Gray wolf loses protection

Gray wolf in states’ hands

For the first time in the Endangered Species Act’s 37-year history, an animal has been stripped of its federal protection, prompting concern among conservationists that the decision will open the door to the same being done to other species in the future, according to media reports.

A rider tacked onto the most recent federal budget bill states that gray wolves in the western states of Montana, Idaho, Utah, Washington and Oregon will no longer be protected under federal law; that responsibility has been handed down to the states. Hunting by ranchers and hunters is expected to begin soon, as the predators are known in the region for killing cattle and contributing to a decline in elk.

Congress called the decision necessary because wolf populations have exploded since the mid-1990s, when 66 wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies from Canada after being hunted almost to extinction in the United States. Today, there are more than 1,600.