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Feds to Wolves: "You're on Your Own Now"

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 By Chris ThomasContact
February 22, 2008

Portland, OR – How many wolves are "enough?" After 13 years of protection for gray wolves in the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West, the federal government now says they're fair game again. The U.S. Interior Department announced Thursday it will remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species list because populations have exceeded goals the agency set for wolf recovery in 1994.

Conservation groups believe there still aren't enough wolves to ensure their survival, however. They vow to challenge the federal government's decision in court.

Although government biologists estimate there may be up to 1,500 wolves roaming a six-state area, Sean Stevens of the conservation group Oregon Wild says only a few have made it to Oregon.

"There have been five confirmed since 1999. The first was captured and taken back to Idaho; one was struck by a car and killed. Two were killed by gunshot wounds, and the fifth is, hopefully, currently roaming near the Eagle Cap Wilderness."

Stevens says the law firm Earthjustice is preparing a legal challenge to the delisting.

He says his organization and others have worked hard to convince people of the wolves' overall importance to the ecosystem.

"Being on the top of the food chain, they're predators for other animals, like deer and elk. They thin out those populations; that then reduces overgrazing on certain areas, which helps to restore riparian areas, which helps down the whole food chain. And so really, that 'top predator' needs to be there, to keep everything balanced."

Oregon Wild's views on the delisting decision are at www.oregonwild.org.

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