wolves in 
this recovery area were listed and managed as endangered species. 
Wolves naturally recolonized this area from Canada. Reproduction first 
occurred in northwestern Montana in 1986 (Ream et al. 1989, entire). 
The natural ability of wolves to find and quickly recolonize empty 
habitat (Mech and Boitani 2003, pp. 17-19), the interim control plan 
(Service 1988, 1999, entire), and the interagency recovery program 
combined to effectively promote an increase in wolf numbers (Bangs 
1991, pp. 7-13). By 1996, the number of wolves had grown to about 70 
wolves in 7 known breeding pairs. However, from 1996 through 2004, the 
estimated number of breeding pairs and wolves in northwestern Montana 
fluctuated at a low level, partly due to actual population size and 
partly due to limited monitoring effort. However, since 2005, it has 
steadily increased (Service et al. 2011, Table 4). In 2010, we 
estimated 374 wolves in 24 breeding pairs in the northwestern Montana 
recovery area (Service et al. 2011, Table 4).
    The Northwestern Montana Recovery Area has sustained fewer wolves 
than the other recovery areas because there is less suitable habitat 
and it is more fragmented (Oakleaf et al. 2005. p. 560; Smith et al. 
2010, p. 622). Some of the variation in our wolf population estimates 
for northwestern Montana is also due to the difficulty of counting 
wolves in the area's thick forests. Wolves in northwestern Montana also 
prey mainly on white-tailed deer, resulting in smaller packs and 
territories, which lower the chances of detecting a pack (Bangs et al. 
1998, p. 878). Increased monitoring efforts in northwestern Montana by 
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) since 2005 were likely 
responsible for more accurate population estimates. Wolf numbers in 
2003 and 2004 also likely exceeded 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves, 
but were not documented simply due to less intensive monitoring those 
years (Service et al. 2011, Table 4). By the end of 2010, this recovery 
area contained more than 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves for the sixth 
consecutive year (2005-2010), and probably did so the last 9 years 
(2002-2010) (Service et al. 2011, Table 4).
    Routine dispersal of wolves has been documented among northwestern 
Montana, central Idaho, and adjacent Canadian populations demonstrating 
that northwestern Montana's wolves are demographically and genetically 
linked to both the wolf population in Canada and in central Idaho 
(Pletscher et al. 1991, pp. 547-548; Boyd and Pletscher 1999, pp. 1105-
1106; Sime 2007, p. 4; vonHoldt et al. 2010, p. 4412; Jimenez et al. 
2011, p. 1). Because of fairly contiguous but fractured suitable 
habitat, wolves dispersing into northwestern Montana from both 
directions will continue to join or form new packs and supplement this 
segment of the overall wolf population (Forbes and Boyd 1996, p. 1082; 
Forbes and Boyd 1997, p. 1226; Boyd et al. 1995, p. 140; vonHoldt et 
al. 2007, p. 19; vonHoldt et al. 2010; Thiessen 2007, p. 50; Sime 2007, 
p. 4, Jimenez et al. 2011, p. 1).
    Unlike YNP or the central Idaho Wilderness complex, northwestern 
Montana lacks a large core refugium that contains large numbers of 
overwintering wild ungulates and few livestock. Therefore, wolf numbers 
may not ever be as high in northwestern Montana as they are in the 
central Idaho or the GYA recovery areas. However, that population 
segment has persisted for nearly 20 years, is robust today, and habitat 
there is capable of supporting hundreds of wolves (Service et al. 2011, 
Table 4). State management, pursuant to the Montana State wolf 
management plan (2003), will ensure this population segment continues 
to thrive (see Factor D).
    The Central Idaho Recovery Area's 53,600 km\2\ (20,700 mi\2\) 
includes: The Selway-Bitterroot, Gospel Hump, Frank Church River of No 
Return, and Sawtooth Wilderness Areas; adjacent, mostly Federal lands, 
in central Idaho; and adjacent parts of southwestern Montana (Service 
1994, p. iv). In January 1995, 15 young adult wolves from Alberta, 
Canada, were released in central Idaho (Bangs and Fritts 1996, p. 409; 
Fritts et al. 1997, p. 7). In January 1996, an additional 20 wolves 
from British Columbia were released (Bangs et al. 1998, p. 787). 
Central Idaho contains the greatest amount of highly suitable wolf 
habitat compared to either northwestern Montana or the GYA (Oakleaf et 
al. 2005, p. 559). Consequently, the central Idaho area population has 
grown substantially and expanded its range since reintroduction. As in 
the Northwestern Montana Recovery Area, some of the Central Idaho 
Recovery Area's increase in its wolf population estimate beginning in 
2005 was likely due to an increased monitoring effort by Idaho 
Department of Fish and Game (IDFG). In 2010, the population appears to 
have declined, but some of the estimated decline was likely due to 
difficult monitoring conditions in the most remote and inaccessible 
areas of central Idaho. We estimated 739 wolves in 47 breeding pairs in 
the central Idaho recovery area at the end of 2010 (Service et al. 
2011, Table 4). This recovery area has contained at least 10 breeding 
pairs and 100 wolves for 13 consecutive years (1998-2010) (Service et 
al. 2011; Table 4).
    The GYA recovery area (63,700 km\2\ (24,600 mi\2\)) includes 
portions of southeastern Montana, eastern Idaho, and northwestern 
Wyoming. Portions of Wyoming that are occupied by wolves (Figure 1 
above) include: most of YNP, Grand Teton National Park, and John D. 
Rockefeller Memorial Parkway; the Absaroka Beartooth, Bridger, 
Fitzpatrick, Gros Ventre, Jedediah Smith, North Absaroka, Popo Agie, 
Teton, Washakie, and Winegar Hole Wilderness Areas; the Dubois 
Badlands, Owl Creek, Scab Creek, and Whiskey Mountain Wilderness Study 
Areas; and adjacent public and private lands (Service 1994, p. iv). 
Much of the wilderness portions of the GYA are primarily used 
seasonally by wolves due to high elevation, deep snow, and low 
productivity (in terms of sustaining year-round wild ungulate 
populations) (Service et al. 2011, Figure 3). In 1995, 14 wolves 
representing 3 family groups from Alberta were released in YNP (Bangs 
and Fritts 1996, p. 409; Fritts et al. 1997, p. 7; Phillips and Smith 
1996, pp. 33-43). In 1996, this procedure was repeated with 17 wolves 
representing 4 family groups from British Columbia. Finally, 10 pups 
were removed from northwestern Montana in a wolf control action and 
released in YNP in the spring of 1997 (Bangs et al. 1998, p. 787). Two 
of these pups became breeding adults and their genetic signature is 
common

[[Page 61796]]

both in YNP and the GYA (VonHoldt et al. 2008, entire; vonHoldt et al. 
2010, p. 4421). We estimated 501 wolves were in 37 breeding pairs in 
the GYA at the end of 2010 (Service et al. 2011, Table 4). By the end 
of 2010, this recovery area had at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 
wolves for 11 consecutive years (2000-2010) (Service et al. 2011, Table 
4).
    Wolf numbers in the GYA were relatively stable from 2007 through 
2009, as were breeding pairs (Service et al. 2011, Table 4). The GYA 
population grew to 501 wolves and 37 breeding pairs in 2010, primarily 
because numbers of wolves outside YNP in Wyoming grew while wolves in 
YNP have declined from 171 wolves in 16 known breeding pairs in 2004 to 
97 wolves in 7 breeding pairs in 2010 (Service et al. 2005, 2011, 
Tables 2, 4). This decline likely occurred because: (1) Highly suitable 
habitat in YNP was saturated with wolf packs; (2) conflict among packs 
appeared to limit population density; (3) fewer elk occur in YNP than 
when reintroduction took place (White and Garrott 2006, p. 942; 
Vucetich et al. 2005, p. 259); and (4) suspected outbreaks of disease 
in 2005 and 2008 (canine distemper (CD) or possibly canine parvovirus 
(CPV)) reduced pup survival to 20 percent) (Service et al. 2006, 2009, 
2011, Table 2; Smith et al. 2006, p. 244; Smith and Almberg 2007, pp. 
17-20: Almberg et al. 2010, p. 2058). Since 2008, YNP has also seen a 
relatively high number of wolves killing other wolves and a high 
mortality rate among pups. YNP predicts wolf numbers in YNP may decline 
further and settle into a lower equilibrium long term (Smith 2010, 
pers. comm.). Additional significant growth in the National Park and 
Wilderness portions of the Wyoming wolf population above 150 wolves is 
unlikely because suitable wolf habitat is saturated with resident wolf 
packs. Maintaining wolf populations safely above recovery levels and 
promoting demographic and genetic exchange in the GYA segment of the 
NRM DPS will depend on wolf packs living outside the National Park and 
Wilderness portions of northwestern Wyoming and southwestern Montana 
(vonHoldt et al. 2010, p. 4422).
    Genetic Exchange Relative to our Recovery Criteria--Finally, as 
noted above, the recovery criteria requires the NRM DPS function as a 
metapopulation (a population that exists as partially isolated sets of 
subpopulations) with genetic exchange between subpopulations. The 
available data conclusively demonstrate that this portion of the 
recovery criteria (i.e., ``genetic exchange'') is met. Specifically, 
vonHoldt et al. (2010, p. 4412) demonstrated 5.4 effective migrants per 
generation among all three subpopulations from 1995 through 2004 when 
the NRM region contained between 101 and 846 wolves. This issue is 
discussed further in Factor E below.
    Conclusion on Progress Towards our Recovery Goals--Given the above 
best available scientific and commercial information, we consider all 
prongs of the recovery criteria met. The numeric and distributional 
components of the overarching recovery goal has been exceeded for 11 
consecutive years. Furthermore, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming have each 
individually met or exceeded the minimum per-State recovery targets 
every year since at least 2002 and met or exceeded the step-down 
management goals every year since at least 2004. It is also worth 
noting that each of the recovery areas (which were originally used to 
measure progress towards recovery) have been documented at or above 10 
breeding pairs and 100 wolves every year since 2005 (and probably 
exceeded these levels every year since 2002) (Service et al. 2011, 
Table 4). Finally, the available evidence demonstrates that the NRM 
gray wolf population is functioning as a metapopulation with robust 
levels of gene flow between subpopulations. Thus, we consider the 
population recovered.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and implementing regulations 
(50 CFR part 424) set forth procedures for adding species to, removing 
species from, or reclassifying species on the Federal Lists of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of 
the Act, a species may be determined to be endangered or threatened 
based on any of the following five factors: (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. We must consider these same five 
factors in delisting decisions (50 CFR 424.11(d)). However, in 
delisting decisions, this analysis of threats is an evaluation of both 
the threats currently facing the species and the threats that are 
reasonably likely to affect the species in the foreseeable future 
following the delisting and the removal or reduction of the Act's 
protections.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the exposure of the species to a particular factor to evaluate 
whether the species may respond to the factor in a way that causes 
actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor and the 
species responds negatively, the factor may be a threat, and during the 
status review, we attempt to determine how significant a threat it is. 
The threat is significant if it drives or contributes to the risk of 
extinction of the species such that the species warrants listing as 
endangered or threatened as those terms are defined by the Act. 
However, the identification of factors that could impact a species 
negatively may not be sufficient to compel a finding that the species 
warrants listing. The information must include evidence sufficient to 
suggest that the potential threat is likely to materialize and that it 
has the capacity (i.e., it should be of sufficient magnitude and 
extent) to affect the species' status such that it meets the definition 
of endangered or threatened under the Act.
    Given the above, the following analysis examines the five factors 
affecting, or likely to affect, Wyoming wolves within the foreseeable 
future. This analysis includes a discussion of the larger GYA or NRM 
metapopulation, which is necessary to understand impacts to wolves in 
Wyoming.

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

    This analysis evaluates the entire State of Wyoming, and within 
Wyoming we focus primarily on suitable habitat, currently occupied 
areas, and the WTGMA. Within Wyoming, we also examine unsuitable 
habitat. Habitat suitability is based on biological features that 
impact the ability of wolf packs to persist. Outside of Wyoming, this 
analysis looks at areas between the three recovery areas to inform our 
understanding of current and future connectivity, with particular focus 
on the central Idaho to GYA dispersal corridor. We analyze a number of 
potential threats to wolf habitat including increased human populations 
and development (including oil and gas), connectivity, ungulate 
populations, and livestock grazing.
    Suitable Habitat--Wolves once occupied or transited all of Wyoming. 
However, much of the wolf's historical range within this area has been 
modified for human use. While lone wolves can travel through, or 
temporarily live, almost anywhere (Jimenez et al. 2011, p. 1), much of 
Wyoming is no longer suitable habitat to

[[Page 61797]]

support wolf packs and wolf breeding pairs (Oakleaf et al. 2006, p. 
559; Carroll et al. 2006, p. 32). We have reviewed the quality, 
quantity, and distribution of habitat relative to the biological 
requirements of wolves. In doing so, we reviewed two models, Oakleaf et 
al. (2006, pp. 555-558) and Carroll et al. (2003, pp. 536-548; 2006, 
pp. 27-31), to help us gauge the current amount and distribution of 
suitable wolf habitat in Wyoming. Both models ranked habitat as 
``suitable'' if they had characteristics that indicated they might have 
a 50 percent or greater chance of supporting wolf packs. Suitable wolf 
habitat was typically characterized in both models as public land with 
mountainous, forested habitat that contains abundant year-round wild 
ungulate populations, low road density, low numbers of domestic 
livestock that are only present seasonally, few domestic sheep, low 
agricultural use, and few people. Unsuitable wolf habitat was typically 
just the opposite (i.e., private land, flat open prairie or desert, low 
or seasonal wild ungulate populations, high road density, high numbers 
of year-round domestic livestock including many domestic sheep, high 
levels of agricultural use, and many people). Despite their 
similarities, these two models had differences in the area analyzed, 
layers, inputs, and assumptions. As a result, the Oakleaf et al. (2006, 
p. 559) and Carroll et al. (2006, p. 33) models predicted different 
amounts of theoretically suitable wolf habitat in areas examined by 
both models.
    Oakleaf's model was a more intensive effort that looked at 
potential wolf habitat in the NRM region (Oakleaf et al. 2005, p. 555). 
To comprise its geographic information system layers, the model used 
roads accessible to two-wheel and four-wheel vehicles, topography 
(slope and elevation), land ownership, relative ungulate density (based 
on State harvest statistics), cattle (Bos sp.) and sheep density, 
vegetation characteristics (ecoregions and land cover), and human 
density. Oakleaf analyzed the characteristics of areas occupied and not 
occupied by NRM wolf packs through 2000 to predict what other areas in 
the NRM region might be suitable or unsuitable for future wolf pack 
formation (Oakleaf et al. 2005, p. 555). In total, Oakleaf et al. 
(2006, p. 559) ranked 28,725 km\2\ (11,091 mi\2\) as suitable wolf 
habitat in Wyoming.
    Carroll's model analyzed a much larger area (all 12 western States 
and northern Mexico) in a less specific way than Oakleaf's model 
(Carroll et al. 2006, pp. 27-31). Carroll's model used density and type 
of roads, human population density and distribution, slope, and 
vegetative greenness to estimate relative ungulate density to predict 
associated wolf survival and fecundity rates (Carroll et al. 2006, p. 
29). These factors were used to develop estimates of habitat 
theoretically suitable for wolf pack persistence. In addition, Carroll 
predicted the potential effect of increased road development and human 
density expected by 2025 on suitable wolf habitat (Carroll et al. 2006, 
pp. 30-31). In total, Carroll et al. (2006, pp. 27-31) ranked 77,202 
km\2\ (29,808 mi\2\) in Wyoming as suitable habitat. According to the 
Carroll model, approximately 30 percent of Wyoming would be ranked as 
suitable wolf habitat (Carroll et al. 2006, pp. 27-31).
    The Carroll et al. (2006, pp. 31-34) model tended to be more 
generous than the Oakleaf (et al. 2006, pp. 558-560) model in 
identifying suitable wolf habitat. Based on empirical wolf data over 
our 17 years of experience in Wyoming, we have determined Oakleaf's 
projections were more realistic. However, due to the large area 
analyzed, Carroll's model provided a valuable relative measure across 
the western United States upon which comparisons could be made. The 
Carroll model did not incorporate livestock density into its 
calculations as the Oakleaf model did (Carroll et al. 2006, pp. 27-29; 
Oakleaf et al. 2005, p. 556). Thus, that model did not consider those 
conditions where wolf mortality is high and habitat unsuitable because 
of chronic conflict with livestock. A growing body of literature 
suggests, per individual, wolves cause more economic damage to 
livestock than any other large predator in North America (Oakleaf et 
al. 2003, p. 299; Collinge 2008, p. 129; Ashcroft et al. 2009, p. 1; 
Muhly et al. 2010, p. 1243; Sommers et al. 2010, p. 1425; Breck et al. 
2011, p. 1). During the past 17 years, Wyoming wolf packs have been 
unable to persist in areas intensively used for livestock production, 
primarily because of agency control of problem wolves and illegal 
killing.
    Many of the more isolated primary habitat patches that the Carroll 
model predicted as currently suitable were predicted to be unsuitable 
by the year 2025, indicating they were likely on the lower end of what 
ranked as suitable habitat in that model (Carroll et al. 2006, p. 32). 
Because these areas were typically too small to support breeding pairs 
and too isolated from the core population to receive enough dispersing 
wolves to overcome high mortality rates, we do not believe these areas 
are currently suitable habitat based upon our data on Wyoming wolf pack 
persistence for the past 17 years (Bangs 1991, p. 9; Bangs et al. 1998, 
p. 788; Service et al. 1999-2011, Figure 1).
    Despite differences in each model's analysis area, layers, inputs, 
and assumptions, both models predicted that most suitable wolf habitat 
in Wyoming was in the GYA, which is the area currently occupied by 
wolves in Wyoming. These models are useful in understanding the 
relative proportions and distributions of various habitat 
characteristics and their relationships to wolf pack persistence. Both 
models generally support our earlier predictions about wolf habitat 
suitability in the GYA (Service 1980, p. 9; 1987, p. 7; 1994, p. vii). 
Because theoretical models only define suitable habitat as those areas 
that have characteristics with a 50 percent or greater probability of 
supporting wolf packs, the acreages of suitable habitat that they 
indicate can be successfully occupied are only estimates.
    The Carroll et al. (2006, p. 25) model also indicated that the GYA 
and neighboring population centers had habitat suitable for dispersal 
between them, and such habitat would remain relatively intact in the 
future. However, the GYA is the most isolated (Oakleaf et al. 2005, p. 
554). This conclusion is supported by dispersal and genetic exchange 
data (vonHoldt et al. 2010, p. 4420; Jimenez et al. 2011, p. 1). 
Collectively, the NRM DPS's three core areas are surrounded by large 
areas of habitat unsuitable for pack persistence (Service et al. 1999-
2011, Figure 1). We note that some surrounding habitat that is 
considered unsuitable for pack persistence is still important for 
maintaining effective migration through natural dispersal.
    Overall, we evaluated data from a number of sources on the location 
of suitable wolf habitat in developing our estimate of currently 
suitable wolf habitat. Specifically, we considered the recovery areas 
identified in the 1987 wolf recovery plan (Service 1987, p. 23), the 
primary analysis areas analyzed in the 1994 EIS for the GYA (63,700 
km\2\ (24,600 mi\2\) (Service 1994, p. iv), information derived from 
theoretical models by Carroll et al. (2006, p. 25) and Oakleaf et al. 
(2006, p. 554), our 17 years of field experience managing wolves in 
Wyoming, and locations of persistent wolf packs and breeding pairs 
since recovery has been achieved (Service et al. 1999-2011, Figure 1). 
Collectively, this evidence leads us to concur with the Oakleaf et al. 
(2006, p. 559) model's predictions that the most important habitat 
attributes for wolf pack persistence are forest cover, public land, 
high elk density, and low livestock

[[Page 61798]]

density. Therefore, we believe that Oakleaf's calculations of the 
amount and distribution of suitable wolf habitat available for 
persistent wolf pack formation, in the parts of Wyoming analyzed, 
represents the most scientifically accurate prediction of suitable wolf 
habitat in Wyoming (Oakleaf et al. 2006, p. 559).
    Generally, Wyoming's suitable habitat is located in the 
northwestern portion of the State. A comparison of actual wolf pack 
distribution in 2009 and 2010 (Service et al. 2010; 2011, Figure 1) to 
Oakleaf et al.'s (2006, p. 559) prediction of suitable habitat, 
indicates that nearly all suitable habitat in Wyoming is currently 
occupied and areas predicted to be unsuitable remain largely 
unoccupied. Of note, the permanent WTGMA (the only portion of Wyoming 
predicted to have resident wolf packs post-delisting) contains 76 
percent of the suitable habitat in Wyoming, which includes 81 percent 
of Wyoming's high-quality habitat (greater than 0.8) and 62 percent of 
Wyoming' medium-high-quality habitat (0.5-0.799) (Oakleaf 2011, in 
litt.).
    Although Carroll determined there may be some additional suitable 
wolf habitat in Wyoming beyond the area Oakleaf analyzed, we believe it 
is marginally suitable at best, and is insignificant to NRM DPS, GYA, 
or Wyoming wolf population recovery, because it occurs in small, 
isolated, and fragmented areas and is unlikely to support many, if any, 
persistent breeding pairs. While some areas in Wyoming predicted to be 
unsuitable habitat by the above models have been temporarily occupied 
and used by wolves or even packs, we still consider these areas as 
largely unsuitable habitat because wolf packs in such areas have failed 
to persist long enough to be categorized as breeding pairs and 
successfully contribute toward recovery. Therefore, we consider such 
areas as unsuitable habitat and conclude that dispersing wolves 
attempting to colonize those areas are unlikely to form breeding pairs, 
persist long enough to raise yearlings that can disperse to facilitate 
demographic and genetic exchange within the NRM DPS, or otherwise 
contribute to population recovery.
    Unoccupied Suitable Habitat--Habitat suitability modeling indicates 
that the GYA and central Idaho core recovery areas are atypical of 
other habitats in the western United States because suitable wolf 
habitat in these areas occurs in much larger contiguous blocks (Service 
1987, p. 7; Larson 2004, p. 49; Carroll et al. 2006, p. 35; Oakleaf et 
al. 2005, p. 559). Such core refugia areas provide a steady source of 
dispersing wolves that populate other adjoining potentially suitable 
wolf habitat. Some habitat ranked by models as suitable adjacent to 
this core refugia may be able to support wolf breeding pairs, while 
other habitat farther away from a strong source of dispersing wolves 
may not be able to support persistent packs. This fact is important 
when considering suitable habitat as defined by the Carroll et al. 
(2006, p. 30) and Oakleaf et al. (2006, p. 559) models, because wolf 
populations can persist despite very high rates of mortality only if 
they have high rates of immigration (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 183). 
Therefore, model predictions regarding habitat suitability do not 
always translate into successful wolf occupancy and wolf breeding 
pairs, just as habitat predicted to be unsuitable does not mean such 
areas will never support wolf breeding pairs.
    Strips and smaller (less than 2,600 km\2\ (1,000 mi\2\)) patches of 
theoretically suitable habitat (Carroll et al. 2006, p. 34; Oakleaf et 
al. 2005, p. 559) (typically, isolated mountain ranges) often possess a 
higher mortality risk for wolves because of their enclosure by, and 
proximity to, unsuitable habitat with a high mortality risk (Murray et 
al. 2010, p. 2514; Smith et al. 2010, p. 620). In addition, pack 
territories often form along distinct geological features (Mech and 
Boitani 2003, p. 23), such as the crest of a rugged mountain range, so 
useable space for wolves in isolated long narrow mountain ranges may be 
reduced by half or more. This phenomenon, in which the quality and 
quantity of suitable habitat is diminished because of interactions with 
surrounding less-suitable habitat, is known as an edge effect (Mills 
1995, pp. 400-401). Edge effects are exacerbated in small habitat 
patches with high perimeter-to-area ratios (i.e., those that are long 
and narrow, like isolated mountain ranges) and in species with large 
territories, like wolves, because they are more likely to encounter 
surrounding unsuitable habitat (Woodroffe and Ginsberg 1998, p. 2128). 
Because of edge effects, some habitat areas outside the core areas may 
rank as suitable in models, but are unlikely to actually be 
successfully occupied by wolf packs.
    For the above reasons, we believe that the Wyoming wolf population 
will be centered around YNP and the GYA. This was always the intention 
as indicated by the GYA recovery area identified in the 1987 Recovery 
Plan and the primary analysis area identified in the 1994 EIS. This 
core population segment will continue to provide a constant source of 
dispersing wolves into surrounding areas, supplementing wolf packs and 
breeding pairs in adjacent, but less secure suitable habitat.
    Currently Occupied Habitat--We calculated the currently occupied 
area in the NRM DPS wolf population by drawing a line around the outer 
points of radio-telemetry locations of all known wolf pack territories 
at the end of 2010 (Service et al. 2011, Figure 1). Since 2002, most 
packs have occurred within a consistent area (Service et al. 2003-2011, 
Figure 1), although the outer boundary of the entire NRM wolf 
population has fluctuated somewhat as peripheral packs establish in 
unsuitable or marginally suitable habitat and are subsequently lost 
(Messer 2011, pers. comm.). We define occupied wolf habitat as that 
area confirmed as being used by resident wolves to raise pups, or that 
is consistently used by two or more territorial wolves for longer than 
1 month (Service 1994, pp. 6:5-6). Typically by the end of a year, only 
50 percent of packs meet the criteria to be classified as breeding 
pairs.
    The overall distribution of most Wyoming wolf packs has been 
similar since 2000, despite a wolf population in the State that has 
more than doubled (Service et al. 2001-2011, Figure 1; Bangs et al. 
2009, p. 104). This distribution pattern of wolf packs only forming in 
mountainous forest habitat has persisted through 2010. The wolf 
population has saturated most suitable habitat in the State. Because 
packs are unlikely to persist in unsuitable habitat, significant growth 
in the population's distribution is unlikely. We include unoccupied 
areas separating areas with resident packs as occupied wolf habitat 
because these intervening unsuitable habitat areas are important for 
demographic and genetic connectivity (vonHoldt et al. 2010, p. 4412). 
While these areas are no longer capable of supporting persistent wolf 
packs, dispersing wolves routinely travel through these areas and packs 
occasionally occupy them (Service 1994, pp. 6:5-6; Bangs 2002, p. 3; 
Jimenez et al. 2011, p. 1).
    Occupied habitat in Wyoming occurs only in the northwestern part of 
the State (see Figure 1 above). At the end of 2010, ``occupied areas'' 
(including both pack occupied areas and unsuitable areas between core 
recovery segments used only for dispersal) were estimated at 
approximately 46,600 km\2\ (18,000 mi\2\) in Wyoming (Service et al. 
2005, Figure 1). Specifically, this occupied area extends slightly 
further east than the WTGMA, includes about the western-third of the 
Wind River Indian

[[Page 61799]]

Reservation, and extends south to about Big Piney, Wyoming. The 
occupied portion of Wyoming and the GYA is illustrated in Figure 1 
above.
    Since 2006, the Wyoming wolf population has stabilized at 
approximately 300 to 350 wolves (Service et al. 2011, Table 4). We 
believe this largely stable population level and distribution is the 
result of the wolf population approaching biological limits, given 
available suitable habitat. The remaining habitat predicted by 
Carroll's model is often fragmented, occurring in smaller, more 
isolated patches (Carroll et al. 2006, p. 35). These areas have only 
been occupied by a few breeding pairs that failed to persist (Service 
et al. 2011, Figure 1). Given the above, there is probably limited 
ability for the Wyoming wolf population to expand significantly beyond 
its current outer boundaries, even under continued protections of the 
Act. As demonstrated by the wolf population's demographic stability and 
relatively constant geographic occupancy in northwestern Wyoming, it is 
clear that there is sufficient suitable habitat to maintain the Wyoming 
wolf population well above recovery levels.
    Potential Threats Affecting Habitat or Range--Wolves are one of the 
most adaptable large predators in the world and are unlikely to be 
substantially impacted by any threat except high levels of human 
persecution (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 163; Boitani 2003, pp. 328-330). 
Even active wolf dens can be quite resilient to nonlethal disturbance 
by humans (Frame et al. 2007, p. 316). Establishing a recovered wolf 
population in the NRM region did not require land-use restrictions or 
curtailment of traditional land uses because there was enough suitable 
habitat, there were enough wild ungulates, and there were sufficiently 
few livestock conflicts to recover wolves under existing conditions 
(Bangs et al. 2004, pp. 95-96). Traditional land-use practices in 
Wyoming are not a threat to wolves in the State, and thus, do not need 
to be modified to maintain a recovered wolf population into the 
foreseeable future. We do not anticipate that habitat changes in 
Wyoming will occur at a magnitude that will threaten wolf recovery in 
the foreseeable future, because the vast majority of occupied habitat 
is in public ownership that is managed for uses that are complementary 
with the maintenance of suitable wolf habitat and viable wolf 
populations (Carroll et al. 2003, p. 542; Oakleaf et al. 2005, p. 560).
    The 63,714 km\2\ (24,600 mi\2\) GYA is primarily composed of public 
lands (Service 1994, p. iv), and represents one of the largest 
contiguous blocks of suitable habitat within the region. Public lands 
in National Parks (YNP, Grand Teton National Park, and John D. 
Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway), wilderness (the Absaroka Beartooth, 
North Absaroka, Washakie, and Teton Wilderness Areas), roadless areas, 
and large blocks of contiguous mountainous forested habitat, are 
largely unavailable or unsuitable for intensive development. Within the 
currently occupied portions of Wyoming, land ownership is mostly 
Federal (77 percent, 57 percent of which is National Park Service or 
wilderness) with some State (3 percent), Tribal (8 percent), and 
private lands (12 percent) (Lickfett 2011, in litt.).
    The vast majority of suitable wolf habitat and the current wolf 
population are secure in mountainous forested Federal public land 
(National Parks, wilderness, roadless areas, and some lands managed for 
multiple uses by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) 
that will not be legally available or suitable for intensive levels of 
human development (Service 1993, 1996, 2007; Servheen et al. 2003; U.S. 
Forest Service 2006). Furthermore, the ranges of wolves and grizzly 
bears overlap in many parts of Wyoming and the GYA, and mandatory 
habitat guidelines for grizzly bear conservation on public lands 
guarantee, and far exceed, necessary criteria for maintaining suitable 
habitat for wolves (for an example, see U.S. Department of Agriculture 
(USDA) 2006). Thus, northwestern Wyoming will continue to provide 
optimal suitable habitat for a resident wolf population.
    The availability of native ungulate populations is a key factor in 
wolf habitat and range. Wild ungulate prey species are composed mainly 
of elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, and bison. Bighorn sheep, 
mountain goats, and pronghorn antelope also are common, but are not 
important as wolf prey. In total, Wyoming supports about 50,000 elk and 
about 90,000 mule deer in northwestern Wyoming (Bruscino 2011, in 
litt.). All of Wyoming's 35 elk management units are at or above the 
WGFD numeric objectives for those herds; however, calf/cow ratios in 
several herd units are below desired levels (WGFD 2010, p. 1). The 
State of Wyoming has successfully managed resident ungulate populations 
for decades. With managers and scientists collaborating to determine 
the source of the potential population fluctuations and appropriate 
management responses, we feel confident that, although different herds 
may experience differing population dynamics, the GYA will continue to 
support large populations of ungulates, and Wyoming will continue to 
maintain ungulate populations at densities that will continue to 
support a recovered wolf population well into the foreseeable future.
    The presence of cattle and sheep also impact wolf habitat and 
range. Cattle and sheep are at least twice as numerous as wild 
ungulates, even on public lands (Service 1994, p. viii). Most wolf 
packs have at least some interaction with livestock. Wolves and 
livestock can live near one another for extended periods of time 
without significant conflict, if agency control prevents the behavior 
of chronic livestock depredation from becoming widespread in the wolf 
population. Through active management, most wolves learn that livestock 
cannot be successfully attacked and do not view them as prey. However, 
whenever wolves and livestock mix, some livestock and some wolves will 
be killed. Conflicts between wolves and livestock have resulted in the 
annual removal of 8 to 15 percent of the wolf population (Bangs et al. 
1995, p. 130; Bangs et al. 2004, p. 92; Bangs et al. 2005, pp. 342-344; 
Service et al. 2011, Tables 4, 5; Smith et al. 2010, p. 620). Such 
active control promotes occupancy of suitable habitat in a manner that 
minimizes damage to private property, and fosters public support to 
maintain recovered wolf populations without threatening the wolf 
population viability.
    We do not foresee a substantial increase in livestock abundance 
occurring across northwestern Wyoming that would result in increased 
wolf mortality, and in fact, the opposite trend has been occurring. In 
recent years, more than 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) of public land 
grazing allotments have been purchased and retired in areas of chronic 
conflict between livestock and large predators, including wolves 
(Fischer 2008, in litt.). Assuming adequate regulation of other 
potential threat factors (discussed below), we do not believe the 
continued presence of livestock will in any meaningful way threaten the 
recovered status of the Wyoming wolf population in the foreseeable 
future.
    Although human population growth and development may impact wolf 
habitat and range, we expect these impacts will be minimal, as the 
amount of secure suitable habitat is more than sufficient to support 
wolf breeding pairs well above recovery levels. We expect the region 
will see: Increased growth and development including conversion of 
private low-density rural lands to higher density urban and suburban 
development; accelerated road

[[Page 61800]]

development and increasing amounts of transportation facilities 
(pipelines and energy transmission lines); additional resource 
extraction (primarily oil and gas, coal, and wind development in 
certain areas); and increased recreation on public lands (Robbins 2007, 
entire). Despite efforts to minimize impacts to wildlife (Brown 2006, 
pp. 1-3), some development will make some areas of Wyoming and the GYA 
less suitable for wolf occupancy. In the six northwestern Wyoming 
counties most used by wolves, the human population is projected to 
increase approximately 15 percent by 2030 (from 122,787 counted in 2010 
to 141,000 forecast in 2030) (Carroll et al. 2006, p. 536; Wyoming 
Department of Administration and Information Economic Analysis Division 
2008, entire; U.S. Census Bureau 2010, entire). We anticipate similar 
levels of population growth in the other neighboring areas, because the 
West as a region is projected to increase at rates faster than any 
other region (U.S. Census Bureau Population Division 2005). As human 
populations increase, associated impacts will follow. However, human 
development will not occur on a scale that could possibly affect the 
overall suitability of Wyoming or the GYA for wolves, and no 
foreseeable habitat-related threats will prevent these areas from 
supporting a wolf population that is capable of substantially exceeding 
recovery levels.
    Most types of intensive human development predicted in the future 
in Wyoming will occur in areas that have already been extensively 
modified by human activities and are unsuitable as wolf habitat 
(Wyoming 2005, Appendix III). Mineral extraction activities are likely 
to continue to be focused at lower elevations, on private lands, in 
open habitats, and outside of currently suitable and currently occupied 
wolf habitat (Robbins 2007, entire). Development on private land near 
suitable habitats will continue to expose wolves to more conflicts and 
higher risk of human-caused mortality. However, the rate of conflict is 
well below the level wolves can withstand, especially given the large 
amount of secure habitat in public ownership, much of which is 
protected, that will support a recovered wolf population and will 
provide a reliable and constant source of dispersing wolves. 
Furthermore, management programs (Linnell et al. 2001, p. 348), 
research and monitoring, and outreach and education about living with 
wildlife can somewhat reduce such impacts.
    Modeling exercises can also provide insight into future land-use 
development patterns. While these models have weaknesses (such as an 
inability to accurately predict economic upturns or downturns, 
uncertainty regarding investments in infrastructure that might drive 
development such as roads, airports, or water projects, and an 
inability to predict open-space acquisitions or conservation 
easements), we nevertheless think that such models are useful in adding 
to our understanding of likely development patterns. Carroll et al. 
(2003, p. 541; 2006, p. 32) predicted future wolf habitat suitability 
under several scenarios through 2025, including potential threats such 
as increased human population growth and road development. Similarly, 
in 2005, the Center for the West produced a series of maps predicting 
growth through 2040 for the West (Travis et al. 2005, pp. 2-7). These 
projections are available at: http://www.centerwest.org/futures/west/2040.html. These models predict very little development across occupied 
and suitable portions of the NRM DPS, Wyoming, or GYA.
    Based on these projections, we have determined that increased 
development will not alter wolf habitat suitability in the NRM DPS, 
Wyoming, or GYA nearly enough to cause the wolf population to fall 
below recovery levels in the foreseeable future. We acknowledge that 
habitat suitability for wolves will change over time with human 
development, activities, and attitudes, but not to the extent that it 
is likely to threaten wolf recovery. We do not believe future human 
population growth will adversely affect wolf conservation. Wolf 
populations persist in many areas of the world that are far more 
developed than this region currently is, or is likely to be, in the 
foreseeable future (Boitani 2003, pp. 322-323). Current habitat 
conditions are adequate to support a wolf population well above minimal 
recovery levels and model predictions indicate that development over 
the next 25 years is unlikely to change habitat in a manner that would 
threaten the wolf population (Carroll et al. 2003, p. 544).
    Regarding connectivity between the Wyoming and the GYA wolf to the 
remainder of the NRM DPS, minimal change in human population growth 
(Travis et al. 2005, pp. 2-7) and habitat suitability (Carroll et al. 
2003, p. 541; Carroll et al. 2006, p. 32) are expected along the Idaho-
Montana border between the central Idaho wolf population and the GYA. 
In fact, projected development is anticipated to include modest 
expansions concentrated in urban areas and immediately surrounding 
areas (Travis et al. 2005, pp. 2-7). Conversely, in many surrounding 
rural areas, habitat suitability for wolves will be increased beyond 
current levels as road densities on public lands are reduced, a process 
under way in the entire NRM region (Carroll et al. 2006, p. 25; 
Servheen et al. 2003; Service 1993, 1996, 2007; Brown 2006, pp. 1-3). 
Wolves have exceptional dispersal abilities including the ability to 
disperse long distances across vast areas of unsuitable habitat. 
Numerous lone wolves have already been documented to have successfully 
dispersed through these types of developed areas (Jimenez et al. 2011, 
p. 1). History proves that wolves are among the least likely species of 
land mammal to face a serious threat from reduced connectivity related 
to projected changes in habitat (Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 189-190).
    There is more than enough habitat connectivity between occupied 
wolf habitat in Canada, northwestern Montana, and Idaho to ensure 
exchange of sufficient numbers of dispersing wolves to maintain 
demographic and genetic diversity in the NRM wolf metapopulation. We 
have documented routine movement of radio-collared wolves across the 
nearly contiguous available suitable habitat between Canada, 
northwestern Montana, and central Idaho. No foreseeable threats put 
this connectivity at risk. The GYA is the most physically isolated core 
recovery area within the NRM DPS, but the GYA has also demonstrated 
sufficient levels of connectivity to other occupied habitats and wolf 
populations in the NRM. Within the foreseeable future, only minimal 
habitat degradation will occur between the GYA and the other recovery 
areas, as a result of delisting and management of wolves in Wyoming. 
Overall, we believe this will have only minimal impacts on foreseeable 
levels of dispersal and connectivity of wolves in the GYA and the State 
of Wyoming with other wolf populations in the NRM. In short, future 
connectivity is unlikely to be meaningfully impacted by changes in 
habitat and range (genetic exchange is discussed in more detail under 
Factor E below), to an extent that would threaten the recovered status 
of the Wyoming wolf population in the foreseeable future.

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

    Commercial or Recreational Uses--This section discusses both legal 
and illegal killing for commercial or recreational purposes such as 
hunting and trapping. All other potential sources of human-caused 
mortality (e.g., legal or illegal killing for other purposes, agency

[[Page 61801]]

or individual actions to address conflicts over wolf-livestock 
interactions, or wolf kills in the predator area of Wyoming) are 
discussed in the ``Human-caused predation'' section of Factor C below. 
First, this section discusses illegal commercial or recreational use. 
Next, this section focuses on legal hunting and trapping in Wyoming. 
Finally, this section evaluates regulated hunting and trapping in Idaho 
and Montana because some wolves and some packs cross State boundaries.
    Since the species was listed, killing for commercial or 
recreational use has been prohibited. While some wolves may have been 
illegally killed for commercial use of the pelts and other parts, we 
believe such illegal commercial trafficking is rare. Furthermore, 
illegal capture of wolves for commercial breeding purposes is also 
possible, but we have no evidence that it occurs in Wyoming, the GYA, 
or elsewhere in the NRM DPS. We believe the prohibition against 
``take'' provided by Section 9 of the Act has discouraged and minimized 
the illegal killing of wolves for commercial or recreational purposes. 
Post-delisting, we believe the State, tribal, and other Federal laws 
and regulations will continue to provide a strong deterrent to such 
illegal wolf killing by the public. State, tribal, and other Federal 
wildlife agencies have well-distributed experienced professional law 
enforcement officers to help enforce their respective wildlife 
regulations. Similar regulatory approaches have been effective in the 
conservation of other resident wildlife such as black bears, mountain 
lions, elk, and deer. Most hunting and trapping that will occur post-
delisting, will be legal, permitted, and regulated by the State of 
Wyoming or the Wind River Indian Reservation.
    Legal regulated harvest will be employed by all States within the 
GYA where the wolf is delisted. Additionally, the Wind River Indian 
Reservation may consider legal regulated harvest. Wolf conservation can 
be compatible with harvest. Wolves can maintain population levels 
despite very high sustained human-caused mortality rates of 22 to 
greater than 50 percent (Keith 1983; Ballard et al. 1987; Fuller 1989; 
Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 182-184; Creel and Rotella 2010). Mortality 
rates and population growth rates reported from 2007 to 2010 indicate 
that the wolf population in Wyoming outside YNP can sustain, on 
average, a 36 percent mortality rate from human causes (WGFC 2011, p. 
12). When populations are maintained below carrying capacity and 
natural mortality rates remain low, human-caused mortality can replace 
up to 70 percent of natural mortality (Fuller et al. 2003, p. 186). 
Wolf pups can also be successfully raised by other pack members (Boyd 
and Jimenez 1994) and breeding individuals can be quickly replaced by 
other wolves (Brainerd et al. 2008, p. 89), which further mitigates the 
impact of harvest.
    Regulated hunting and trapping are commonly used to manage wolves 
in Canada and Alaska without negative population-level effects (Bangs 
2008). Furthermore, all States in the NRM DPS have substantial 
experience operating regulated harvest as a wildlife management tool 
for resident species. In 2009, Montana and Idaho conducted a wolf hunt 
where 257 wolves were killed. Even with this harvest, the population 
grew in 2009 by almost 5 percent across the NRM, including modest 
increases in all three States. Collectively, these factors give us 
every confidence that the States will run hunts such that wolf 
populations will not be threatened by recreational or commercial uses.
    In Wyoming, wolves will be permanently managed as game animals or 
protected (e.g., in National Parks) in about 40,000 km\2\ (15,400 
mi\2\) in the northwestern portion of the State (15.7 percent of 
Wyoming), including YNP, Grand Teton National Park, John D. Rockefeller 
Memorial Parkway, adjacent U.S. Forest Service-designated Wilderness 
Areas, adjacent public and private lands, the National Elk Refuge, and 
the Wind River Indian Reservation (Lickfett 2011, in litt.). This area 
is of sufficient size to support Wyoming wolf population targets, under 
the management regime proposed for this area.
    Wolves will be managed as trophy game animals within the area of 
northwestern Wyoming identified as the WTGMA (see Figure 1 above). 
``Trophy game'' status allows the WGFC and WGFD to regulate methods of 
take, hunting seasons, and numbers of wolves that could be killed. The 
boundary and size of the WTGMA will be established by State statute and 
cannot be diminished through WGFC rule or regulation. The WTGMA will be 
seasonally expanded approximately 80 km (50 mi) south (see Figure 1 
above) from October 15 to the last day of February (28th or 29th) to 
facilitate natural dispersal of wolves between Wyoming and Idaho. 
During this timeframe, the trophy game area will be expanded by 
approximately 3,300 km\2\ (1,300 mi\2\) (i.e., an additional 1.3 
percent of Wyoming) (Lickfett 2011, in litt.).
    Within the WTGMA, Wyoming intends to use public harvest of wolves 
to reduce wolf populations to minimize conflicts with livestock, 
ungulate herds, and humans (WGFC 2011, pp. 1, 23). The WGFD will 
develop an annual hunt plan that will take into consideration, but not 
be limited to, the following when developing a wolf hunting program or 
extending wolf hunting seasons: wolf breeding seasons; short- and long-
range dispersal opportunity, survival, and success in forming new or 
joining existing packs; conflicts with livestock; and the broader game 
management responsibilities related to ungulates and other wildlife 
(WGFC 2011, pp. 2-3, 16, 25, 53). Harvest quotas will be established 
through WGFD's normal season-setting process. Quotas will be based on 
the population status of wolves at the end of the previous calendar 
year, and consider estimated wolf mortality and population growth 
believed to have occurred during the current calendar year (WGFC 2011, 
pp. 23-25). All forms of wolf mortality will be considered when setting 
appropriate harvest levels (WGFC 2011, pp. 23-25). Seasons will close 
when the mortality quota is reached or if the WGFC deems it necessary 
to close the season for other reasons. Importantly, the WGFD will not 
manage wolves at the minimum population objective (WGFC 2011, p. 24). 
Instead, the WGFD will set harvest levels that maintain an adequate 
buffer above minimum population objectives to provide management 
flexibility (WGFC 2011, p. 24).
    Wyoming wolf hunting seasons will primarily coincide with fall big 
game hunting seasons, but may be extended if quotas are not met (WGFC 
2011, pp. 23-25, 53). That said, most hunting-related mortality will 
occur in October and November when human access is greatest and more 
big game hunters are active (MFWP 2009, p. 3, 5; WGFC 2011, p. 24). 
Wyoming's wolf management plan indicates that the State expects to 
delineate approximately 10 to 12 wolf hunting areas within the WTGMA to 
focus harvest in specific areas (i.e., areas with high wolf-livestock 
conflict, high human trafficked areas, or areas where ungulate herds 
are below State management objectives) (WGFC 2011, pp. 1, 16). Persons 
who legally harvest a wolf within the WTGMA will be required to report 
the harvest to the WGFD within 24 hours, and check the harvested animal 
in within 5 days (WGFC 2011, pp. 3, 22-25). Reporting periods for 
harvested wolves may be extended after inaugural hunting seasons if it 
is determined that extended reporting periods will not increase the 
likelihood of overharvest

[[Page 61802]]

(WGFC 2011, p. 23). Similar harvest strategies have been successful for 
countless other wildlife species in Wyoming.
    Commercial or recreational trapping is not currently being planned 
in Wyoming (Mills 2011, in litt.). However, an adaptive management 
approach, which could include trapping, may occur in the future if 
hunting is determined to be inadequate to achieve wolf harvest 
objectives (WGFC 2011, p. 25). We expect trapping will likely be 
limited as Wyoming's geography suggests other sources of mortality will 
make the State's wolf population management objectives easily 
achievable. If trapping is used in the future it will be conducted 
within the framework of the State's overall demographic targets.
    In our 2009 delisting rule (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009), we 
determined that Wyoming's proposed 2008 harvest strategy (that was 
never implemented) was well-designed, biologically sound, and, by 
itself, it would not have threatened Wyoming's share of the recovered 
NRM wolf population. Given Wyoming's strong commitment to maintain the 
population at or above agreed-upon population targets, their intention 
to consider all forms of wolf mortality when making wolf control 
management decisions, and numerous safeguards built into their harvest 
strategy, we are confident that this source of mortality will never 
compromise the Wyoming wolf population's recovered status.
    The Wind River Indian Reservation's management plan indicates 
wolves will be designated as a game animal post-delisting and hunting 
and trapping can occur (Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game 
Department 2007, p. 9). The season timing and length, harvest quota, 
and other specifics will be determined by the Eastern Shoshone and 
Northern Arapaho Tribes (Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game 
Department 2007, p. 9). Harvest strategy will depend on the number of 
wolves present on Wind River Indian Reservation and the management 
direction the Tribes wish to take (Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and 
Game Department 2007, p. 9). The Tribes have not designated a specific 
number of individuals or packs for which they will manage (Shoshone and 
Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department 2007, p. 9). Given the small 
number of wolves, packs, and breeding pairs supported while Act 
protections were in place, we expect the area will support very modest 
wolf population levels and distribution. Given this, we expect very 
limited hunting or trapping on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
    No legal hunting or trapping will occur in YNP, Grand Teton 
National Park, or the National Elk Refuge. In YNP, hunting pressures in 
adjoining areas are unlikely to impact park wolves as YNP wolves rarely 
leave the park during the time period when hunting would occur. The 
wolf population in YNP has ranged from 96 to 171 wolves since 2000. 
However, the YNP wolf population appears to be declining toward a long-
term equilibrium at or slightly below the lower end of this range 
(Service et al. 2000-2010, Table b; Smith 2010, pers. comm.). In Grand 
Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge, wolf pack home ranges 
typically cross outside of these Federal boundaries, thus, hunting 
pressures in adjoining areas would likely impact these wolves.
    Hunting in Idaho and Montana may impact Wyoming wolves because some 
wolves and some packs cross State boundaries. Both Idaho and Montana 
designated wolves as game animals Statewide and each State conducted 
conservative wolf hunts in 2009. In total, Montana hunts took 72 wolves 
out of the 75 harvest quota and, in Idaho, hunts took 185 wolves out of 
a quota of 220. Each State closed wolf harvest in individual management 
zones as their individual quota was achieved. Montana closed its wolf 
hunt statewide November 16th. In Idaho, a few zones remained open until 
March 31. Despite a total harvest of 257 wolves in Montana and Idaho, 
the NRM population still grew in 2009 by almost 5 percent including 
modest increases in all three States. These hunts distributed wolf 
harvest across occupied habitat, took into account connectivity and 
possible dispersal corridors, resulted in good hunter compliance, and 
improved hunter attitudes about wolves (MFWP 2010, pp. 17-25; IDFG 
2010, pp. 13-14; Dickson 2010). As anticipated in our 2009 delisting 
rule (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009), Montana and Idaho are now planning 
more aggressive hunts for fall 2011 to reduce the population below 
current levels (which are likely at or above long-term carrying 
capacity of the suitable habitat).
    Within the GYA, Idaho's 2011 season has a quota of 30 wolves in the 
Island Park hunting unit (referred to as the Upper Snake Management 
Zone in the 2010 annual report) (Idaho Fish and Game Commission (IFGC) 
2011). Island Park's season will run from August 30th to December 31st 
and one wolf can be taken per tag with a limit of two tags per person 
(IFGC 2011). At the end of 2010, the Island Park unit was occupied by 
seven packs including five that were counted towards Idaho's totals and 
two counted towards Wyoming's population totals (Service et al. 2011, 
pp. 81-84 in the Idaho chapter). Four of these five packs were 
confirmed to qualify as breeding pairs (the reproductive status for 
other pack was not known) (Service et al. 2011, pp. 81-84 in the Idaho 
chapter). Two of the Idaho packs and both of the Wyoming packs had home 
ranges that spanned the Idaho-Wyoming stateline (Service et al. 2011, 
pp. 81-84 in the Idaho chapter). To help understand the potential 
impacts of Idaho's hunt on these wolves, it is instructive to look at 
the 2009 hunting season. There is no harvest data from 2010 because 
wolves were not hunted in 2010. During the 2009 season, this zone had a 
quota of five wolves with an October 1st to December 31st season and a 
limit of one wolf per person (Service et al. 2011, pp. 81-84 in the 
Idaho chapter). The quota for this unit was met and the unit was closed 
November 2nd (Service et al. 2011, pp. 81-84 in the Idaho chapter). 
Between the end of 2008 and the end of 2009 (the period impacted by the 
2009 wolf hunt), the number of packs in this area increased from two to 
four and the number of breeding pairs in this unit remained steady at 
two (Service et al. 2008, pp. 76-80 in the Idaho chapter; Service et 
al. 2009, pp. 52-56 in the Idaho chapter).
    Thus, this modest hunting level had minimal impact. While it is 
unclear if the 2011 quota for this unit will be achieved, it is likely 
this hunting season will reduce the number of wolves, packs, and 
breeding pairs in this area (this is the State's intention). In the 
long run, we believe it is likely this area will continue to support a 
modest number of wolves and packs (one to four packs) some of which 
will qualify as breeding pairs. This regulated taking in Idaho may 
minimally impact a small number of Wyoming wolves (e.g., the two packs 
that are counted in Wyoming's totals that also cross into Idaho). In 
future years, once the initial desired population level is achieved, 
such impacts are expected to be minimal.
    Idaho's other hunting unit in the GYA area is the southern Idaho 
unit. Potential hunting impacts in this unit are expected to be zero to 
low single digits based on past take (one wolf in 2009) and the area's 
limited wolf population (no confirmed resident wolves, packs or 
breeding pairs) (Service et al. 2011, pp. 71-74 in the Idaho chapter).
    Trapping was not authorized in either the Island Park unit or the 
southern Idaho unit (IFGC 2011). Trapping was

[[Page 61803]]

only authorized where hunting alone was not anticipated to be effective 
in reducing the wolf population (IFGC 2011). Because trapping is 
typically reserved for more remote, inaccessible areas (IFGC 2011), we 
do not expect much if any future trapping in this area.
    Montana's wolf quota for 2011 within the GYA is 43 wolves including 
19 wolves within the Gallatin/Madison unit, 6 wolves within the 
Highlands/Tobacco Roots/Gravelly/Snowcrest unit, and 18 wolves within 
the South Central Montana unit (MFWP 2011, pp. 6-7). The South Central 
Montana unit also includes a subquota of 3 wolves in areas immediately 
adjacent to YNP in order to limit impacts to park wolves. At the end of 
2010, Montana's portion of the GYA contained a minimum of 118 wolves in 
19 verified packs, 6 of which qualified as breeding pairs (Service et 
al. 2011, pp. 72-82 in the Montana chapter). Two additional packs are 
counted in Wyoming's population, but may spend some time in Montana 
(Service et al. 2011, pp. 72-82 in the Montana chapter). Again, a 
review of the 2009 hunting season may assist in understanding potential 
impacts of Montana's hunt to wolves in Wyoming and the GYA. In 2009, 
the MFWP Commission developed a single unit for all of southwest 
Montana and authorized a quota of 12 wolves (Service et al. 20009, pp. 
18-25 in the Montana chapter). Wolf take in this unit occurred very 
rapidly, and was concentrated just north of YNP (Service et al. 2009, 
pp. 18-25 in the Montana chapter). As a result, the backcountry 
portions of the unit were temporarily closed on October 9th, and 
permanently closed on October 13th, after 9 wolves were taken (Service 
et al. 20009, pp. 18-25 in the Montana chapter). Four additional wolves 
were taken in the remainder of the unit. From the end of 2008 to the 
end of 2009 (the period impacted by the 2009 wolf hunt), the minimum 
wolf population estimate in Montana's share of the GYA declined from 
130 wolves in 18 packs, 11 of which met the breeding pair criteria, to 
106 wolves in 17 verified packs, 9 of which qualified as a breeding 
pair. Both agency control (which increased in 2009) and hunter harvest 
were factors in these declines.
    While it is unclear if Montana's 2011 quotas for this area will be 
achieved, it is Montana's intention that this hunting season will 
modestly reduce the number of wolves, packs, and breeding pairs in this 
area. In the long run, it is likely this area will continue to support 
a sizeable number of wolves, packs, and breeding pairs. Specifically, 
in our professional judgment, we believe this area will support at 
least 8 packs long term, a significant number of which will qualify as 
breeding pairs. This regulated taking in Montana, in light of the 
subquotas for areas adjacent to YNP, may impact some Wyoming wolves in 
some years, but is not expected to be a significant impact.
    In summary, illegal commercial and recreational use will remain a 
negligible source of mortality and legal, State-regulated harvest for 
commercial and recreational use will be managed in a manner compatible 
with wolf conservation. Wolves can maintain population levels despite 
very high sustained human-caused mortality rates. In 2009, Montana and 
Idaho conducted a wolf hunt where 257 wolves were harvested, and the 
population still grew by almost 5 percent. Regulated hunting and 
trapping are commonly used to manage wolves in Canada and Alaska 
without population-level negative effects (Bangs 2008), and all States 
in the NRM DPS have substantial experience operating regulated harvest 
as a wildlife management tool for resident species. In Wyoming, 
population levels will be carefully monitored; all sources of mortality 
will be used to set quotas and measure progress toward them; hunting 
units will be closed when quotas are met, or if otherwise needed (e.g., 
if overall population objectives are being approached); hunting units 
will be small to allow targeted control of authorized mortality; and 
populations will be managed with a buffer above minimum targets. This 
approach is consistent with the State's management of numerous other 
species. Trapping will be rare everywhere in the GYA.
    On the whole, we anticipate Wyoming (like Idaho and Montana) will 
gradually reduce populations in the short term with moderately 
aggressive harvest rates, and that these harvest rates will be reduced 
over time. Long term, total human-caused mortality (from all sources) 
in portions of Wyoming under State jurisdiction may average around 36 
percent as the State uses regulated harvest to maintain the wolf 
population in areas under Wyoming's jurisdiction modestly above their 
minimum population target of at least 100 wolves and at least 10 
breeding pairs. Regulated harvest in portions of the GYA outside of 
Wyoming's jurisdiction is expected to have only minimal impacts on 
Wyoming's wolf population.
    Overutilization for Scientific or Educational Purposes--From 1979 
to 2010, the Service and our cooperating partners captured 1,963 wolves 
for monitoring, nonlethal control, and research purposes with less than 
3 percent experiencing accidental death. If Wyoming wolves are 
delisted, the State, National Parks, and/or Tribes will continue to 
capture and radio-collar wolves for monitoring and research purposes in 
accordance with State, Federal, and tribal laws, wolf management plans, 
regulations, and appropriate agency humane animal care and handling 
policies. The capture or possession of wolves from within the WTGMA for 
scientific or educational purposes will be regulated by the WGFC under 
rules set in Chapter 10 and Chapter 33 of Commission Regulations. We 
expect that capture-caused mortality by Federal, State, and Tribal 
agencies, and universities conducting wolf monitoring, nonlethal 
control, and research will remain below 3 percent of the wolves 
captured, and will remain an insignificant source of mortality to the 
wolf population (Murray et al. 2010, p. 2519).
    We are unaware of any wolves that have been removed from the wild 
for solely educational purposes in recent years. Wolves that are used 
for such purposes are typically privately held captive-reared offspring 
of wolves that were already in captivity for other reasons and are not 
protected by the Act. However, we or the States and Tribes may get 
requests to place wolves that would otherwise be euthanized in 
captivity for research or educational purposes. Such requests have 
been, and are likely to continue to be, rare. Such requests will not 
substantially impact human-caused wolf mortality rates.

Factor C. Disease or Predation

    This section discusses disease and parasites, natural predation, 
and human-caused predation. The human-caused mortality section 
discusses all sources of human-caused mortality not discussed under 
Factor B's commercial and recreational uses section above. The below 
analysis focuses on wolves in Wyoming, but considers adjoining portions 
of the GYA as some wolves and some packs cross State boundaries. Data 
for other regions is considered where it implies a threat that could 
someday impact Wyoming or GYA wolves.
    Disease--Wolves throughout North America are exposed to a wide 
variety of diseases and parasites. Many diseases (viruses and bacteria, 
many protozoa and fungi) and parasites (helminthes and arthropods) have 
been reported for the gray wolf, and several of them have had 
significant, but temporary impacts during wolf recovery in the 48 
conterminous States (Brand et al. 1995, p. 428; Kreeger 2003, pp. 202-
214). The EIS on gray wolf reintroduction identified disease impact as 
an issue, but did not evaluate it further (Service 1994, pp. 1:20-21).

[[Page 61804]]

    Infectious disease induced by parasitic organisms is a normal 
feature in the life of wild animals, and the typical wild animal hosts 
a broad multi-species community of potentially harmful parasitic 
organisms (Wobeser 2002, p. 160). We fully anticipate that these 
diseases and parasites will follow the same pattern seen for wolves in 
other areas of North America (Brand et al. 1995, pp. 428-429; Bailey et 
al. 1995, p. 445; Kreeger 2003, pp. 202-204; Atkinson 2006, pp. 1-7; 
Smith and Almberg 2007, pp. 17-19; Johnson 1995a, 1995b; Almberg et al. 
2009, p. 3; 2010, p. 2058; Jimenez et al. 2010a, p. 1120; 2010b p. 
331), and will not significantly threaten wolf population viability. 
Nevertheless, because these diseases and parasites, and perhaps others, 
have the potential to impact wolf population distribution and 
demographics, monitoring implemented by the States, Tribes, and 
National Park Service will track disease and parasite events. Should 
such an outbreak occur that results in a population decline, 
discretionary human-caused mortality (such as hunting, post-delisting) 
would be adjusted over an appropriate area and time period to ensure 
wolf population numbers are maintained above recovery levels (WGFC 
2011, pp. 21-22, 24).
    Canine parvovirus (CPV) infects wolves, domestic dogs (Canis 
familiaris), foxes (Vulpes vulpes), coyotes (Canis latrans), skunks 
(Mephitis mephitis), and raccoons (Procyon lotor). The population 
impacts of CPV occur via diarrhea-induced dehydration leading to 
abnormally high pup mortality (Wisconsin Department of Natural 
Resources 1999, p. 61). Clinical CPV is characterized by severe 
hemorrhagic diarrhea and vomiting; debility and subsequent mortality is 
a result of dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and shock. CPV has 
been detected in nearly every wolf population in North America 
including Alaska (Bailey et al. 1995, p. 441; Brand et al. 1995, p. 
421; Kreeger 2003, pp. 210-211; Johnson et al. 1994; Almberg et al. 
2009, p. 2), and exposure in wolves is thought to be almost universal. 
Currently, nearly 100 percent of the wolves handled by MFWP (Atkinson 
2006) and YNP (Smith and Almberg 2007, p. 18; Almberg et al. 2009, p. 
2) had blood antibodies indicating nonlethal exposure to CPV. CPV might 
have contributed to low pup survival in the northern range of YNP in 
1999. CPV was suspected to have done so again in 2005 and possibly 
2008, but evidence points to canine distemper (CD) as being the primary 
cause of low pup survival during those years (Smith et al. 2006, p. 
244; Smith 2008; Almberg et al. 2010, p. 2058). Pup production and 
survival in YNP returned to normal levels after each event (Almberg et 
al. 2009, pp. 18-19). The impact of disease outbreaks to the overall 
NRM wolf population has been localized and temporary, as has been 
documented elsewhere (Bailey et al. 1995, p. 441; Brand et al. 1995, p. 
421; Kreeger 2003, pp. 210-211). Despite these periodic disease 
outbreaks, the NRM wolf population increased at a rate of about 20 
percent annually from 1996 to 2010 (Service et al. 2011, Table 4). Mech 
et al. (2008, p. 824) recently concluded CPV reduced pup survival, 
subsequent dispersal, and the overall rate of population growth in 
Minnesota (a population near carrying capacity in suitable habitat). It 
is possible that at carrying capacity CPV may affect the GYA and 
Wyoming wolf populations similarly, such that the overall rate of 
growth may be reduced.
    Canine distemper (CD) is an acute, fever-causing disease of 
carnivores caused by a virus (Kreeger 2003, p. 209). It is common in 
domestic dogs and some wild canids, such as coyotes and foxes in the 
NRM region (Kreeger 2003, p. 209). The prevalence of antibodies to this 
disease in wolf blood in North American wolves is about 17 percent 
(Kreeger 2003, p. 209), but varies annually and by specific location. 
Nearly 85 percent of Montana wolf blood samples analyzed in 2005 
indicated nonlethal exposure to CD (Atkinson 2006). Similar results 
were found in YNP (Smith and Almberg 2007, p. 18; Almberg et al. 2010, 
p. 2061). Mortality in wolves has been documented in Canada (Carbyn 
1982, p. 109), Alaska (Peterson et al. 1984, p. 31; Bailey et al. 1995, 
p. 441), and in a single Wisconsin pup (Wydeven and Wiedenhoeft 2003, 
p. 7). CD is not a major mortality factor in wolves, because despite 
high exposure to the virus, affected wolf populations usually 
demonstrate good recruitment (Brand et al. 1995, pp. 420-421). 
Mortality from CD has only been confirmed on a few occasions in NRM 
wolves despite their high exposure to it, however, we suspect it 
contributed to the high pup mortality documented in the northern GYA in 
spring 1999, 2005, and 2008 (Almberg et al. 2010, p. 2061).
    CD is likely maintained in the NRM region by multiple hosts and 
periodic outbreaks will undoubtedly occur every 2-5 years (Almberg et 
al. 2010, p. 2058). However, as documented elsewhere, CD does not 
threaten wolf populations, and the NRM wolf population increased even 
during years with localized outbreaks (Almberg et al. 2010, p. 2058). 
YNP biologists (Smith 2008, pers. comm.) believe that wolf deaths 
mainly occurred from CD when the YNP population was around the historic 
high of 170 wolves the previous winter. In 2008, wolf packs in Wyoming 
outside YNP (about 25 packs and 15 breeding pairs) appeared to have 
normal pup production (Jimenez 2008, pers. comm.), indicating the 
probable disease outbreak in 2008 was localized to YNP. This suggests 
CD mortality may be associated with high wolf density, and possibly 
carrying capacity. Thus, the wolf populations in the GYA may be more 
affected by CD and other diseases when wolves exist at high densities 
in suitable habitat (i.e., in YNP).
    Lyme disease, caused by a spirochete bacterium, is spread primarily 
by deer ticks (Ixodes dammini). Host species include humans, horses 
(Equus caballus), dogs, white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, white-footed 
mice (Peromyscus leucopus), eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), 
coyotes, and wolves. In wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes 
region, it does not appear to cause adult mortality, but might be 
suppressing population growth by decreasing wolf pup survival 
(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 1999, p. 61). Lyme disease 
has not been documented in the GYA or Wyoming wolf populations.
    Mange is caused by a mite (Sarcoptes scabeii) that infests the 
skin. The irritation caused by feeding and burrowing mites results in 
intense itching, resulting in scratching and severe fur loss, which can 
lead to secondary infections or to mortality from exposure during 
severe winter weather (Kreeger 2003, pp. 207-208). Advanced mange can 
involve the entire body and can cause emaciation, decreased flight 
distance, staggering, and death (Kreeger 2003, p. 207). In a long-term 
Alberta 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, pp. 427-428). Mange 
has been shown to temporarily affect wolf population growth rates and 
perhaps wolf distribution (Kreeger 2003, p. 208).
    Mange has been detected in, and caused mortality to, GYA wolves 
(Jimenez et al. 2010a, p. 1120; Atkinson 2006, p. 5; Smith and Almberg 
2007, p. 19). The GYA wolves likely contracted mange from coyotes or 
fox, whose populations experience occasional outbreaks. Between 2003 
and 2008, the percentage of Montana packs with mange fluctuated between 
3 and 24 percent of packs. Between 2002 and 2008, the percentage of 
Wyoming packs

[[Page 61805]]

with mange fluctuated between 3 and 15 percent of packs. In these 
cases, mange did not appear to infest every member of the pack. For 
example, in 2008, manage was detected in 8 wolves from 4 different 
packs in YNP, one pack in Wyoming outside YNP, and a couple of packs in 
previously infested areas of southwestern Montana. Mange has never been 
confirmed in wolves in Idaho (Jimenez et al. 2010a, p. 1123).
    In packs with the most severe mange infestations, pup survival 
appeared low, and some adults died (Jimenez et al. 2010a, pp. 1122-
1123). In addition, we euthanized several wolves with severe mange for 
humane reasons and because of their abnormal behavior. We predict that 
mange in the GYA and State of Wyoming will act as it has in other parts 
of North America (Brand et al. 1995, pp. 427-428; Kreeger 2003, pp. 
207-208; Jimenez et al. 2010, p. 1123) and not threaten wolf population 
viability. Wolves are not likely to be infested with mange on a chronic 
population-wide level (Jimenez et al. 2010a, p. 1123).
    Dog-biting lice (Trichodectes canis) commonly feed on domestic 
dogs, but can infest coyotes and wolves (Schwartz et al. 1983, p. 372; 
Mech et al. 1985, p. 404). The lice can attain severe infestations, 
particularly in pups. The worst infestations can result in severe 
scratching, irritated and raw skin, substantial hair loss particularly 
in the groin, and poor condition. While no wolf mortality has been 
confirmed from dog-biting lice, death from exposure or secondary 
infection following self-inflicted trauma caused by inflammation and 
itching, appears possible. The first confirmed NRM wolves with dog-
biting lice were members of the Battlefield pack in the Big Hole Valley 
of southwestern Montana in 2005 and 2006, and one wolf in south-central 
Idaho in 2006 and 2007; but these infestations were not severe (Service 
et al. 2006, p. 15; Atkinson 2006, p. 5; Jimenez et al. 2010b). The 
source of this infestation is unknown, but was likely domestic dogs. 
Lice have been documented in the NRM DPS since 2005, and infestations 
are likely to continue to be occasionally documented in the future. 
Lice may contribute to the death of some individual wolves, but they 
will not threaten the GYA or Wyoming wolf population (Jimenez et al. 
2010b, p. 332).
    Rabies, canine heartworm (Dirofilaria immitus), blastomycosis, 
brucellosis, neosporsis, leptospirosis, bovine tuberculosis, canine 
herpesvirus (Almberg et al. 2010), canine coronavirus, viral 
papillomatosis, hookworm, tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus) (Foreyt et 
al. 2008, p. 1), lice, scaroptic mange, coccidiosis, and canine 
adenovirus/hepatitis have all been documented in wild gray wolves, but 
their impacts on future wild wolf populations are not likely to be 
significant (Brand et al. 1995, pp. 419-429; Johnson 1995a, b, pp. 5-
73, 1995b, pp. 5-49; Mech and Kurtz 1999, p. 305; Wisconsin Department 
of Natural Resources 1999, p. 61; Kreeger 2003, pp. 202-214; Atkinson 
2006, pp. 1-7; Almberg et al. 2010, p. 3; Jimenez et al. 2010a, p. 
1123; 2010b, p. 332). Canid rabies caused local population declines in 
Alaska (Ballard and Krausman 1997, p. 242), and may temporarily limit 
population growth or distribution where another species, such as arctic 
foxes (Alopex lagopus), act as a reservoir for the disease. We have not 
detected rabies in NRM wolves. Range expansion could provide new 
avenues for exposure to several of these diseases, especially canine 
heartworm, rabies, bovine tuberculosis, and possibly new diseases such 
as chronic wasting disease and West Nile virus, further emphasizing the 
need for vigilant disease monitoring programs.
    Because several of the diseases and parasites are known to be 
spread by wolf-to-wolf contact, their incidence may increase if wolf 
densities increase. However, because wolf densities are already high 
and may be peaking (Service et al. 2011, Table 1, Figure 1), wolf-to-
wolf contacts will not likely lead to a continuing increase in disease 
prevalence. The wolves' exposure to these types of organisms may be 
most common outside of the core population areas, where domestic dogs 
are most common, and lowest in the core population areas--because 
wolves tend to flow out of, not into, saturated habitats. Despite this 
dynamic, most Wyoming and GYA wolves will continue to have exposure to 
most diseases and parasites in the system. Diseases or parasites have 
not been a significant threat to wolf population recovery to date, and 
we have no reason to believe that they will become a significant threat 
to the viability of GYA and Wyoming populations in the foreseeable 
future.
    In terms of future disease monitoring, States have committed to 
monitor the NRM wolf population for significant disease and parasite 
problems. State wildlife health programs often cooperate with Federal 
agencies and universities and usually have both reactive and proactive 
wildlife health monitoring protocols. Reactive strategies consist of 
periodic intensive investigations after disease or parasite problems 
have been detected through routine management practices, such as pelt 
examination, reports from hunters, research projects, or population 
monitoring. Proactive strategies often involve ongoing routine 
investigation of wildlife health information through collection and 
analysis of blood and tissue samples from all or a sub-sample of 
wildlife carcasses or live animals that are handled. We do not believe 
that diseases or changes in disease monitoring will threaten recovered 
wolf populations in the GYA or State of Wyoming.
    Natural Predation--No wild animals routinely prey on gray wolves 
(Ballard et al. 2003, pp. 259-260). From 1982 to 2004, about 3.1 
percent of all known wolf morality in the NRM DPS resulted from 
interspecific strife (Murray et al. 2010, p. 2519). Occasionally wolves 
have been killed by large prey such as elk, deer, bison, and moose 
(Mech and Nelson 1989, p. 207; Smith et al. 2006, p. 247; Mech and 
Peterson 2003, p. 134), but those instances are few. Since the 1980s, 
about a dozen NRM wolves have died from wounds received while attacking 
prey (Smith et al. 2006, p. 247). That level of natural mortality does 
not significantly affect wolf population viability or stability. Since 
NRM wolves have been monitored, only a few wolves have been confirmed 
killed by other large predators. At least two adults were killed by 
mountain lions, and one pup was killed by a grizzly bear (Jimenez et 
al. 2009, p. 76). Wolves in the NRM region inhabit the same areas as 
mountain lions, grizzly bears, and black bears, but conflicts rarely 
result in the death of either species. Wolves evolved with other large 
predators, and no other large predators in North America, except 
humans, have the potential to significantly impact wolf populations.
    Other wolves are the largest cause of natural predation among 
wolves. Numerous mortalities have resulted from territorial conflicts 
between wolves, and about 3 percent of wolf deaths are caused by 
territorial conflict in the NRM wolf population (Murray et al. 2010, p. 
2519). Wherever wolf packs occur, including the NRM DPS, some low level 
of wolf mortality will result from territorial conflict. Wolf 
populations tend to regulate their own densities; consequently, 
territorial conflict is highest in saturated habitats like YNP. This 
cause of mortality is infrequent except at carrying-capacity and does 
not result in a level of mortality that would significantly affect a 
wolf population's viability in Wyoming, the GYA, or the NRM DPS.
    Human-caused Predation--This section discusses all sources of 
human-

[[Page 61806]]

caused mortality except hunter harvest and trapping. Hunting and 
trapping are discussed in the ``Commercial and Recreational Uses'' 
section of Factor B above. Potential impacts of human-caused mortality 
to natural connectivity and gene flow are discussed in the ``Genetic 
Considerations'' section of Factor E below.
    Humans kill wolves for a number of reasons. For example, some 
wolves are killed to resolve conflicts with livestock (Fritts et al. 
2003, p. 310; Woodroffe et al. 2005, pp. 86-107, pp. 345-347). 
Occasionally, wolf killings are accidental (e.g., wolves are hit by 
vehicles, mistaken for coyotes and shot, or caught in traps set for 
other animals) (Bangs et al. 2005, p. 346). Other wolf killings are 
intentional, illegal, and are never reported to authorities. A few 
wolves have been killed by people who stated that they believed their 
physical safety was being threatened. The overall NRM wolf mortality 
rate of 26 percent since reintroduction is comprised of: Illegal kills 
(10 percent), control actions to resolve conflicts (10 percent), 
natural causes including disease/parasites and intraspecific strife (3 
percent), and accidental human causes such as vehicle collisions and 
capture mortality (3 percent). Eighty percent of the overall NRM wolf 
mortalities are human-caused (Murray et al. 2010; Smith et al. 2010; 
USFWS et al. 2011, p. 7). While human-caused mortality, including both 
illegal killing and agency control, has not prevented population 
recovery, it has affected NRM wolf distribution (Bangs et al. 2004, p. 
93) preventing successful pack establishment and persistence in open 
prairie or high desert habitats (Bangs et al. 1998, p. 788; Bangs et 
al. 2009, p. 107; Service et al. 1989-2011, Figure 1).
    Wolf populations can maintain themselves despite very high 
sustained human-caused mortality rates of 22 to greater than 50 percent 
(Keith 1983; Ballard et al. 1987; Fuller 1989; Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 
182-184; Creel and Rotella 2010). Mortality rates and population growth 
rates reported from 2007 to 2010 indicate that the wolf population in 
Wyoming outside YNP can sustain, on average, a 36 percent mortality 
rate from human causes (WGFC 2011, p. 12). When populations are 
maintained below carrying capacity and natural mortality rates and 
self-regulation of the population remain low, human-caused mortality 
can replace up to 70 percent of natural mortality (Fuller et al. 2003, 
p. 186). Wolf pups can also be successfully raised by other pack 
members (Boyd and Jimenez 1994), and breeding individuals can be 
quickly replaced by other wolves (Brainerd et al. 2008, p. 89), which 
can serve to mitigate the impacts of human-caused mortality. 
Collectively, these factors indicate that wolf populations are quite 
resilient to moderate human-caused mortality, if it is adequately 
regulated.
    As part of the interagency wolf monitoring program and various 
research projects, over 20 percent of the NRM wolf population has been 
monitored since the 1980s (Smith et al. 2010, p. 620; Murray et al. 
2010, p. 2514). From 1984 through 2004, annual adult survival averaged 
about 75 percent, which typically allows wolf population growth (Hensey 
and Fuller 1983, p. 1; Keith 1983, p. 66; Fuller et al. 2003, p. 182; 
Smith et al. 2010, p. 620; Murray et al. 2010, p. 2514). Wolves in the 
largest blocks of remote habitat without livestock, such as central 
Idaho or YNP, had annual survival rates around 80 percent (Smith et al. 
2006, p. 245; Smith et al. 2010, p. 620). Wolves outside of large 
remote areas had survival rates as low as 54 percent in some years 
(Smith et al. 2006, p. 245; Smith et al. 2010, p. 626). The highest 
mortality rates are localized in areas we consider largely unsuitable 
for pack persistence.
    Wolf mortality resulting from control of problem wolves, which 
includes legal take by private individuals under defense of property 
regulations, was estimated to remove an average of 10 percent of adult 
radio-collared wolves annually since reintroduction, but that rate has 
steadily increased as the wolf population has expanded beyond suitable 
habitat and caused increased conflicts with livestock (USFWS et al. 
2011, Table 4, 5). Defense of property take, authorized by experimental 
population rules (Service 1994, pp. 2:13-14; 59 FR 60252, November 22, 
1994; 59 FR 60266, November 22, 1994; 70 FR 1286, January 6, 2005; 73 
FR 4720, January 28, 2008; 50 CFR 17.84(i) & (n)), makes up a small 
percentage of these control actions. Specifically, such take 
represented about 7 percent of problem wolves legally removed from 1995 
to 2010 and about 9 percent of such removals from 2008 to 2010. In 
spite of these mortality rates, wolf numbers increased at a rate of 
about 24 percent annually 1995-2008 (the period when the population was 
presumed below carrying capacity). Since 2008, the NRM population has 
largely stabilized.
    After delisting, human-caused mortality, and its authorization or 
regulation, will differ in various parts of Wyoming. In total, wolves 
will be permanently managed as game animals or protected (e.g., in 
National Parks) in about 40,000 km\2\ (15,400 mi\2\) in northwestern 
Wyoming (15.7 percent of Wyoming), including YNP, Grand Teton National 
Park, John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, adjacent U.S. Forest 
Service-designated Wilderness Areas, adjacent public and private lands, 
the National Elk Refuge, and the Wind River Indian Reservation. This 
area is of sufficient size to support Wyoming population targets, under 
the management regime proposed for this area.
    Wolves will be managed as trophy game animals within the area of 
northwestern Wyoming identified as the WTGMA (see Figure 3). ``Trophy 
game'' status allows the WGFC and WGFD to regulate methods of take, 
hunting seasons, types of allowed take, and numbers of wolves that 
could be killed. The boundary and size of the WTGMA will be established 
by State statute and cannot be diminished through WGFC rule or 
regulation.
    The WTGMA will be seasonally expanded approximately 80 km (50 mi) 
south (see Figure 3) from October 15 to the last day of February (28th 
or 29th) to facilitate natural dispersal of wolves between Wyoming and 
Idaho. During this timeframe, the trophy game area will be expanded by 
approximately 3,300 km\2\ (1,300 mi\2\) (i.e., an additional 1.3 
percent of Wyoming). Management within the WTGMA is described below, 
followed by management in other portions of Wyoming.
    After delisting, Wyoming will allow property owners inside the 
WTGMA to immediately kill a wolf doing damage to private property (WGFC 
2011, pp. 3, 4, 22, 30-31, 32). WGFC regulation defines ``doing damage 
to private property'' as ``the actual biting, wounding, grasping, or 
killing of livestock or domesticated animal, or chasing, molesting, or 
harassing by gray wolves that would indicate to a reasonable person 
that such biting, wounding, grasping, or killing of domesticated 
animals is likely to occur at any moment'' (WGFC 2011, pp. 22, 60). 
These regulations will define ``owner'' as ``the owner, lessee, 
immediate family, employee, or other person who is charged by the owner 
with the care or management of livestock or domesticated animals'' 
(WGFC 2011, p. 22). Wolves killed under authority of this regulation 
shall be reported to a WGFD representative within 72 hours (WGFC 2011, 
pp. 22, 31). These regulations are similar to the experimental 
population rules in place in Montana and Idaho after the population 
achieved recovery levels (70 FR 1286, January 6, 2005; 73 FR 4720, 
January 28, 2008; 50 CFR 17.84(n)). While in place in Montana and 
Idaho, these rules were sufficiently protective

[[Page 61807]]

to allow continued population expansion (Service et al. 2011, Table 4). 
We conclude that these rules will not compromise the State of Wyoming's 
ability to meet the agreed-upon population objectives (at least 10 
breeding pairs and at least 100 wolves outside YNP and sovereign tribal 
lands) assuming the State manages for an adequate buffer above these 
minimum levels as Wyoming intends to do (WGFC 2011, p. 24).
    Additionally, the WGFD may issue ``lethal take permits'' 
authorizing property owners to kill not more than two wolves in areas 
experiencing chronic wolf depredation within the WTGMA (WGFC 2011, pp. 
22-23). The Wyoming wolf plan defines ``chronic wolf depredation'' as 
``a geographic area limited to a specific parcel of private land or a 
specific grazing allotment described on the permit within the WTGMA 
where gray wolves have repeatedly (twice or more within a 2-month 
period immediately preceding the date on which the owner applies for a 
lethal take permit) harassed, injured, maimed or killed livestock or 
domesticated animals'' (WGFC 2011, pp. 22-23, 60). Wolves killed under 
the authority of a lethal take permit shall be reported to the WGFD 
representative specified on the permit within 24 hours (WGFC 2011, pp. 
3, 22-23). Lethal take permits shall expire 45 days after the date they 
are issued, but will be renewable for up to a year if wolf conflicts 
persist (WGFC 2011, pp. 22-23, 32). Depending upon population levels, 
Wyoming can suspend or cancel existing lethal take permits or halt 
issuance of new lethal take permits (WGFC 2011, pp. 22-23, 32). These 
regulations are similar to the experimental population rules in place 
in Montana and Idaho after the population achieved recovery levels (70 
FR 1286, January 6, 2005; 73 FR 4720, January 28, 2008; 50 CFR 
17.84(n)). While in place in Montana and Idaho, these rules were 
sufficiently protective to allow continued population expansion 
(Service et al. 2011, Table 4). Additionally, we employed a similar 
approach on private lands in Wyoming, but not on public lands, and this 
was sufficiently protective to allow for continued population growth of 
Wyoming's wolf population outside YNP (Service et al. 2002-2011, Table 
2a; Service et al. 2011, Figure 2 in Wyoming chapter).
    Some other minor sources of human-caused predation may also occur 
inside the WTGMA. For example, accidental mortality sometimes occurs 
from such sources as vehicle collisions. Because these types of 
mortalities are rare and have little impact on wolf populations, they 
were authorized by our experimental population rule with little to no 
impact on wolf populations. Take in self-defense or defense of others 
is also exceedingly rare, and is expected to remain rare post-
delisting. We expect take from these sources will remain rare post-
delisting with little impact on the wolf population.
    While wolves were listed, illegal killing removed an estimated 10 
percent of the population annually. Following our previous delisting, 
there was no indication that illegal mortality levels changed from 
those occurring while wolves were delisted. After delisting, WGFD law 
enforcement personnel will investigate all wolves killed outside the 
framework established by State statute and WGFC regulation, and 
appropriate law enforcement and legal action will be taken. We expect 
illegal killing will continue at current levels post-delisting.
    Within the WTGMA, WGFD may also control wolves when they determine 
a wild ungulate herd is experiencing unacceptable impacts or to address 
wolf-ungulate conflicts at State-operated elk feedgrounds (WGFC 2011, 
pp. 5, 39-41). Wolf control to address unacceptable impacts to wild 
ungulates requires a determination that wolf predation is a significant 
factor in the population or herd not meeting the State population 
management goals or recruitment levels established for the population 
or herd (WGFC 2011, pp. 5, 39-41). All of Wyoming's 35 elk management 
units are at or above the State's numeric objectives for those herds; 
however, calf/cow ratios in several herd units are below desired levels 
(WGFD 2010, p. 1). Five of the State's ten moose herds are below 
objectives (WGFD unpublished data). Although Wyoming has not yet put 
forward any proposals to control wolves to address unacceptable impacts 
to ungulate herds, such take is possible. WGFD may also take wolves 
that displace elk from feedgrounds in the WTGMA if it results in one of 
the following conflicts: (1) Damage to private stored crops; (2) elk 
commingling with domestic livestock; or (3) displacement of elk from 
feedgrounds onto highway rights-of-way causing human safety concerns 
(WGFC 2011, pp. 5, 39-41). Because Wyoming will consider all forms of 
wolf mortality when making ungulate-related wolf control management 
decisions (WGFC 2011, pp. 21, 23-24), these mortality sources will not 
compromise the State's ability to maintain wolf management objectives.
    In the predator area, wolves will experience unregulated human-
caused mortality, although mortality in this area will be monitored 
through mandatory reporting within 10 days of the kill (WGFC 2011, pp. 
3, 8, 17, 23, 29). Wolves are unlike coyotes, in that wolf behavior and 
reproductive biology have resulted in wolves historically being 
extirpated in the face of extensive human-caused mortality. As we have 
previously concluded (71 FR 43410, August 1, 2006; 72 FR 6106, February 
8, 2007; 73 FR 10514, February 27, 2008; 74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009), 
wolves are unlikely to survive in portions of Wyoming where they are 
regulated as predatory animals. This conclusion was validated in 2008 
after our previous delisting became effective and most of the wolves in 
the predator area were killed within a few weeks of losing the Act's 
protection. We expect that wolf packs in the predator area of Wyoming 
will not persist.
    Despite this anticipated mortality, the portions of Wyoming outside 
the predator area are large enough to support Wyoming's management 
goals and a recovered wolf population (Figure 1 illustrates wolf pack 
distribution relative to Wyoming's WTGMA). Our 2009 delisting rule 
confirmed this conclusion, but expressed two concerns (74 FR 15123, 
April 2, 2009). First, the rule expressed concern that mortality in the 
predator area would be high and this would inhibit natural genetic 
exchange. This issue is discussed in the ``Genetic Considerations'' 
portion of Factor E below.
    The second concern expressed in our 2009 delisting rule (74 FR 
15123, April 2, 2009) was that lone wolves, breeding pairs, or packs 
from the trophy game area may periodically and temporarily disperse 
into the predator area and suffer high mortality rates. The 2009 rule 
concluded that a large predator area ``substantially increases the odds 
that these periodic dispersers will not survive, thus, impacting 
Wyoming's wolf population'' (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009). We continue 
to conclude that no wolf packs or breeding pairs will persist in the 
predator area of Wyoming, some packs that have entire or partial 
territories in the predator area will likely not persist (3 of 
Wyoming's 27 breeding pairs, and 6 of the State's 30 packs have entire 
or partial territories in the predator area), and some wolves that 
primarily occupy the WTGMA will be killed when dispersing into the 
predator area. However, Wyoming's overall management strategy has been 
improved to such an extent that such mortality can occur without 
compromising the recovered status of the population in Wyoming.

[[Page 61808]]

    Such losses were a substantial concern when State law required WGFD 
to aggressively manage the population down to minimal levels. However, 
Wyoming has committed to remove current statutory mandates for 
aggressive management down to minimum levels. Furthermore, Wyoming has 
agreed to maintain a population that remains at or above 10 breeding 
pairs and at or above 100 wolves in areas under their jurisdiction. To 
accomplish this, Wyoming intends to maintain an adequate buffer above 
minimum population objectives to accommodate an annual wolf hunt and 
unpredicted mortality associated with control actions, as well as, to 
ensure that uncontrollable sources of mortality do not drop the 
population below this minimum population level (WGFC 2011, p. 24). 
Collectively, the plan assures that unregulated human-caused mortality 
in the predator area will not compromise the recovered status of the 
Wyoming wolf population.
    The Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department will 
manage all wolves occurring on the Wind River Indian Reservation 
according to their approved wolf management plan (King 2007, in litt.; 
Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department 2007, entire). The 
plan allows any enrolled member on tribal land to shoot a wolf in the 
act of attacking livestock or dogs on tribal land, provided the 
enrolled member provides evidence of livestock or dogs recently (less 
than 24 hours) wounded, harassed, molested, or killed by wolves, and a 
designated agent is able to confirm that the livestock or dogs were 
wounded, harassed, molested, or killed by wolves (Shoshone and Arapaho 
Tribal Fish and Game Department 2007, p. 8). ``In the act of 
attacking'' means the actual biting, wounding, grasping, or killing of 
livestock or dogs, or chasing, molesting, or harassing by wolves that 
would indicate to a reasonable person that such biting, wounding, 
grasping, or killing of livestock or dogs is likely to occur at any 
moment (Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department 2007, p. 
8). The plan also allows the tribal government to remove ``wolves of 
concern'' (Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department 2007, 
p. 8). ``Wolves of concern'' are defined as wolves that attack 
livestock, dogs, or livestock herding and guarding animals once in a 
calendar year or any domestic animal twice in a calendar year (Shoshone 
and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department 2007, p. 8).
    Criteria to determine when take will be initiated are: (1) Evidence 
of the attack, (2) reason to believe that additional attacks will 
occur, (3) no evidence of unusual wolf attractants, and (4) any certain 
animal husbandry practices have been implemented (Shoshone and Arapaho 
Tribal Fish and Game Department 2007, p. 8). In situations with chronic 
wolf depredation, enrolled members may acquire written authorization 
from the tribes to shoot wolves on tribal land after at least two 
separate confirmed depredations by wolves on livestock, livestock 
herding or guarding animals, or dogs, and the tribes have determined 
that wolves are routinely present and pose a significant risk to the 
owner's livestock (Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department 
2007, p. 8). Other forms of authorized human-caused mortality include 
take in defense of human life, take needed to avoid conflicts with 
human activities, incidental take, accidental take, scientific take, or 
take for humane reasons (such as to aid or euthanize sick, injured, or 
orphaned wolves) (Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department 
2007, p. 8).
    These regulations are similar to experimental population rules 
currently in place on the Wind River Indian Reservation (70 FR 1286, 
January 6, 2005; 73 FR 4720, January 28, 2008; 50 CFR 17.84(n)). This 
type of take has not proven a limiting factor for the area. 
Furthermore, as stated in our 2007 approval letter, suitable habitat on 
the Wind River Indian Reservation is occasionally used by wolves, but 
is not considered essential to maintaining a recovered wolf population 
in Wyoming, and any wolves that establish themselves on tribal lands 
will be in addition to those necessary for management by the State of 
Wyoming for maintaining a recovered wolf population (King 2007, in 
litt.).
    In YNP, human-caused mortality has been, and is expected to 
continue to be, very rare because park regulations are very protective 
of wildlife with few exceptions for authorized human-caused mortality. 
Accidental mortality or defense of life mortality may occur, but as in 
the rest of Wyoming, we expect these sources of mortality will be 
exceedingly rare. Another rare, but potential source of human-caused 
mortality is agency action to remove habituated wolves that pose a 
threat to human safety after nonlethal efforts have failed to correct 
the behavior. In 2003, YNP developed a plan for the management of 
habituated wolves in YNP (YNP 2003, entire). YNP policies indicate 
``removal of nuisance animals may be undertaken to reduce a threat to 
public health or safety'' (YNP 2003, p. 8). Further, management 
policies (YNP 2003, p. 8) state, ``Where visitor use or other human 
activities cannot be modified or curtailed, the Service may directly 
reduce the animal population by using several animal population 
management techniques * * *'' that include ``destruction of animals by 
NPS personnel or their authorized agents.'' This is important in YNP 
because the unusually high exposure wolves have to people in YNP 
increases the likelihood of unpredictable wolf behavior (YNP 2003, p. 
9). To address such situations, YNP has developed a management plan 
which calls for increased public education, monitoring, aversion 
conditioning, and, if necessary, wolf removal (YNP 2003, pp. 4, 9-12). 
This approach, endorsed by the Service in 2003 (YNP 2003, p. 13), is 
authorized by existing experimental population rules (50 CFR 
17.84(i)(3)(v)).
    State, Tribal, and Federal (YNP) management in Wyoming will ensure 
that human-caused mortality never threatens the recovered status of the 
population. As discussed above, wolf populations can maintain 
themselves despite sustained human-caused mortality rates of between 22 
to greater than 50 percent (Keith 1983; Ballard et al. 1987; Fuller 
1989; Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 182-184; Creel and Rotella 2010), with 
Wyoming-specific data from 2007 to 2010 indicating that the wolf 
population in Wyoming outside YNP can sustain, on average, a 36 percent 
mortality rate from human causes (WGFC 2011, p. 12). While wolves were 
listed, total human-caused mortality rates averaged about 23 percent 
annually. Wolves have a very high natural resilience to regulated 
human-caused mortality (Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 182-190). For example, 
in 2009, more than 600 wolves died from all sources of mortality 
(agency control including defense of property, regulated harvest (for 
the first time), illegal and accidental killing, and natural causes), 
and the population still grew by almost 5 percent.
    After delisting, most human-caused predation in Wyoming will be 
similar to that which was in place under either the 1994 experimental 
population rules (now governing most of Wyoming) or the 2005 
experimental population rules (59 FR 60252, November 22, 1994; 59 FR 
60266, November 22, 1994; 70 FR 1286, January 6, 2005; 73 FR 4720, 
January 28, 2008; 50 CFR 17.84(i) & (n)), as modified in 2008, 
governing management over most of Idaho and Montana in recent years. 
While some allowed take will be more liberal (e.g., mortality in the 
predator area), resulting in greater overall rates of human-caused

[[Page 61809]]

predation post-delisting, the increase will not compromise the State's 
ability to maintain the population above recovery levels. All sources 
of mortality will be monitored and considered in State management 
decisions. Many sources of authorized take can be limited, if 
necessary, to keep the population above recovery levels (e.g., the 
State can suspend lethal take permits, agency control actions, or 
hunting seasons). Finally, recognizing some mortality will occur from 
uncontrollable sources (e.g., some wolves that primarily occupy the 
WTGMA will be lost when they go on routine dispersal events into the 
predator area), Wyoming no longer intends to aggressively manage the 
population down toward minimal levels (an approach we previously 
indicated was unacceptable), and, in fact, intends to maintain an 
adequate buffer above minimum population objectives. Collectively, this 
information indicates that human-caused predation will be managed to 
assure the Wyoming population's recovered status is never compromised.

Factor D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    This section provides an analysis of State, tribal, and Federal 
regulatory mechanisms to determine if they are adequate to maintain the 
species' recovered status in the absence of the Act's protections. By 
definition, potential threats only require regulation if they represent 
a threat in the absence of regulation. This section focuses on likely 
future population levels anticipated to be maintained, noting that 
human-caused mortality is the most significant issue influencing these 
levels. In short, if human-caused mortality is adequately regulated and 
population targets are sufficient to allow for other potential 
unforeseen or uncontrollable sources of mortality, no other potential 
threats are likely to compromise the population's viability. This 
section does not go into detail about each individual threat factor or 
source of mortality. Instead it includes an overview with a focus on 
the regulatory mechanism that addresses each threat factor or source of 
mortality. For a more detailed discussion of any one potential threat, 
see the supporting discussion under the specific applicable Factor 
(i.e., A, B, C, or E).
    National Park Service--Twenty percent of the currently occupied 
portions of Wyoming (defined in Factor A above) and 23 percent of areas 
that are protected or where wolves are regulated as game animals occur 
within a National Park (see Figure 1 above). From 2001 to the end of 
2010, the wolf population in YNP ranged from 96 to 171 wolves, and 
between 6 to 16 breeding pairs, with an average of 9.8 breeding pairs. 
While some wolves and some wolf packs also occur in Grant Teton 
National Park and John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, these wolves 
and wolf packs usually have a majority of their home range in areas 
under the State of Wyoming's jurisdiction; thus, these wolves are only 
subject to National Park Service regulation when on National Park 
Service lands.
    The National Park Service Organic Act (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.) and the 
National Park Service management policies on wildlife generally require 
the agency to conserve natural and cultural resources and the wildlife 
present within National 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 (NPS 2006, p. 44). No population targets for wolves 
will be established for the National Parks. Instead, management 
emphasis in National Parks after delisting will focus on continuing to 
minimize the human impacts on wolf populations (YNP 2003, pp. 9-12). 
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 National Park Service Organic 
Act and National Park Service policies will continue to provide 
protection following the proposed Federal delisting. Natural sources of 
mortality (e.g., disease) will occasionally impact wolf populations in 
National Parks, but, in light of adequate regulation of intentional 
human-caused mortality, impacts from these occasional events will be 
temporary and not threaten the population.
    National Wildlife Refuges--Each unit of the National Wildlife 
Refuge System was established for specific purposes. The National Elk 
Refuge was established in 1912 as a ``winter game (elk) reserve'' (37 
Stat. 293, 16 U.S.C. 673), and the following year Congress designated 
the area as ``a winter elk refuge'' (37 Stat. 847). In 1921, all lands 
included in the refuge, or that might be added in the future, were 
reserved and set apart as ``refuges and breeding grounds for birds'' 
(Executive Order (E.O.) 3596), which was affirmed in 1922 (E.O. 3741). 
In 1927, the refuge was expanded to provide ``for the grazing of, and 
as a refuge for, American elk and other big game animals'' (44 Stat. 
1246, 16 U.S.C. 673a). These purposes apply to all or most of the lands 
now within the refuge. In accordance with the National Wildlife Refuge 
System Administration Act of 1966 as amended (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) by 
the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the 
Service, which manages the National Elk Refuge, recently announced a 
notice of intent to prepare a Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the 
refuge. Comprehensive Conservation Plans guide management of wildlife 
and their habitats on refuges (75 FR 65370, October 22, 2010). This 
process is ongoing.
    The refuge's nearly 25,000 acres provide a winter home for one of 
the largest wintering concentrations of elk; in addition to the large 
elk herds, a free-roaming bison herd winters at the refuge (75 FR 
65370, October 22, 2010). Wolves occurring on the National Elk Refuge 
will be monitored, and refuge habitat management will maintain the 
current prey base for them (Kallin 2011, pers. comm.; Smith 2007, pers. 
comm. as cited by WGFC 2011, p. 18). Wolf trapping or hunting will not 
be authorized on the refuge (Kallin 2011, pers. comm.). Because of the 
relatively small size of the refuge, all of the wolves and all of the 
packs that occur on the refuge will also spend significant amounts of 
time on adjacent State-managed lands. Thus, much like Grand Teton 
National Park and John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, these wolves 
are only subject to National Wildlife Refuge regulation during the 
small portion of their time spent on the National Elk Refuge.
    Tribal Lands--Wolves will be managed as game animals on the Wind 
River Indian Reservation. The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho 
Tribes govern this area and the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and 
Game Department and the Service's Lander Wyoming Management Assistance 
Office manage wildlife occurring on the reservation. Wolf management on 
the Wind River Indian Reservation is guided by the Service-approved 
``Wolf Management Plan for the Wind River Reservation'' (King 2007, in 
litt.; Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribal Fish and Game Department 2007, 
entire). Suitable habitat on the Wind River Indian Reservation supports 
a small wolf population. While this area sometimes supports packs, it 
has never supported a breeding pair. The Wind River Indian Reservation 
is not considered essential to maintaining a recovered wolf population 
in Wyoming, and any wolves that establish themselves on tribal lands 
will be in addition to those necessary for management by the State

[[Page 61810]]

of Wyoming for maintaining a recovered wolf population (King 2007, in 
litt.).
    Forest Service--Federal law indicates Forest Service land shall be 
managed to provide habitat for fish and wildlife including wolves and 
their prey. Specifically, under the National Forest Management Act of 
1976, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1600-1614), the Forest Service shall strive 
to provide for a diversity of plant and animal communities when 
managing national forest lands. Similarly, the Multiple Use and 
Sustained Yield Act (16 U.S.C. 528) indicates National Forests are to 
be managed for ``wildlife and fish purposes'' among other purposes, and 
the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701) 
says public lands are to be ``managed in a manner[hellip] that will 
provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic animals.''
    Wilderness areas are afforded the highest protections of all Forest 
Service lands. The Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136) states 
the following: (1) New or temporary roads cannot be built; (2) there 
can be no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, or motorboats; 
(3) there can be no landing of aircraft; (4) there can be no other form 
of mechanical transport; and (5) no structure or installation may be 
built. The following wilderness areas occur in the WTGMA: all of the 
Absaroka Beartooth, Fitzpatrick, Gros Ventre, Jedediah Smith, North 
Absaroka, Washakie, Teton, and Winegar Hole Wilderness Areas as well as 
the northern half of the Bridger Wilderness Area.
    Wilderness study areas are designated by Federal land management 
agencies (e.g., USDA Forest Service) as those having wilderness 
characteristics and being worthy of congressional designation as a 
wilderness area. The following wilderness study areas occur in the 
WTGMA: The Dubois Badlands, Owl Creek, and Whiskey Mountain Wilderness 
Study Areas. Individual National Forests that designate wilderness 
study areas manage these areas to maintain their wilderness 
characteristics until Congress decides whether to designate them as 
permanent wilderness areas. This means that individual wilderness study 
areas are protected from new road construction by Forest Plans. 
Therefore, activities such as timber harvest, mining, and oil and gas 
development are much less likely to occur because the road networks 
required for these activities are unavailable. However, because these 
lands are not congressionally protected, they could experience changes 
in management prescription with Forest Plan revisions.
    This regulatory framework has been adequate to achieve wolf 
recovery in Wyoming and across the entire NRM DPS without additional 
land use restrictions. The Forest Service has a demonstrated capacity 
and a proven history of providing sufficient habitat for wolves and 
their prey and the Forest Service lands will continue to be adequately 
regulated to provide for the needs of wolves and their prey.
    While the Forest Service manages and regulates habitat and factors 
impacting habitat, the Forest Service typically defers to States on 
hunting decisions (43 U.S.C. 1732(b)). The primary exception to this 
deference is the Forest Service's authority to identify areas and 
periods when hunting is not permitted (43 U.S.C. 1732(b)). However even 
these decisions are to be developed in consultation with the States. 
Thus, human-caused mortality and the adequacy of the associated 
regulatory framework are discussed under the ``State Regulatory 
Mechanisms'' section below, as well as ``Commercial and Recreational 
Uses'' section of Factor B, and the ``Human-caused Predation'' section 
of Factor C.
    State Regulatory Mechanisms--Portions of the Wyoming WTGMA under 
State jurisdiction will be managed according to the WGFC 2011 Wyoming 
Gray Wolf Management Plan (WGFC 2011, entire). This plan is consistent 
with an agreement between the Service and the State of Wyoming (WGFC 
2011, appendix I). While the below summary reflects this plan, 
conforming changes to Wyoming State law and WGFC regulations are 
necessary to implement this plan. We expect these statutory and 
regulatory changes will be made within the next several months. If the 
statutory or regulatory changes deviate significantly from the changes 
in law that we expect Wyoming to make, we may need to reopen the 
comment period to provide the public an opportunity to review and 
comment once these changes are finalized. Should Wyoming fail to make 
the changes necessary to support a recovered wolf population, delisting 
will not occur and this proposal will be withdrawn.
    Within Wyoming's WTGMA (see Figure 1 above), wolves will be managed 
as a game animal, which allows the WGFC and WGFD to regulate methods of 
take, hunting seasons, types of allowed take, and numbers of wolves. 
The boundary and size of the WTGMA and its seasonal expansion, as set 
forth in the agreement between the Service and the State and reflected 
in Wyoming's revised wolf management plan, will be established by State 
statute, which cannot be changed through WGFC rule or regulation. This 
area is of sufficient size to support Wyoming population targets, 
assuming implementation of Wyoming's management plan for this area. In 
consideration of, and to address, Service concerns about genetics and 
connectivity, Wyoming included a seasonal expansion of the WTGMA in 
their management plan. From October 15 through the end of February, the 
WTGMA will expand approximately 80 km (50 mi) south (see Figure 1 
above). This seasonal expansion will benefit natural dispersal (for a 
more detailed discussion of genetic connectivity, see the ``Genetic 
Considerations'' section of Factor E below).
    Wolves that occur in the remainder of Wyoming under State 
jurisdiction will be classified as predators. Predatory animals are 
regulated by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture under Title 11, 
Chapter 6 of the Wyoming Statutes. Under these regulations, wolves in 
predator areas can be killed with very few restrictions. As we have 
previously concluded (71 FR 43410, August 1, 2006; 72 FR 6106, February 
8, 2007; 73 FR 10514, February 27, 2008; 74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009), 
wolves are unlikely to survive in portions of Wyoming where they are 
regulated as predatory animals. However, portions outside the predator 
area are large enough to support Wyoming's management goals and a 
recovered wolf population (this issue is discussed further in the 
``Human-caused Predation'' section of Factor C above as well as the 
``Genetic Considerations'' portion of Factor E below).
    Within the WTGMA, wolves will be managed by the WGFC and the WGFD. 
The WGFC will direct the management of wolves, and the WGFD will assume 
management authority of wolves (WGFC 2011, p. 1). The State of Wyoming 
has a relatively large and well-distributed professional fish and game 
agency that has the demonstrated skills and experience to successfully 
manage a diversity of resident species, including large carnivores. The 
WGFD and WGFC are similarly qualified to manage a recovered wolf 
population. State management of wolves will follow the classic State-
led North American model for wildlife management which has been 
extremely successful at restoring, maintaining, and expanding the 
distribution of numerous populations of other wildlife species, 
including other large predators, throughout North America (Geist 2006, 
p. 1; Bangs 2008).

[[Page 61811]]

    Within the WTGMA, Wyoming has agreed to maintain a population of at 
least 10 breeding pairs and at least 100 wolves in areas under State 
jurisdiction. This minimum population objective is incorporated into 
Wyoming's wolf management plan and will be institutionalized in Wyoming 
State statute and regulation. To ensure this target is never 
inadvertently compromised, Wyoming intends to maintain an adequate 
buffer above minimum population objectives (WGFC 2011, p. 24). 
Additionally, Wyoming is planning that any future population reduction 
will be gradual to ensure population targets are not compromised while 
the State gathers information on the vulnerability of wolves under a 
State management regime. All sources of mortality will be considered in 
management decisions. These objectives have been institutionalized into 
Wyoming's wolf management plan, will be reflected in all WGFD and WGFC 
planning decisions, and will be reflected in WGFC regulations.
    Wolves taken outside the framework established by State statute and 
WGFC regulation will be considered to have been taken illegally and 
will be investigated by WGFD law enforcement personnel (WGFC 2011, p. 
25). Appropriate law enforcement and legal action will be taken, which 
could include fines, jail terms, and loss of hunting privileges (WGFC 
2011, p. 25). We believe that these measures constitute adequate 
regulatory mechanisms to address the threat of illegal killing of 
wolves.
    Given the State of Wyoming's demonstrated capacity to manage 
similar wildlife, their commitment to manage wolves at or above agreed-
upon minimum population levels, along with an overall approach that we 
conclude will allow the State to meet its objectives, we view the State 
of Wyoming's proposed management strategy as an adequate regulatory 
mechanism. However, as noted above, additional statutory and regulatory 
changes must occur for this plan to be implemented as currently 
designed. We expect these changes will be made over the next several 
months and prior to any final delisting of gray wolves in Wyoming.
    Because some GYA wolves and some GYA packs cross State lines, 
Montana's and Idaho's regulatory framework are also discussed here. 
Furthermore, management in these States can impact dispersal across the 
entire region.
    Montana statutes and administrative rules categorize the gray wolf 
as a ``Species in Need of Management'' under the Montana Nongame and 
Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1973 (MCA 87-5-101 to 87-5-123). 
Montana law defines ``species in need of management'' as ``The 
collection and application of biological information for the purposes 
of increasing the number of individuals within species and populations 
of wildlife up to the optimum carrying capacity of their habitat and 
maintain those levels. The term includes the entire range of activities 
that constitute a modern scientific resource program, including, but 
not limited to research, census, law enforcement, habitat improvement, 
and education. The term also includes the periodic or total protection 
of species or populations as well as regulated taking.'' Classification 
as a ``Species in Need of Management'' and the associated 
administrative rules under Montana State law create the legal mechanism 
to protect wolves and regulate human-caused mortality (including 
regulated public harvest) beyond the immediate defense of life/property 
situations. Some illegal human-caused mortality likely still occurs, 
and is to be prosecuted under State law and Commission regulations. 
Montana's Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission determine harvest quotas 
annually.
    The IFGC has authority to classify wildlife under Idaho Code 36-
104(b) and 36-201. The gray wolf was classified as endangered by the 
State until March 2005, when the IFGC reclassified the species as a big 
game animal under Idaho Administrative Procedures Act 
(13.01.06.100.01.d). As a big game animal, State regulations adjust 
human-caused wolf mortality to ensure recovery levels are exceeded. 
Title 36 of the Idaho statutes has penalties associated with illegal 
take of big game animals. These rules are consistent with the 
legislatively adopted Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan 
(IWCMP) (Idaho 2002) and big game hunting regulations currently in 
place. The IWCMP states that wolves will be protected against illegal 
take as a big game animal under Idaho Code 36-1402, 36-1404, and 36-
202(h). The IFGC determines harvest quotas annually.
    Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are committed to implement wolf 
management in a manner that also encourages connectivity among wolf 
populations (Groen et al. 2008, entire; WGFC 2011, pp. 26-29, 52, 54). 
Both Montana's and Idaho's 2009 and 2011 hunts consider and minimize 
impacts to natural connectivity. Additionally, the States have 
committed to implement agency-managed genetic exchange (moving 
individual wolves or their genes into the affected population segment), 
should it ever be needed (Groen et al. 2008, entire; WGFC 2011, pp. 26-
29, 52, 54).
    Montana's and Idaho's regulatory frameworks are sufficient to 
ensure impacts in Montana and Idaho to the Wyoming wolf population will 
be minimal. Should management needs be identified in future years, both 
States have regulatory authority to modify management to meet this 
population need. All three States have a strong incentive to maintain 
the NRM DPS and its subpopulations well above minimal population 
levels.
    Environmental Protection Agency--The Federal Insecticide, 
Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.) provides for 
Federal regulation of pesticide distribution, sale, and use. All 
pesticides distributed or sold in the United States must be registered 
(licensed) by the Environmental Protection Agency. Before the 
Environmental Protection Agency may register a pesticide, the applicant 
must show, among other things, that using the pesticide according to 
specifications ``will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects 
on the environment.'' No poisons can currently be legally used to 
poison wolves in the United States because of Environmental Protection 
Agency restrictions. However, sodium cyanide (only in M-44 devices) and 
Compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate used only in livestock protection 
collars) are legal toxicants for use on other non-wolf canids. Sodium 
cyanide was reregistered for use in M-44 devices in 1994 (Environmental 
Protection Agency 1994, entire). Compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) 
was registered for use in livestock protection collars in 1995 
(Environmental Protection Agency 1995, entire). The Large Gas or 
Denning Cartridge was registered for use in 2007 (Environmental 
Protection Agency 2007, entire).
    All three products have label restrictions imposed by the 
Environmental Protection Agency consistent with a Service 1993 
Biological Opinion to protect endangered species (Environmental 
Protection Agency 1994, p. 4; Environmental Protection Agency 1995, pp. 
27, 32-38). It is a violation of Federal law to use a pesticide in a 
manner inconsistent with its labeling, and the courts consider a label 
to be a legal document (Environmental Protection Agency 2011, p. 1). 
The Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of these and other 
toxicants has been adequate to prevent any meaningful impacts to wolf 
populations in Wyoming, the GYA, or the NRM DPS.

[[Page 61812]]

These restrictions constitute an adequate regulatory mechanism of this 
potential issue.
    Collectively, the above regulatory framework will be considered 
adequate to maintain recovered wolf populations and to prevent 
relisting once Wyoming makes the necessary changes to State law and 
regulation required to implement Wyoming's wolf management plan. Before 
delisting occurs, this regulatory framework will be formally 
established in management plans, regulations, and statute. These 
regulations will protect wolf populations (in the case of the National 
Park Service) or manage them adequately above population targets to 
ensure potential unforeseen or uncontrollable sources of mortality do 
not compromise population targets. While no wolves are expected to 
persist in the predator area, this area is not necessary for wolf 
conservation in Wyoming. Impacts could also occur in adjacent portions 
of Montana and Idaho, but these impacts are expected to be minor (few 
wolf packs are transboundary) and can be regulated through limits on 
human-caused mortality, if necessary. Additionally, agency capacity and 
past practice with wolves and other game species provide confidence 
that targets will be met. Finally, while not relied upon, we believe 
the threat of relisting provides additional certainty the objectives 
will never be compromised.

Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence

    This section discusses public attitudes toward wolves, genetics, 
poison, climate change, catastrophic events, and potential impacts of 
human-caused mortality to pack structure. This analysis focuses on 
Wyoming, but considers information from beyond Wyoming when such 
information helps inform our understanding of an issue and its 
potential impact to wolves in Wyoming or the GYA.
    Public Attitudes Toward the Gray Wolf--Human attitudes toward 
wolves were the main reason the wolf was listed under the ESA because 
those attitudes resulted in Federal, State, and local governments 
promoting wolf extirpation by whatever means possible, including 
widespread poisoning, even in National Parks (see also Poisoning 
section below). Those attitudes were largely based on the real and 
perceived conflicts between humans and wolves, primarily in the context 
of livestock and pet depredation, hunting of ungulates, and concerns 
for human safety.
    Public hostility toward wolves led to the government-sanctioned 
persecution that extirpated the species from the NRM DPS in the 1930s. 
Negative attitudes toward wolves remain deeply ingrained in some 
individuals and continue to affect human tolerance of wolves. Many 
papers recently addressed the concept of recent human tolerance of 
wolves and how those attitudes might affect wolf restoration (Kellert 
et al. 1996, p. 977; Kellert 1999; p. 167; Zimmermann et al. 2001, p. 
137; Ench and Brown 2002, p. 16; Williams et al. 2002, p. 1; Ericsson 
and Heberlein 2003, p. 149; Fritts et al. 2003, pp. 289-316; Bruskotter 
et al. 2007, p. 211; Karlsson and Sjostrom 2007, p. 610; Stronena et 
al. 2007, p. 1; Herberlein and Ericsson 2008, p. 391; Bruskotter et al. 
2009, p. 119; Wilson and Bruskotter 2009, p. 353; Bruskotter 2010b, p. 
1; Bruskotter et al. 2010a, p. 941; Bruskotter et al. 2010b, p. 30; 
Houston et al. 2010, p. 2; Treves and Martin 2010, p. 1; Treves et al. 
2010, p. 2; for additional references see USFWS 1994, Appendix 3; 76 FR 
26086, May 5, 2011).
    These public attitudes began to shift in the mid-20th century 
because of increased urbanization and increasing national concerns 
about environmental issues. However, huge decreases in wolf abundance 
due to wolf extirpation in the last century, lack of first-hand 
experience with wolves and the damage they can cause, and increasing 
urbanization has resulted in most Americans holding favorable attitudes 
towards wolves. These same societal shifts in human attitudes have 
occurred in other parts of the world (Boitani 2003, p. 321). The huge 
shift in human attitudes and the resulting treatment of wolves compared 
to 100 years ago is evident by the shift in policies throughout North 
America and other parts of the world from extirpation to restoration 
(Boitani 2003, pp. 322-323; Boitani and CuCiucci 2010, pp. 19-21). 
Today, a majority of Americans view wolves favorably for a multitude of 
reasons. Wolves are considered beneficial to ecosystem health. And it 
is now considered appropriate to reverse wolf extirpation, a perceived 
historic wrong (Houston et al. 2010, p. 27).
    Despite the variety of opinions, research is scarce on what factors 
increase human tolerance of wolves and how those translate into 
conservation success by preventing excessive rates of human-caused 
mortality (Bath and Buchanan 1980; Williams et al. 2002; Ericsson et 
al. 2003; Fritts et al. 2003). The groups most supportive of wolf 
conservation are often members of environmental organizations and urban 
residents. These individuals often view wolf reintroduction as 
restoring an ecological balance. However, favorable attitudes toward 
wolves decrease as people experience, or think they might soon 
experience, living with wolves (Huston et al. 2010, p. 1).
    Typically, the groups most likely to oppose wolf recovery are 
livestock producers, hunters, and rural residents within or near 
potential wolf habitat. These individuals face a higher probability of 
directly suffering competition or damage from wolves. Numerous public 
attitudes surveys indicate human attitudes toward wolves improve when 
there is local participation in wildlife management through regulated 
harvest and defense of life and property regulations. Surveys also show 
improvement in attitudes when people can pursue traditional activities, 
like hunting and grazing, without restrictions (For references see 
Service 1994, Appendix 3; Williams et al. 2002; IDFG 2008; Houston et 
al. 2010; 76 FR 26086, May 5, 2011). Wolf conservation can be 
successful even in areas with high human density, if management 
policies factor-in human concerns (Linnell et al. 2001, p. 345).
    A 1994 summary of human values surveys (USFWS 1994, Appendix 3) 
found that the overriding concern of those living with wolves is the 
financial and emotional loss that occurs when wolves kill livestock. 
Further illustrating the connection between financial cost/benefit and 
attitudes, one survey found Alaskan trappers (who legally harvest 
wolves for their pelts) had the most accurate knowledge of wolves and 
viewed wolves the most favorably (Kellert 1985). Toward this end, 
compensation programs for wolf-livestock depredations have benefited 
attitudes toward wolves. Wyoming intends to continue such programs in 
trophy game portions of the State.
    Allowing landowners to defend their property may have also 
ameliorated some of the concern related to potential wolf-livestock 
conflicts. For example, from 1995 through 2004, the highest rate of 
illegal killing occurred in northwestern Montana, where wolves were 
listed as endangered and legal protection was highest, compared to 
central Idaho and the GYA where wolves were managed under more liberal 
experimental population regulations. However, the difference in habitat 
security might also explain the differences in rates of human-caused 
mortality (Smith et al. 2010, p. 630). Upon delisting, Wyoming intends 
to implement regulations similar to our experimental population 
regulations. State management provides a larger and more effective 
local organization and a

[[Page 61813]]

more familiar means for dealing with these conflicts (Mech 1995, pp. 
275-276; Williams et al. 2002, p. 582; Bangs et al. 2004, p. 102; Bangs 
et al. 2009, pp. 112-113). We anticipate this approach will continue to 
benefit public attitudes post-delisting.
    Additionally, hunter's perceptions of wolves vastly improve when 
opportunity for hunting is allowed (IDFG 2007, p. 54). IDFG and MFWP 
biologists (Dickson 2010; Maurier 2010, pp. 1-2; IDFG 2007, pp. 43-47) 
reported that many big game hunters coming through mandatory hunter 
check stations in 2008 were extremely agitated and angry about wolves. 
In 2009, when wolves were delisted and there was a fair-chase hunting 
season, few hunters complained. In 2010, when the court order had 
relisted wolves, local frustration and negative opinions about wolves 
erupted to previously unforeseen levels. Hunters and most hunter 
organizations were again very upset and frustrated; some went as far as 
to call for illegal killing by shooting, and a few even called for 
poisoning wolves.
    Similarly, in Wisconsin in 2006 (before wolves were delisted for 19 
months in 2007-2008), 17 illegal kills were discovered, including 9 
killed during the 9-day firearm deer season. When wolves were delisted 
in 2007 and lethal control of problem wolves was allowed by the State, 
illegal kills decreased to 11 overall with only 1 during the firearm 
deer season, and 5 of these were deemed to be accidental shootings 
outside of regular wolf range. Notably, the wolf population steadily 
increased throughout this period (Wydeven 2010). Although the small 
sample size does not allow any firm conclusions, we believe this 
example illustrates that local human tolerance of wolves is the most 
critical factor in long term wolf conservation. Keeping a large, 
recovered wolf population listed under the ESA fuels negative attitudes 
rather than resolving them (Bangs et al. 2009, pp. 112-113).
    Regulated public harvest has also been successfully used for a host 
of other species to garner local public tolerance for restoration 
efforts (Geist 2006, p. 285). The success of this approach is 
illustrated by the conservation of mountain lions and black bears, 
which were also once persecuted throughout most of North America. These 
species were recovered by State and tribal fish and game agencies and 
hunters with much less controversy than the recovery of wolves. The 
recovery of those other species included regulated public harvest from 
the beginning of restoration efforts. Likewise, the Canadian Provinces 
restored wolf populations throughout large portions of their historic 
range by ``harvesting'' them back to fully recovered levels (Pletscher 
et al. 1991, p. 545). In 2009 and 2010, Sweden used hunters to cap the 
population at 220 wolves, in part, to promote public tolerance for wolf 
restoration (Liberg 2010, pers. comm.).
    We believe public tolerance of wolves will improve as wolves are 
delisted and hunters start to see wolves as a trophy animal with value. 
We believe this process has already begun in other delisted areas; 
however, it will likely take time for the full effects of this 
increased control over the resource and the related sense of ownership 
before tangible benefits in improved public opinion and less extreme 
rhetoric are realized. Public acceptance is highest where wolves never 
disappeared and where wolf populations are typically healthy (or 
perhaps just with much longer periods of exposure to wolves) (Houston 
et al. 2010, pp. 19-20). However, it has not been determined whether 
this is due more to increased knowledge and experience dealing with 
wolves or relaxed local management policies (including liberal public 
harvest and defense of property regulations) to address local 
conflicts.
    The State of Wyoming has developed a strategy that will not only 
provide for wolf recovery, but also allow consideration of the diverse 
opinions and attitudes of its citizens. Wyoming's plan promotes wolf 
occupancy of suitable habitat in a manner that minimizes damage to 
private property, allows for continuation of traditional western land-
uses such as grazing and hunting, and allows for direct citizen 
participation in, and funding for, State wolf management (in the form 
of State defense of property and hunting regulations). With the 
continued help of private conservation organizations, Wyoming and the 
Tribes will continue to foster public support to maintain a recovered 
wolf population. The WGFD has staff dedicated to providing accurate and 
science-based public education, information, and outreach (WGFC 2011, 
pp. 41-42). Wyoming's comprehensive approach to wolf management 
provides us with confidence that human attitudes toward wolves should 
not again threaten wolves in Wyoming.
    As noted above, wolf conservation is dependent on human tolerance 
(Boitiani 2003, p. 317; Fritts et al. 2003, p. 289) and on the rate of 
human-caused mortality (Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 184-185) far more than 
any other factor. Regarding the former, State management will likely 
improve tolerance of wolves as the public appreciates increased State 
control (less Federal control), and increased management flexibility, 
including hunting. When one considers that current human attitudes were 
sufficient to achieve wolf restoration, and that we expect State 
management to improve these attitudes, we no longer view this as a 
threat to wolves in Wyoming.
    Furthermore, to the extent any impact from human tolerance (or lack 
thereof) is realized, it will affect human-caused mortality. Wyoming's 
plan provides assurance that human-caused mortality will be adequately 
regulated to ensure recovery is never compromised. Thus, we no longer 
consider human attitudes to be a threat to the gray wolf in Wyoming.
    Genetic Considerations--Overall, NRM wolves are as genetically 
diverse as their vast, secure, healthy, contiguous, and connected 
populations in Canada (Forbes and Boyd 1997, p. 1089; vonHoldt et al. 
2007, p. 19; vonHoldt et al. 2008, p. 267) and, thus, genetic diversity 
is not a wolf conservation issue in the NRM DPS at this time 
(Hebblewhite et al. 2010, p. 4383; vonHoldt et al. 2010, pp. 4412, 
4416, 4421). This current genetic health is the result of deliberate 
management actions by the Service and its cooperators since 1995 
(Bradley et al. 2005, p. 1504). Furthermore, genetic data collected 
from 1995 to 2004 demonstrate that all subpopulations within the NRM 
DPS maintained high genetic diversity during the first 10 years after 
reintroduction (vonHoldt et al. 2010, p. 4423, Hebblewhite et al. 2010, 
p. 4384). Genetic diversity has likely changed little since 2004. Below 
we analyze whether genetics will become a threat to wolves in Wyoming 
or the GYA within the foreseeable future.
    Wolves have an unusual ability to rapidly disperse long distances 
across virtually any habitat and select mates to maximize genetic 
diversity. Only extremely large bodies of water or vast deserts appear 
to restrict wolf dispersal (Linnell et al. 2005). Wolves are among the 
least likely species to be affected by inbreeding when compared to 
nearly any other species of land mammal (Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 189-
190; Paquet et al. 2006, p. 3; Liberg 2008, p. 1). Wolves avoid 
inbreeding by dispersing to find unrelated mates (Bensch et al. 2006, 
p. 72; vonHoldt et al. 2007, p. 1). This social pattern is a basic 
function of wolf populations and occurs regardless of the numbers, 
density, or presence of other wolves (Mech and Boitani 2003, pp. 11-
180; Jimenez et al. 2011, p. 14).

[[Page 61814]]

    As a general rule, genetic exchange of at least one effective 
migrant (i.e., a breeding migrant that passes on its genes) per 
generation is viewed as sufficient to prevent the loss of alleles and 
minimize loss of heterozygosity within subpopulations (Mills 2007, 
p.193). This level of gene flow allows for local evolutionary 
adaptation while minimizing negative effects of genetic drift and 
inbreeding depression (Mills 2007, p. 193). The northwestern Montana 
and central Idaho core recovery areas are well-connected to each other 
and to large wolf populations in Canada through dispersal (Boyd et al. 
1995, p. 136; Boyd and Pletscher 1999, pp. 1100-1101; Hebblewhite et 
al. 2010, p. 4383; vonHoldt et al. 2010, pp. 4422-4423; Jimenez et al. 
2011, p. 23).
    The GYA is the most isolated core recovery area within the NRM DPS 
(Oakleaf et al. 2005, p. 554; vonHoldt et al. 2007, p. 19). From 1992 
to 2008, we documented five radio-collared wolves naturally entering 
the GYA, two of which are confirmed to have bred (Service et al. 2011, 
p. 2; Jimenez et al. 2011, p. 23). The first wolf dispersed from 
northwestern Montana to the eastern side of the GYA in 1992 when only 
41 wolves and 4 breeding pairs were in the region (Pletscher et al. 
1997, p. 464). Because this dispersal predated the 1995-1996 
reintroductions, this wolf did not breed as there were no other wolves 
present for it to breed with. In 2002, a central Idaho wolf dispersed 
to the eastern side of the GYA and became the breeding male of the 
Greybull pack near Meeteetse, Wyoming. In 2006, another central Idaho 
wolf dispersed to the northern edge of the GYA (south of Bozeman, 
Montana); it is unknown if this wolf bred. In 2007, two wolves from 
central Idaho dispersed to the eastern side of GYA. One of these 
dispersers joined a pack near Dubois, Wyoming; its reproductive status 
is unknown. The other 2007 disperser joined a pack near Sunlight Basin, 
Wyoming, and bred. Because only 20 to 30 percent of the NRM wolf 
population has been radio-collared, it is reasonable to assume that 
approximately three times the documented number of radio-collared 
wolves dispersed into the GYA. On average, about 35 percent of 
dispersing wolves reproduce (Jimenez et al. 2011, p. 12). Because a 
wolf generation is approximately 4 years, dispersal data indicates that 
more than one effective migrant per generation has likely entered into 
the GYA wolf population. Specifically, these data indicate we may have 
averaged around one-and-a-half effective migrants per generation since 
reintroduction, with a large portion of this dispersal occurring in 
recent years when the central Idaho population was above 500 wolves.
    Genetics data have only been analyzed from 1995 to 2004 when the 
NRM gray wolf population was between 101 and 846 wolves (including a 
minimum population estimate of 14 to 452 wolves in central Idaho) and 
still growing (average 27 percent annual growth rate). During this 
period, the NRM region demonstrated a minimum of 3.3 to 5.4 effective 
migrants per generation among all three subpopulations (vonHoldt et al. 
2010, p. 4412). Within this range, the 3.3 effective migrants per 
generation reflect natural dispersal, while the 5.4 effective migrants 
per generation include human-assisted migration (Stahler 2011, in 
litt.). Within the GYA, natural dispersal data demonstrates that six 
wolves in four packs appear to have descended from one central Idaho 
disperser (the 2002 disperser discussed in the above paragraph who was 
the breeding male of the Greybull pack near Meeteetse, Wyoming) 
(vonHoldt et al. 2010, p. 4412, Supporting Table S5; Stahler 2011, in 
litt.). These data demonstrate a minimum of 0.42 natural effective 
migrants entering the GYA per generation during the 10-year study 
period (Stahler 2011, in litt.). Because only about 30 percent of the 
NRM wolf population was sampled, the minimum estimate of effective 
migrants per generation was likely a significant underestimate 
(Hebblewhite et al. 2010, p. 4384; vonHoldt et al. 2010, pp. 4422-4423; 
Stahler 2011, in litt.). While additional analysis may be needed to 
determine how much of an underestimate this represents (Stahler 2011, 
in litt.), Hebblewhite et al. (2010, p. 4384) suggest this estimate is 
``almost certainly low by at least half.''
    Both of the above information sources (documented dispersal rates 
and genetic analysis) reflect past dispersal patterns when the 
population was at different levels and the Act's protections remained 
in place. Post-delisting, populations will no longer be growing, may go 
through a period of population reduction before leveling off, and 
management will likely result in higher mortality rates for both 
dispersers and resident wolves. Thus, past dispersal data is unlikely 
to be reflective of future effective migration rates. Below we discuss 
factors likely to influence future effective migration post-delisting.
    A more detailed look at dispersal data, although reflective of the 
situation while listed, may provide insights into likely dispersal 
after delisting. NRM gray wolf dispersal data from 1995 to 2008 
indicated that: wolves routinely dispersed at all population levels and 
from packs of all sizes (10 percent of the wolf population dispersed 
annually); some dispersers moved long distances despite the occurrence 
of empty suitable habitat nearby (23 percent of these dispersers 
traveled greater than or equal to 100 miles, a distance that separates 
routinely occupied areas in the GYA and central Idaho); wolves 
dispersed in all directions (19 percent of dispersers traveled east as 
would be necessary to get from central Idaho to the GYA); dispersal 
occurred year round, but peaked in winter (more than half of all 
dispersal occurred in the 4 months of November through February); 
dispersal was a long, meandering process (dispersal events averaged 5.5 
months); disperser survival rates were lower than for resident wolves 
(70 versus 80 percent); and 35 percent of dispersing wolves reproduced 
(Jimenez et al. 2011, pp. 9-12). While these data could be used to 
model likely future effective migration, natural changes to the wolf 
population and post-delisting management across the NRM region will 
impact these variables and impact the resulting projections. Below we 
discuss factors that are likely to change these variables in future 
years.
    Several geographic and biological factors influence migration in 
the GYA. For example, physical barriers (such as high-elevation 
mountain ranges that are difficult to traverse in winter) appeared to 
discourage dispersal through Grand Teton National Park's western 
boundary. As most wolves disperse in winter, they tended to travel 
through low-elevation valleys where wild prey concentrations were 
highest due to lower snow depths. Limited social openings in YNP wolf 
packs also directed wolves dispersing from Idaho and Montana around 
YNP. To date, the high density and reproductive output of wolves in YNP 
has created a unidirectional flow of dispersing wolves out of the Park 
(vonHoldt et al. 2007, p. 270; vonHoldt et al. 2010, p. 4413; Wayne and 
Hedrick 2010). This is because young dispersing wolves seek to 
establish territories in less saturated habitats, and wolves from 
outside YNP are unable to establish residency inside areas that appear 
saturated. The lack of dispersal into YNP is likely to change as the 
wolf population continues its decline into a lower long-term 
equilibrium (Smith 2010, pers. comm.). We expect that at lower YNP 
population densities, wolves from outside YNP will be increasingly 
successful at dispersing into YNP.
    Population levels across the NRM DPS could impact natural rates of 
gene

[[Page 61815]]

flow. For example, because 10 percent of wolves disperse annually, an 
Idaho wolf population of around 500 wolves long term (a level we 
continue to think is likely) will produce many more dispersers than a 
population closer to minimum recovery targets. While the wolf 
population will almost certainly be reduced post-delisting, all three 
States in the NRM metapopulation plan to manage wolf populations 
comfortably above minimum recovery levels to allow for wolf hunting 
opportunities, in anticipation of uncontrollable sources of mortality, 
and to ensure relisting never occurs. Based on the available suitable 
habitat including remote or protected areas, management direction being 
employed or planned by the States, and State projections, we conclude 
that the overall NRM population is likely to be maintained well above 
recovery levels (perhaps around 1,000 wolves across the NRM DPS). 
Overall, we believe State management of population levels alone is 
unlikely to reduce the overall rate of natural dispersal enough to 
threaten adequate levels of effective migration. However, if the 
population is maintained near the minimum recovery target of 150 wolves 
per State, a scenario we view as extremely unlikely, we would expect 
dispersal to noticeably decrease. As discussed below, if genetic 
exchange drops below one effective migrant per generation, the States 
will implement a human-assisted migration program (i.e., translocating 
wolves).
    Human-caused wolf mortality is another key factor in determining 
whether dispersers become effective (i.e., a breeding migrant that 
passes on its genes). In short, wolves must be able to traverse 
suitable and unsuitable habitat between the key recovery areas and 
survive long enough to find a mate in suitable habitat and reproduce. 
While managed under the Act, dispersers had a 70 percent survival rate. 
However, State and tribal wolf management is likely to reduce survival 
of dispersing wolves. Across the NRM DPS, we expect mortality rates to 
increase post-delisting due to hunting, slightly more liberal defense 
of property allowances and, in Wyoming, control of wolves on State-
managed elk feeding grounds and removal in the predator area of the 
State.
    As noted above, wolves can maintain population levels despite 
sustained human-caused mortality rates of 22 to greater than 50 percent 
(Keith 1983; Ballard et al. 1987; Fuller 1989; Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 
182-184; Creel and Rotella 2010). In Wyoming outside YNP, mortality 
rates and population growth rates from 2007 to 2010 suggest that the 
Wyoming wolf population can sustain, on average, a 36 percent mortality 
rate from human causes (WGFC 2011, p. 12). Because States intend to 
initially reduce wolf populations and ultimately maintain level 
populations in balance with prey populations, it seems reasonable to 
assume that there will be high mortality across the entire region for 
the next several years, but that the population will stabilize within a 
sustainable level over the long term. Furthermore, we expect human-
caused mortality will likely continue to be low in remote and protected 
areas, and will increase in unsuitable habitat which dispersers must 
traverse to move between subpopulations.
    The management approaches of all three NRM States take into account 
and limit hunting impacts during important dispersal periods, including 
the breeding, denning, and pup rearing periods (later winter through 
early fall). Across Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, most hunting-related 
mortality will occur in October and November when big game seasons are 
scheduled and most big game hunters are in the field. In Montana in 
2009, 78 percent of harvested wolves were opportunistically harvested 
by hunters who were primarily hunting elk, deer, or both (MFWP 2009, p. 
3). In both 2009 and 2011, Montana's wolf seasons were scheduled to run 
through the end of December, or when quotas were met (MFWP 2011, 
entire). In 2009, Idaho's wolf season was open until December 31st or 
until the quota was met, but was extended through the end of March for 
all units that did not meet their quota. The 2009 hunting season was 
not extended in any areas important for dispersal. In 2011, Idaho's 
wolf hunting season runs through March for most units, but ends 
December 31st for those areas thought important for dispersal (i.e., 
the Beaverhead and Island Park units) (IFGC 2011, entire). Such 
considerations are consistent with States' commitments to preserve 
genetic diversity by ensuring the continuation of natural dispersal 
among the subpopulations through effective management of the timing and 
location of human-caused mortality (Groen et al. 2008, entire). 
Additionally, State management restricts problem wolf control to recent 
depredation events, which are uncommon during peak dispersal periods.
    The State of Wyoming has indicated their hunting seasons will occur 
primarily in conjunction with fall hunting seasons, but may be extended 
beyond that period, if necessary, to achieve management objectives 
(WGFC 2011, pp. 2-3, 16, 25, 53). Wyoming will develop a hunt plan each 
year that will take into consideration, but will not be limited to, the 
following when considering extending their hunting program: wolf 
breeding seasons; short- and long-range dispersal opportunity, 
survival, and success in forming new or joining existing packs; 
conflicts with livestock; and the broader game management 
responsibilities related to ungulates and other wildlife (WGFC 2011, 
pp. 2-3, 16, 25, 53).
    In Wyoming, survival of dispersing wolves will also be reduced in 
portions of the State where wolves will be classified as predators. In 
the predator area, human-caused mortality will be unregulated; 
therefore, wolf survival rates will decline. This finding is consistent 
with past Service findings (71 FR 43410, August 1, 2006; 72 FR 6106, 
February 8, 2007; 73 FR 10514, February 27, 2008; 74 FR 15123, April 2, 
2009), and was validated in 2008 when most of the wolves in the 
predator area were killed within a few weeks of temporarily losing the 
Act's protection. However, we believe roaming dispersers will be less 
prone to unregulated removal than resident packs, whose locations and 
ranges are easily detected.
    In total, wolves will be permanently protected or managed as game 
animals in about 39,900 km\2\ (15,400 mi\2\) (15.7 percent of Wyoming) 
in northwestern Wyoming, including YNP, Grand Teton National Park, John 
D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, adjacent U.S. Forest Service-
designated Wilderness Areas, adjacent public and private lands, the 
National Elk Refuge, and the Wind River Indian Reservation. The 
permanent WTGMA incorporates nearly all of Wyoming's current wolf packs 
and includes the vast majority of the State's suitable habitat. 
Additionally, the WTGMA will be seasonally expanded approximately 80 km 
(50 mi) south along the western border of Wyoming (see Figure 1 above) 
from October 15 to the end of February (28th or 29th). During this 
period of peak dispersal, the trophy game area will be expanded by 
approximately 3,300 km\2\ (1,300 mi\2\) (i.e., an additional 1.3 
percent of Wyoming). Maintenance of genetic exchange and connectivity 
were the primary considerations in Wyoming's agreement to increase 
protection for wolves within this area during winter months. This 
seasonal expansion will benefit natural dispersal.
    Within the WTGMA, Wyoming may also control wolves to address wolf-
ungulate conflicts at State-operated elk feeding grounds (WGFC 2011, 
pp. 5, 39-41). Wyoming maintains 22 winter elk feeding grounds 
including 10 within the permanent WTGMA, 3 within the seasonal WTGMA, 
and 9 within the

[[Page 61816]]

permanent predator area. These areas attract and could potentially hold 
dispersing wolves. Many dispersing wolves in Wyoming, and even some 
established breeding pairs, temporarily leave their primary territories 
to visit the elk feed grounds in winter. As noted above, within the 
predator area, take would occur without limit and would be unregulated. 
Within the WTGMA, WGFD may take wolves that displace elk from feeding 
grounds in the WTGMA if such displacement results in one of the 
following conflicts: (1) Elk damage to private stored crops; (2) elk 
commingling with domestic livestock; or (3) elk displaced from feeding 
grounds moving onto highway rights-of-way and causing human safety 
concerns. Such take will likely further reduce survival of dispersing 
wolves (WGFC 2011, pp. 5, 39-41).
    Human-caused mortality may also provide a potential benefit to 
genetic exchange. Specifically, State management practices will 
periodically create localized disruptions of wolf pack structure or 
modified wolf density in select areas of suitable habitat that will 
create social vacancies or space for dispersing wolves to fill. This 
outcome will likely increase reproductive success rates for dispersers 
that enter the GYA.
    Generally, genetic connectivity across the NRM DPS has increased 
with time, and it will remain a high-priority issue for the Service and 
our partner wildlife agencies. A process to identify, maintain, and 
improve linkage of wildlife movement areas between the large blocks of 
public land in the region is ongoing (Servheen et al. 2003, p. 3). This 
interagency effort involves 9 State and Federal agencies working on 
linkage facilitation across private lands, public lands, and highways 
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee 2001, pp. 1-2; Brown 2006, pp. 1-
3). Key partners include the Forest Service, National Park Service 
(NPS), Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, and States of 
Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. To date, this effort has 
included: (1) Development of a written protocol and guidance document 
on how to implement linkage zone management on public lands (Public 
Land Linkage Taskforce 2004, pp. 3-5); (2) production of several 
private land linkage management documents (Service 1997; Parker and 
Parker 2002, p. 2); (3) analyses of linkage zone management in relation 
to highways (Geodata Services Inc. 2005, p. 2; Waller and Servheen 
2005, p. 998); and (4) periodic workshops discussing implementation of 
management actions for wildlife linkage. The objective of this work is 
to maintain and enhance movement opportunities for all wildlife species 
across the region. Although this linkage work is not directly 
associated with the wolf population, it will benefit wolves after 
delisting.
    Recognizing there is some uncertainty concerning the level of 
genetic exchange that will occur post-delisting, Wyoming has agreed to 
monitor for gene flow and take adaptive measures, as appropriate, to 
achieve a long-term goal of at least one effective migrant per 
generation. Wyoming, in coordination with Montana and Idaho, intends to 
collect genetic samples continuously, and test the samples every 3 to 5 
years to search for dispersers and their offspring (WGFC 2011, pp. 26-
29). Success in achieving the objective of one effective migrant per 
generation will be measured over multiple generations (WGFC 2011, pp. 
26-29). If the desired level of genetic connectivity is not documented, 
Wyoming, in coordination with Idaho and Montana, will review genetic 
monitoring protocols and revise them, if necessary, to improve the 
State's ability to detect effective migrants (WGFC 2011, pp. 26-29).
    Furthermore, population management will be modified if strategies 
implemented by the State of Wyoming are identified as a meaningful 
factor that is preventing the connectivity objective from being met. In 
addition, outside experts will be consulted, as necessary or 
appropriate, to assist in identifying appropriate changes to regional 
management. Specifically, Wyoming will: (1) Conduct an evaluation of 
all sources of mortality, in coordination with other partners as 
appropriate, with a focus on those within Wyoming's jurisdiction (and 
the jurisdiction of other partners, as appropriate), to determine which 
sources of mortality, and the extent to which those sources, are most 
meaningfully impacting genetic connectivity; and (2) modify population 
management objectives, in coordination with other partners, as 
appropriate, based on the above evaluation, as necessary, to achieve 
the desired level of gene flow (WGFC 2011, pp. 26-29). The extent of 
actions taken will depend on the level of gene flow as it relates to 
the genetic connectivity objectives. For example, if the data indicates 
gene flow is close to the objective, minor modifications to management 
will be implemented (WGFC 2011, pp. 26-29). However, if very low levels 
of gene flow are documented over numerous generations, more extreme 
management measures will be implemented (WGFC 2011, pp. 26-29). This 
adaptive approach will implement specific and appropriate remedial 
actions as directed by the available data (WGFC 2011, pp. 26-29).
    Human-assisted migration will be used, as necessary, to maintain 
levels of genetic exchange and connectivity for both the GYA (including 
Wyoming) and the larger NRM metapopulation (Groan et al. 2008, p. 2; 
WGFC 2011, pp. 26-29). Human intervention in maintaining recovered 
populations is necessary for many conservation-reliant species and a 
well-accepted practice in dealing with population concerns (Scott et 
al. 2005). The 1994 wolf reintroduction EIS indicated that intensive 
genetic management might become necessary if any of the subpopulations 
developed genetic or demographic problems (Service 1994, pp. 6-74). The 
1994 EIS stated that other wildlife management programs rely upon such 
agency-managed genetic exchange, and that the approach should not be 
viewed negatively (Service 1994, pp. 6-75). Human-assisted genetic 
exchange is a proven technique that has created effective migrants in 
the NRM DPS. An example of successful managed genetic exchange in the 
NRM population was the release of 10 wolf pups and yearlings 
translocated from northwestern Montana to YNP in the spring of 1997. 
Two of those wolves became breeders and their genetic signature is 
common throughout YNP and the GYA (vonHoldt et al. 2010, p. 4422). 
Wolves could easily be moved again in the highly unlikely event that 
inbreeding or other problems ever threatened wolves in the GYA or any 
other area. Agency-managed genetic exchange could focus on such proven 
established methods, or use other novel means of introducing genes into 
a recovery area (e.g., artificial insemination of wolves). At this 
time, such approaches remain unnecessary.
    Maintenance of the GYA at very low population levels is unlikely to 
be a meaningful concern in its own right. Overall, we expect the GYA 
population will be managed for a long-term average of around 300 wolves 
across portions of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. While exact numbers are 
difficult to predict and may fluctuate by area and by year, the 
following information provides some perspective. In Wyoming, the State 
will maintain a population above 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs on 
lands under State jurisdiction and, in most years, will maintain a 
population buffer above this minimum population level. The wolf 
population in YNP has ranged from 96 to 171 wolves since 2000. However, 
the YNP wolf population appears to be declining toward a long-term 
equilibrium at, or

[[Page 61817]]

slightly below, the lower end of this range (Service et al. 2000-2010, 
Table b; Smith 2010, pers. comm.). In Montana's share of the GYA, 
minimum population estimates have ranged from 55 to 130 wolves since 
recovery was achieved in 2002 (Service et al. 2003-2011, Table 1b). 
During this period, the GYA constituted between 20 to 42 percent of 
Montana's statewide wolf population estimate. At the end of 2010, this 
area included a minimum population estimate of 118 wolves. Montana's 
planned quota for this area in the 2011 hunting season is 43 wolves. In 
Idaho's share of the GYA, minimum population estimates have ranged from 
0 to 40 wolves since recovery was achieved in 2002 (Service et al. 
2003-2011, Table 2). At the end of 2010, this area included a minimum 
population estimate of 40 wolves. Idaho's planned 2011 hunt includes a 
quota of 30 wolves in this area (IFGC 2011, entire). Collectively, 
these data suggest a long-term average of around 300 wolves in the GYA, 
including sizable populations in YNP, portions of Wyoming under State 
jurisdiction, and portions of the GYA in Montana and Idaho.
    In all but the most extreme cases, small wolf populations are 
unlikely to be threatened solely by the loss of genetic diversity 
(Boitani 2003, p. 330). Review of the scientific literature shows that, 
throughout the world, truly isolated wolf populations that are far 
smaller and far less genetically diverse than the GYA population have 
persisted for many decades and even centuries (Fritts and Carbyn 1995, 
p. 33; Boitani 2003, pp. 322-23, 330-335; Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 189-
190; Liberg 2005, pp. 5-6; 73 FR 10514, February 27, 2008; Boitani and 
Giucci 2010, pp. 19-21). As with all models, theoretical predictions 
rely upon the quality and accuracy of input data. In most cases, 
theoretical predictions of genetic factors impacting wolf population 
viability have proven poor predictors of actual status of very small 
wolf populations (Fritts and Carbyn 1995; Boitani 2003; Fuller et al. 
2003, pp. 189-190). For example, a wolf population on Isle Royale 
National Park that started from 2 or 3 founders in 1949 and remained 
very small (less than 50 wolves, long-term effective population size 
3.8) has persisted until the present time (Boitani 2003, p. 330) and 
maintains comparable demographic properties to outbred populations of 
wolves (Fuller et al. 2003). While some have speculated that YNP's 
small founder population, maintenance at low levels, and relative 
isolation might eventually affect population dynamics, this now appears 
doubtful (Ware 2009, abstract; Raikkonen et al. 2010). In the Kenai 
Peninsula of Alaska, the wolf population has remained relatively stable 
for the past 30 years despite being isolated, small (less than 200 
wolves), liberally hunted and trapped, and exposed to typical wolf 
diseases and parasites. The Kenai population is not threatened 
(Peterson et al. 1994, p. 1) and remains genetically fit (Talbot and 
Scribner 1997, pp. 20-21). Such information leads us to believe actual 
wolf population persistence in small isolated situations is a better 
predictor of future outcomes than theoretical models. Regardless, the 
GYA wolf population will never be as small or as isolated as the Kenai 
population.
    The GYA wolf population will not be threatened by lower genetic 
diversity in the foreseeable future because of the current high level 
of genetic diversity in the NRM DPS, proven connectivity between 
subpopulations, wolf dispersal capabilities, the strong tendency of 
wolves to outbreed by choosing unrelated mates, and the likely long-
term population and distribution levels of wolves in the NRM DPS. In 
addition to these natural factors, the States of Montana, Idaho, and 
Wyoming have committed to monitor for natural genetic connectivity, 
modify management as necessary to facilitate natural connectivity, and, 
if necessary, implement a human-assisted migration program to achieve 
at least one effective migrant per generation. In fact, in our 
professional judgment, even if no new genes entered into the GYA (a 
near impossibility), genetic diversity is likely many decades, and 
perhaps a century or more, away from becoming an issue and even then, 
it would be unlikely to threaten the GYA population.
    Poison--Poisoning is a potentially significant factor in 
maintenance of the wolf population as it can be an effective and 
inexpensive method to kill wolves. Wolf extirpation in the United 
States and many other areas of the world occurred primarily through 
extensive use of poisons. Wolf populations began to recover in many 
areas only when certain poisons were banned, despite continued human-
caused mortality by shooting and trapping (Fritts et al. 2003, p. 311; 
Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 162-163, 189; Boitani 2003, p. 329). Poison was 
once commonly used by Federal and State agencies and the public 
throughout the western United States for control of coyotes and other 
predators. However, many poisons (such as strychnine, Compound 1080, 
cyanide, and other toxins) for predatory animal management were banned 
or their use severely limited (Executive Order 11643; Fagerstone et al. 
2004).
    Today, no poisons can legally be used against wolves in the United 
States because of Environmental Protection Agency restrictions 
(described above). While steps could be taken to allow registration and 
limited use, the process is complex, time consuming (5-10 years), and 
would likely never allow widespread use for a host of reasons, 
including public disdain for poisoning predators (Fritts et al. 2003, 
p. 311; Fagerstone et al. 2004, p. 76) and concerns over secondary 
nontarget poisoning. Furthermore, within the WTGMA, poison is 
prohibited by Wyoming Statute 23-3-304(a). Sodium cyanide (only in M-44 
devices), Compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate used only in livestock 
protection collars), and denning cartridges (active ingredients of 
sodium nitrate and charcoal) are legal toxicants for use on other 
canids. In all three cases, Environmental Protection Agency label 
restrictions preclude use on wolves (Environmental Protection Agency 
1994, pp. 2, 4; Environmental Protection Agency 1995, pp. 28-29; 
Environmental Protection Agency 2007, p. 3). Poisons (including 
strychnine, Compound 1080, cyanide, and Temic (an agricultural poison 
used for insect control)) have occasionally illegally killed dogs and 
wolves in the NRM region. Such illegal killing has been exceedingly 
rare and has not affected the wolf population's recovery (Murray et al. 
2010, p. 2514; Service et al. 2011, Table 4, Figure 1). We believe this 
source of mortality will remain rare into the foreseeable future.
    We believe that only a concerted agency-driven or otherwise large-
scale campaign to employ poison could threaten the recovered wolf 
population in Wyoming, the GYA, or the larger NRM DPS. However, this 
circumstance is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future. Even in 
unregulated areas like the predator area, widespread poisoning is 
unlikely in the foreseeable future, as these types of highly toxic and 
dangerous poisons would have to be legally registered and widely 
available. Overall, we believe this potential threat is strictly 
theoretical in nature and is unlikely to ever again threaten this wolf 
population.
    Climate Change--Next to humans, wolves had the largest natural 
distribution of any land mammal in recent history. Wolves are extremely 
adaptable and prey on every type of ungulate in their worldwide 
northern hemisphere range. In North America, wolves once ranged from 
central Mexico to the Arctic Ocean and from coast to coast. It would be 
virtually impossible that environmental, habitat, or prey species 
changes due to the

[[Page 61818]]

environmental effects of climate change could affect such an adaptable, 
resilient, and generalist predator.
    While there is much debate about the rates at which carbon dioxide 
levels, atmospheric temperatures, and ocean temperatures will rise, the 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of leading 
climate scientists commissioned by the United Nations, concluded there 
is a general consensus among the world's best scientists that climate 
change is occurring (IPCC 2001, pp. 2-3; IPCC 2007, p. 4). The 
twentieth century was the warmest in the last 1,000 years (Inkley et 
al. 2004, pp. 2-3), with global mean surface temperature increasing by 
0.4 to 0.8 degrees Celsius (0.7 to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit). These 
increases in temperature were more pronounced over land masses as 
evidenced by the 1.5 to 1.7 degrees Celsius (2.7 to 3.0 degrees 
Fahrenheit) increase in North America since the 1940s (Vincent et al. 
1999, p. 96; Cayan et al. 2001, p. 411). According to the IPCC, warmer 
temperatures will increase 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius (2.0 to 11.5 
degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 (IPCC 2007, pp. 10-11).
    The magnitude of warming in the NRM region has been greater, as 
indicated by an 8-day advance in the appearance of spring phenological 
indicators in Edmonton, Alberta, since the 1930s (Cayan et al. 2001, p. 
400). The hydrologic regime in the NRM region also has changed with 
global climate change, and is projected to change further (Bartlein et 
al. 1997, p. 786; Cayan et al. 2001, p. 411; Stewart et al. 2004, pp. 
223-224). Under global climate change scenarios, the NRM region may 
eventually experience milder, wetter winters and warmer, drier summers 
(Bartlein et al. 1997, p. 786). Additionally, the pattern of snowmelt 
runoff may also change, with a reduction in spring snowmelt (Cayan et 
al. 2001, p. 411) and an earlier peak (Stewart et al. 2004, pp. 223-
224), so that a lower proportion of the annual discharge will occur 
during spring and summer.
    Even with these changes, environmental, habitat, or prey changes 
resulting from climate change should not threaten the Wyoming wolf 
population. Wolves are habitat generalists, and next to humans are the 
most widely distributed land mammal on earth. Wolves live in every 
habitat type in the Northern Hemisphere that contains ungulates, and 
once ranged from central Mexico to the Arctic Ocean in North America. 
The NRM region is roughly in the middle of historic wolf distribution 
in North America. Because historic evidence suggests gray wolves and 
their prey survived in hotter, drier environments, including some near-
desert conditions, we expect wolves could easily adapt to the warmer 
and drier conditions that are predicted with climate change, including 
any northward expansion of diseases, parasites, new prey, or 
competitors or reductions in species currently at or near the southern 
extent of their range.
    Environmental or habitat changes resulting from changing climatic 
conditions have the potential to impact wolf prey. Declining moose 
populations in the southern GYA may result from global warming (Service 
2008), a conclusion that has been reached in other parts of the 
southern range of moose in North America. Climate change has affected 
elk nutrition, elk herd demographics, and the proportion of migratory 
and nonmigratory elk in the GYA, but not to the extent that such wolf 
prey could disappear (Middleton et al. 2011, Chapter 1). However, the 
extent and rate to which most ungulate populations will be impacted is 
difficult to foresee with any level of confidence. One logical 
consequence of climate change could be a reduction in the number of 
elk, deer, moose, and bison that die overwinter, thus maintaining a 
higher prey base for wolves (Wilmers and Getz 2005, p. 574; Wilmers and 
Post 2006, p. 405). Furthermore, increased over-winter survival would 
likely result in overall increases and more resiliency in ungulate 
populations, thereby providing more prey for wolves.
    Catastrophic Events--Here we analyze a number of possible 
catastrophic events including fire, volcanic activity, and earthquake. 
Fire is a natural part of the Yellowstone system; however, 20th century 
forest management that included extensive wildfire suppression efforts, 
promoted heightened potential for a large fire event. The 1988 fires, 
the largest wildfire in YNP's recorded history, burned a total of 3,213 
km\2\ (793,880 acres) or 36 percent of the Park. However, large mobile 
species such as wolves and their ungulate prey usually are not 
meaningfully adversely impacted. Surveys after the 1988 fires found 
that 345 dead elk, 36 deer, 12 moose, 6 black bears, and 9 bison died 
in GYA as a direct result of the conflagration (YNP 2011, p. 3). YNP's 
fire management policy (YNP 2004, entire) indicates natural wildfires 
should be allowed to burn, so long as parameters regarding fire size, 
weather, and potential danger are not exceeded. Those fires that do 
exceed the standards, as well as all human-caused fires, are to be 
suppressed (YNP 2004, entire). Regarding impacts to wolves, YNP 
concluded ``wolves are adapted to landscapes strongly influenced by 
fire, the primary forest disturbance agent within the GYE, are highly 
vagile, and are adaptable to changing ecological conditions * * * [and] 
fires will provide significant long-term benefits to gray wolves by 
maintaining natural ecosystem processes'' (YNP 2004, Appendix I). 
Future fires are likely in the GYA system. Overall, we agree wolves are 
adaptable and will benefit from fires in the long term. Long-term, 
wildfires often lead to an increase in ungulate food supplies and an 
increase in ungulate numbers. While minor, localized, short-term 
impacts are likely, fire will not threaten the viability of the wolf 
population in either the GYA or Wyoming.
    The GYA has also experienced several exceedingly large volcanic 
eruptions in the past 2.1 million years. The three super eruptions 
occurred 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago (Lowenstern et 
al. 2005, pp. 1-2). Such a similar event would devastate the GYA 
ecosystem. While one could argue ``we are due'' for such an event, 
scientists with the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory maintain that they 
``see no evidence that another such cataclysmic eruption will occur at 
Yellowstone in the foreseeable future * * * [and that] recurrence 
intervals of these events are neither regular nor predictable'' 
(Lowenstern et al. 2005, p. 6). We share this view and do not consider 
such an event likely within the foreseeable future.
    More likely to occur is a nonexplosive lava flow eruption or a 
hydrothermal-explosion. There have been 30 nonexplosive lava flows in 
YNP over the last 640,000 years, most recently 70,000 years ago 
(Lowenstern et al. 2005, p. 2). During such an eruption, flows ooze 
slowly over the surface, moving a few hundred feet per day for several 
months to several years (Lowenstern et al. 2005, p. 2). Any renewed 
volcanic activity at YNP would most likely take this form (Lowenstern 
et al. 2005, p. 3). In general, such events would have localized 
impacts and be far less devastating than a large eruption (although 
such an event could also cause fires; fire as a threat is discussed 
above). Hydrothermal explosions, triggered by sudden changes in 
pressure of the hydrothermal system, also occasionally impact the 
region. More than a dozen large hydrothermal-explosion craters formed 
between about 14,000 and 3,000 years ago (Lowenstern et al. 2005, p. 
4). The largest hydrothermal-explosion crater documented in the world 
is along the

[[Page 61819]]

north edge of Yellowstone Lake in an embayment known as Mary Bay; this 
2.6-km (1.5-mile) diameter crater formed about 13,800 years ago 
(Lowenstern et al. 2005, p. 4). We do not consider either a 
nonexplosive lava flow eruption or a hydrothermal-explosion likely 
within the foreseeable future, but even if one of these did occur, the 
impact to wolves or their prey would likely be localized, temporary, 
and would not threaten the viability of the wolf population in either 
the GYA or Wyoming.
    Earthquakes also occur in the region. The most notable earthquake 
in YNP's recent history was a magnitude 7.5 in 1959 (Lowenstern et al. 
2005, p. 3). Similarly, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake hit within YNP in 
1975 (Lowenstern et al. 2005, p. 3). The 1959 earthquake killed 28 
people, most of them in a massive landslide triggered by the quake 
(Lowenstern et al. 2005, p. 3). Such massive landslides and other 
earthquake-related impacts could also affect wildlife. But as with 
other potential catastrophic events, the impact of a large earthquake 
to wolves or prey would likely be localized, temporary, and would not 
threaten the viability of the wolf population in either the GYA or 
Wyoming.
    The habitat model/population viability analysis by Carroll et al. 
(2003, p. 543) analyzed environmental stochasticity and predicted it 
was unlikely to threaten wolf persistence in the GYA. We also 
considered catastrophic and stochastic events that might reasonably 
occur in the State of Wyoming, the GYA, or the NRM DPS within the 
foreseeable future, to the extent possible. Most catastrophic events 
discussed above are unlikely to occur within the foreseeable future. 
Other events that might occur within the foreseeable future would 
likely cause only localized and temporary impacts that would not 
threaten the viability of the wolf population in either the GYA or 
Wyoming.
    Impacts to Wolf Pack Social Structure as a Result of Human-caused 
Mortality--When human-caused mortality rates are low, packs contain 
older individuals. Such larger complex pack structures are most common 
in National Parks and large, remote wilderness areas. These types of 
social structures will continue unaltered in those areas after wolves 
are delisted. In 2010, approximately 20 percent of the estimated 1,651 
wolves in the NRM DPS lived primarily in National Parks or Wilderness 
areas. However, wolves in much of the NRM DPS constantly interact with 
livestock and people. In these areas, wolves experience higher rates of 
human-caused mortality, which alters pack structure but does not reduce 
population viability or their ability to reproduce (Brainerd et al. 
2008, p. 89) or produce dispersers (Jimenez et al. 2011, p. 1).
    Wolf packs frequently have high rates of natural turnover (Mech 
2007, p. 1482) and quickly adapt to changes in pack social structure 
(Brainerd et al. 2008, p. 89). Higher rates of human-caused mortality 
outside protected areas will result in different wolf pack size and 
structure than in protected areas. However, wolf populations in many 
parts of the world, including most of North America, experience various 
levels of human-caused mortality and the associated disruption in 
natural processes and wolf social structure, without ever being 
threatened (Boitani 2003, pp. 322-323). Therefore, while human-caused 
mortality may alter pack structure, we have no evidence that indicates 
this issue is a significant concern for wolf conservation.
    Since 1987, we have removed more than 1,000 problem wolves in the 
NRM region and have monitored the effect of removing breeding adults 
and other pack members on wolf pack structure and subsequent breeding. 
Those effects were minor and would certainly not affect wolf population 
recovery (Brainerd et al. 2008, p. 89). Although defense of property 
laws in Wyoming are similar to current nonessential experimental 
regulations, human-caused mortality may increase slightly after 
delisting. In addition, regulated hunting will be allowed, which will 
increase wolf mortality rates. History has proven that adequate wolf 
reproduction and survival can occur to sustain wolf populations, 
despite prolonged periods of high rates of human-caused mortality 
(Bointani 2003, pp. 322-323). The Wyoming wolf population will be 
managed so that human-caused mortality will not threaten the 
population.

Conclusion (Including Cumulative Impacts)

    According to 50 CFR 424.11(d), we may delist a species if the best 
available scientific and commercial data indicate that: (1) The species 
is extinct; (2) the species is recovered and is no longer endangered or 
threatened; or (3) if the original scientific data used at the time the 
species was classified were in error. The second criterion (i.e., the 
species has recovered and is no longer endangered or threatened) 
applies for wolves in Wyoming.
    Wolves in Wyoming and across the NRM DPS are recovered. All prongs 
of the recovery criteria are satisfied. The numeric and distributional 
components of the overarching recovery goal have been exceeded for 11 
consecutive years. Furthermore, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming have each 
individually met or exceeded the minimum per-State recovery targets 
every year since at least 2002, and met or exceeded the step-down 
management goals every year since at least 2004. Each of the recovery 
areas (which were originally used to measure progress towards recovery) 
has been documented at or above 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves every 
year since 2005 (and probably exceeded these levels every year since 
2002) (Service et al. 2011, Table 4). Finally, the available evidence 
demonstrates the NRM gray wolf population is functioning as a 
metapopulation with gene flow between subpopulations. Thus, we consider 
the population recovered.
    Still, however, before we can delist, we must consider the threats 
currently facing the species and the threats that are reasonably likely 
to affect the species in the foreseeable future following the 
delisting. Under section 3 of the Act, a species is ``endangered'' if 
it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range and is ``threatened'' if it is likely to become endangered 
within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range. In considering what factors might constitute ``threats,'' 
we must look beyond the exposure of the species to a particular factor 
to evaluate whether the species may respond to the factor in a way that 
causes actual impacts to the species. The information must include 
evidence sufficient to suggest that the potential threat is likely to 
materialize and that it has the capacity (i.e., it should be of 
sufficient magnitude and extent) to affect the species' status such 
that it meets the definition of endangered or threatened under the Act.
    Most of the factors evaluated above in the ``Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Species'' are not expected to meaningfully impact the 
wolf population in Wyoming, the GYA, or the NRM region. As long as 
populations are maintained above minimal recovery levels, wolf biology 
(namely the species' reproductive capacity) and the availability of 
large, secure blocks of suitable habitat will maintain strong source 
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-

[[Page 61820]]

use practices shows these areas will maintain their suitability well 
into the foreseeable future. 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. Additionally, we 
conclude that other natural or manmade factors like public attitudes 
towards wolves, climate change, catastrophic events, and impacts to 
wolf pack social structure are unlikely to threaten the wolf population 
within the foreseeable future. While poisoning is a potentially 
significant factor in the maintenance of the wolf population, no 
poisons can be legally used to poison wolves in the United States and 
we do not foresee or anticipate a change in poison regulation that 
would allow more widespread wolf poisoning.
    Human-caused mortality is the most significant issue to the long-
term conservation status of the wolf population in Wyoming, the GYA, 
and the entire NRM DPS. Therefore, managing this source of mortality 
(i.e., overutilization for commercial and recreational purposes as well 
as human-caused predation) remains the primary challenge to maintaining 
a recovered wolf population into the foreseeable future. Fortunately, 
wolf populations have an ample natural resiliency to high levels of 
human-caused mortality, if population levels and controllable sources 
of mortality are adequately regulated. For example, in 2009, more than 
600 NRM wolves died from all sources of mortality (agency control 
including defense of property, regulated harvest, illegal and 
accidental killing, and natural causes), and the population still grew 
by almost 5 percent. From 1995 to 2008, the NRM wolf population grew by 
an average of about 20 percent annually, even in the face of an average 
annual human-caused mortality rate of 23 percent (Smith et al. 2010, p. 
620). Overall, wolf populations can maintain themselves despite 
sustained human-caused mortality rates of 22 to greater than 50 percent 
(Keith 1983; Ballard et al. 1987; Fuller 1989; Fuller et al. 2003, pp. 
182-184; Creel and Rotella 2010). Mortality rates and population growth 
rates reported from 2007 to 2010 indicate that the wolf population in 
Wyoming outside YNP can sustain, on average, a 36 percent mortality 
rate from human causes (WGFC 2011, p. 12). Furthermore, after severe 
declines, wolf populations can more than double in just 2 years if 
mortality is reduced; in the NRM DPS, increases of nearly 100 percent 
per year have been documented in low-density suitable habitat (Fuller 
et al. 2003, pp. 181-183; Service et al. 2011, Table 4).
    Human-caused mortality can include both controllable sources and 
sources of mortality that will be difficult to limit. Controllable 
sources of mortality are discretionary and can be limited by the 
managing agency. They include permitted take in chronic depredating 
areas, sport hunting, and agency action to address impacts to 
ungulates. Sources of mortality that will be difficult to limit, or may 
be uncontrollable, occur regardless of population levels and include 
things like defense of property mortality, illegal take, accidental 
mortality (such as vehicle collisions), and mortality in the predator 
area of Wyoming.
    The original recovery goal called for a three-part metapopulation 
of at least 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves equitably 
distributed between Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. We have determined 
that Wyoming's share of this recovery goal will be satisfied by 
Wyoming's commitment to maintain at least 10 breeding pairs and at 
least 100 wolves in areas primarily within the State's jurisdiction. 
All sources of mortality will be considered in management decisions to 
ensure the management objectives are met. Furthermore, Wyoming intends 
to maintain an adequate buffer above minimum population objectives to 
accommodate management needs and ensure uncontrollable sources of 
mortality do not drop the population below this minimum population 
level. Thus, in most years, the minimum recovery goal for the State of 
Wyoming will be exceeded in areas under Wyoming's jurisdiction alone, 
allowing YNP and the Wind River Indian Reservation to provide an 
additional buffer above the minimum recovery target. Additionally, 
Wyoming is planning a gradual population reduction to ensure population 
targets are not compromised while the State gathers information on the 
vulnerability of wolves under a State management regime. This graduated 
approach to population reductions and long-term stabilization of the 
population, with an adequate buffer above minimum population targets, 
provides us with confidence that the population in areas under State 
jurisdiction will be maintained at-or-above 10 breeding pairs, and at-
or-above 100 wolves.
    All three States within the NRM DPS are required to manage 
comfortably above the minimum recovery level of at least 10 breeding 
pairs and at least 100 wolves. In Montana and Idaho, we required the 
Statewide population level to be managed at least 50 percent above this 
target. Because Wyoming, unlike Montana and Idaho, has a large portion 
of its wolf population in areas outside the State's control (e.g., YNP 
and the Wind River Indian Reservation), we developed an alternative 
approach to achieve the desired safety margin above the minimum 
recovery goal. Specifically, the wolf populations in YNP and the Wind 
River Indian Reservation will provide the remaining buffer above the 
minimum recovery goal intended by the step-down management objective 
employed in Montana and Idaho (i.e., population targets 50 percent 
above minimum recovery levels). From 2001 to the end of 2010, the wolf 
population in YNP ranged from 96 to 171 wolves, and between 6 to 16 
breeding pairs, with an average of 9.8 breeding pairs. However, recent 
population levels may be higher than the long-term carrying capacity of 
YNP, as the park predicts their wolf numbers may decline further and 
settle into a lower equilibrium long term (Smith 2010, pers. comm.). 
Regardless, YNP will always represent a large core refugium that 
contains a substantial number of overwintering wild ungulates and few 
livestock with low levels of human-caused mortality. These factors 
guarantee that the area will remain a secure stronghold for the Wyoming 
wolf population. Thus, YNP will always provide a large, secure wolf 
population providing a safety margin above the minimum recovery goal.
    The Wind River Indian Reservation will further buffer the 
population, although the area's contribution to recovery levels has 
always been, and is likely to remain, very modest. The Wind River 
Indian Reservation typically contains a small number of wolves (single 
digits), which sometimes form packs that count toward Tribal population 
totals. None of these packs have ever met the breeding pair definition.
    In total, Wyoming wolves will be permanently managed as game 
animals or protected (e.g., in National Parks) in about 40,000 km\2\ 
(15,400 mi\2\) in the northwestern portion of the State (15.7 percent 
of Wyoming), including YNP, Grand Teton National Park, John D. 
Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, adjacent U.S. Forest Service-designated 
Wilderness Areas, adjacent public and private lands, the National Elk 
Refuge, and the Wind River Indian Reservation (Lickfett 2011, in 
litt.). This area (see Figure 1) includes: 100 percent of the

[[Page 61821]]

portion of the GYA recovery area within Wyoming (Service 1987, Figure 
2); approximately 79 percent of the Wyoming portion of the primary 
analysis area that the 1994 reintroduction EIS focused on (Service 
1994, Figure 1.1); the entire home range for 24 of 27 breeding pairs in 
Wyoming and 24 of 34 packs in the State (Service et al. 2011, Figure 
3); and approximately 76 percent of the State's suitable habitat 
(including 81 percent of the high-quality habitat (greater than 0.8) 
and 62 percent of the medium-high-quality habitat (0.5-0.799) (Oakleaf 
2011, in litt.)). Although wolves will not persist in the predator 
area, these protected and managed portions of Wyoming are of sufficient 
size to support a recovered wolf population in Wyoming.
    Genetic diversity is not a wolf conservation issue in the NRM DPS 
at this time because the NRM wolves are as genetically diverse as the 
vast, secure, healthy, contiguous, and connected populations in Canada. 
However, the GYA is the most isolated core recovery area within the NRM 
DPS. Thus, the States have agreed to monitor for natural genetic 
connectivity, modify management as necessary to facilitate natural 
connectivity, and, if necessary, implement a human-assisted migration 
program to achieve at least one effective migrant per generation. These 
factors, and wolves' natural dispersal and reproductive capacity, 
ensures the GYA wolf population will not be threatened by low genetic 
diversity in the foreseeable future.
    Further buffering the genetic and general health of the GYA 
population is the fact that we expect the GYA population will be 
managed for a long-term average of around 300 wolves across portions of 
Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. This total will be subdivided across the 
GYA, including sizable populations in YNP, portions of Wyoming under 
State jurisdiction, and portions of the GYA in Montana and Idaho. This 
added representation, resiliency, and redundancy across the entire GYA 
provides further assurance that this wolf population will not become 
threatened again within the foreseeable future.
    We considered all potential threats, including all sources of 
mortality, currently facing the species and those reasonably likely to 
affect the species in the foreseeable future throughout Wyoming and the 
GYA. Collectively, the available information indicates that the Wyoming 
wolf population, in addition to the GYA wolf population, is recovered, 
is likely to remain recovered, and is unlikely to again become 
threatened with extinction within the foreseeable future. Thus, in 
accordance with 50 CFR 424.11(d), we propose to delist wolves in 
Wyoming. This rulemaking is separate and independent from, but additive 
to, the previous action delisting of wolves in the remainder of the NRM 
DPS (all of Idaho, all of Montana, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, 
and north-central Utah) (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009; 76 FR 25590, May 
5, 2011).
    This proposed rule is premised on agreed upon and anticipated 
changes to Wyoming State law and WGFC regulations necessary to 
implement the Wyoming wolf management plan. We expect these statutory 
and regulatory changes will be made within the next several months. 
Depending on the exact nature of the changes, we may need to reopen the 
comment period to provide the public an opportunity to review and 
comment once these changes are finalized. Should Wyoming fail to make 
the changes necessary to support a recovered wolf population, delisting 
will not occur and this proposal will be withdrawn.

Post-Delisting Monitoring

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us to implement a system in 
cooperation with the States, to monitor for at least 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 primary goal of post-delisting monitoring is to ensure that the 
recovered species does not deteriorate, and if an unanticipated decline 
is detected, to take measures to halt the decline to avoid relisting 
the species as threatened or endangered. If relisting is ever 
warranted, as directed by section 4(g)(2) of the Act, we will make 
prompt use of the Act's emergency listing provisions if we determine 
the wolf faces a significant risk to its well-being.
    Wolves have been monitored in the NRM DPS for over 20 years. The 
NRM region was intensively monitored for wolves even before wolves were 
documented in Montana in the mid-1980s (Weaver 1978; Ream and Mattson 
1982, pp. 379-381; Kaminski and Hansen 1984, p. v). Numerous Federal, 
State, and Tribal agencies, universities, and special interest groups 
assisted in those various efforts. Since 1979, wolves have been 
monitored using standard techniques including collecting, evaluating, 
and following up on suspected observations of wolves or wolf signs by 
natural resource agencies or the public; howling or snow tracking 
surveys conducted by the Service, cooperators, volunteers, and 
interested special interest groups; and by capturing, radio-collaring, 
and monitoring wolves. We only consider wolves and wolf packs as 
confirmed when Federal, State, or Tribal agency verification is made by 
field staff that can reliably identify wolves and wolf signs.
    At the end of the year, we compile agency-confirmed wolf 
observations to estimate the number and location of adult wolves and 
pups that were likely alive on December 31 of that year. These data are 
then summarized by packs to indicate overall population size, 
composition, and distribution. This level of wildlife monitoring is 
intensive and provides relatively accurate estimates of wolf population 
distribution and structure (Service et al. 2011, Table 1-4, Figure 1-
4). The USFWS Annual Reports have documented all aspects of the wolf 
management program including staffing and funding, legal issues, 
population monitoring, control to reduce livestock and pet damage, 
research (predator-prey interactions, livestock/wolf conflict 
prevention, disease and health monitoring, publications, etc.) and 
public outreach.
    Post-delisting, Wyoming will likewise monitor and report on wolf 
populations. The WGFD will monitor breeding pairs and total number of 
wolves in Wyoming in order to document their number, distribution, 
reproduction, and mortality (WGFC 2011, pp. 17-21). The WGFD will be 
responsible for monitoring these parameters in areas under State 
jurisdiction. The Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribal Fish and Game Department 
and the Service's Lander Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office will 
continue to monitor wolves on the Wind River Indian Reservation; the 
National Park Service will continue to monitor wolves inside YNP and 
Grand Teton National Park; and the Service will continue to monitor 
wolves on the National Elk Refuge (Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribal Fish 
and Game Department 2007, p. 9; WGFC 2011, pp. 17-21). These agencies 
have agreed to share information regarding the status of wolves within 
their respective jurisdictions in Wyoming (WGFC 2011, pp. 17-21). These 
agencies will continue to use the monitoring techniques and strategies 
that have been used to estimate the NRM wolf population for more than 
20 years. We fully recognize and anticipate that monitoring techniques 
may change through time as new knowledge becomes available and as the 
parties responsible for monitoring gain additional experience at wolf 
management and conservation. For

[[Page 61822]]

example, we anticipate parties responsible for monitoring may use other 
survey methods and data that are biologically equivalent to the 
breeding pair definition (Mitchell et al. 2008, entire). Information 
from the Service, the National Park Service, the Wind River Indian 
Reservation, and the State of Wyoming will be published by WGFD in an 
annual wolf report. Similar reports have been published annually since 
1989 by the Service and our partners (Service et al. 1989-2008).
    For the post-delisting monitoring period, the best source of that 
information will be the State's annual report or other wolf reports and 
publications. We intend to post those annual State wolf reports on our 
Web site (http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/) by 
approximately April 1 of each following year. We also intend to 
annually publish an assessment of the status of the wolf population in 
the NRM DPS during the post-delisting monitoring period. This 
assessment will consider the numbers of packs, breeding pairs, and 
total numbers of wolves in mid-winter by State and by recovery area as 
well as any changes in threats. This information will inform whether a 
formal status review is necessary.
    Specifically, the following scenarios will lead us to initiate a 
formal status review to determine if relisting is warranted:
    (1) If the wolf population falls below the minimum recovery level 
of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in Wyoming statewide (including YNP 
and the Wind River Indian Reservation) at the end of any one year;
    (2) If the wolf population segment in Wyoming in areas under the 
State's jurisdiction (i.e., excluding YNP and the Wind River Indian 
Reservation) falls below 10 breeding pairs or 100 wolves at the end of 
the year for 3 consecutive years;
    (3) If the wolf population in Wyoming falls below 15 breeding pairs 
or 150 wolves, including YNP and the Wind River Indian Reservation, for 
3 consecutive years; or
    (4) If a change in State law or management objectives would 
significantly increase the threat to the wolf population.
    Status review or relisting decisions will be based on the best 
scientific and commercial data available. If a formal status review is 
triggered during the post-delisting monitoring period by these triggers 
or the triggers noted for the remainder of the DPS in our 2009 
delisting rule (74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009), the review will evaluate 
the status of the entire NRM DPS to determine if relisting is 
warranted. In the unlikely event such a review is ever necessary, the 
review would attempt to identify why a particular area is not meeting 
its population objectives. For example, if the wolf population in 
Wyoming falls below 15 breeding pairs or 150 wolves including YNP and 
the Wind River Indian Reservation for 3 consecutive years when the 
Wyoming wolf population under State jurisdiction is at least 10 
breeding pairs and 100 wolves, the status review would focus on factors 
impacting wolves in YNP and the Wind River Indian Reservation. Adaptive 
management strategies may be recommended in this review, but Wyoming 
would not be required to contribute more than 10 breeding pairs and 100 
wolves outside YNP and the Wind River Indian Reservation.
    All such reviews will be made available for public review and 
comment, including peer review by select species experts. If relisting 
is ever warranted, as directed by section 4(g)(2) of the Act, we will 
make prompt use of the Act's emergency listing provisions if necessary 
to prevent a significant risk to the well-being of the NRM DPS. 
Additionally, if any of these scenarios occur during the mandatory 
post-delisting monitoring period of at least 5-years, the post-
delisting monitoring period will be extended 5 additional years from 
that point.

Effects of the Proposed Rule

    This proposal, if made final, would remove the protections of the 
Act for all gray wolves in Wyoming. This rulemaking is separate and 
independent from, but additive to, the previous action delisting wolves 
in the remainder of the NRM DPS (all of Idaho, all of Montana, eastern 
Oregon, eastern Washington, and north-central Utah) (74 FR 15123, April 
2, 2009; 76 FR 25590, May 5, 2011). Additionally, this proposal, if 
made final, would remove the special regulations under section 10(j) of 
the Act designating Wyoming as a nonessential experimental population 
area for gray wolves. These regulations currently are found at 50 CFR 
17.84(i) and 17.84(n).
    The Service is also proposing actions for wolves in the eastern 
United States that are separate from this proposed rulemaking. For more 
information on those actions, please see our Federal Register 
publications of May 5, 2011 (76 FR 26086) and August 26, 2011 (76 FR 
53379). Both today's proposed rule and the eastern United States 
proposed rule would, if finalized, amend the listing for ``Wolf, gray'' 
under ``MAMMALS'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. 
The remaining protections of the gray wolf under the Act do not extend 
to gray wolf-dog hybrids.

Required Determinations

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must: (1) Be logically 
organized; (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly; (3) 
Use clear language rather than jargon; (4) Be divided into short 
sections and sentences; and (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible. 
If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us comments 
by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us revise the 
proposed rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For 
example, you should tell us the specific sections or paragraphs that 
are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, the 
sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The 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. We 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 rule does not contain any collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. As proposed 
under the Post-Delisting Monitoring section above, gray wolves in 
Wyoming will be monitored by Wyoming Game and Fish Department, 
Sovereign Tribal Nations in Wyoming, the National Park Service, and the 
Service. 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 information from 10 or more non-Federal individuals, groups, or

[[Page 61823]]

organizations per year, we will first obtain information collection 
approval from the OMB.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an Environmental Assessment or an 
Environmental Impact Statement, as defined under the authority of the 
NEPA 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).

Executive Order 13211

    Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of 
Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. As this rule is not 
expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, or use, 
this action is not a significant energy action and no Statement of 
Energy Effects is required.

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), Executive Order 13175, and 512 DM 2, we 
intend to coordinate this rulemaking with the affected Tribes (Eastern 
Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe Tribes). We will endeavor 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) understand their concerns with those changes. We 
intend to fully consider their comments during the development of a 
final rule. If requested, we will conduct additional consultations with 
Native American tribes and multitribal organizations subsequent to a 
final rule in order to facilitate the transition to State and tribal 
management of gray wolves within Wyoming.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available: (1) On the 
Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/ or (2) upon request from the Denver 
Regional Office, Ecological Services Office (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT above).

Authority

    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we propose to further amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as proposed to 
be amended at 76 FR 53379, August 26, 2011, as follows:

PART 17--ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS

    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 entries for ``Wolf, gray'' 
under MAMMALS in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife as 
follows:
    a. Remove the words ``TX, and WY'' from the first entry and add in 
their place the words ``and TX''; and
    b. Remove the last entry, ``Wolf, gray [Northern Rocky Mountain 
DPS],'' in its entirety.


Sec.  17.84  [Amended]

    3. Amend Sec.  17.84 by removing and reserving both paragraphs 
pertaining to ``Gray wolf (Canis lupus)'': (i) and (n).

    Dated: September 23, 2011.
Daniel M. Ashe,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-25359 Filed 10-4-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P