In a court filing, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that they will be pushing back the decision on removing the gray wolf from its protected status. The move to delist the species was revealed late last month when the LA Times obtained a document from the USFWS that suggests wolf management could be handed over to individual states. At the time it was expected that the final decision could come as early as the end of May, but according to Associated Press, government attorneys appeared in court on Monday stating that “a recent unexpected delay” will be holding up the action indefinitely. For now, no other explanation was given.
Transferring control of the gray wolf over to states is a hotly contested debate between hunters, wildlife officials, animal rights activists, and conservationists on both sides of the fence. Currently, the gray wolf is under the protections granted to an endangered species except in a handful of states. The species is the largest in the canine family and prey predominantly on ungulates like elk, deer, and sometimes cattle. This led to conflicts with humans and by the start of the twentieth century, wolves were essentially extinct in North America. Due to the efforts of conservationists, some 6,000 wolves now live in the lower 48 states, with about 7,000 to 11,000 residing in Alaska. Although they only inhabit a small portion of their former ranges, many consider the wolf to have significantly recovered.