The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reopened the public comment period on its May 5 proposal to remove the gray wolf population in the Western Great Lakes from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife because the wolf there actually is a different species. Removing all or parts of 29 eastern states from the gray wolf's designation of critical habitat also is being addressed.
The original public comment period closed on July 5, and the agency says it received more than 800 comments on the proposal.
The controversy regarding the gray wolf revolves around the reclassification of what the agency now believes are two distinct species of wolf, the gray wolf (Canis lupus) and the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon). The eastern wolf has historically been classified as a subspecies of gray wolf.
Species are listed under the Endangered Species Act at the species level, so once the agency had determined that the eastern wolf was in fact its own species, a reevaluation of protections afforded the gray wolf was instigated by several state fish and game departments and conservation groups.
Currently, the gray wolf is listed as endangered throughout the eastern United States, even though that area is the historical range of the newly recognized species the eastern wolf.
Thus, the agency proposed to delist the gray wolf in areas now believed to be the range of the eastern wolf and to initiate a status review of the eastern wolf throughout its range.
The extended comment period will close Sept. 26. To review the Federal Register posting, go to www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-26/html/2011-21839.htm.